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Riolo, F. (2010). The Psychoanalytic Status of the Term «Unconscious»: A Present-Day Perspective. Ital. Psychoanal. Annu., 4:7-22.

(2010). The Italian Psychoanalytic Annual, 4:7-22

The Psychoanalytic Status of the Term «Unconscious»: A Present-Day Perspective Language Translation

Fernando Riolo

Translated by:
Philip Slotkin, M.A.

We know two kinds of things about what we call our psyche (or mental life): firstly, its bodily organ and scene of action, the brain (or nervous system) and, on the other hand, our acts of consciousness, which are immediate data […]. Everything that lies between is unknown to us, and the data do not include any direct relation between these two terminal points of our knowledge

(FREUD, 1938, 144)

That territory which lies between is now less extensive and less unknown, thanks to the instruments we have at our disposal for exploring it from both terminal points. As to our own instruments, since they are the ones of which we can speak, I believe that they are still good and that they should not be set aside. However, the limit up to which their power assists us is constantly overstepped by confrontation with the dramatic and incomprehensible phenomena whereby the patients of our own time put us to the test.

Between the two terminal points of that territory, between the mystery that is unveiled and the mystery that resists, lies the challenge for the future of psychoanalysis. For the sake of simplicity, I shall call this the challenge of representability, and the two terminal points between which it unfolds that which lies upstream of repression and that which lies downstream of repression. The subject of this contribution is that which lies between these two points.

The history of the concept denoted by word «unconscious» in many respects resembles that of the concept of infinity.

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