The Psychophysiological Unconscious – Gustav Theodor Fechner and the Moon

The author explores Fechner’s understanding of the unconscious and in doing so emphasises the ambivalence of his conceptualisation, i.e., the scientific and the spiritu¬alistic side of his thinking. The Elemente der Psychophysik (1860) form the central, al¬though not the only, reference: texts such as Das Büchlein vom Leben nach dem Tode (1836) and the posthumously published report on his illness will also be discussed. Fur¬ther, in order to compare and highlight Fechner’s own conception of the unconscious other ideas about the unconscious from the same period (Carus, Helmholtz, von Hartman) will be considered. The Fechnerian “unconscious” is actually conceived as a state of sleep or as a state of unconsciousness. Put into the cosmic context, Fechner’s unconscious levels the finality of death. The difference between Freud’s and Fechner’s notion of the uncon¬scious becomes obvious and is delineated on the basis of a close reading of Freud’s reference to Fechner’s “other scene”.

Download full text