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Favareau, D. (2008). Iconic, Indexical, and Symbolic Understanding: Commentary on Aragno. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 56(3):783-801.

(2008). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 56(3):783-801

Iconic, Indexical, and Symbolic Understanding: Commentary on Aragno Related Papers

Donald Favareau

As a member of a small but growing group of interdisciplinarians dedicated to the study of sign processes as an multilevel phenomenon integral to the organization of both human and animal life, I was greatly pleased to discover that a similar line of thinking is now being championed within the psychoanalytic discourse, at least as presented by Anna Aragno. Her trenchant and astute article, “The Language of Empathy,” reflects the ideas of those undertaking situated analyses of human meaning-making as it emerges simultaneously from both linguistic and sublinguistic planes of interaction.

I should state at the outset, however, that as a “biosemiotician” whose disciplinary training was first in philosophy of mind and later the neurobiology of language, I am professionally unequipped to comment on Aragno's discussion of the role of negotiating nonlinguistically mediated meaning within the profession-specific context of psychoanalytic clinical practice. Therefore, as to the merits of her specific claims regarding the proper measure of psychical “distance” between analyst and analysand, or to the discussion of how best the practicing psychoanalyst, while in session, should go about negotiating, on a necessarily moment-to-moment basis, “the full continuum of experience—from organic sensations, representational images, and raw emotions, to verbal expressions, metaphors, enactments, dynamics—that constitute the vast range of unconscious meanings that are verbalized and interpreted in the clinical situation” (p. 715), my own expertise can add nothing other than the commonplace, if still often undervalued, observation that such multimodal communicative situations are ones that all participants to human interaction find themselves occupied in co-constructing and negotiating with one another, always.

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