In this remarkable book by one of the great psychologists and neurologists of the early twentieth century, Kurt Goldstein presents a summation of his “holistic” theory of the human organism. In the course of his studies on brain-damaged soldiers during the First World War, Goldstein became aware of the failure of contemporary biology and medicine to genuinely understand both the impact of such injuries and the astonishing adjustments that patients made to them.
He challenged reductivist approaches that dealt with “localized” symptoms, insisting instead that an organism be analyzed in terms of the totality of its behavior and interaction with its surrounding milieu. He was especially concerned with the breakdown of organization and the failure of central cerebral controls that take place in catastrophic responses to situations such as physical or mental illness.
But Goldstein was equally attuned to the amazing powers of the organism to readjust to such devastating losses, if only by withdrawal to a more limited range of activity that it could manage by a redistribution of its reduced energies, thus reclaiming as much wholeness as new circumstances allowed.
Goldstein’s concepts in The Organism have had a major impact on philosophical and psychological thought throughout this century, as can be seen in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Georges Canguilhem, Ernst Cassirer, Ludwig Binswanger, and Roman Jakobson, not to mention the wide-ranging field of Gestalt psychology.
“Goldstein’s The Organism is a deep, eloquent work that has transcended the time and place of its writing. It asks a question we can still hear today: can we be rigorous neuroscientists and yet create a more genuinely ‘human’ neurobiology that does justice to the existential struggles and experiences of human beings in distress!” — Anne Harrington, Harvard University
“Kurt Goldstein’s famous work, The Organism, is a broad and powerful challenge to the assumptions of classical neurology, physiology, philosophy, and Freudian psychology.” — Israel Rosenfield, author of The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten