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Barratt, B.B. (2015). Critical Notes on the Neuro-Evolutionary Archaeology of Affective Systems. Psychoanal. Rev., 102(2):183-208.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Review, 102(2):183-208

Controversies in Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Research

Critical Notes on the Neuro-Evolutionary Archaeology of Affective Systems Related Papers

Barnaby B. Barratt, Ph.D., DHS

If progress is to be made in resolving the debate over the relevance of neuroscientific findings to psychoanalysis, a clearer distinction must be established between a narrow definition of psychoanalysis as “praxis” (the science of lived experience and its conflicts or contradictions) and a definition that focuses on metapsychology as objectivistic theory-building. The investigations of Jaak Panksepp on the “neuro-archaeology” of affective systems are reviewed as an example of how findings in neuroscience cannot be legitimately extrapolated to offer conclusions about the domain of lived experience. In this context, Freud's shifting standpoint is reviewed and, following the writings of Jean Laplanche, the significance of Freud's distinction between “drives” or libidinality, as acquired through experience, and “instincts,” which are purely biological, is emphasized. It is argued that there is an unavoidable component of myth-making in any consideration of the connection between neural circuitry and the domain of psychic representations. Freud's need for a notion of drive or energy, which is required to understand the findings of free-associative method, is admittedly mythematic, but it implies a major challenge to extant philosophical doctrines of the “mind/body” question (emergentism, double-aspect monism, and neutral monism). Thus, whereas psychoanalysis as praxis is, in Freud's words, “free to follow its own requirements,” the claims of metapsychology are not so unrestrained. Further debate is required on the irrelevance of a revised objectivistic theory of the “mental apparatus” to the venture of healing the fracturing of our lived experience.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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