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Smith, C. (2002). Letters from Carole Smith to Professor George Steiner. Free Associations, 9(4):550-581.

(2002). Free Associations, 9(4):550-581

Letters from Carole Smith to Professor George Steiner

Carole Smith




Subtitled ‘Achilles the Heel’


I have been reading your book, Errata: An Examined Life, and have been transfixed, not to say arrested, by your Chapter Two, the one in which you write about your father from your six-year-old's perspective and describe to us in such illuminating, if not terrifying, clarity the hour after which in your own words, the rest has been a foot-note.

As one trained in psychoanalysis, however, (I must come clean) it is difficult and painful reading. And it is fascinating to wonder if you would be surprised to hear just how painful that amazingly vivid account is. For although you know, and knew

The philosopher, A. C. Grayling, in his recent essay on Freud in The Guardian newspaper, entitled: ‘Scientist or Storyteller?’, 22nd June, 2002, has rejected the existence of the unconscious on empirical grounds, and has preferred to refer to ‘non-conscious processing’ in the mind, a functional and theoretical alternative to unconscious processes. This is largely in keeping with the work of John Searle, philosopher and biologist of the mind, in his book: Mind, Language and Society (and in other works), and whose assessment of the work of Freud is noteworthy for the crispness and economy of his despatch: ‘Freudian psychology … continues to exist as a cultural phenomenon, but few serious scientists suppose it gives a scientifically well-substantiated account of human psychological development and pathology’ (p. 5). Professor Searle has preferred to speak of ‘Background capacities’, and ‘background neurosis’ (ibid., p. 109).

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