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Art, I.S. (1990). Knowledge as Desire. An Essay on Freud and Piaget: By Hans G. Furth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987. 179 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:147-149.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:147-149

Knowledge as Desire. An Essay on Freud and Piaget: By Hans G. Furth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987. 179 pp.

Review by:
Irving Steing Art

In this theoretically ambitious but, at times, abstruse book, Furth sets himself the task of integrating Freud and Piaget. He seeks to "overcome the baneful split between knowledge and emotion … by presenting the inextricable interaction of logic (knowledge) and sexuality (desire) from the very first developmental beginnings in human symbol formation" (p. x). Who could ask for anything more? But Furth gives us more. The last three chapters of this volume involve a "larger biological scale" (p. 14) and have the following titles: "Symbols: The Key to Humanization," "Symbols, Biology, and Logical Necessity," and "Logic and Desire." These last three chapters are reminiscent, in spirit, of Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle. I will not deal with these three chapters in this review; while coherent in a very broad sense with Furth's purposes, they nevertheless involve content of such a different order (especially evolution theory) that they constitute another topic, one not immediately germane to the psychoanalytic literature.

I do not believe Furth is successful in his effort to integrate Freud and Piaget. His effort comes down to something very familiar: Freud is to supply the desire, and Piaget the knowledge structure motivated by such desire. Such an effort, I think, is doomed to fail. Either Freudian theory eventually will be enlarged so as to enable it to comprehend Piaget within its own essential orientation, or vice versa; or else a new non-Freudian, non-Piagetian theory, with its own theoretical terms, will emerge to accomplish such integration. There is no other way for (or meaning to) integration.

Once Furth creates this initial setup, it is inevitable that both Freud and Piaget suffer from a forced simplification. For example, Furth points out that children at one and a half to two years can symbolize in a new (emergent) way and that one manifestation of this is pretend play.

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