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Olds, D. (1997). Commentaries. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:704-707.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:704-707

Commentaries

David Olds

Introduction:

The topic of consciousness has only in recent years become a hot one. Books on consciousness emerge off the presses almost weekly. Numerous works trace the phenomenology, the information processing, the neurobiology, and the neuropsychology of consciousness. We seem to be approaching an understanding of the phenomenon, although certainly we have not reached it; the exciting aspect of all this is the ferment, the contrary opinions, the speculations and counterspeculations that mark the threshold of a new paradigm. Psychoanalysts have not directed much effort toward consciousness, although, as Solms points out, Freud considered the issue and came to particular conclusions about it. But today among analysts there is a new interest in consciousness, naturally for us counterposed to the unconscious, for a century one of our central preoccupations.

Mark Solms, a neuropsychologist who has completed psychoanalytic training at the British Psychoanalytic Institute, is a Freud scholar and translator, as well as a prolific writer in neuropsychology. His yearlong series of lectures on the major anatomical regions of the brain, delivered to the Psychoanalysis-Neuroscience Research Group of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute in 1994-1995, is forthcoming as a JAPA monograph. In his recently published The Neuropsychology of Dreams he applies his “clinicoanatomical method” to the study of dreams and presents a neuroanatomical dissection relating to the effect on dreaming of certain types of organic neuropathology.

Solms's target article is an attempt to provide a conceptualization of the phenomenon of consciousness. First presented as the Charles Fisher Memorial Lecture at the New York Psychoanalytic Society, May 7, 1996, it appears here with commentaries from psychoanalysts and workers in neighboring disciplines—psychology, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science. The result is a rich interdisciplinary effort in a complex and challenging realm.

Solms's contribution is a modest one, and that is one of its virtues. It does not present an all-encompassing model, a “consciousness explained,” but rather is content to explore the usefulness of a Kantian/Freudian perspective on the issue. The author's main arguments are three.

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