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Cavell, M. (1991). The Subject of Mind. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 72:141-154.

(1991). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 72:141-154

The Subject of Mind

Marcia Cavell


Though certain assumptions about the nature of meaning that I call subjectivist go contrary to the general direction of psychoanalytic thought, they are intrinsic to Freud's view of the unconscious as a special mental system with characteristics unique to it. A corollary to this view of meaning in Freud's case is that instinctual processes are a rudimentary form of the mental, providing a genetic base from which 'secondary' mental states derive. I argue that the mental is irreducible to instinct or anything else, and that even in its most rudimentary form, mentality presumes an interaction between creature and the external world, also creature and other creatures, that has an essentially linguistic nature. I claim that psychoanalysis would lose nothing that is crucial to it were it to view subjectivity as something that can only emerge in time; on the contrary it would clarify its own most valuable insights.

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