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Stolorow, R.D. Orange, D.M. Atwood, G.E. (2001). World Horizons: A Post-Cartesian Alternative to the Freudian Unconscious. Contemp. Psychoanal., 37(1):43-61.

(2001). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 37(1):43-61

World Horizons: A Post-Cartesian Alternative to the Freudian Unconscious

Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D., Donna M. Orange, Ph.D., Psy.D. and George E. Atwood, Ph.D.

A mythology reflects its region.

—Wallace Stevens

The boundary is that from which something begins its presencing.

—Martin Heidegger

Sensibility does not simply record facts; it unfolds a world … from which they will not be able to escape.

—Emmanuel Levinas

Freud's “discovery” of the unconscious has been characterized as a second Copernican revolution in that it radically undermined the epistemological status of the self-conscious subject, which had been the centerpiece of Descartes' philosophy and of Enlightenment thought in general. From a Freudian perspective, Descartes' self-conscious cogito was exposed as a grandiose illusion; consciousness was shown to be a mere pawn of vast unconscious forces of which the subject was completely unaware. Nevertheless, the Freudian unconscious remained deeply saturated with the very Cartesianism to which it posed a challenge (Cavell, 1993). Descartes' philosophy had bifurcated the subjective world into outer and inner regions, reified the resulting separation between the two, and pictured the mind as an objective entity that takes its place among other objects, a “thinking thing” that has an inside with contents and looks out on an external world from which it is essentially estranged. The Freudian unconscious and its contents are but a sealed-off, underground chamber within the Cartesian isolated mind.


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