Jean-Bertrand Pontalis once remarked that one of the future tasks of psychoanalysis is to take up again the theory of the object. Ruffiot discusses the historical, scientific, cultural, and philosophical background of the development of psychoanalytic theory. Cartesian philosophy drew a sharp distinction between perceiving subject and external object. Freud's work, in displacing the Cartesian distinct consciousness of the subject through his discovery of the unconscious, nonetheless left intact the status of the object. Both the "neuronal apparatus" of the Project for a Scientific Psychology and the "psychic apparatus" which Freud later introduced into his theory were closed and isolated systems, much like the physical systems that his scientific mentors discussed. It is monadic, energetic, quantitative, and centered on the subject. But Ruffiot discerns another economic conceptualization in Freud, one that is relational and qualitative. The central idea in the second is identification, and it tends to center on the object. He briefly traces these two conceptions through Freud's work. The first, closed conception of the psychic apparatus has led to the criticisms of Bateson, Laing, and Balint, among others. Though there is perhaps a hint of an intuition of the second conception in the Project, the relational and qualitative conception begins with the technical papers of 1912, in Freud's discussion of the transference. The relational current becomes quite evident in "On Narcissism: An Introduction." There Freud takes into account the notion of intentionality discussed by Brentano, whose philosophical lectures he followed in 1874-1875. It is quite evident in "Mourning and Melancholia," Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, The Ego and the Id, and "The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex." These are the texts in which Freud elaborates his most profound views concerning identification. It is evident in the second topography (the structural point of view). From 1930 on, the subject-object couple will be known by the term "object relation." In Freud's discussion of the themes of love and in his analysis of group psychology are included some of his thoughts on the capacity for object-relatedness and identification. These were further developed by Ferenczi, Hermann, and later in the work of Balint of the Hungarian school, and by Bowlby, and Fairbairn. Pasche, in his 1965 article, "Antinarcissism," elaborated a theory of centrifugal factors influencing the ego to go outside itself.
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Wilson, E., Jr. (1992). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIX, 1985. Psychoanal. Q., 61:151