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Sandler, A. (1975). Comments on the Significance of Piaget's Work for Psychoanalysis. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 2:365-377.

(1975). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 2:365-377

Comments on the Significance of Piaget's Work for Psychoanalysis

Anne-Marie Sandler

When I was first approached to give this lecture on the significance of Jean Piaget's work for psychoanalysis I accepted gladly because I had no doubt in my mind that my experience as a student and co-worker of Piaget had profoundly influenced my later work as a psychoanalyst.

Both Piaget and Freud had their early training in the biological sciences, and as Piaget moved into the realm of psychology he was certainly influenced by psychoanalysis. He had a brief analysis with Mme Spielrein, a Member of the International Psycho-Analytical Association, and has acknowledged a debt to psychoanalysis. However, it is clear that, after the end of the twenties, Piaget had not kept fully in touch with newer developments. As recently as 1970 he addressed a plenary session of the American Psychoanalytic Association (Piaget, 1973), choosing as his topic 'the affective unconscious and the cognitive unconscious'. Reading his paper one cannot help being struck by his relatively incomplete view of psychoanalytic theory and of the way psychoanalysts view unconscious processes nowadays. What seems to have happened is that Piaget has assimilated his own experience and knowledge of certain aspects of psychoanalysis and has, to some degree, accommodated his system to take into account a particular set of ideas. In the process, psychoanalytic theory has become distorted by what Piaget would himself call a cognitive egocentrism.

I have the task of trying to assess something of Piaget's significance for psychoanalysis at a point in time when my own major theoretical framework is that of psychoanalysis, and it is inevitable that I shall do exactly what Piaget has done, i.

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