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(2002) Human Studies 25 (2).

The retentional and the repressed

does Freud's concept of the unconscious threaten Husserlian phenomenology?

Talia Welsh

pp. 165-183

This paper investigates the claims made by both Freudian psychoanalysic thought and Husserlian phenomenology about the unconscious. First, it is shown how Husserl incorporates a complex notion of the unconscious in his analysis of passive synthesis. With his notion of an unintentional reservoir of past retentions, Husserl articulates an unconscious zone that must be activated from consciousness in order to "come to life." Second, it is explained how Husserl still does not account for the Freudian unconscious. Freud's unconscious could be called, in phenomenological terms, a repressed retentional zone that differs from both near and far retention. Finally, an analysis is offered for the significance of this psychoanalytic argument for phenomenology. Does phenomenology provide a complete account of the psychical life of the subject without the Freudian unconscious? Does phenomenology suggest, as is often done, that Freud's "discovery" of the unconscious is a fantastical invention? Or, does the Freudian unconscious represent a true stumbling block for phenomenology?

Publication details

DOI: 10.1023/A:1015504610851

Full citation [Harvard style]:

Welsh, T. (2002). The retentional and the repressed: does Freud's concept of the unconscious threaten Husserlian phenomenology?. Human Studies 25 (2), pp. 165-183.

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