Cartesian Meditations: unconscious, truth and subjectivity

In this contribution we will offer a reading of Freud’s ambiguous therapeutic “advice” to “say more than one knows”. Starting from some preliminary reflections on the issue of confession and Lacan’s theoretical distinction between enunciation/enunciated, we will propose three successive ideas with regard to the notions of unconscious, truth and subjectivity. Firstly, a connection will be established between unconscious enunciation and Austin’s couple of performative/constative utterances. Secondly, we will offer a psychoanalytic notion of “truth” through a brief comparison with the phenomenological procedures of epoché and reduction. Third and finally, we will end with some reflections on the psychoanalytic couple of knowledge and truth.

Under the spell of ‘Spellbound’, The filmic representability of the timeless unconscious.

The theme of this paper is the filmic representation of psychoanalysis in Hitchcock’s 1945 blockbuster Spellbound. This movie has been received with mixed feelings by psychoanalysts as portraying the psychoanalytic cure in an idealised and simplified way. This matches the cineaste view that Spellbound is “just another manhunt story wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis” (Truffaut, 1985). In contrast, the author argues that Hitchcock’s filmic translation of Freud’s conception of the timelessness of the unconscious is adequate. More specific, it is argued that the visual representation of the Freudian ideas of i) the dream as via regia to the “other scene”; ii) the etiological development of traumatic neurosis (“Nachträglichkeit”) and iii) the association of past and present via the signifier “kill”, are pertinent. In addition, special attention is paid to the function of the returning visual motif of the parallel lines.

The Origins of Freud’s Theory of the Unconscious: A Philosophical Link

The recent publication of Freud’s correspondence to his school friend, Edward Silberstein, has provided new impetus for research into Freud’s relationship with the philosopher Franz Brentano. In this paper I will address one possible objection to any claim that the philosopher could have influenced Freud on a theoretical level. It may be argued that there could be no significant theoretical influence because the psychoanalyst constructed a model of mental functioning which presupposes an unconscious, while Brentano was a philosopher of consciousness, who denied the very existence of unconscious ideas. I will demonstrate that, despite his rejection of unconscious mental functioning, Brentano presents a systematic investigation into what he perceives to be the strongest arguments in favour of the existence of unconscious ideas. Although he finds each account to be flawed, Brentano frequently offers a possible corrective, suggesting certain conditions as principles which must be observed by anyone hoping to formulate a reasonable thesis to support the existence of unconscious ideas. I argue that it is this analysis which helped Freud to formulate a coherent account of the unconscious which does not fall prey to the objections Brentano levelled against preceding conceptions of unconscious mental processes.

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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”.

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The evolution of the unconscious

Psychoanalysis is reconceptualized as the scientific study of conflicting biological propensities. According to neo-Darwinian theory self-deception arose as a result of an evolutionary arms race between intraspecific deception and detection amongst hominids. The evolution of self-deception modified an earlier split between conscious and unconscious mental activities. Unconscious social cognition emerged to avoid conscious overload when dealing with highly complex Machiavellian social relations. Evolutionary theory suggests that countertransference, in the classical Freudian sense of the word, is inevitable. Psychoanalytic clinical literature provides support for the hypothesis of unconscious social cognition, as does cognitive science. Evolutionary theory suggests that unconscious responses to the psychoanalytic situation should be particularly responses to modifications of the frame. A clinical example is presented.

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