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In-depth analysis of Winnicott’s psychoanalytic theorization was conducted by Jan Abrams in her work The Language of Winnicott. You can access it directly by clicking here.

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Jones, J.W. (1992). Knowledge in Transition: Toward a Winnicottian Epistemology. Psychoanal. Rev., 79(2):223-237.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Review, 79(2):223-237

Knowledge in Transition: Toward a Winnicottian Epistemology

James W. Jones, Psy.D., Ph.D.


Freud cast his discoveries in the materialistic and mechanistic language of Newtonian science. A central pillar of Freud's intellectual edifice was the “reality principle” —a metaphysical theory now become a diagnostic category. The “reality” behind the reality principle was the physical world as described by nineteenth-century physics. Armed with this clear and concise definition of what could be true and what had to be false, what could be real and what had to be imaginary, Freud could easily attack religion and philosophy as the products of faulty thinking and imagination (Jones, 1991).

In Playing and Reality (1971), D. W. Winnicott is clearly trying to move beyond this dichotomy by proposing “a third area of human living, one neither inside the individual nor outside in the world of shared reality” (p. 110). Between inner and outer lies interaction. Neither the objective environment nor the isolated individual but, rather, the interaction between them defines this third domain, for it “is a product of the experiences of the individual…. in the environment” (p. 107, emphasis in the original). This intermediate reality is interpersonal from its inception. Beginning in the interactional space between mother and infant, it remains an interpersonal experience as it gradually spreads out from the relation to the mother to “the whole cultural field” for “the place where cultural experience is located is in the potential space between the individual and the environment (originally the object)” (p. 100).

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