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Cavell, M. (1996). From Freud's Consulting Room: The Unconscious In A Scientific Age. By Judith M. Hughes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1994, 230 pp., $27.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:607-610.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:607-610

From Freud's Consulting Room: The Unconscious In A Scientific Age. By Judith M. Hughes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1994, 230 pp., $27.95.

Review by:
Marcia Cavell

It is well known that Freud was influenced in his early commitment to a reductive mechanism by H. L. F. von Helmholtz and by G. T. Fechner. It is perhaps less well known that the most important work of both these men was not reductivist in its implications. Fechner, for example, took a degree in biology, turned to physics, then, finally, hoping to quarry the mind-body problem, to philosophy. Like Spinoza, Fechner believed that body and mind are two irreducibly different ways of talking about one divinely ordered reality, and he wanted to secure his own version of this “dual-aspect” theory for metaphysics. With the discovery of a principle relating objective sensory stimuli to subjective experience, he thought he had. A recent article by George Makari (1994) reveals the roots of Freud's 1900 theory of transference in such a late-nineteenth century cross-fertilization between physiology and philosophy.

Freud's debt to philosophy is also the subject of From Freud's Consulting Room: The Unconscious in a Scientific Age. Claiming that Freud's achievement grew out of an encounter with philosophy that he only fitfully recognized as such, Judith M. Hughes begins her volume with a discussion of Freud and William James. She points out that while for James consciousness was a necessary condition of the mental, Freud always insisted on the existence of processes that were neither conscious nor merely neurological in nature. Thus, Hughes invites the reader to see Freud opening a terrain between mind and body as philosophers had conceived them.

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