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Yu, C.K. (2006). Commentary on “Freudian Dream Theory, Dream Bizarreness, and the Disguise-Censor Controversy”. Neuropsychoanalysis, 8(1):53-59.

(2006). Neuropsychoanalysis, 8(1):53-59

Commentary on “Freudian Dream Theory, Dream Bizarreness, and the Disguise-Censor Controversy” Related Papers

Calvin Kai-Ching Yu

The Dream Censor: Illusion or Homunculus?

In his review of Freud's theory of dreaming, Simon Boag argued that the notion of censorship should be discarded for two primary reasons. First, Freud's account of the censor is metaphorical and without clear indication of what exactly the metaphor refers to. Second, it is impossible for this higher function to take place without the ego's awareness. This commentary addresses the scientific viability of the censor.

According to Boag, to complete its jobs, “the censoring agencymust have a greater capacity than any other part of the mind for (i) representing the contents of other mental parts, and (ii) controlling mental events’ (Gardner, 1993, p. 48). Hence, the censoring agency must be superior to the conscious system (or, the ego) and be a transcendental agency, standing above the different mental systems and traversing them at will (cf. Gardner, 1993; Sartre, 1956)” (emphases added).

Combining all of these functions appears to be impossible, because most of the cognitive or higher functions are experienced as volitional and presumably require conscious effort. Accordingly, the more cognitive functions the censor is expected to carry out, the more unlikely it is that it can operate without the ego's awareness. However, it may be possible to avoid this conceptual controversy by making some clarifications. First, the development and operation of censorship are motivational. Second, in the light of the neuroscientific evidence, it is becoming increasingly apparent that significant cognitive or higher functions can take place without the ego's awareness. Third, it may be that too many distinct and incompatible functions (i.e., disguising versus censoring) have been attributed solely to a “separate” mental agency. Fourth, in the same vein, it is unconvincing to suppose that a particular structure of the brain is fully responsible for both monitory function and perceptual distortion. Yet this does not preclude the raison d'être for the two associated mechanisms.

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