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Levenson, E.A. (1984). Reply. Contemp. Psychoanal., 20:224-227.

(1984). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 20:224-227


Edgar A. Levenson, M.D.

I WANT TO THANK THE DISCUSSANTS for their thoughtful attention to my presentation. I feel a little bit like the woman in the Russian story who had accused another woman of stealing her cooking pot and was told, "In the first place, I didn't steal your pot, and in the second place it had a hole in it."

I quoted Sullivan as saying that the idea that a child could experience anxiety on simple disapproval as a statement of Sullivan's inconsistency. I wasn't being inconsistent in my position, I was using it as a statement of Sullivan's inconsistency. In addition, it seemed to me we agree that if drive cannot be rendered quiescent by experience, that seems to be altogether different than the kind of thing I'm defining. For instance, language, which I would suppose is an a priori, can be rendered quiescent by experience. As a matter of fact, feral children, if not exposed to speech, never develop the capacity.

I hope we might all agree it would be the height of intellectual philistinism to assume that if one view is correct then the other must be wrong. The relationship of nature to society, and language to experience, whether language is superordinant, subordinant or coordinate, are essentially arguments about the nature of man. They are ontological arguments that have been going on at least since Periclean Greece and will probably be going on at the 140th Anniversary of the White Institute. Psychoanalysts should not think that they have invented this particular wheel. I think that there is really a major misunderstanding of what I'm trying to get at.

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