chapter  9
14 Pages

Human nature: A paradoxical object


In this chapter, I reect on the surprises of reading Donald Winnicott’s posthumous work, Human Nature (1988). This work could be termed a bizarre object: it is not, properly speaking, a book. Reading Clare Winnicott’s preface and the editorial note, we learn that Winnicott occupied himself with it for more than 24 years. Its necessity emerged after 7 years of university lecturing, mostly to students wishing to become social workers. Its copies would have been handed out to students to free their attention from note taking during courses that Winnicott continued to teach until his death in 1971. We should then ask what status this text had for Winnicott, given that it had always remained a work in progress, never really being nished. Perhaps it offers us a kind of access to the workshop, the always busy construction site, from which Winnicott’s published texts emerged.1 This comment concerns methodological questions with which this type of work confronts us. Starting from clinical experiences, which he was able to manage only with the help of theoretical formulations, Winnicott attempted to transmit what he had learned from them. Mostly what was revealed to him, however, pertained to his ignorance.