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Baudry, F. (1992). Metapsychologie Du Sens: By Daniel Widlocher. Paris: Presses Univ. France, 1986, 172 pp., Fr. 48.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 40:849-853.

(1992). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40:849-853

Metapsychologie Du Sens: By Daniel Widlocher. Paris: Presses Univ. France, 1986, 172 pp., Fr. 48.

Review by:
Francis Baudry, M.D.

A number of approaches are available to those analysts who are dissatisfied with the "classical" point of view regarding metapsychology. Some like Klein will dispense with it altogether, arguing that we do not need anything beyond clinical theory; others will try to substitute for structural theory another point of view based on some other construct such as the self; still others will hark back to other disciplines such as neurophysiology to revise some of Freud's outdated concepts. Roy Schafer has tried to introduce a new language—"action language"—in order to avoid certain dangerous reifications; French psychoanalysis being rooted in a tradition of linguistics and philosophy has borrowed heavily from those disciplines. Daniel Widlocher, who was trained and analyzed by Jacques Lacan and defected from the movement in 1963, has written an ambitious book presenting his views on a revision of the theory based on the philosophical concept of action. As many readers this side of the Atlantic are not familiar with many of his sources, some introductory comments are in order.

Widlocher and some of his colleagues see the core issue of theory as the conflict between "representations," and the understanding of the intrusion of unconscious thought processes on the ego. Metapsychology has formulated a dualism between affects and ideas, between energy and a semantic trace.

Widlocher questions whether this dualism is the best foundation for a metapsychology. The basic event is an interference—that is, an accident in the realm of time. We can only infer the existence of the unconscious; it defies direct observation. What psychoanalysis does is to assign meaning. Thus it makes sense to speak of a metapsychology of meaning. No discourse on the psychic act is possible without indicating its intent or motive.

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