Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Modern Jewish Philosophy: Two Languages of Love, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Modern Jewish Philosophy

Two Languages of Love, 1st Edition

By Michael Oppenheim


214 pages

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Relational psychoanalysis and modern Jewish philosophy have much to say about the dynamics of human relationships, but there has been no detailed, thorough, and constructive examination that brings together these two incisive discourses. Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Modern Jewish Philosophy: Two Languages of Love explores the critical similarities and differences between the two disciplines, casting new light on both the analytic and philosophical understandings of how relationships develop, flourish, and fail.  

For psychoanalysts such as Hans Loewald, Stephen Mitchell, and Jessica Benjamin, love is seen as a fundamental life force, a key to human motivation, and the transformative core of Freud’s therapeutic "talking cure." The Jewish philosophers Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Emmanuel Levinas envision love as having both a human and divine dimension, expressed through the dual commandments to love God and the neighbor. The two languages are brought to life through chapters that investigate: the relationship between self-love and love of the other, the dynamics of intersubjectivity, the methods and possibilities of human transformation, the "magical" powers of language, the goal of achieving a meaningful life, the significance of responsibility for others, and the challenge that death poses to life’s fullness. 

This multidisciplinary study, drawing on psychology, philosophy, religion, and feminism, provides an important contribution to contemporary scientific and humanistic interest in the social and relational dimensions of human living. The book will appeal especially to clinicians, theorists, and scholars of psychoanalysis, philosophy of religion, and Jewish studies as well as advanced students studying in these fields.



"In this fascinating and original book, Michael Oppenheim brings modern Jewish thinkers into conversation with contemporary psychoanalysts. Comparing their profound explorations of love, death, and human relationships, he creates an intriguing conversation between disparate approaches to the human condition."-Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

"Oppenheim has a unique ability to create dialogue between thinkers who exist on different planes and registers of meaning. In so doing, the reader is invited to listen to the stories we tell about "love", "relationship", "responsibility" and "death" in such a way that takes us far beyond their assumed, homogenized, and secularized forms. The dialogues that Oppenheim fosters allow us to speak about love more capaciously and with the dimension it deserves. Oppenheim’s sophisticated interdisciplinary scholarship is a model to be emulated."-David M. Goodman, Ph.D., Director, Psychology and the Other Institute

"Two Languages of Love deftly weaves together rich insights from Judaism and relational psychoanalysis. Each chapter demonstrates the fresh and original insights that emerge from the confluence of these traditions. When he turns to the subject of death, for instance, Oppenheim relies on both fields to forge a rich conversation about the authentic confrontation of mortality. Clinicians will find these moves innovative and immediately relevant. The author of this book is a teacher; readers of this volume are offered a compelling demonstration of the best in interdisciplinary scholarship."-Eric Severson, Seattle University

"Building on his previous publications, Oppenheim continues his path-breaking exploration of the interplay between modern Jewish philosophy and psychoanalysis. By generating an original and insightful dialogue between the Jewish philosophers Buber, Rosenzweig, and Levinas and the relational psychoanalysts, Hans Loewald, Stephen Mitchel, and Jessica Benjamin, among others, Oppenheim broadens the cultural significance of modern Jewish philosophy and enriches our understanding of recent developments in psychoanalysis. His interrogation of relationality and inter-subjectivity, of language’s role in meaning-making, of meaning and responsibility, and of trust and eternity creatively bridges philosophy, psychology, and religion."-Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Arizona State University

Table of Contents


Introduction: Love is…

1 Loving the Neighbor: On Self-Love

2 Jessica Benjamin and (the Missing) Martin Buber: On Intersubjectivity

3 The Presence of the Other: On Transformation

4 Langue, Parole, et Chanson: On Language

5 Revisiting an "Illusion": On Meaning

6 Beyond "Betrayal": On Responsibility

Conclusion: Strong as Death

About the Author

Michael Oppenheim is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Religion at Concordia University, Montreal. His books include Speaking/Writing of God (1997), Jewish Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (2006), and Encounters of Consequence (2009).

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health