An experimental page on Freud. In progress.
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Freud's basic theory of the relationships among images, thought, and language is typical of the 19th and early 20th century view. Thought begins in sensation. As children develop, visual sensory data (visual images) become associated with linguistic descriptions. These become internalized, becoming mental visual images with which thought (internalized speech patterns) are associated. The juxtaposition, association, comparison of this bank of visual and linguistic information provides the capability for thought. When thought is expressed through outward verbal expression, the subject merely provides the listener with an account of those internal processes.
Sense > Store and manipulate (think) > Express
Central to this theory is that each of these stages are relatively discrete and unambiguous. Sensation is different and clearly distinct from thought, and thought is different and clearly divisible from expression. (Contemporary theories, we note, argue that these stages are not distinct, but this is not particularly relevant to our present discussion.)
Freud's innovation was to introduce explanatory factors that allowed him to account for a general phenomenon that I shall call dissimulation. This includes Freudian slips, actions performed under hypnosis, actions or speech that intimate alternative motives or desires, and dreams that are disturbing because they are evidently not about their apparent subject matter. In the scientific milieu of Freud's time, one would reasonably suppose that he "lower" members of the animal kingdom would not be capable of dissimulation. (Again, we have recently found it not to be true, but our concern here is to discuss the interior logic of Freud's system.)
What could explain dissimulation? Clearly, some "force" interferes with the transition from the Store and Manipulate stage to the Express stage. This "force" Freud called Repression. It follows that this force must derive direction and guidance from some agent. Bear in mind that Freud thought of himself as a strict materialist. His thinking derives often follows archetypes from the physical sciences. If we observe a "push" in a particular direction, it follows that someone or something is doing the pushing. If some thoughts are repressed, something must be repressing them. Hence the birth of the Superego as an explanatory concept.
We can now picture the linear flow from sensory data to expression as impede by a countervailing force that interferes with direct expression, as indicated below.
<<<<<< Repress (Superego) Sense > Store and manipulate (think) >>>>>>>>>>>> Express
It is worth noting at this point that for many of the preceding generation of psychologists (e.g., Wundt(1832-1920)), the preceding preliminary account of Freud's theory, however much embellished by additional layers, would have already transgressed the bounds of psychology and entered into the realm of idle speculation. This would not be because they would have disagreed fundamentally with mechanistic models, or would have questioned how images and thought were related, but because Freud's theory contains an oxymoron as a foundational term: unconscious thought.
Created on ... October 19, 2004