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Baars, B.J. (1997). Commentaries. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:707-714.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:707-714


Bernard J. Baars

This commentary on Mark Solms's ingenious paper is written from the perspective of a cognitive and brain theorist working on the issue of consciousness (and, necessarily, unconsciousness as well). I believe his critique of contemporary scientific work on these issues is now largely moot, because current research is moving quite rapidly to make sense of both conscious and unconscious functions, unencumbered so far by the troubles so many critics had predicted. We are rediscovering a great continent of evidence, neither encountering hippogriffs nor falling off the edge of the earth. The new scientific framework, in my view, is entirely consistent both with psychodynamic ideas and with William James's classic work written more than a century ago.

Since about 1910 there has been great resistance in academic science to research on consciousness. Indeed, until the last decade or so, the very word consciousness was scrupulously avoided (Baars 1986, 1988, 1996). Of course, if we cannot speak of consciousness, unconsciousness becomes meaningless as well. In that sense, both psychoanalysis and the psychology of such luminaries as James were excluded until quite recently. Today both conscious and unconscious processes have come back quite dramatically as topics of academic concern, in part because cognitive psychologists have learned to use behavioral evidence to make persuasive inferences about underlying theoretical constructs.

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