Michael Lacewing

Return to members list

I am a philosopher of psychoanalysis, based at Heythrop College, London, and an Honorary Reader at UCL’s Psychoanalysis Unit. I joined the London Psychoanalysis and Philosophy Group in 2002. This page details my work in psychoanalysis; for information about my other work and contact details, please visit my homepage.

Research interests

My research interests lie in the philosophy of psychoanalysis, empirically-informed moral psychology, and metaethics. I have recently been working on methodological and empirical issues in psychoanalysis, with a view to defending its possible scientific standing. As well as looking at philosophical arguments and developments in psychoanalytic theory, the work drew upon a range of empirical research: from social psychology, on biases in the inference of motives and their correction, and on suggestion; from psychiatric research, on therapeutic outcome studies and on psychic defence mechanisms; and from developmental psychology, on attachment theory and personality development. Five papers on this research have now been published and Oxford University Press will publish a monograph entitled Could psychoanalysis be a science?, based on the material from the project. Richard Gipps and I are in discussion with OUP about editing an Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychoanalysis.

My early work focused on philosophy of emotions, in particular the nature of unconscious emotions, the implications of psychoanalytic theory for the role of emotions in moral deliberation and in self-knowledge, and the understanding of emotions in theories of psychotherapy. My most recent work is on the role of emotions in moral epistemology, part of a larger project investigating the implications of both psychodynamic and recent empirical moral psychological theories for questions in metaethics, including moral epistemology, response-dependent theories of value, and the nature of character.

Between 2005 and 2010, I co-hosted with Louise Braddock and Paul Tod, a research seminar at St John’s College, Oxford, on academia and psychoanalysis. In June 2008, I organized the conference ‘Mind, Psychoanalysis and Art: Perspectives on Richard Wollheim’, co-hosted by Heythrop College and the Institute of Philosophy. Most recently, together with other members of the London group, I organised an international two-day conference entitled ‘Philosophy and psychoanalysis in dialogue’, involving 16 speakers from around the world.



Articles and chapters


Talks and ‘popular’ publications



I teach an undergraduate course on Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. The course introduces psychoanalytic theory, assesses it in relation to recent empirical work in psychology, looks at philosophical questions regarding the methodology and scientific status of psychoanalysis, and finally, looks at debates in philosophy (personal identity, emotion, topics in moral psychology, and aesthetics) to which psychoanalytic theory can make a contribution.