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Frie, R. (1999). Psychoanalysis and the Linguistic Turn. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(4):673-697.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(4):673-697

Psychoanalysis and the Linguistic Turn

Roger Frie, Ph.D.

CONTEMPORARY THEORISTS ARE FASCINATED by the relation of language to human development and experience. The study of language is also a point of surprising convergence between different disciplines, particularly philosophy and psychoanalysis. In general, the use of language as a tool for understanding and exploring the nature of the self and subjectivity is referred to as the “linguistic turn.” For many philosophers, the public character of language provides a means to overcome the Cartesian view of consciousness as private and internal. For many psychoanalysts, language demonstrates the interpersonal nature of human development, because linguistic interaction is only possible against the background of a shared and meaningful world. For both, language is seen to be intrinsic to human consciousness.

This article considers the ways in which language impacts upon the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and, in turn, the ways in which theory and practice in psychoanalysis can help us to understand and enter into the debate about language and subjectivity. The contemporary emphasis on language in much philosophy and psychoanalysis has undeniably enriched our understanding of the self. I want to show, however, that the linguistic turn also raises a number of important questions.

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