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Shevrin, H. (1997). Commentaries. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:746-753.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:746-753


Howard Shevrin

In a heady cocktail of philosophical, psychological, and neurophysiological ingredients, Solms offers psychoanalysis a purported life-giving potion he claims will liberate if from subservience to reductionist neuroscientists like Crick and naturalist/realist philosophers like Searle. Psychoanalysis need only reclaim its classical Freudian heritage, based philosophically on Kant, to escape these latter-day enchantments. Unfortunately, Solms's recipe is made up more of assertion than explication, leaving us woefully in the dark on how all this can be accomplished.

Let us start with several of his numerous assertions and then see how they bear on each other and where they lead us. Let us also not be misled by the source of some of these assertions, often Freud, because it is what Solms does with these assertions that will concern us, and not with what Freud actually did with them or might have done. There are three such assertions that merit closer scrutiny: (1) All mental processes are unconscious; (2) consciousness is a “sense organ” for “perceiving” these mental processes; (3) as any sense organ, consciousness selects and distorts, making us aware only of what it can, by reason of its own limited or unique capacities.

Although the sense organ analogy can be useful, Solms's version encounters serious problems because it is so vital for him to assert that consciousness as a sense organ rides above and, most important to his argument, is totally independent of both external and internal reality, both the realm of objects and events outside us and the presumed psychic realm inside us. Consciousness emerges as a deus in machina, an entity made of stuff different from the mental and the physical. It is in fact remarkably similar to Bishop Berkeley's God, who guarantees that our world of appearances is sustained in the absence of any truly knowable, independent reality.

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