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Naturalizing Husserlian Phenomenology: an Introduction

This article gives an introductory account of what a “naturalization” of (Husserlian) phenomenology would involve. The first part deals with Husserlian phenomenology and Husserl’s view on psychology and epistemology. The second part introduces the cognitive sciences and a number of problems concerning subjective experience. The final part presents the naturalization of Husserl’s phenomenology using cognitive sciences framework.

Neglect and anosognosia. A challenge for psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic treatment of neurological patients with hemi-neglect

Neglect and anosognosia, i.e., the denial of the (left) hemisphere and the denial of hemiplegia, are often found in patients suffering from damage to the right hemisphere of the brain. It has been known for some time that these symptoms can be alleviated, albeit temporarily, using various methods, (Ramachandran, 1994; 1996; Ramachandran & Blakslee, 1998). Kaplan-Solms and Solms (2000) found that in psychotherapeutic interviews patients could also become temporarily aware of their formerly denied lesion. They concluded from their research that the purpose of the neglect-syndrome is a defence against denial. For the past four years, the “Neuropsychoanalytic Study Group Frankfurt/Cologne” has conducted psychoanalytic therapy with a group of patients with right hemispheric lesions, all exhibiting neglect/anosognosia. Results so far indicate that defence against depression is not the only cause of the syndrome, but that failure to construct a body schema, as a result of the paralyzed side of the body no longer being represented is also involved. Patients appear to refer to memorized representations resulting in so-called “neglect-syndrome”. Recent research (Craig, 2002) lends support to this view. Preliminary hypotheses concerning the interaction between neuroscientific models and psychoanalytic concepts are discussed and illustrated with a case-vignette.

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Evolutionary Psychology and Psychoanalysis. On the Nature of the Unconscious

One way in which the dynamic unconscious is justified is by taking into account the evolution and development of the psychical apparatus. It could be argued that evolutionary psychology is the right way to approach this issue. We contend however that the focus on survival value leads to the overestimation of a functional approach being and to neglect of a the structural viewpoint. This has consequences for how the unconscious is defined. Whereas in Freudian metapsychology both stances (the structural and the functional) are present, the structural approach is absent in Smith’s view. As a consequence, the unconscious is reduced to one of its functions, i.e., self-deception. Furthermore, from the structural point of view, the relationship between repression (i.e., the mechanism that generates the dynamic unconscious) and self-deception is reduced to a loose analogy.

Unconscious communication and the resistance of the psychoanalyst

As a comment on Smith’s paper, “The Evolution of the Unconscious” (2002), the question of the nature of so-called unconscious communication is addressed. Some passages in Freud’s writings appear to suggest that this phenomenon can be explained by the transmission of meaning theory according to which what is communicated or transmitted in unconscious communication comes down to the transmission of unconscious meaning attached to material cues that are consciously or unconsciously perceived. With reference to some reported examples of unconscious communication, it is argued that there is no convincing support for this theory and that, at best, they demonstrate that what is communicated is not meaning but rather resistance. It is further argued that the extensive clinical case published by Jacobs (2001) in which a disruption of the analytical process is explained by the conveyance of unconscious messages attached to the nonverbal enactments of the psychoanalyst does not require us to accept the transmission of meaning theory but rather provides an excellent example of the notion that the resistance of the patient is ultimately explained in relation to the resistance of the analyst.

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The unconscious as affect sticking to phonology. Considerations on the role of articulation

In this article a solid neurodynamic framework is proposed for the Freudian-Lacanian linguistically structured unconscious in terms of “affect sticking to phonology”, as well as for the particular importance of articulation in the processing of affect. First, the idea is defended that the phonological structure of language can act as a “carrier” of affect, independent from the associated semantics. The affect-phonology link can be considered as a conditioning mechanism at the level of the reptilian limbic system, whereas semantics is assigned after a disambiguation process at the level of the analytical, modern neocortex. While in this disambiguation, alternative semantic contents, which are irrelevant in the given context, are inhibited, the affective arousal associated with these alternatives is not. The origin of the excitation or anxiety is therefore not grasped or is falsely and rationally attributed to the active semantics. These are the so-called Freudian false connections. Second, the idea is defended that articulation acts as a scansion process that cuts the massive affective charge into a sequentially fragmented motor output and that the psychological gain in this translation is understood in terms of controllability, organisation and (topographical) representation.

Evolutionary and psychoanalytic explanations: how to bridge the gap? Comments on “The evolution of the unconscious” by David Smith

Interdisciplinary approaches are useful because they help to clarify and overcome the blind spots inescapable in any scientific theory. Combining psychoanalytic and evolutionary accounts of the human psychic system can therefore have interesting outcomes. It is important in any interdisciplinary approach, however, to investigate the metaphysical and epistemological presuppositions that serve as background to the theories in question, and to investigate the potential for compatibility on that level. In this paper the metaphysical backgrounds of Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis and neo-Darwinian theory of evolution are analysed and tested as to their compatibility. It is argued that evolutionary psychology, in so far as it finds its inspiration in neo-Darwinian theory, is not compatible with psychoanalysis where it is inspired by the theory of complexly organized dynamical systems. One one side, there is a black-boxing of the structural and developmental conditions of psychic systems, and on the other, there is a focus on the ultimate causes, as distinguished from the proximate causes. Taking into account these incompatibilities, it is highly unlikely that evolutionary psychology will prove of much use to psychoanalysis, either in theory or in practice.