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Britton, R. (1997). Psychic Reality And Unconscious Belief: A Reply To Harold B. Gerard. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:335-339.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:335-339

Psychic Reality And Unconscious Belief: A Reply To Harold B. Gerard Related Papers

Ronald Britton

‘realism and idealism both go too far’—(Henri Bergson)

It is flattering to find my paper the focus of a discussion on the conflicting epistemologies of Descartes and Spinoza by Harold Gerard. It is more flattering to be joined with Freud, even though it is in the dock, where we are both on a charge of intellectual naïveté. However I must put aside any gratification this might offer in order to protest that my paper has been misunderstood and misrepresented. I could say the same for Freud but I leave his defence to his own subtle and profound writings on the individual's relationship to external and psychic reality.

I say in response to Harold Gerard's paper that he is not disagreeing with my views about the relationships between phantasy, belief and knowledge but that he misunderstands them. He seems to agree with me that believing is anterior to reality testing and can exist in the absence of evidence. Furthermore, he appears to agree with my argument in the paper that a major affective and cognitive struggle in assimilating new knowledge is the relinquishment of existing but discredited beliefs. However, nothing could be further from what I think than his statement that ‘Descartes argued, as Britton does and Freud did, that phantasies or ideas are not accepted as beliefs until they check out against reality’. My contention was that belief is a status awarded by the ego to phantasies or ideas which gives to them the force of reality whether or not they correspond to external reality; in other words it gives to them psychic reality.

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