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Friedman, L. (1999). Why is Reality a Troubling Concept?. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(2):401-425.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(2):401-425

Why is Reality a Troubling Concept?

Lawrence Friedman

Many psychoanalysts assume that modern philosophy has revealed that objective reality is an illusion, and they take that as their starting point for discussing psychic reality and the direction of treatment. However, the philosophical argument for the antiobjectivist position, far from being a final truth, can be seen as a late echo of the age-old debate over whether it is possible to match unchanging general descriptions to the changing individuals in the world. It is but one of two competing philosophical positions (postulating either a world of incomparable individuals or a world of abstract properties), neither of which can definitively vanquish its rival without violating common sense. The underlying, specifically psychoanalytic problem that stirs these recent debates is not the philosophical problem of reality, but rather the question of what it can mean to say that someone is realistic in regard to the world of human values, roles, and relationships. Analytic tradition begins the inquiry by suggesting that realisticness about human meaning is a matter of feeling out the potentialities of the human world by multiple affective attachments. Many questions remain to be answered.

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