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Foucher, L.A. (1992). Reply to Stern. Psychoanal. Dial., 2(3):365-367.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2(3):365-367

Reply to Stern Related Papers

Louis A. Foucher, Ph.D.

Different assumptions lead stern and me to different ideas about unconscious experience. I would like to discuss our differences once again briefly, but in a slightly different light from my previous remarks in this issue.

Since Stern refers to James, it might be useful to examine Stern's argument with me in terms of James's (1890) “psychologist's fallacy”: “The great snare of the psychologist is the confusion of his own standpoint with that of a mental fact about which he is making a report” (p. 196). In this distinction there is a major conjuncture of the European phenomenology and the American pragmatism lines of modern philosophy. James anticipated the phenomenologists with what is essentially a critique of Descartes's treatment of the cogito, which had resulted in a fundamental epistemological split yielding the abstract poles of subjectivism and objectivism, the same split that Stern and “constructivism” wish to overcome. While Descartes evidently started with his own “first-person” standpoint of experience, he very quickly treated his objectification of that experience as if it were identical with that first-person immediacy (cf., e.g., Taylor, 1989p. 162). The familiar dualisms of mind/body, knowledge/action, thought/feeling have been traced to this equation of first-person immediacy with a third-person object.

Thus, I think Stern can be understood as accusing me of the “psychologist's fallacy” when he argues that “the conception of an absolute unconscious is only that: a conception…. The fact, is, we have no direct access to any experience until it is a linguistic meaning.” I think he means that “direct access” is first-person immediacy and that the first-person immediacy of adult experience is linguistic consciousness. Hence, he is saying that when I speak of some other-than-conscious experience happening to an individual, I am confusing the first-person immediacy of experience, which must be linguistic consciousness, with some conceptualization of a mental event.

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