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Skelton, R. (1988). Logic and infinity in primitive processes. Free Associations, 1O(14):79-89.

(1988). Free Associations, 1O(14):79-89

Logic and infinity in primitive processes

Ross Skelton

When, in a recent television discussion1 on psychoanalysis, Hanna Segal claimed that the process of analysis was to enable the analysand to become ‘the captain of their soul’, Steven Marcus immediately pointed out that this was a late-Victorian image. This, I think, illustrates a discomfort felt everywhere in the world by practising psychotherapists: that whereas Freud's insights are crucial to modern and future therapies, his language is often the language of the nineteenth century. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his metapsychology.

For this reason, many Freudians are keen to bring psychoanalysis ‘up to date’, not only to make it more contemporary but hoping to generate new discoveries hitherto hampered by the older aspects of the theory.

It is into this context that the work of Ignacio Matte-Blanco (1975) has arrived in the shape of a large book attempting to construe the unconscious of Freud in terms of the theory of infinite sets. There has been a restrained (though definite) interest in this project shown in the pages of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis.

The first response was an article by Eric Rayner (1981) on ‘Infinite experiences, affects and the characteristics of the unconscious’. This article was followed in 1984 by two more: one, ‘Infinite sets and double binds’, by Margaret Arden; and one, ‘Understanding Matte-Blanco’, by myself. Now, whatever the differences in these articles, they have in common an interest in a modernized metapsychology. Margaret Arden asks (p.

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