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Hermann, P. (1982). Freud and the Principle of Complementarity. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:488-489.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:488-489

Freud and the Principle of Complementarity

P. Hermann


I come back to Devereux's paper published in the International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 1980, 7: 521–522, and to the letter to the Editor of Rothenberg published in the last issue of the International Review, 1982, 9: 104–105.

I want to make some comments on two points, the first one being the question of priority, the second the difference between practice, thoughts and their formalization.

It is a fact that some of the concepts introduced by Sigmund Freud are now understandable in terms of the complementarity principle. Such are the coupled and antagonist concepts of primary and secondary process, as well as the opposition between pleasure principle and reality principle. According to Laplanche & Pontalis (1967), they already appear in Freud's writing in 1895 and 1900. Perhaps, there was something brewing, even before Freud, as underlined by Holton, 1973, but Freud did use this 'thought' as a model to build his conceptual tools. Then what was a 'thought' becomes a tool. It is an important step that we may call 'operationalization'. What Bohr did when he introduced in 1927 the principle of complementarity is still something different. It is not only the operationalization of a 'thought' but also its formalization. Things appear as if Freud has been using the thought to build his tools, but he neither formulated it nor formalized it.

Often it seems that a profound and strong epistemological elaboration is in the background of some papers like 'Construction in Psychoanalysis' (1937), but it remains in the background.

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