The Unconscious: A Conceptual Analysis

The Unconscious: A Conceptual Analysis

The Unconscious: A Conceptual Analysis

The Unconscious: A Conceptual Analysis

Synopsis

First published in 1958, 'The Unconscious' still ranks as one of the most important and clearly written philosophical inquiries into the fundamental concept of psychoanalysis.

Excerpt

The Unconscious: a conceptual analysis was written in 1957, when I had just resigned the position of Lecturer in the Philosophy of Religion at Manchester University in order to become a member of the Leeds University Philosophy Department. At Manchester one of my duties had been to teach the psychology of religion. I had told the committee that interviewed me for the post in May 1951 that I had read some William James, a little Jung, and rather more Freud, but otherwise knew nothing about the psychology of religion. 'No matter', they replied. 'If you begin work now, you should be able to teach it by October.' And so I had a shock immersion in the literature, one result of which was to become deeply engaged with a number of psychoanalytic writers and not only Freud, but also, among others, Marjorie Brierley and W. R. D. Fairbairn, albeit in a largely unsystematic way.

It was to put my thoughts in order that I wrote The Unconscious, and the impulse to do so was two-fold. On the one hand I wanted to be able to integrate what I had learnt about psychoanalytic theory with what I had learnt from Gilbert Ryle, Iris Murdoch and others in the philosophy of mind. On the other I had been forced to recognize that psychoanalytic understanding of oneself is a source of insights, valuable in themselves as well as in their implications for theorizing, by my then recent discovery that the acquisition of even partial self-knowledge may involve a degree and a kind of pain that had been quite unexpected.

From the perspective of the present it is easy to see that in The Unconscious I was able to make no more than a beginning, that I still needed to develop much further the positions which I only sketched in outline, and that I also needed to learn that

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