How to retain the relevance of metaphysics (the primacy of consciousness over matter)

Immanuel Kant by Karl Friedrich Hagemann, 1801, marble, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

How to retain the primacy of consciousness over matter: attach a carefully worded lie to the greatest scientific hypothesis – thus Kant’s ‘Copernican turn’

Kant wrote: ‘…the fundamental laws of the motions of the heavenly bodies gave established certainty to what Copernicus had at first assumed only as an hypothesis, and at the same time yielded proof of the invisible force (the Newtonian attraction) which holds the universe together. The latter would have remained for ever undiscovered if Copernicus had not dared, in a manner contradictory of the senses, but yet true, to seek the observed movements, not in the heavenly bodies, but in the spectator. The change in point of view, analogous to this hypothesis, which is expounded in the Critique, I put forward in this preface as an hypothesis only, in order to draw attention to the character of these first attempts at such a change, which are always hypothetical. But in the Critique itself it will be proved, apodeictically not hypothetically, from the nature of our representations of space and time and from the elementary concepts of the understanding.’ Immanuel Kant, Preface to the Second Edition, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Trans., Norman Kemp Smith, Macmillan, London, 1987, 25 (Footnote)

and ‘We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics, if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge. This would agree better with what is desired, namely, that it should be possible to have knowledge of objects a priori, determining something in regard to them prior to their being given. We should then be proceeding precisely on the lines of Copernicus’ primary hypothesis. Failing of satisfactory progress in explaining the movements of the heavenly bodies on the supposition that they all revolved round the spectator, he tried whether he might not have better success if he made the spectator to revolve and the stars to remain at rest. A similar experiment can be tried in metaphysics, as regards the intuition of objects. If intuition must conform to the constitution of the objects, I do not see how we could know anything of the latter a priori; but if the object (as object of the senses) must conform to the constitution of our faculty of intuition, I have no difficulty in conceiving such a possibility.’ (22)

Kant’s incorrect assertion that Copernicus had sought the observed movements in the spectator is not the crucial point – it is that Kant thereby had the pretext to give priority over matter to ‘mind’/consciousness – via concepts and the ‘forms of intuition’. Copernicus’ hypothesis is an objective hypothesis about the world, the functioning of which Copernicus recognised requires neither the spectator – nor their ‘mind’/consciousness.1

In On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, Copernicus a couple of times referred to the spectator: ‘For every apparent change in place occurs on account of the movement either of the thing seen or of the spectator, or on account of the necessarily unequal movement of both. For no movement is perceptible relatively to things moved equally in the same directions – I mean relatively to the thing seen and the spectator.’ Nicolaus Copernicus, On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, Ed., Stephen Hawking, Running Press, Philadelphia, 2002, 12

But the spectator did not figure in his hypothesis itself: ‘For the daily revolution appears to carry the whole universe along, with the exception of the Earth (my emphasis) and the things around it. And if you admit that the heavens possess none of this movement but that the Earth (my emphasis) turns from west to east, you will find – if you make a serious examination – that as regards the apparent rising and setting of the sun, moon, and stars the case is so. And since it is the heavens which contain and embrace all things as the place common to the universe, it will not be clear at once why movement should not be assigned to the contained rather than to the container, to the thing placed rather than to the thing providing the place.’ (12-13)

Not only – going beyond Kant’s noumenal barrier (and, most significantly, towards acquisition of knowledge of the world) – was careful observation crucial to Copernicus’ hypothesis: ‘Having recorded three positions of the planet Jupiter and evaluated them in this way, we shall set up three others in their place, which we observed with greatest care at the solar oppositions of Jupiter’ (291), not only was he entirely comfortable with appearances, repeatedly referring to them and setting out the means for counteracting them: ‘For in order to perceive this by sense with the help of artificial instruments, by means of which the job can be done best, it is necessary to have a wooden square prepared, or preferably a square made from some other more solid material, from stone or metal; for the wood might not stay in the same condition on account of some alteration in the atmosphere and might mislead the observer’ (61), he dealt with the reciprocal relationships between sun, earth and moon, irrespective of which body was moving: ‘It is of no importance if we take up in an opposite fashion what others have demonstrated by means of a motionless earth and a giddy world and race with them toward the same goal, since things related reciprocally happen to be inversely in harmony with one another’ (60), even writing ‘And for this reason we can call the former movement of the sun – to use the common expression – the regular and simple movement’ (161).

The Sage of Königsberg steps forth: ‘it is clearly shown, that if I remove the thinking subject the whole corporeal world must at once vanish: it is nothing save an appearance in the sensibility of our subject and a mode of its representations’ (Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, op. cit., 354).

Sapere aude…



1. Bertrand Russell wrote that Kant should have ‘spoken of a “Ptolemaic counter-revolution (my italics)”, since he put man back at the centre from which Copernicus had dethroned him..’ Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1948, 9, in Paul Redding, Hegel’s Hermeneutics, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1996, 3. Kant’s calculated nonsense was replicated by A.C.Ewing ‘“Just as Copernicus taught that the movement round the earth which men had ascribed to the sun was only an appearance due to our own movement,” stated Ewing, “so Kant taught that space and time which men had ascribed to reality were only appearances due to ourselves. The parallel is correct.”’ Ibid. Space is the objective distribution of matter, time (not the measure of time) is the objective movement of matter in space. Space, time, matter and motion (all objective) are inseparable. Kant’s crucial spectator with their consciousness is the product of these.

Engels on dialectics, part three: chance and necessity

Another opposition in which metaphysics is entangled is that of chance and necessity. What can be more sharply contradictory than these two thought determinations? How is it possible that both are identical, that the accidental is necessary, and the necessary is also accidental? Common sense, and with it the majority of natural scientists, treats necessity and chance as determinations that exclude each other once for all. A thing, a circumstance, a process is either accidental or necessary, but not both. Hence both exist side by side in nature; nature contains all sorts of objects and processes, of which some are accidental, the others necessary, and it is only a matter of not confusing the two sorts with each other. Thus, for instance, one assumes the decisive specific characters to be necessary, other differences between individuals of the same species being termed accidental, and this holds good of crystals as it does for plants and animals. Then again the lower group becomes accidental in relation to the higher, so that it is declared to be a matter of chance how many different species are included in the genus felis or equus, or how many genera and orders there are in a class, and how many individuals of each of these species exist, or how many different species of animals occur in a given region, or what in general the fauna and flora are like. And then it is declared that the necessary is the sole thing of scientific interest and that the accidental is a matter of indifference to science. That is to say: what can be brought under laws, hence what one knows, is interesting; what cannot be brought under laws, and therefore what one does not know, is a matter of indifference and can be ignored. Thereby all science comes to an end, for it has to investigate precisely that which we do not know. That is to say: what can be brought under general laws is regarded as necessary, and what cannot be so brought as accidental. Anyone can see that this is the same sort of science as that which proclaims natural what it can explain, and ascribes what it cannot explain to supernatural causes; whether I term the cause of the inexplicable chance, or whether I term it God, is a matter of complete indifference as far as the thing itself is concerned. Both are only equivalents for: I do not know, and therefore do not belong to science. The latter ceases where the requisite connection is wanting.

In opposition to this view there is determinism, which passed from French materialism into natural science, and which tries to dispose of chance by denying it altogether. According to this conception only simple, direct necessity prevails in nature. That a particular pea-pod contains five peas and not four or six, that a particular dog’s tail is five inches long and not a whit longer or shorter, that this year a particular clover flower was fertilised by a bee and another not, and indeed by precisely one particular bee and at a particular time, that a particular windblown dandelion seed has sprouted and another not, that last night I was bitten by a flea at four o’clock in the morning, and not at three or five o’clock, and on the right shoulder and not on the left calf – these are all facts which have been produced by an irrevocable concatenation of cause and effect, by an unshatterable necessity of such a nature indeed that the gaseous sphere, from which the solar system was derived, was already so constituted that these events had to happen thus and not otherwise. With this kind of necessity we likewise do not get away from the theological conception of nature. Whether with Augustine and Calvin we call it the eternal decree of God, or Kismet as the Turks do, or whether we call it necessity, is all pretty much the same for science. There is no question of tracing the chain of causation in any of these cases; so we are just as wise in one as in another, the so-called necessity remains an empty phrase, and with it – chance also remains what it was before. As long as we are not able to show on what the number of peas in the pod depends, it remains just a matter of chance, and the assertion that the case was foreseen already in the primordial constitution of the solar system does not get us a step further. Still more. A science which was to set about the task of following back the casus (sic) of this individual pea-pod in its causal concatenation would be no longer science but pure trifling; for this same pea-pod alone has in addition innumerable other individual, accidentally appearing qualities: shade of colour, thickness and hardness of the pod, size of the peas, not to speak of the individual peculiarities revealed by the microscope. The one pea-pod, therefore, would already provide more causal connections for following up than all the botanists in the world could solve.

Hence chance is not here explained by necessity, but rather necessity is degraded to the production of what is merely accidental. If the fact that a particular pea-pod contains six peas, and not five or seven, is of the same order as the law of motion of the solar system, or the law of the transformation of energy, then as a matter of fact chance is not elevated into necessity, but rather necessity degraded into chance. Furthermore, however much the diversity of the organic and inorganic species and individuals existing side by side in a given area may be asserted to be based on irrefragable necessity, for the separate species and individuals it remains what it was before, a matter of chance. For the individual animal it is a matter of chance, where it happens to be born, what environment it finds for living, what enemies and how many of them threaten it. For the mother plant it is a matter of chance whither the wind scatters its seeds, and, for the daughter plant, where the seed finds soil for germination; and to assure us that here also everything rests on irrefragable necessity is a poor consolation. The jumbling together of natural objects in a given region, still more in the whole world, for all the primordial determination from eternity, remains what it was before – a matter of chance.

In contrast to both conceptions, Hegel came forward with the hitherto quite unheard-of propositions that the accidental has a cause because it is accidental, and just as much also has no cause because it is accidental; that the accidental is necessary, that necessity determines itself as chance, and, on the other hand, this chance is rather absolute necessity. (Logik, II, Book III, 2: Reality.) Natural science has simply ignored these propositions as paradoxical trifling, as self-contradictory nonsense, and, as regards theory, has persisted on the one hand in the barrenness of thought of Wolffian metaphysics, according to which a thing is either accidental or necessary, but not both at once; or, on the other hand, in the hardly less thoughtless mechanical determinism which in words denies chance in general only to recognise it in practice in each particular case.

While natural science continued to think in this way, what did it do in the person of Darwin?

Darwin in his epoch-making work, set out from the widest existing basis of chance. Precisely the infinite, accidental differences between individuals within a single species, differences which become accentuated until they break through the character of the species, and whose immediate causes even can be demonstrated only in extremely few cases, compelled him to question the previous basis of all regularity in biology, viz., the concept of species in its previous metaphysical rigidity and unchangeability. Without the concept of species, however, all science was nothing. All its branches needed the concept of species as basis: human anatomy and comparative anatomy – embryology, zoology, palaeontology, botany, etc., what were they without the concept of species? All their results were not only put in question but directly set aside. Chance overthrows necessity, as conceived hitherto. The previous idea of necessity breaks down. To retain it means dictatorially to impose on nature as a law a human arbitrary determination that is in contradiction to itself and to reality, it means to deny thereby all inner necessity in living nature, it means generally to proclaim the chaotic kingdom of chance to be the sole law of living nature.

Friedrich Engels, Dialectics of Nature, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, 217-221


Part three/to be continued…

Aristotle, theology, contemplation and matter

Plato and Aristotle in Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, 1509-11, fresco, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

Plato and Aristotle in Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, fresco, 1509-11, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

*   *   *

Russell wrote that philosophy lies between science and theology. Aristotle wrote in the Metaphysics that first philosophy is the science of theology. I would like to make a couple of points before discussing Aristotle’s theology in that book and some points regarding Aristotle on contemplation.

It has been argued that the central doctrine of the Metaphysics is that the foundation of the world is natural ‘substance’ and not some separate and ideal entity, whether mathematical or other. For Aristotle, the subject of his book was those things that lie beyond process and change, the science of things transcending what is physical or natural. In my view, the central doctrine of the Metaphysics is that the foundation of the world is an eternal substance beyond process and change.

Nothing lies beyond process and change.

Nothing transcends what is physical and natural.

Lenin wrote that the scholastics took all that was dead in Aristotle and left what was questioning, what was living. An example of brilliance in Aristotle’s thought is the following quotation:

‘It is…impossible that movement should either come-to-be or be destroyed. It must always have been in existence, and the same can be said for time itself, since it is not even possible for there to be an earlier and a later if time does not exist. Movement, then, is also continuous in the way in which time is – indeed time is either identical to movement or is some affection of it. (There is, however, only one continuous movement, namely spatial movement, and of this only circular rotation.)’

Yet he denied the heart of dialectics and the engine of movement: ‘it is not possible for the same thing both to be and not to be at one and the same time, or indeed harbour any other such pair of contraries.’ Again, for Aristotle, nothing that has matter can be eternal.

More than referring to what can be seen, heard, etc., ‘matter’ indicates what exists independently of us, of our consciousness and ability to think – and of which we are its products. Matter, space, time and motion are inseparable.

Aristotle’s theology and the role that contemplation plays in relation to it is at both the core and the pinnacle of his Metaphysics – they cannot be passed off while we get into the meat of the text. He wrote that divinity is ‘the primary and fundamental principle.’ God or the Unmoved Mover, the ‘eternal actual substance’, not subject to process of any kind, is the object of desire and the focus of memory for the world and everything in it. As such the Unmoved Mover is the final cause of the world. Because of it there is motion in the world.

It is essential to understand the most significant place that theology plays in philosophy in general. Aristotle did not understand its place in Plato’s philosophy. He wrote, amongst his numerous criticisms of Plato in the Metaphysics: ‘it was perceptible particulars that the Forms were postulated to explain.’

I disagree – the Forms were postulated to justify Plato’s theology. In his criticism of the Forms, Aristotle gave the appearance of having been blind to their theological purpose – he has analysed them ‘logically’ – the very criticism he made of Plato, that he thought ‘logically’. This also points to the weakness of his metaphysics – that they, like Plato’s Forms, are built on contemplative reason, reason divorced from testing in practice.

Aristotle believed that contemplative philosophy brings a philosopher as close as possible to a divine state – that philosophy nurtures the divine fragment in us. He wrote that ‘contemplative study is to be chosen above all other sciences, but it is this First Science of Theology that we must prefer to all other kinds even of contemplation.’ He drew on his ethical theory to argue that the highest form of life is contemplative thought.  The prime mover enjoys that life, necessarily.

For Aristotle, God is permanently engaged in the contemplation of contemplation (noesis noeseos), in thinking about thinking. In activating thought, God activates life (compare this with John 1:1 ‘In the beginning was the word [my emphasis], and the word was with God and the Word was God.’).

Contemplation (matter reflecting on matter, objective reality reflecting on itself) and its determinations, divorced from testing in practice, is the greatest, most pernicious failure of philosophy.

Its etymology, appropriately, traces to a place apart, for the observation of auguries – con-templum.

It has always played into dominant ideologies, been used by the ideologues of dominant classes to guide away from the world, as their masters exploit it.

As Lenin wrote: ‘from living perception to abstract thought and from this to practice, such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality.’



Psychoanalysis, Metaphysics and Platonism

Plato, Raphael's The School of Athens, 1509-11

‘psycho-analytic treatment is founded on truthfulness. In this fact lies a great part of its educative effect and its ethical value. It is dangerous to depart from this foundation. Anyone who has become saturated in the analytic technique will no longer be able to make use of the lies and pretences which a doctor normally finds unavoidable’1

In The Ego and the Id Freud wrote that the division of the psychical into what is conscious and what is unconscious is the fundamental premise of psychoanalysis and that psychoanalysis situates the essence of the psychical not in consciousness but that what finds expression in consciousness has its source in the unconscious, the basis of the ‘non-rational’.2

Psychoanalysis focuses on bringing the unconscious to consciousness, on what has been made unconscious by repression.3 The unconscious is the realm of the ‘non-rational’ and the non-propositional, of the emotions.

What is sought in psychoanalysis regarding ‘non-rational’ behaviour is not a reasoned causal sequence of thought but an explanatory over-abundance, a multiplicity of interpretations – none of which themselves are definitive – which derive from behaviour patterns, contingent non-determining associative connections between memories, images, words, unconscious conflicts, and desires.

Towards this, free expression of imagination and the play of fantasy are encouraged. These explanations are ‘first person’ – the analysand is the authority, because the explanations concern therapeutic self-knowledge.

In the case of Mr R,4 Freud explored the ‘non-rational’ unconsciously motivated behaviour of a man who was torn between love for (of which he was conscious) and hate towards (which he had repressed) his lady friend. This was represented symbolically by his removing a stone from the road along which her carriage was to pass and then replacing the stone so that she might have an accident.5

Freud notes that Mr R’s behaviour was a compulsive pathological action and such actions, in two stages, are typically the manifestation of obsessive neuroses. In a footnote a couple of pages later,6 Freud gave another instance of a man who had done something very similar, throwing a branch into a hedge from the ground in his way, going towards home then, filled with unease, was compelled to hurriedly return and put the branch back in its original position, even though it would have been more dangerous to passers-by there than in the hedge. Freud described the second act (as with Mr R’s action) as hostile but in the conscious view of the man, philanthropic.

Mr R did not understand his two actions, that they were part of a pattern, and how they related. If his actions had been intentional he could have easily provided a rational explanation. In removing and replacing the stone Mr R was re-enacting the same unconscious behavioural pattern and emotional reaction from his childhood when his father had beaten him. His inability to recognise it as such made his behaviour unconscious.

Donald Davidson in ‘Paradoxes of irrationality’ exemplifies the metaphysical understanding of the rational explanation of ‘non-rational’ behaviour. He began his article ‘The idea of an irrational action, belief, intention, inference or emotion is paradoxical. For the irrational is not merely the non-rational, which lies outside the ambit of the rational; irrationality is a failure within the house of reason.’7

He wrote that reason explanations are built into our intentions and intentional actions, into our attitudes and emotions and asks how we can explain irrational thoughts, actions or emotions and why someone would knowingly and deliberately act contrary to their own best judgement.

Davidson believes that all intentional actions, irrespective of whether they are or are not in some further sense irrational, have a core rational element, that since beliefs and desires are causes of actions for which they are reasons, reason explanations include causal elements.8

He considers the example of the man who returned to the park to move the branch back to its original position. In his retelling, he strips the event of all the emotive ‘non-rational’ elements (a sudden seizure with unease, an obligation to get off the tram and return to the park and compulsion to behave in particular ways which in the parallel case of Mr R were, in addition to compulsion anxiety, hatred, love and fear – elements of which both men had no clear understanding) that are in Freud’s telling, concluding that everything the man did was done for a reason and discusses the story within the bounds of the rational, beyond which lies simply ‘the irrational’. For Freud it is ‘beneath which’.9

The problem for Davidson is how a ‘mental’ event can cause another ‘mental’ event without being a reason for it and in such a way that there is not necessarily any irrationality. He exemplifies this happening when cause and effect occur in two ‘minds’ – a person wishing that another enter their garden, grows a flower.

The other craves to see the flower and enters the garden. The desire of the first was not a reason for the craving of the second nor the reason for why the second acted, even though it caused both the craving and the acting of the second. ‘Mental phenomena may cause other mental phenomena without being reasons for them’.10

Arguing against the psychoanalytic position which he himself refers to – ‘the holistic character of the mental’11 – he then claims that the same can happen in the one ‘mind’ by partitioning it into two, which parts are able to interact at a causal level.

Each mini-‘mind’ has all the functions of the single ‘mind’ but one of those structures ‘must show a larger degree of consistency or rationality than is attributed to the whole.’12 – unless this is the case, the point of the analogy with social interaction is lost. Irrationality would occur when the less rational side, against the rational determination of the other, persisted with a desire, causing a failure of the principle to act according to one’s own best judgement.

That Davidson did not include a discussion of the unconscious in this article emphasises his focus on the operation of reason.13 His account is locked in a dichotomy between reason and irrationality. He treats irrationality as an inconsistency, thereby failing to recognise and incorporate into his discussion the patterns, recognised by psychoanalysis, that characterise obsessive compulsive behaviour.

Davidson’s treatment of ‘non-rational’ behaviour shows not merely a bias towards rationalisation and inferential reason but a failure to recognise and understand the significance of inner conflict in our behaviour.

Psychoanalysis does this. Just as Davidson places a premium on reason, so psychoanalysis does on our imaginative capacities. Davidson’s article shows no recognition of what repression is and how it functions – which recognition is fundamental to psychoanalysis.

Lear wrote ‘(Psychoanalysis) is a technique that allows dark meanings and irrational motivations to rise to the surface of conscious awareness. They can then be taken into account’.14

Yet the theorising of both Davidson and psychoanalysis share a common heritage in metaphysics, particularly Platonic. Lear wrote that Freud ‘self-consciously brought psychoanalysis into the Platonic tradition15 and quoted him having written of ‘the divine Plato’, an expression repeatedly used by the Neoplatonist Nietzsche.16

Lear quoted Freud linking Eros to Plato: ‘In its origin, function and relation to sexual love, the “Eros” of the philosopher Plato coincides exactly with the love-force, the libido of psychoanalysis.’17

Freud was not the first to identify an underlying structure of our ‘minds’, of our psyches. The latter term points to Plato whose divisions of the soul Freud based his own, and equally arbitrary divisions on.18 His ego (representing ‘reason’) and id (representing ‘the passions’) derive from the allegory of the chariot in the Phaedrus.19

On such an emotive subject as that of Freud’s significance, it is to Lear’s credit that he recognised and acknowledged the problem that Freud’s metaphysical and arbitrary divisions of the psyche presented for the psychoanalytic explanation of ‘non-rational’ behaviour.

He wrote that as soon as Freud determined that neurosis should be understood in terms of conflict between psychic parts, he should have changed his conception of therapy. He asked how any talking cure can harmonise these warring elements. On this basis, neurosis could no longer be conceived in terms of repressed ideas in the unconscious but must be understood as structural conflict.20

As did Freud and as does Lear, Davidson also drew heavily on Plato. As the ego and id of Freud so Davidson’s Plato and Medea Principles – but where Freud’s treatment of his concepts was more complex and creative, Davidson’s Principles were closer to the rigid Platonic distinctions – one of his ‘semi-autonomous departments of the mind’ was ‘the side of sober judgement’ the other ‘the side of incontinent intent and action.’21

As Plato argued that metaphysical ‘reason’ should control contrary forces in the soul and that his philosopher should ascend to ‘pure’ reason, Davidson argued that metaphysical reason should perform a similar function in the ‘mind’ where his philosopher would find ‘pure’ reason.22 The psychic models of Plato, Freud and Davidson are all equally arbitrary.

While the psychoanalytic explanation of ‘non-rational’ behaviour, precisely because it entails a far greater degree of recognition of the complexity and contradictoriness in how our brains function, especially ‘non-rational’ behaviour, offers far more than does Davidson’s stunted model, both are metaphysically based.

Both seek to extend the metaphysical concern with underlying structures of reality to the ‘mind’, using ancient Greek and Platonic concepts and models. But these ‘underlying structures of reality’, as Aristotle made clear, are those things that lie beyond process and change – which nothing does. To focus on the therapeutic potential of a non-existent ‘mind’ using such models is to deny the vitality, complexity and potential of the brain.

The assertion that rationality will always be language based again exemplifies the impact of Plato – it binds a narrow understanding of ‘reason’ (that it is conscious, that it is deliberate, that it is inferential) and language together. To so do denies what psychoanalysis lays greatest claim to – an understanding of psychic behaviour.

What Lear disparagingly referred to as ‘elemental mental operations that occur below the level of linguistically informed thought’ and ‘the cunning of unreason’ entail our most complex and subtle thought which finds its expression in conscious deliberation.

Psychoanalysis must shed metaphysical thinking and, if it is to maximise its recognition of the complexity of the brain’s functioning (particularly manifest in ‘non-rational’ behaviour) and the therapeutic potential made claim to in its name, reflect developments in science.

The choice is not between metaphysics and science, it is between basing psychoanalysis on metaphysics or on science. Lear wrote of future brain research reinvigorating psychoanalytic ideas by revealing their organic basis. He writes that Freud predicted this and that Freud had no doubt that science would lead to a revision of his hypotheses, that his work would be superseded by science.23

This is the way for psychoanalysis to develop. Any understanding of the brain can only be on a materialist basis which therefore recognises the unity and plasticity of the brain’s functioning. The dynamic unconscious is material, not metaphysical.



1. Sigmund Freud, “Observations on transference-love”, S.E. XII: 159-171, p. 164

2. Sigmund Freud, The ego and the id, S.E. XIX: 13-66, p. 13

3. ‘The point is not merely that ideas can operate in the mind outside of conscious awareness; it is that the mind is motivated to keep ideas out of awareness because they are forbidden, rejected.’ Jonathan Lear, Freud, Routledge, London, 2005, p. 6

4. Sigmund Freud, Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis, S.E. X: 152-249

5. Ibid., p. 190

6. Ibid., p. 192

7. Donald Davidson, ‘Paradoxes of irrationality’, in Wollheim, Richard and Hopkins, James, Eds., Philosophical Essays on Freud, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1982, pp. 289- 305, p. 289

8. Ibid., p. 293

9. Lear wrote that the mind is inherently irrational. Jonathan Lear, Open Minded, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1998, p. 87

10. Davidson, op. cit., p. 300

11. Ibid., p. 302

12. Ibid., p. 300

13. Lear wrote (regarding Mr. R’s engaging in the love-and-hate two-step) ‘‘To search for unconscious reasons is only to increase the confusion. It is to treat the unconscious as though it were a repository for already formed reasons’ In Freud, op. cit., p. 39

14. Lear, in ‘The Shrink is In’, New Republic, December 25, 1995, reproduced at:

15. Freud, op. cit., p. 254

16. Ibid., p. 19

17. Ibid., p. 227 note. SE XVIII: 91. Also re- psychoanalysis on sexuality: ‘it had far more resemblance to the all-inclusive and all-embracing Eros of Plato’s Symposium.’, ‘Resistances to psychoanalysis’ SE XIX: 218 in Freud op. cit., p. 19

18. Lear referred to Plato’s account of the psyche as ‘a remarkably well-worked out account of psychological structure.’ Ibid., p. 191

19. Plato, Phaedrus 246a-254e. Freud wrote ‘‘The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions. All this falls into line with popular distinctions which we are all familiar with; at the same time, however, it is only to be regarded as holding good on the average or ‘ideally’. … Thus in its relation to the id it is like a man on horse-back, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength while the ego uses borrowed forces. The analogy may be carried a little further. Often a rider, if he is not to be parted from his horse, is obliged to guide it where it wants to go; so in the same way the ego is in the habit of transforming the id’s will into action as if it were its own.” S. Freud, The ego and the id, op. cit., p. 25

20. Freud, op. cit., pp. 187 and 190 Earlier in the same chapter ‘The structure of the psyche’ which begins with Plato’s division of the soul, Lear advocated these same Freudian divisions. The knots Lear got into regarding the superego – the heir to a so-called complex (the Oedipus complex) that never occurs and ‘never exists as such’ but which ‘plays a crucial role’ are exemplary. Lear was correct when he wrote ‘It is a little difficult to follow the developmental story’ … p. 183

21. ‘Paradoxes of irrationality’ op. cit., p. 300

22. Ibid., p. 294 Davidson’s ‘Plato Principle’ is the view that no intentional action can be internally irrational. He wrote that this is the doctrine of ‘pure rationality’

23. Freud, op. cit., pp. 6, 7