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Noel-Smith, K. (2002). Time and Space as ‘Necessary Forms of Thought’. Free Associations, 9(3):394-442.

(2002). Free Associations, 9(3):394-442

Time and Space as ‘Necessary Forms of Thought’

Kelly Noel-Smith

“O God! I could be bounded in a nut-shell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1968, p. 263)


My Initial Idea for this paper was to discuss some psychoanalytic metaphors for mental space — Freud's vesicle, Bion's container, Winnicott's transitional space, Steiner's psychic retreats and Meltzer's claustrum — in terms of the philosophical concepts of being and nothingness. I intended to focus on Sartre's idea that ‘Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being — like a worm’ (Sartre, 1943, p. 21) to illustrate the connection between nothingness, as an unconscious mental state in which space and time have no domain, and being, which requires psychic space to be in.

I began the first draft of this paper with a quotation from ‘Beyond the pleasure principle’ (the extract now follows this introduction), in which Freud makes explicit reference to Kant's thesis that time and space are necessary forms of thought. Initially, I focused exclusively on space and failed to consider the need to include the concept of time in the discussion. It was only on a re-reading of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, which I had drawn on to illuminate the necessary relationship between an inner sense of containment and the perceptual apparatus which links our inner and outer worlds, that I realized the extent of my omission.

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