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Modell, A.H. (2001). Seeing Beyond “Representation” and “Modularity” Commentary by Arnold H. Modell. Neuropsychoanalysis, 3(1):29-32.

(2001). Neuropsychoanalysis, 3(1):29-32

Seeing Beyond “Representation” and “Modularity” Commentary by Arnold H. Modell Related Papers

Arnold H. Modell

Carlo Semenza's essay regarding the relation between neuropsychology and psychoanalysis, invites us to re-examine the basic assumptions that influence our theories about the mind-brain. Can the functions of the mind-brain be thought of as logical computations from which can be derived predictable universal laws, or are such functions indeterminate and unpredictable as suggested by nonlinear dynamics? Semenza makes his own position clear in that he believes that psychoanalysis, as does cognitive science, derives “laws” of mental functioning from observation. He appears to share the assumptions of many cognitive scientists, that brains “compute.” Semenza also suggests that psychoanalysis should pay special attention to the concepts of representation and modularity, basic assumptions of many versions of cognitive science. But I plan to show that these concepts are seriously misleading. Semenza has, in my opinion, backed the wrong metaphors.

The theory of a modular mind assumes a “representational theory of mind.” The philosopher Jerry Fodor, who popularized this concept, linked modularity to representation, as modularity implicitly assumes functionally distinct neural structures that are “computationally” autonomous (Fodor 1983, 1998). Many cognitive scientists have espoused these concepts in an understandable effort to find scientific theories that would explain how the mind-brain works. Freud's “Project” (1895) was an analogous attempt to recast psychological processes in the language of energy and quantity, the variables of physical science.

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