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Mills, J. (1999). A Review of Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity in Modern Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: A Study of Sartre, Binswanger, Lacan, and Habermas: Roger Frie. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997. 227 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35:342-347.

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(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(2):342-347

Unconscious Subjectivity

A Review of Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity in Modern Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: A Study of Sartre, Binswanger, Lacan, and Habermas: Roger Frie. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997. 227 pp.

Review by:
Jon Mills, Psy.D., Ph.D.

WHAT CONSTITUTES HUMAN SUBJECTIVITY? This is a current philosophical as well as psychoanalytic preoccupation. Modern philosophy has largely sought to account for subjectivity by positing an a priori ground that makes consciousness possible, whereas the post-modern position goes so far as to displace subjectivity altogether: The self is a social construction determined by language. In contrast, analytic philosophy is largely a materialistic enterprise that makes human consciousness and the intricacies of intersubjectivity mere brain states. Both of these philosophical perspectives hold dogmatic ontological assertions that lend themselves to highly reductive accounts of subjectivity. Contemporary psychoanalytic theory seems perilously close to adopting the postmodern position. The peril in opting for nominalism over essentialism, and in attributing human change and growth solely to the power of the narrative, is that the notion of the self can be eclipsed by a sociallinguistic determinism.

In his book, Roger Frie seizes this perilous issue head-on by the horns. Frie provides a philosophical critique of the ontology of subjectivity and its relation to interpersonal accounts of psychic structure. He presents a concise, well-articulated historical overview of modern and postmodern theories of consciousness, and spells out their implications for psychoanalysis. The book's central concern is to understand the nature of self consciousness, its dependence on language, and its place in the inter-subjective domain of human relatedness. Psychoanalysts are too often sheltered from philosophical discourse. If there is one work any philosophically inclined analyst should read this year, Frie's excellent scholarly book is it.

Frie begins by examining the modern platform within Western philosophy that informs our understanding of consciousness. He then turn to Sartre. Sartre's model of subjectivity emphasizes the nature of prereflective or nonpositional consciousness, that is, a state of consciousness

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