Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

The Freudian unconscious in the context of the cognitive orientation

Vesa Talvitie

Doctoral dissertation, September 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Department of Psychology.

For decades psychoanalysis was the discipline studying the unconscious, and other branches of study lacked competence to take a stand on the issues concerning the unconscious. From 1980s onwards intense study of the unconscious has been taken place in the scope of cognitive orientation. Thus, nowadays it is talked about both pyschoanalytic and cognitive unconscious. The aim of this thesis is to integrate psychoanalytic and cognitive views.

When the "Freudian" conception of the unconscious is considered, there are four entangled issues: 1) what is the unconscious like, 2) how does the unconsciuos give rise to psychic disorders 3) why and how certain contents are missing from consciousness (repression of contents), 4) the emergence of those contents (becoming conscious of the repressed). The conventional psychoanalytic answer to the first question - and "the cornerstone of psychoanalysis" - is "the unconscious is mental". The issues 2)-4) depend radically on the answer given to the 1): "psychoanalytic" conceptualizations on them rest on the "cornerstone".

That ground was challended in study I: it was argued that it has never been clear what does it mean that the unconscious is mental. Thus, it was stated that in the current state of art psychoanalysis should drop out the ephitet "mental" before the term unconscious. That claim creates a pressure to reappraise the convential "psychoanalytic" answers to the other questions, and that reappraisal was the aim of studies II and III.

In study II the question 2) is approached in terms of implicit knowledge. Study III focuses on mechanisms, which determine which contents appear in the scope of consciousness, and also cause missing of contents from there (the questions 3) and 4)). In the core of study III there are distinctions concerning the processess occuring in the levels of the brain, consciousness, self-consciousness, and narrative self-consciousness.

Studies I-III set "psychoanalytic" topics in the frames of cognitive view. The picture emerging from those studies is not especially useful for a clinican (psychotherapist). Studies IV and V focused that issue. Study IV is a rather serious critique toward neuropsychoanalysis. In it it was claimed that repressive functions of conscious states are in the core of clinical psychoanalysis, and functions in general cannot be reduced to neurophysiological terminology. Thus, the limits of neuropsychoanalysis are more strict than it has been realized: crucial clinical issues remain outside its scope. In study V it was focused on the confusing state of things that although unconscious fantasies do not exist, the idea on them has been an important conceptual tool for clinicans. When put in a larger context, the aim of study V is similar to that of study IV: to determine the relation between psychotherapists' and neuroscientists' terminologies. Studies III, IV and V apply the philosopher Daniel Dennett's model on different levels of explanation.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 03.08.2006

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