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Robert M. Young

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Robert Maxwell Young, usually known as Robert M. Young or Bob Young (born September 26, 1935 in Highland Park, a suburb of Dallas, Texas), is a historian of science specialising in the 19th century and particularly Darwinian thought, a philosopher of the biological and human sciences, and a Kleinian psychotherapist.

Career

Young's initial education was in the United States, at Yale University and the University of Rochester Medical School, but in 1960 he moved to the University of Cambridge for his PhD on the history of ideas of mind and brain. The resulting monograph, Mind, Brain and Adaptation, has been called 'a modern classic' by Peter Gay[How to reference and link to summary or text]. From 1964 to 1976 he was a Fellow and Graduate Tutor of King's College, Cambridge and became Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine. From 1976 to 1983 he was a full-time writer. In this period much of his political activities and writing involved radical critiques of science, technology and medicine. His contribution in this area has been compared with that of J. D. Bernal in an earlier generation[How to reference and link to summary or text].

Thought

In various books and papers he has argued that science, technology and medicine—far from being value-neutral—are the embodiment of values in theories, things and therapies, in facts and artefacts, in procedures and programs. Succinctly put, all facts are theory-laden, all theories are value-laden, and all values occur within an ideology or world view. Scientists and technologists pursue agendas; they have philosophies of nature, world views, usually tacitly held. In studies extending across a broad spectrum of disciplines he has argued that our culture is disastrously riven. It is characterised by sharp dichotomies, each and every one of which is a false (or, at least, overdrawn) dichotomy, but our beliefs in them preclude unified deliberations about the scientific and the moral:

                       humanities - science
                          society - science
                          culture - nature
                      qualitative - quantitative
                            value - fact
                          purpose - mechanism
                          subject - object
                         internal - external
                         secondary- primary (qualities)
                          thought - extension
                             mind - body
                        character - behaviour

In order to foster such unified deliberations he set up the publishing house Free Association Books which (while he directed it) published in the areas of cultural theory, critiques of expertise, and psychoanalysis, broadly conceived. The press has been called, inter alia, 'the most important influence on the culture of psychoanalysis since the war' (by Andrew Samuels)[How to reference and link to summary or text]. He also trained as a Kleinian psychoanalytic psychotherapist and began writing on psychoanalysis, but he continued writing and editing in the areas of social theory, the philosophy of science and Darwinian thought and its impact on culture. He then became the first professor of Psychoanalytic Studies and of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, posts he held at the Centre for Psychotherapeitic Studies at the University of Sheffield until his retirement, after which he has worked in private practice in London.

The unifying thread in his research, political activities, writing and clinical practice has been the understanding of human nature and the alleviation of suffering and inequality. His work has largely been interdiciplinary, seeking to promote unity in how we think about nature, human nature and culture.

In addition to his books, listed below, he has written numerous scholarly and popular articles, as well as making a number of television documentaries in the series Crucible: Science in Society. He also founded (usually with others) Free Association Books, Process Press, Radical Science Journal, Science as Culture, Free Associations and Kleinian Studies, as well as a number of email forums and egroups in his areas of interest and the web sites http://www.human-nature.com (co-edited with Ian Pitchford) and http://www.psychoanalysis-and-therapy.com (where most of his writings are on-line).

There are assessments of his work and influence at http://www.psychoanalysis-and-therapy.com/rmyoung/pubs.html and http://human-nature.com/science-as-culture/werskey.html

Bibliography

  • Mind, Brain and Adaptation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970; reprinted in History of Neuroscience Series N.Y.: Oxford, 1990.
  • Changing Perspectives in the History of Science. London: Heinemann, 1973 (co-editor with M. Teich and contributor).
  • Darwin's Metaphor: Nature's Place in Victorian Culture. Cambridge University Press, 1985; reprinted 1988, 1994.
  • Science, Technology and the Labour Process, 2 vols. Free Association Books, 1981, 1985 (co-editor with L. Levidow and contributor).
  • Mental Space. Process Press, 1994.
  • Oedipus Complex. Icon Books, 2001.
Published on-line

External links

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