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Beres, D. (1962). Language and the Discovery of Reality. A Developmental Psychology of Cognition: By Joseph Church. New York: Random House, Inc., 1961. 245 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 31:267-269.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:267-269

Language and the Discovery of Reality. A Developmental Psychology of Cognition: By Joseph Church. New York: Random House, Inc., 1961. 245 pp.

Review by:
David Beres

Church tells us that his book 'is about the way human beings in the course of growing up come to discover reality'. His focus is on the acquisition of language, for 'central to the individual's grasp of reality is the use of language and symbols'. He does not quite succeed in his objectives. The book provides a valuable summary of current psychological writings on perception, cognition, thought, and language, with emphasis on developmental aspects. The changes in perception, thought, conceptualization, and the use of language which occur as development proceeds are described clearly, but how these lead to the 'discovery of reality' is not made clear. The last is, after all, a philosophical question and the author decides early in his book to dismiss philosophical questions in cavalier fashion as metaphysical and unnecessary.

The psychoanalyst will agree with the author that language 'opens up new orientations and new possibilities for learning and for action' but whether it 'dominates' preverbal experience is an open question. His concept of 'the verbal organism' is an illuminating one but it is incomplete; unconscious factors seem not to exist.

An occasional phrase indicates that Church is aware of psychoanalytic writings on his subject but he does not bring them directly into his discussion, nor does he seem to understand them. For instance, a section on 'verbal realism' which the psychoanalyst recognizes as the familiar phenomenon of the magical use of words has no reference to psychoanalytic writings on the subject.

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