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Founding Members and Early Trailblazers of the Department

Rolf von Eckartsberg, Ph.D.

Dr. von Eckartsberg was born in California in 1932. After completing his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College, he entered Harvard University where he was awarded an M.A. in 1962 and a Ph.D. in psychology in 1964. His dissertation, Stability and Change in Adult Personality, was directed by Gordon Allport. From 1960-1964 he interned at the Boston V.A. Hospital and from 1960-1966 was a teaching assistant at Harvard. While Medard Boss and Viktor Frankl were visitors at Harvard, he served as their assistant. At Duquesne, his teaching career was primarily in the area of social psychology. He was concerned with redefining social psychology, employing concepts of consciousness influenced by Alfred Schutz and Rosenstock-Huessy. His area of interest was directed towards the discovery of the essential dimensions of inter-subjectivity in its multiple forms, i.e. of culture-building activities.

Throughout his career, von Eckartsberg's interests became more contextual, concerned with the "Social Psychology of Social Psychology," with theory and knowledge building and with the "politics of knowledge". von Eckartsberg also was interested in methodology as situation-analysis for the study of human phenomena. He published various articles on the subject, sharing his ideas of how to gain access to lifeworld phenomena and the meaning of narrative descriptions as data, as life-texts. While studying the stream of consciousness in particular situations, he became concerned with the organization of the field of consciousness and the constitution of the "landscapes of consciousness." Maps of consciousness and representations of the mind were ongoing interests of his, and he worked on a systematic way to describe states of consciousness and on how to represent the full dynamism of the flow of consciousness. Rolf's overall intention was to develop an ecologically oriented field-theory of human existence conceived in terms of an interdependent network of personal situated events and interpersonal relationships within the framework of an "existential name-space". Rolf also believed that human social living must be based on an ethical and spiritual value-foundation, on a transpersonal ground. His vision and understanding of the essence of human destiny is the call to love the other, the theo-dimension, beckoning in every situation to be actualized.

With R. Valle, von Eckartsberg co-edited and published a book of readings in transpersonal psychology, The Metaphors of Consciousness (1981). He wrote and published over 30 articles in his area of interest. Dr. von Ekartsberg died in 1993, and his personal library is now one of the special collections in the Simon Silverman Phenomenology Center.