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Whitehead, C.C. (2008). Commentary on “Living within the Cellular Envelope: Subjectivity and Self from an Evolutionary Neuropsychoanalytic Perspective” by Harry R. Brickman. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 36(2):343-346.

(2008). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 36(2):343-346

Commentary on “Living within the Cellular Envelope: Subjectivity and Self from an Evolutionary Neuropsychoanalytic Perspective” by Harry R. Brickman Related Papers

Clay C. Whitehead, M.D.

Harry Brickman's article on evolution and subjectivity is a significant contribution to the effort to reunite psychoanalysis and traditional science, the so-called third psychoanalytic revolution. As required by work in this arena, his vision is broad, and his scholarship is impressive. His work reminds us that those with an interest in the scientific future of psychoanalysis must become at least conversant with neuroscience, ecology, animal behavior, behavioral genetics, philosophy of mind, cultural anthropology and paleontology. At the heart of this enterprise lies the mysterious mind/body problem, the so-called hard problem of neuroscience.

As a preamble to this discussion, it is worth remembering that until about 10 years ago, physicists were unaware of over half of the cosmos which they now term dark matter and dark energy. In the same vein, neuroscientists are beginning to recognize that about 70% of the brain's energy consumption is devoted to a poorly understood “intrinsic activity,” termed brain dark energy (Raichle, 2006). Modesty remains appropriate if rare, and one suspects that the next decade will bring great surprises indeed.

Brickman's approach is based on two major gambits. In the first approach, the human condition is considered from the prospect of natural science, a Darwinian neuropsychoanalysis. This viewpoint, of crucial importance in the third psychoanalytic revolution, offers great promise in the reunion with traditional science. The second gambit, which describes the brain as a closed membrane or cellular envelope, unavoidably brings us to the mind-body problem. For the present discussion, we will begin with this second metapsychological argument concerning the cellular envelope and subjectivity.

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