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Kennedy, R. (1996). Aspects of Consciousness: One Voice or Many?. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(1):73-96.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(1):73-96

Aspects of Consciousness: One Voice or Many?

Roger Kennedy, M.D.

This paper discusses some aspects of consciousness from a psychoanalytical viewpoint, based on a reading of Freud's relevant texts and also incorporating some recent developments in neurophysiology and philosophy. Its aim is to put forward a “fuller” concept of consciousness than that often used in analytic theory. Rather than, for example, confining it to a sense organ, or to a receiver of one stream of inner or outer perceptions, the author suggests that consciousness has many streams or “voices,” with perhaps little sense of unity; and that, partly because of this, consciousness has an important role to play in channelling the expression of the unconscious, as well as in helping to create a picture of the world, in addition to its familiar censoring and protective functions. The author also questions the notion of “mental representations,” which has influenced what we mean by mental life, and discusses an alternative, “nonrepresentational” framework. Much of what the author writes is speculative but still based on the psychoanalytic encounter, for he believes that our model of consciousness does influence how we view clinical material. He presents a clinical session to illustrate some of the themes of the paper.

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