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Solms, M. (2006). Commentary on “The Psychic Apparatus, Metapsychology, and Neuroscience”. Neuropsychoanalysis, 8(1):99.

(2006). Neuropsychoanalysis, 8(1):99

Commentary on “The Psychic Apparatus, Metapsychology, and Neuroscience” Related Papers

Mark Solms

The paper by Talvitie & Ihanus addresses a topic of profound significance for our field—namely, the ontological status of Freud's concept of the “mental apparatus” and, by implication, of all metapsychology. There is much in the paper with which I agree, and a good deal also with which I disagree. However, the purpose of this brief commentary is not to critically discuss the paper. Rather, I have asked the editors to furnish me with an opportunity to rectify what appears to be a misunderstanding of my own position on this topic. I am aware that Talvitie & Ihanus are very unlikely to be the only people who have misunderstood my position. I therefore do not want to compound the problem by allowing their representation of it to stand uncorrected.

The central issue in their paper is the question as to whether or not the mental apparatus is a neural “thing” (p. 85). The authors set out my (and Oliver Turnbull's) position on this question, on p. 87 of their paper, and conclude with the words:

Thus, quite a confusing image emerges in that it is through the inner sense organs that the brain appears as the mental apparatus, yet it should be considered an “abstraction” or a “virtual entity”, and it is possible to find its neural correlates. Could it not be said that the neurosciences simply involve the study of the neural apparatus, and if it could not, what would be the reason? How is it possible to find the neural correlates of an abstraction, of a virtual entity? It is far from clear how these questions should be answered: as yet there is no satisfactory definition of the term “mental apparatus.

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