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Brakel, L.A. (1994). On Knowing the Unconscious: Lessons from the Epistemology of Geometry and Space. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:39-48.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:39-48

On Knowing the Unconscious: Lessons from the Epistemology of Geometry and Space

Linda A. Wimer Brakel


Concepts involving unconscious processes and contents are central to any understanding of psychoanalysis. Indeed, the dynamic unconscious is familiar as a necessary assumption of the psychoanalytic method. Using the manner of knowing the geometry of space, including non-ordinary sized space, this paper attempts to demonstrate by analogy the possibility of knowing (and knowing the nature of) unconscious mentation—that of which by definition we cannot be aware; and yet that which constitutes a basic assumption of psychoanalysis. As an assumption of the psychoanalytic method, no amount of data from within the psychoanalytic method can ever provide evidence for the existence of the unconscious, nor for knowing its nature; hence the need for this sort of illustration by analogy. Along the way, three claims are made: (1) Freudian 'secondary process' operating during everyday adult, normal, logical thought can be considered a modernised version of the Kantian categories. (2) Use of models facilitates a generation of outside-the-Kantian-categories possibilities, and also provides a conserving function, as outside-the-categories possibilities can be assimilated. (3) Transformations are different from translations; knowledge of transformations can provide non-trivial knowledge about various substrates, otherwise difficult to know.

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