The Institute for Clinical Social Work

Syllabi Archive

CFDL 605: Epistemology II Post-Modernism & Post-Structuralism

Ph.D. Program - Distance Learning: spring 2012-13

Benjamin Galatzer-Levy


The second half of the 20th century saw the emergence of a nebulous artistic and intellectual milieu. This milieu, what is called Postmodernism, was characterized more by a suspicion of positive ideology and academic playfulness than any unifying principle. Postmodern thought has been applied to every human endeavor from the sciences and arts to architecture and marketing. As a term Postmodern has been used pejoratively, ironically, and humorously. It has been used to define everything from sit-coms to the contemporary historical epoch. In this class we will consider its significance for psychoanalysis as well as psychoanalysis’ significance for the growth of postmodernity. Students are strongly encouraged to consider and relate clinical experience to the texts and ideas we discussed in class, in the past doing so has had the effect of making the abstract concrete and the confounding clear. Finally, this year their will be no required reading by Sigmund Freud. However, a strong background in Freud’s thought will be presumed throughout the course and optional readings from the Standard Edition will be suggested to accompany each of the readings based on the classes needs and interests.

This class has to fundamental aims. The first is to provide each student with the conceptual and historical background necessary for approaching 20th century theory as it relates to psychoanalysis. The second, and more central task, is to critically investigate the philosophical underpinnings of our post-modern world in which our lives unfold. This second task is more central because it may be of clinical value to the student who hopes to serve client’s in the future by helping them to better accommodate themselves to a world from which they find themselves alienated and in which they find themselves discontent and uneasy. The philosopher Martin Heidegger described our condition as “world-thrown,” which is to say we each of us come to ourselves in a world we shared no part in creating and which we were not allowed the opportunity to choose. To understand the post-modern condition is to understand that world into which we are each of us “thrown.”


Students are expected to attend and prepare assigned reading for each lecture.

Grades will be assigned based on the following:

  1. A presentation introducing material for the days class. Each student is responsible for one such presentation lasting approximately twenty minutes. Presentations should be typed out beforehand and submitted to the instructor in advance of the class meeting. It should provide both a broad outline and critical engagement with the material.
  2. A final paper with a minimum length of ten double-spaced pages. Final papers should be original research related to the student& rsquo;s dissertation topic. Specifically, final papers should take up some theme or specific thinker from this course and consider the epistemological implications for the student’s dissertation research. Students are free to append abstracts and research agendas to their final paper not be included in the final page count; papers should not consist significantly of descriptions or appraisals of the student’s dissertation topic.

Class Meetings

Excepting student presentations and on-sight meetings, classes will be primarily in lecture based.

Week One: Introduction

  • No required reading
  • Introduction to post-modern Thought

Week Two: What is Philosophy?

  • Reading: Plato, Meno

This text can be found at, among other places on the internet free of charge.

Week Three: What is Enlightenment

  • Reading: Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?

This text can be found at http://www., among other places on the internet free of charge. Students who do copy and paste from this site are encouraged to go through the document and number each paragraph for ease of reference during class discussion.

Week four: Phenomenology

  • Reading: Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology (Encyclopedia Britannica Entry)

This text can be found at, among other places on the internet at no charge.

Week Five: Specters Of Marx

  • Readings: Alexandre Kojeve, In Place of an Introduction in Introduction to the Reading of Hegel

This text can be found at, among other places on the internet free of charge.

Week Six: On the genealogical approach to morality

  • Readings: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals. Introduction and Chapter 1.

Week Seven: Final Paper Discussion.

This week will be reserved for students to present and discuss topics for their final papers with the class, and, time permitting, to look more deeply into a thinker or idea that has been of particular interest to the class.

Please note that links to some course readings have been purged from archived syllabi. Electronic texts on the ICSW website are protected by copyright law. These files are made available strictly for individual, educational use and may not be copied or distributed in any way. Distribution of copyrighted material to non-enrolled individuals or ICSW students will be considered an act of Academic Dishonesty and be dealt with accordingly as indicated in the Student Manual. Federal penalties for copyright infringement may be found at