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Bell, D. Leite, A. (2016). Experiential Self-Understanding. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(2):305-332.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(2):305-332

Experiential Self-Understanding

David Bell and Adam Leite

(Accepted for publication 15 February 2015)

The notion of insight is at one and the same time central to psychoanalysis and to the self-understanding that is part of everyday life. Through clinical material and critical engagement with contemporary philosophical work on self-knowledge, this paper clarifies one crucial aspect of this key notion. Self-understanding of the sort we have in mind, while of course involving cognitive elements, is not sufficiently accounted for by cognition about one's affects, motivations, or other aspects of the psyche, nor by the simple conjunction of such cognition with felt affect, motivational urges, etc. Nor is it best modelled in terms of internal self-observation. Rather, it is the product of an ongoing process of the unfolding articulation of one's psychic life. The notion of experience is important here in three ways. First, lived experience is that out of which the self-understanding arises. Second, this self-understanding is a development and articulation of these aspects of our inner lives; it is a part of that same lived perspective. And third, this understanding in turn shapes one's experience of one's inner world: as it is attained, one's experience of oneself thereby changes. Central here is the emphasis upon a developing process involving the ability to speak from one's subjective perspective while experiencing one's subjective perspective as the perspective that it is.

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