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Stengel, E. (1959). The Unconscious: A Conceptual Analysis. By A. C. MacIntyre, Ph.D. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958. Pp. 100. 11s. 6d.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 40:348.

(1959). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 40:348

The Unconscious: A Conceptual Analysis. By A. C. MacIntyre, Ph.D. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958. Pp. 100. 11s. 6d.)

Review by:
E. Stengel

The author, who is Lecturer in Philosophy at Leeds University, has in this essay attempted a logical analysis of the concept of the unconscious. He finds Freud 'not over-careful about terminology'. He refers to Freud's spurious attempt to present a psychology based on neurophysiology. Like others before him, he notes that Freud borrowed from neurology a number of terms by which he described psychological mechanisms.

The concept of the unconscious, according to the author, stands and falls with that of repression, which he regards as unproven. Freud used the term 'the unconscious' in a new meaning which in the author's view derived from neurophysiology. It is, in his opinion, no more than an explanatory concept, like the notions of the ether or the electron. In treating unconscious motives both as purposes and causes, Freud was guilty of confusion. His great achievement lay not in the explanation of abnormal behaviour but in its redescription. It is not quite easy to follow the author in these arguments. He is at a disadvantage in not being a biologist, for whom cause and purpose of behaviour are more intimately related than they are to the logician. His use of the term 'description' is different from that of the scientist. It appears that he is referring to what Jaspers called the difference between 'verstehen', i.e. to discern understandable relationships between phenomena, and 'erklären', i.e. to answer the question why a certain event happened. If this distinction was as clear and clean as it seems to the philosopher, Freud's achievement would be largely in the area of 'verstehen'.

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