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Stone, A.A. (1983). A Brief Note on Kant and Free Association. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 10:445-445.

(1983). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 10:445-445

A Brief Note on Kant and Free Association

Alan A. Stone

Much has been written about Freud's 'discovery' of free association. See, for example, Ernest Jones' (1953p. 246) discussion of Ludwig Borne's influence and Trosman's (1969) development of this idea. Recently, I came across what seems to be a fairly convincing description of free association in a rather unlikely source. More than a century before Freud 'discovered' the fundamental rule of psychoanalysis, Immanuel Kant seems to have considered and rejected it. Kant writes in his little known 'Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View',

to scrutinize the various acts of the imagination within me, when I call them forth, is indeed worth reflection, as well as necessary and useful for logic and metaphysics. But to wish to play the spy upon one's self, when those acts come to mind unsummoned and of their own accord (which happens through the play of the unpremeditatively creative imagination) is to reverse the natural order of the cognitive powers since then the rational elements do not take the lead (as they should) but instead follow behind. This desire for self investigation is either already a disease of the mind (hypochondria) or will lead to such a disease and ultimately to the madhouse … He who has a great deal to tell of inner experiences (for example of grace temptations etc.) may, in the course of this voyage to self-discovery have made his first landing only at Anticyre [the land of the insane] (1978p. 17).

Kant's Anthropology is a remarkable book filled with personal opinions, some prescient and some absurd.

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