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Frosh, S. (2001). On Reason, Discourse, and Fantasy. Am. Imago, 58(3):627-647.

(2001). American Imago, 58(3):627-647

On Reason, Discourse, and Fantasy

Stephen Frosh

Reasons (to be thankful)

It hardly needs saying: psychoanalysis radicalizes knowledge by asserting its transformative nature. From the moment of the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams, a book of “science” based on Freud's revelation of his own unconscious world, a new mode of doing “human science” enters into view. It is marked by anxiety, as attested to by the number of Freud's dream interpretations that center on self-justification of the “You see, I have come to something” variety (1900, 216). Indeed, the whole book can be read as built on the tension between the shame of self-exposure (will readers laugh?) and Freud's wish to be shown, like the biblical Joseph with whom he identifies, to be the true master, the one who knows. So from the inauguration of this method, this theory, there is a vivid construction of a way of knowing that leaves everything touched, changes it all: to accept the assertions of The Interpretation of Dreams is not just to acknowledge a good idea, but to vindicate Freud, make his justificatory dreams unnecessary, and change the nature of our own dreams for all time.

Of course, the query over the notion of “science” has haunted psychoanalysis from the word go, despite Freud's own unequivocal view that “Psychoanalysis … is a part of science and can adhere to the scientific Weltanschauung” (1933, 181). One unusual feature of psychoanalysis is that knowledge is given the status both of scientific advancement—pursuing understanding of the general functioning of human subjects, of the unconscious, of psychopathology and so on—and also as the route to personal change.

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