Why Things Matter

The Place of Values in Science, Psychoanalysis and Religion

By David M. Black

© 2011 – Routledge

216 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415493710
pub: 2011-04-06
US Dollars$49.95
Hardback: 9780415493703
pub: 2011-04-08
US Dollars$140.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

In this book, David M. Black asks questions such as 'why do we care?' and 'what gives our values power?' using ideas from psychoanalysis and its adjacent sciences such as neuroscience and evolutionary biology in order to do so.

Why Things Matter explores how the comparatively new scientific discipline of consciousness studies requires us to recognize that subjectivity is as irreducible a feature of the world as matter and energy. Necessarily inter-disciplinary, this book draws on science, philosophy and the history of religion to argue that there can be influential values which are not based exclusively on biological need or capricious life-style choices. It suggests that many recent scientific critics of religion, including Freud, have failed to see clearly the issues at stake.

This book will be key reading for psychoanalysts and psychotherapists as well as counsellors with an interest in the basis of religious feeling and in moral and aesthetic values. The book will also be of interest to scholars of psychoanalysis, philosophy and religion.


"Black makes the thoroughly convincing argument that, if the foundation of values cannot be located in a realm beyond the physical, it has to be found within the world of the physical- within the material world itself. This necessitates a redefinition of the physical world that allows there to be a place for 'subjects'… [this book] is a timely publication. It carries an optimistic message for it shows that, when Man finally turns his scientific eye on the human subject, he finds embedded in this human core the living template from which religion, science and the values of love and care took origin." - Kenneth Wright, British Journal of Psychotherapy, 2012, Vol.28, No.2

"The rigour of Black's thinking, combined with his deep sense of wonder and subtle appreciation for the varieties of human experience, makes this book a valuable contribution to the psychology of meaning. The thoughtful reader and reflective psychotherapist will greatly benefit from it" - R. J. Chisholm, Self & Society

"David Black's chosen task encompasses how it may be that in a world dominated by scitific objectivist Weltanschauungen, there mayu still be both reason and need for the values that we associate with the religious life… As I would aver that we have no fixed notion of the healthy individual, we are left with reading such works as David Black's Why Things Matter and playing with ideas such as his that some admixture of values, aesthetics and intersubjective living… make life worthwhile. For me, reading David Black's volume mattered!" -Howard H. Covitz Ph.D., ABPP, American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2014

Table of Contents

Introduction: Science and Values. Consciousness: 'A Fact Without Parallel'. Value-free Science: Galileo and Darwin. Sympathy is Different from Empathy. How Religions Work: A

Comparison with Psychoanalysis. The Ownership of Consciousness and the Uniqueness of Subjects. Mapping a Detour: Why did Freud Speak of a Death Drive? An Outline of a 'Contemplative Position'. Selves and No-Selves. The Basis of Responsible Commitment.

About the Author

David M. Black is a Fellow of the British Psychoanalytic Society/ Institute of Psychoanalysis and a founder member of the Foundation for Psychotherapy and Counselling (WPF). He works in London. He has written and lectured widely on science, religion and consciousness studies and is the editor of Psychoanalysis and Religion in the 21st Century: Competitors or Collaborators? (Routledge, 2006).

Subject Categories

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