Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Winnicott's Foundation for the Basic Concepts of Freud's Metapsychology?1

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Winnicott's Foundation for the Basic Concepts of Freud's Metapsychology?1

Article excerpt

In a recent paper, Fulgencio shows how Winnicott rejected the basic speculative concepts of Freud's metapsychology - Trieb, psychical apparatus and libido - and replaced them with non-speculative concepts that promoted a factual theorization. In this paper, the author examines some of Winnicott's concepts and attempts to demonstrate how, rather than replacing Freud's concepts, he provides a factual foundation for the metapsychology in the double dependence of the infant in care. Freud never actually disregards the necessity of early mothering but he takes it for granted. By differentiating between ego needs and id needs, ego-relatedness and id-relatedness, object-mother and environment-mother, Winnicott attempts to theorize what Freud takes for granted: the function of the holding environment as a framework for id-experiences and the function of object-presenting as a condition of reality-testing. Furthermore, by differentiating between pure male and pure female elements, he is also able to construct a highly speculative theorization in order to distinguish two basic principles: doing and being. Although the death drive is clearly rejected, this rejection follows from his theorization of double dependence. Consequently, the author suggests that Winnicott did not discard metapsychological concepts but theorized the conditions for using both these and the intrapsychic topography.

Keywords: double dependence, foundation, metapsychology

Introduction

In a recent paper, Fulgencio (2007) seeks to demonstrate how Winnicott 'rejected' or 'discarded' the basic concepts of Freud's metapsychology, ''exchanging them for non-speculative concepts. This did not imply a generalized rejection of Freud's clinical findings, but only a conceptual redefinition of metapsychological terms, such as 'id', 'ego' and 'superego' - which make up Freud's second topography - whereby they were furnished with adequate factual content'' (2007, p. 459).

Fulgencio revises the metapsychological concepts that Freud defined as the speculative superstructure of psychoanalysis - auxiliary constructions or heuristic fictions. He then contrasts Winnicott's ''vehement rejection of the speculative concepts of Freudian metapsychology'' with his ''constant concern with furnishing his theories with factual content'' (2007, p. 447). He largely demonstrates in succession Winnicott's criticism of the concepts of the life drive [Lebenstrieb], the death drive [Todestrieb] and the drives in general, his specific use of the concept of 'need' and his rejection of the notion of the psychic apparatus and the libido as a psychic energy. In conclusion, he reasserts that Winnicott has rejected the speculative concepts of metapsychology not to replace them with other similarly speculative concepts ''but to propose a psychoanalytical theory that did not fall back on that kind of speculation or witchcraft'', a theorization as close to experience as possible, a ''factual theorization'' (2007, p. 458). In fact, I agree with many of Fulgencio's arguments but not with their interpretation; it would be interesting to discuss his argument in detail but this lies beyond the scope of this paper.

My aim is primarily and essentially to demonstrate that, although Winnicott does put forward a factual theorization, this theorization does not replace the metapsychology but establishes it: the speculative concepts are based on facts, namely the double dependence of the early stages of the infant in care. By differentiating between ego needs and id needs, egorelatedness and id-relatedness, object-mother and environment-mother, Winnicott attempts to theorize what Freud took for granted: the function of the holding environment as a framework for id-experiences and the function of object-presenting as the basic condition of reality-testing.

Secondly, I shall also demonstrate that, by introducing the concepts of pure male and pure female elements, Winnicott himself used a highly speculative theorization to distinguish two basic principles: doing and being. …

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