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Yahalom, I. (1998). Infinity and the Limits of the Unconscious. Psychoanal. Rev., 85(2):205-215.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Review, 85(2):205-215

Infinity and the Limits of the Unconscious

Itamar Yahalom, Ph.D.

I would like to start with a quotation from Freud's notes written shortly before his death

…The view that the psychical is unconscious in itself enabled psychology to take its place as a natural science like any other. The processes with which it is concerned are in themselves just as unknowable as those dealt with by other sciences, by chemistry or physics, for example; but it is possible to establish the laws which they obey and to follow their mutual relations and interdependences unbroken over long stretches—in short, to arrive at what is described as an “understanding” of the field of natural phenomena in question.

This cannot be effected without framing fresh hypotheses and creating fresh concepts; but these are not to be despised as evidence of embarrassment on our part but deserve on the contrary to be appreciated as an enrichment of science. They can lay claim to the same value as approximations that belongs in the corresponding intellectual scaffolding found in other natural sciences, and we look forward to their being modified, corrected and more precisely determined as further experience is accumulated and sifted. So too it will be entirely in accordance with our expectations if the basic concepts and principles of the new science (instinct, nervous energy, etc.) remain for a considerable time no less indeterminate than those of the older sciences (force, mass, attraction, etc.). (1940, pp. 158-159)

In Matte-Blanco's view, psychoanalysts have not really pursued Freud's fundamental discovery about the unconscious and its logic, but rather have formulated psychoanalysis in ways which tame the revolutionary characteristics of the Freudian unconscious.

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