Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Symbolism

Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Symbolism

Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Symbolism

Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Symbolism

Synopsis

Freud, Psychoanalysis and Symbolism offers an innovative general theory of symbolism, derived from Freud's psychoanalytic theory and relocated within mainstream scientific psychology. This is a systematic investigation of the development of Freud's treatment of symbolism throughout his published works, and it discovers in those writings a broad theory that is far superior to the narrow but widely accepted "official" view. Agnes Petocz argues that the treatment of symbolism must begin with the identification and clarification of a set of logical constraints and psychological requirements that any general theory of symbolism must respect, and that these requirements have been neglected. Her newly proposed "Freudian broad" theory of symbolism, by contrast, does meet these requirements.

Excerpt

This book had its origins in two questions related to symbolism, and in my dissatisfaction with the existing answers. Firstly, given the central place of symbolism and symbolic activity in human behaviour and mental life, is it possible to have a general, unified theory of the symbol? Secondly, if symbolism is so obviously important, why has it been almost completely neglected by the very discipline which claims to be concerned with human behaviour and mental life – psychology, especially scientific psychology? At present, the answers to these two questions may be found in the extensive non-psychological literature on symbolism. In this literature, which spans many different fields – philosophy, sociology, anthropology, hermeneutics, semiotics, aesthetics, and so on – and which is, perhaps not surprisingly, full of controversies, one observation which is made time and time again is that symbolism is inherently elusive; that the complex and multifaceted nature of the symbol rules out not just a coherent scientific treatment, but any kind of general theory. Thus, the answer to the first question is: 'no'; and the answer to the second question is: 'because symbolism is beyond the reach of science'.

In this book I challenge those answers. I do so by bringing together three lines of argument, none of which, to my knowledge, has previously been proposed. The first line of argument reverses the typical treatment of symbolism. Rather than survey the multitudinous manifestations of the symbol in human life, and conclude that a general theory is out of the question, my own treatment focuses the discussion about symbolism onto what should be the primary task, that of identifying the criteria for an adequate general theory. It seems to me that any unified theory of the symbol must respect certain logical constraints (one of which, significantly, is that it be a psychological theory) and must, thereby, meet certain psychological requirements. When these requirements are spelled out (as they are in the final chapter of the book), it becomes clear that it has been the lack of awareness of them, and the consequent failure to meet them, rather than the infinite variability and complexity of the . . .

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