Psychoanalysis does not always take moral greatness as a given, a fact attributed by Horney to Freud's view of psychology as a natural science. The French psychiatrist Henri Baruk, however, attempts to bridge the gap between normative and empirical considerations by proposing a model based on the Biblical concept of tsedek, a Hebrew term for altruism coupled with a strong sense of justice. Those who possessed these qualities, Baruk argued, had a more highly developed sense of Self and Other. Consistent with Baruk's model, we argue that moral greatness may be defined as a high degree of moral consciousness combined with courage. Character qualities of World War II resisters, as revealed in a review of over 200 letters written to family and friends immediately before their execution, indicate a strong sense of Self and Other and an equilibrium between a sense of duty and an affective impulse. These qualities are seen in letters written by those engaged in a broad spectrum of resistance activity. The interpersonal quality of these letters; the concern for the suffering that their deaths will cause others; the efforts to reassure those left behind and even to impart useful information and instructions; and the gratitude expressed for large and small favors, all suggest that altruism is a marker for moral greatness, and that it is present even in those whose resistance activity might not at first be classified as altruistic.
Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis & Dynamic Psychiatry – Guilford Press
Published: Jun 1, 2010