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Solms, M. (1997). What Is Consciousness?. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:681-703.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:681-703

What Is Consciousness?

Mark Solms

In the past few years scientists and scholars in a variety of disciplines have been making concerted efforts to answer an ancient question, namely, How exactly do the physical processes in the brain cause consciousness? What is distinctive about the way in which modern scientists and scholars are approaching this question is that they are treating it as a scientific problem rather than a metaphysical one. This transition reflects the air of expectation in contemporary cognitive science to the effect that an empirical solution is imminent to a philosophical problem that previously was considered insoluble. Nevertheless, a recent authoritative review of the publications of such leading contemporary workers in the field as Francis Crick, Daniel Dennett, Gerald Edelman, Roger Penrose, and Israel Rosenfield has concluded that they have all failed to provide a satisfactory answer to the question (Searle 1995a). The present paper makes a psychoanalytic contribution to this interdisciplinary effort and provides an alternative answer to the question, based on Freud's conceptualization of the problem of consciousness. The paper takes a concrete example from Searle's review, reanalyses it within Freud's metapsychological frame of reference, and shows how this frame provides a radical solution to the problem. This implication of Freud's work has not hitherto been recognized and so has not received the attention it deserves.

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