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Thibierge, S. Morin, C. (2010). The Self and the Subject: A Psychoanalytic Lacanian Perspective. Neuropsychoanalysis, 12(1):81-93.

(2010). Neuropsychoanalysis, 12(1):81-93

The Self and the Subject: A Psychoanalytic Lacanian Perspective

S. Thibierge and C. Morin

In current research, the self, or the “first-person perspective,” is often studied in terms of its cognitive functions (agency, “mindreading,” body representation, etc.). As clearly shown by Decety (2002), these studies are based on the assumption that mental processes must be “described in terms that make it clear that they are achievable by one brain.” It has been well established, however, that though one human brain is necessary, it is not sufficient for the development of a psychic subject capable of mental processes. Indeed, to do so, the brain must be connected with a particular language system, which is external and exists prior to the birth of each human brain. Psychoanalysis demonstrates that such a process not only yields human individuals who consider themselves as autonomous egos with a cognitive representation of the external world, but that these humans also suffer a particular “lack” or “want,” which makes each of them a desiring subject. Regardless of the conscious representations of the “self,” the psychic life (including cognition) of this subject is governed by the repeated—though vain—search for a repressed object that cannot be represented. The contribution of psychoanalysis to understanding what constitutes the “self” was first indirectly demonstrated through the psychoanalysis of neurotic patients. The study of psychiatric or neurological pathologies, in particular psychosis (Cotard, Fregoli, and Capgras syndromes) or the right hemisphere syndrome (in particular, somatoparaphrenia), confirms these findings. This paper represents a contribution to the understanding of subjectivity through a psychoanalytic perspective on the Fregoli syndrome and somatoparaphrenia.

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