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THE DISAPPEARING LESION: SIGMUND FREUD, SENSORY-MOTOR PHYSIOLOGY, AND THE BEGINNINGS OF PSYCHOANALYSIS*

  • KATJA GUENTHER (a1)
Abstract

Freud's criticism of the localization project as carried out by Theodor Meynert and Carl Wernicke has usually been seen as marking his break with contemporaneous brain science. In this article, however, I show that Freud criticized localization not by turning his back on brain science, but rather by radicalizing some of its principles. In particular, he argued that the physiological pretensions of the localization project remained at odds with its uncritical importation of psychological categories. Further, by avoiding a confusion of categories and adopting a parallelist reading, Freud was able to develop a fully “physiologized” account of nervous processes. This opened up the possibility for forms of mental pathology that were not reliant on the anatomical lesion. Instead, Freud suggested that lived experience might be able to create a pathological organization within the nervous system. This critique—a passage through, rather than a turn away from, brain science—opened the possibility for Freud's theory of the unconscious and his developing psychoanalysis. On a methodological level, this article aims to show how the intellectual history of modern Europe can gain from taking seriously the impact of the brain sciences, and by applying to scientific texts the methods and reading practices traditionally reserved for philosophical or literary works.

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I would like to thank Edward Baring, Alice Christensen, John Forrester, Michael Gordin, Scott Phelps, and the three anonymous reviewers at MIH for their insightful comments and suggestions. I am also grateful for the support of a fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study in Konstanz, Germany.

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1 Freud Sigmund, On Aphasia: A Critical Study, trans. Stengel E. (London, 1953), 55.

2 To Solms Mark and Saling Michael, “On Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience: Freud's Attitude to the Localizationist Tradition,” International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 67 (1986), 397416, Freud's Aphasia book marks his departure from German neurology. Forrester John, Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis (London, 1980), 14, has called On Aphasia the “sine qua non of the birth of psychoanalytic theory.”

3 Izenberg Gerald, The Existentialist Critique of Freud: The Crisis of Autonomy (Princeton, 1976), 30, has suggested, “There was at this time for him no real distinction between psychic and physiological explanation.” This is true in the sense that for Freud there was no distinction in the object of study: physiological processes were also psychological processes. Freud was, however, concerned to make an epistemological distinction, rejecting the confusion of “physiological” and “psychological” categories, which he diagnosed in the work of Meynert and Wernicke.

4 The debate on Freud's engagement with nineteenth-century brain science has been rumbling for a long time. Some historians have denied its relevance, either because Freud had to liberate himself from it to develop his psychoanalysis (Jones Ernest, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, vol. 1 (New York, 1953), e.g. 379–80; Strachey James, “Editor's Introduction to J. Breuer and S. Freud, Studies on Hysteria,” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 2, 1893–5 (London, 1955), ix–xxviii), or because Freud, though not caught in it, still developed his psychology independently (Levin Kenneth, Freud's Early Psychology of the Neuroses: A Historical Perspective (Pittsburgh, 1978)). Others have emphasized the relevance of brain science for psychoanalysis, e.g. Dorer Maria, Historische Grundlagen der Psychoanalyse (Leipzig, 1932); Amacher Peter, Freud's Neurological Education and Its Influence on Psychoanalytic Theory (New York, 1965); Sulloway Frank, Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend (New York, 1979). The debate has continued to resonate with scholars; see, amongst others, Solms and Saling, “On Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience”; Guttmann Giselher and Scholz-Strasser Inge, eds., Freud and the Neurosciences: From Brain Research to the Unconscious (Vienna, 1998); Métraux Alexandre, “Metamorphosen der Hirnwissenschaft. Warum Sigmund Freuds ‘Entwurf einer Psychologie’ aufgegeben wurde,” in Hagner Michael, ed., Ecce Cortex: Beiträge zur Geschichte des modernen Gehirns, (Göttingen, 1999), 75109.

5 Others scholars have emphasized different traditions in their contextualization, commenting on the influence of e.g. the English neurologist John Hughlings Jackson (Solms and Saling, “Psychoanalysis and neuroscience,” esp. 403–4; Forrester, Language, esp. 18–21), or the German experimental physiologists Ernst Brücke and Sigmund Exner (Amacher, Freud's Neurological Education). See also Makari George, Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis (New York, 2008), esp. 984.

6 See Durkheim Emile, The Division of Labor in Society (New York, 1984), 181–2; and Nietzsche Friedrich, On the Genealogy of Morality (Indianapolis, 1998), 91–2.

7 This is not to say that the localization of function was Meynert's primary interest even though he has been cast as a proponent of the localization tradition. Indeed, as historians have suggested (e.g. Hagner Michael, Homo cerebralis: Der Wandel vom Seelenorgan zum Gehirn (Frankfurt, 2008), 268–72), and as will become evident in this article, Meynert's emphasis on connections subtly undermines all simple attempts to describe functional centers in the brain.

8 The historical connection between Meynert and Freud, especially Freud's work in Meynert's anatomical laboratory and their gradual estrangement, has been researched in great detail by Hirschmüller Albrecht, Freuds Begegnung mit der Psychiatrie: Von der Hirnmythologie zur Neurosenlehre (Tübingen, 1991). See also the work of Nitzsche Bernd, esp. “Warum wurde Freud nicht Psychiater?”, in Aufbruch nach Inner-Afrika: Essays über Sigmund Freud und die Wurzeln der Psychoanalyse (Göttingen, 1998), 197208. The debate between Meynert and Freud over male hysteria and hypnosis has also attracted the interest of scholars, for various reasons. See Mayer Andreas, Mikroskopie des Psyche: Die Anfänge der Psychoanalyse im Hypnose-Labor (Göttingen, 2002), 146–52; Sulloway, Freud, Biologist, 49–50; Wegener Mai, Neuronen und Neurosen: Der psychische Apparat bei Freud und Lacan. Ein historisch-theoretischer Versuch zu Freuds Entwurf von 1895 (Munich, 2004), 151–69; Micale Mark, Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness (Cambridge, MA, 2008), 237–43.

9 For a discussion of Gall, phrenology, and localization see Breidbach Olaf, Die Materialisierung des Ichs: Zur Geschichte der Hirnforschung im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt, 1997); Clarke Edwin and Jacyna L. S., Nineteenth-Century Origins of Neuroscientific Concepts (Berkeley, 1987), esp. 33–46, 212–307; Cooter Roger, The Cultural Meaning of Popular Science: Phrenology and the Organization of Consent in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge and New York, 1984); Hagner, Homo cerebralis; Harrington Anne, Medicine, Mind, and the Double Brain: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Thought (Princeton, 1987); Young Robert, Mind, Brain, and Adaptation in the Nineteenth Century: Cerebral Localization and Its Biological Context from Gall to Ferrier (New York, 1990).

10 Flourens Pierre, Recherches expérimentales sur les propriétés et les fonctions du système nerveux dans les animaux vertébrés (Paris, 1824); Flourens, Examen de la phrénologie (Paris, 1842).

11 This is not to say that Flourens rejected all aspects of localization. To his mind, each of the brain's subdivisions (such as the cerebral hemispheres, the cerebellum, or the medulla oblongata) had its own specialized action propre even though this action was spread uniformally throughout it. Together, the various actions propres produced the brain's action commune. Cf. Clarke and Jacyna, Origins, esp. 244–66. See also Swazey Judith, “Action Propre and Action Commune: The Localization of Cerebral Function,” Journal of the History of Biology 3/2 (1970), 213–34.

12 Fritsch G. and Hitzig E., “Ueber die elektrische Erregbarkeit des Grosshirns,” Archiv für Anatomie, Physiologie und wissenschaftliche Medizin 37 (1870), 300–32. As Michael Hagner has beautifully shown, interest in localization began in Germany after Fritsch and Hitzig had managed to conduct the “ideal experiment” of eliciting motor responses after the electrical stimulation of the cortex, which “the most famous physiologists of an entire generation had not managed to conduct successfully.” Fritsch and Hitzig's success was made possible through the conjuncture between the clinic and the laboratory. Before Fritsch and Hitzig's work, localization had only been part of a latent discourse in Germany. Hagner, Homo cerebralis, 273–9, 238–46.

13 Fritsch and Hitzig, “Erregbarkeit,” 312. However, there are indications that Fritsch and Hitzig did not fully embrace the term “center” (311 and 332).

14 E.g. Ferrier David, “Experimental Research in Cerebral Physiology and Pathology,” West Riding Lunatic Asylum Medical Reports 3 (1873), 3096; Munk Hermann, Ueber die Functionen der Grosshirnrinde: Gesammelte Mittheilungen aus den Jahren 1877–80 (Berlin, 1881). Fritsch and Hitzig themselves did not talk about “sensory centers” but rather divided the brain into “motor” and “non-motor” centers. Fritsch and Hitzig, “Erregbarkeit,” 310.

15 Indeed Broca explicitly rejects the idea that he had discovered a “locomotor” function. Broca Paul, “Remarques sur le siège de la faculté du langage articulé, suivies d'une observation d'aphémie (perte de la parole),” Bulletin de la Société de l'anatomie de Paris 36 (1861), 330–57, 335.

16 As Michael Hagner, Homo cerebralis, 279–93, has shown, in this he responded to the local context of the Berlin speech controversy (Berliner Sprachenstreit).

17 Cf. Harrington Anne, “Beyond Phrenology: Localization Theory in the Modern Era,” in Corsi Pietro, ed., The Enchanted Loom (New York, 1991), 207–39.

18 Bell, at least initially, aimed to use his understanding of the spinal cord to understand the brain, cf. Clarke and Jacyna, Origins, 111.

19 Hall believed that the excito-reflector system was connected to the spinal cord and medulla oblongata, but was physiologically (and perhaps anatomically) separate. Hall Marshall, Memoirs on the Nervous System (London, 1837), 49.

20 Hall, Memoirs. For a thorough discussion of Hall's work on the reflex see Leys Ruth, From Sympathy to Reflex: Marshall Hall and His Opponents (New York: Garland Pub., 1990). Clarke and Jacyna, Origins, 114–56.

21 Apart from those discussed here, Volkmann and Pflüger are notable examples in the German tradition. In the British context, William Carpenter, Richard Grainger, Thomas Laycock, and John Hughlings Jackson conceived brain functions in sensory-motor terms by extending the scope of the reflex, cf. Clarke and Jacyna, Origins, 124–47. On the emergence of reflex psychology in mid-nineteenth-century Britain see Tom Quick, “Techniques of Life: Zoology, Psychology and Technical Subjectivity (c.1820–1890),” PhD diss., University College London, 2011, esp. chaps. 2 and 3. See also Smith Roger, Inhibition: History and Meaning in the Sciences of Mind and Brain (Berkeley, 1992), esp. chap. 3.

22 As Hall and others at the time pointed out, the medulla oblongata, located between the brain and spinal cord, was responsible for respiratory function. Like the medulla spinalis, it was involved in reflex function. Hall, Memoirs, 35.

23 Müller Johannes, Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen, vol. 1 (Coblenz, 1833), 698.

24 Ibid., 699. Hall did not address the exact process by which excitation moved from the excitatory to the reflector part of the reflex arc. His notion of tonus, however, suggests that more than one muscle was involved. Hall, Memoirs, 93–4.

25 Müller, Handbuch, 699–700.

26 Many theorists of the reflex at the time draw on the concept of tonus (e.g. Marshall Hall, Johannes Müller). They usually refer to the tone of the muscles of the body and sphincter muscles, which disappears when the spinal cord is removed (e.g. Hall, Memoirs, 31, 94; or Müller, 783–9).

27 Griesinger Wilhelm, “Ueber psychische Reflexactionen: Mit einem Blick auf das Wesen der psychischen Krankheiten,” Archiv für physiologische Heilkunde 2 (1843), 76113, 84.

28 Ibid., 84–8.

29 Apart from Meynert's work, association plays a significant role in the work of Carl Wernicke, Paul Flechsig, August Forel, Sigmund Exner, and Otfrid Foerster. Only a small part of Meynert's rich work can be discussed here.

30 According to Boring, association psychologists up to James Mill held that ideas were associated in consciousness. Boring Edwin, A History of Experimental Psychology (New York, 1950), 171. See also Breidbach Olaf, “Vernetzungen und Verortungen: Bemerkungen zur Geschichte des Konzepts neuronaler Repräsentation,” in Ziemke Axel and Breidbach Olaf, eds., Repräsentationismus: Was sonst? (Braunschweig, 1996), 3562; Young, Mind, Brain, and Adaptation. On Herbartianism and its long shadow on Meynert and Freud see Dorer, Historische Grundlagen. On Herbart see also Ingrid Kleeberg, “Poetik der nervösen Revolution: Psychophysiologie und das politisch Imaginäre, 1750–1860,” PhD diss., University of Constance, 2011.

31 Meynert Theodor, “Anatomie der Hirnrinde als Träger des Vorstellungslebens und ihrer Verbindungsbahnen mit den empfindenden Oberflächen und den bewegenden Massen,” in Leidesdorf Maximilian, Lehrbuch der psychischen Krankheiten (Erlangen, 1865), 4573. Meynert is not named as the author in Leidesdorf, but makes his authorship clear in his Psychiatry: A Clinical Treatise on Diseases of the Fore-brain Based upon a Study of Its Structure, Functions, and Nutrition, trans. B. Sachs (New York, London, 1885), 153.

32 More specifically, the connection was from the eye to the originating cell (Ursprungszelle) of the optical nerve, and from there, through the corona radiata, to the cortical cell. Meynert, “Anatomie,” 52–3. The same was true for other sensory surfaces (Sinnesoberflächen), such as the ear.

33 Leidesdorf, Lehrbuch der psychischen Krankheiten, 52.

34 This was an induction process, like in the philosophy of John Stuart Mill; cf. Meynert, Psychiatry, 153–5. Meynert's view of consciousness corresponded to Theodor Fechner's notion of partial sleep, according to which the Hemisphärenleistung was always in a state of partial sleep. The Funktionshöhe of the different cortical territories varied, they were never all active at the same time, a process that was to Meynert regulated by cortical functional hyperemia. Meynert, Psychiatrie, 199.

35 As, for example, in the example of the child and flame presented in Meynert, Psychiatry, 160–61.

36 For Meynert's engagement with Griesinger's theory of mental reflexes see Meynert Theodor, “Beiträge zur Theorie der maniakalischen Bewegungserscheinungen nach dem Gange und Sitze ihres Zustandekommens,” Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten 2 (1870), 622–42, 626–8. Meynert criticizes Griesinger (at 628) for relying on the insufficiently physiological concept of the Strebung to explain which sensory and motor nerves are associated.

37 Meynert, “Beiträge.”

38 Meynert T., “Ueber die Nothwendigkeit und Tragweite einer anatomischen Richtung in der Psychiatrie,” Wiener medizinische Wochenschrift 18 (1868), 573–6, 589–91, 591.

39 E.g. Meynert Theodor, “Vom Gehirne der Säugethiere,” in Stricker Salomon (ed.), Handbuch der Lehre von den Geweben des Menschen und der Thiere, vol. 1 (Leipzig, 1872), 694808, 695. In this emphasis on the one-to-one fiber connection between cortex and periphery, Meynert conformed to the tradition. See Müller, Handbuch, 659.

40 True, it was a determination arising from the connectiveness of sites on peripheries of brain and body; also, localization was not fixed, but dynamic and changing. But it was static still in the sense that the location of an individual Vorstellung was in a specific cell, connected to a specific peripheral site.

41 The term “clinical anatomical method” seems better suited to describe the method but is found predominantly in the French context. There, René Laennec first used the méthode anatomo-pathologique of correlating clinical symptom and anatomical lesion, which Charcot later renamed méthode anatomo-clinique to emphasize the importance of the clinic. Goetz Christopher, Bonduelle Michel, and Gelfand Toby, Charcot: Constructing Neurology (Oxford, 1995), 65–6. The literature on the history of the method in the German-speaking world is sparse, although at least in Vienna the method developed in parallel to France; cf. Lesky Erna, The Vienna Medical School of the 19th Century (Baltimore, 1976).

42 See Meynert, “Nothwendigkeit.”

43 Ibid., 575.

44 In the following, I will quote from E. Stengel's 1953 English translation of Freud's aphasia book, Freud , On Aphasia: A Critical Study. For the other Freud texts that have been translated into English, I rely on The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. and ed. Strachey James, 24 vols. (London, 1953–1974, hereafter SE); and Solms Mark and Saling Michael, A Moment of Transition: Two Neuroscientific Articles by Sigmund Freud (London, 1990). All other translations are my own.

45 The book has the following structure: mismatch between “psychic” clinical symptoms and the Wernicke–Lichtheim model of nervous architecture (Sections I–IV); development of a new nervous architecture without drawing on psychological factors (Section V); reassessment of the clinical (psychological) symptoms with the new model (Section VI).

46 Sigmund Freud, “Kritische Einleitung in die Nervenpathologie,” 1887: Container 50 Reel 1, Sigmund Freud Papers, Sigmund Freud Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. For a translation and critical edition see Guenther Katja, “Freud's ‘Critical Introduction to Neuropathology’,” Psychoanalysis and History 14/2 (July 2012), 151202, 168. See also Guenther, “Recasting Neuropsychiatry: Freud's ‘Critical Introduction’ and the Convergence of French and German Brain Science,” Psychoanalysis and History 14/2 (July 2012), 203–26. The manuscript overlaps in parts with Freud's article “Gehirn,” in Albert Villaret, ed., Handwörterbuch der gesamten Medizin, vol. 1 (Stuttgart, 1888), 684–97, whose authorship is contested (cf. Solms and Saling, A Moment of Transition, 7–12; and more recently Menninger Anneliese, Sigmund Freud als Autor in Villarets Handwörterbuch der Gesamten Medizin von 1888–1891 (Hamburg, 2011)).

47 Guenther, “Freud's ‘Critical Introduction,’” 166.

48 Ibid., 167.

49 See Freud, Aphasia, 3, 29. These two meanings of “functional” correspond broadly to what Levin calls “functionala” and “functionalb” though I give a different interpretation of their meaning and place within Freud's thought. Levin, Freud's Early Psychology, 76.

50 Cf. Meynert's notion of functional energy as a “physiological force” in Psychiatry, 138–9, and “functional hyperaemia,” 194–5, amongst others.

51 Leuschner Wolfgang, “Einleitung,” in Freud Sigmund, Zur Auffassung der Aphasien: Eine kritische Studie, ed. Vogel Paul (Frankfurt am Main, 2001), 731; Levin, Freud's Early Psychology.

52 See Aphasia, 10–18, 19, 49, 58, 68, 87, amongst others.

53 See Aphasia, 15, 29–31, 39–40, 43, 71, 83–4; Project for a Scientific Psychology, SE 1: 294–397, e.g. 296. Even in Freud's more psychologically oriented texts, function remains at this cellular and intercellular level. See “Some Points for a Comparative Study of Organic and Hysterical Motor Paralyses,” SE 1: 157–72. Readers should note moments when Freud seems to slip between the two meanings, e.g. Aphasia, 30, 87.

54 In the “Critical Introduction,” Freud argued that Meynert's system, although itself relying on results gained through purely anatomical investigations—Meynert after all promoted the method of cleavage—was a deeply physiological account of the nervous system, “a creation saturated [durchtränkt] with physiological ideas.” Thus any critique brought up against it would have to be based on physiological viewpoints as well. Guenther, “Freud's ‘Critical Introduction,’” 196.

55 Aphasia, 55. Freud acknowledged that Meynert and Wernicke did not envision a simple “localization” of an elementary Vorstellung in individual cells, but rather its physiological correlate.

56 Freud, Aphasia, 55–6.

57 It has to be noted, however, that Freud defended Meynert and Wernicke at the same time as criticizing them (cf. 3, 48, and 64). Note also that in “Gehirn” Freud seems to endorse the localization of elementary functions, trans. in Solms and Saling, A Moment of Transition, 39–86, 65.

58 Freud, Aphasia, 56.

59 Ibid., 56.

60 Ibid., 57.

61 Most scholars, in contrast, have seen Freud's use of association as a strange introduction of psychological elements into his account, e.g. Marx Otto, “Freud and Aphasia: An Historical Analysis,” American Journal of Psychiatry 124 (1967), 815–25, esp. 822. John Forrester, in his brilliant book Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis, recognizes that Freud is moving towards physiology. However, he remains suspicious of Freud's declarations to move towards physiology, and rather suggests a linguistic structure. Forrester, Language, esp. 14–29. My argument builds on Forrester's but lends greater credence to Freud's own assertions that he was developing a purely physiological model.

62 Freud, Aphasia, 57, my emphasis. The postmortem finding that Freud refers to has been described by Heubner; see ibid., 23–6.

63 Ibid., 57.

64 Ibid., 50–54. In his own research in the 1870s and 1880s, Freud also showed how gray matter challenged the principle of fiber identity. Working on the anatomy of fiber tracts, he criticized the tendency in neuro-anatomical research to look out for “only one continuation [of a fiber] for each fiber bundle.” Freud S. and Darkschewitsch L., “Ueber die Beziehung des Strickkörpers zum Hinterstrang und Hinterstrangkern nebst Bemerkungen über zwei Felder der Oblongata,” Neurologisches Centralblatt 5 (1886), 121–9, 127. See also Freud, “Über Spinalganglien und Rückenmark des Petromyzon,” Sitzungsberichte der Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der k. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, III. Abtheilung, 78: 81–167. Indeed, as Freud pointed out in his paper on the anatomy of the acoustic nerve, it was impossible to do this. Fiber tracts would not travel beyond gray matter in the same way; they rather changed their thickness and color. Freud, “Ueber den Ursprung des N. acusticus,” Monatsschrift für Ohrenheilkunde 20 (1886), 245–82, 250. For example, from the nucleus of the acoustic nerve, two fiber tracts emerged. These had, therefore, to be considered only as “mediate continuations of the N. acousticus” (mittelbare Acusticusfortsetzungen). Freud, “Ueber den Ursprung,” 250. The meaning of a fiber was not stable across gray matter: “a fiber on its way to the cortex [changes] its functional meaning after every new emerging from its gray matter.” Freud and Darkschewitsch, “Strickkörper,” 95.

65 Freud, Aphasia, 53.

66 Ibid., 51.

67 Ibid., 63.

68 Cf. Freud's 1891 article “Lokalisation” in Villaret, Handwörterbuch, 231–3. See also Reicheneder J., “‘Lokalisation’: Ein bisher unbekannt gebliebener Beitrag Freuds zu Villarets Handwörterbuch der gesamten Medizin,” Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse 32 (1994), 155–82.

69 Freud, Aphasia, 63.

70 Ibid., 64.

71 Indeed, with the emphasis on thoroughfare, the notion of a center dissolves.

72 Ibid., 64.

73 Ibid., 64.

74 Cornelius Borck has shown the progression of Freud's move away from anatomical explanations at the level of illustration, working out the performative aspects of Freud's diagrams. Cornelius Borck, “Visualizing Nerve Cells and Psychic Mechanisms: The Rhetoric of Freud's Illustrations,” in Guttmann and Scholz-Strasser, Freud and the Neurosciences, 57–86. Cf. Jacyna, who calls Freud's diagram of the “speech association field” an “anti-diagram.” Jacyna L. S., Lost Words: Narratives of Language and the Brain (Princeton, 2000), 179. My work is complementary to this, by developing how the connections that the diagrams emphasized served to disrupt the attempt at localization.

75 In the English version of Aphasia, the word “lesion” translates two German words, Läsion and Verletzung. Freud predominantly uses Läsion, except on two occasions when he uses Verletzung, once where he is translating from the English “injury” (66) and another time where he seems to be referring specifically to the event (“nach der Verletzung,” 74). Freud, Zur Auffassung der Aphasien. In the “Critical Introduction,” on one occasion, Freud also uses the word Krankheitsherd.

76 Cf. discussion about the “physiological” and the “functional” above.

77 Freud, Aphasia, 29.

78 Freud, “Organic and Hysterical Paralyses.” Levin, in Freud's Early Psychology, places great emphasis on the psychological perspective that Freud takes here and suggests that the physiological developments in Aphasia are unimportant for “Organic and Hysterical Paralyses.” As I argue here, we can only understand the form of Freud's psychological explanations by relating it to his physiological developments in Aphasia.

79 Freud, after introducing Charcot's notion of “purely dynamic or functional” cortical lesion, mentioned that “many who read M. Charcot's works believe that a dynamic lesion is indeed a [real organic] lesion,” Freud, “Organic and Hysterical Paralyses,” 168. Cf. Métraux, “Metamorphosen,” 84–91.

80 Freud, “Organic and Hysterical Paralyses,” 168.

81 Ibid., 170.

82 Ibid., 169.

83 Ibid., 170–71.

84 Ibid., 171.

85 Ibid., 170. Note that Meynert, “Das Zusammenwirken der Gehirntheile,” in Meynert, Sammlung von populär-wissenschaftlichen Vorträgen über den Bau und die Leistungen des Gehirns (Vienna and Leipzig, 1892), 201–31, 223, also uses the expression “play of the associations” (Spiel der Associationen).

86 Freud, “Organic and Hysterical Paralyses,” 170.

87 Freud Sigmund, “Hysteria,” SE 1: 3759, 41. Freud's link between the lack of visible changes in hysteria and the “neurosis in the strictest meaning of the term” can be explained in view of the larger history of the neurosis concept. As López Piñero has pointed out, from the mid-1830s onward hysteria and other neuroses were seen as physiological or functional, leaving no anatomical trace. See López Piñero José, Historical Origins of the Concept of Neurosis, trans. Berrios D. (Cambridge and New York, 1983), esp. 44–58.

88 Freud, “Hysteria,” 41. The quote is generally used as evidence for Freud's move away from materialist conceptions of the mind. But as I have shown, the move away from anatomical explanations, rather than foregoing materialism, represented for Freud a more radically materialist conception of the nervous system.

89 Freud S., The Interpretation of Dreams, SE 4: ix–627, 536. Though it should be noted that the optical analogy points to a more radical conception than presented in the Project. Even though the apparatus of the camera was material, a purely materialist way of explaining its workings was no longer helpful for understanding the science behind it.

90 Some scholars have argued for its importance in its own right, see esp. James Strachey and John Forrester. Strachey, “Editor's Introduction,” 283–93, esp. 290–93; Forrester, Language, 223 n. 40. See also Smith, Inhibition, 210 ff. Other scholars have expressed doubt about the status of the Project for several reasons: first, the Project was a draft sent by Freud to Wilhelm Fließ that was never revised or published. Second, although key elements of the text reappear in chapter 7 of Freud's Traumdeutung, Freud distanced himself from the text, and never asked Fließ to return it to him. Scholars have instead suggested that On Aphasia should be considered the more important text. Solms and Saling, “Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience”; Borck, “Visualizing,” 71 n. 15. For other critical readings of the Project see Métraux, “Metamorphosen”; Wegener, Neuronen und Neurosen; Porath Erik, “Vom Reflexbogen zum psychischen Apparat: Neurologie und Psychoanalyse um 1900,” Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 32 (2009), 5369; Janßen Sandra, “Von der Dissoziation zum System: Das Konzept des Unbewussten als Abkömmling des Reflexparadigmas in der Theorie Freuds,” Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 32 (2009), 3652.

91 As I argue below, Freud's criticism of Meynert's distinction between projection and association still remains.

92 Freud, Project, 299–300.

93 Freud, Project, 319, original emphasis.

94 Ibid., 319.

95 The opening sentence expresses this succinctly: “The intention is to furnish a psychology that shall be a natural science: that is, to represent psychical processes as quantitatively determinate states of specifiable material particles, thus making those processes perspicuous and free from contradiction.” Ibid., 295. That the notion of quality derives from psychological explanations can be seen in the section “The problem of quality,” 307–10.

96 In the structure of the Project, Freud explains the construction of Vorstellungen first before explaining how similar processes could associate them, thus moving from the most basic to more complicated structures.

97 Freud, Project, 327. If Freud continued, “So far we have neglected this feature; it is time to take it into account” (327), he probably referred to his earlier simplification “If the wished-for object is abundantly cathected, so that it is activated in a hallucinatory manner” (325), which (misleadingly) seemed to indicate that one object was localized (cathected) in an individual cell.

98 Ibid., 363. Throughout Aphasia, Freud used the terms Vorstellung and Empfindung interchangeably. In the Project, he identified Vorstellung (perception) with Erinnerung (memory), 325. While in Aphasia Freud just described the structure of Vorstellungen/Empfindungen, in the Project he was concerned with their genesis. Since Vorstellungen were produced from Erinnerungsbildern (memory images), this explains the shift.

99 Ibid., 299–300.

100 Ibid., 300.

101 Ibid., 300.

102 Ibid., 298.

103 Ibid., 303.

104 Ibid., 304. Likewise, in “Gehirn,” Freud suggested, “The individual cortical elements . . . are differentiated . . . essentially by their connection with the different centripetal and centrifugal conductors of excitation.” Trans. in Solms and Saling, A Moment of Transition, 64.

105 I use the term “psychological” here in a different sense to that earlier in the essay. Here I oppose the etiology of disease in experience (psychological trauma) to the etiology of disease in physical damage (lesion).

106 Freud, Project, 356. He also mentions the term at the end of “Organic and Hysterical Paralyses,” 171–2. Freud first used the term “psychical trauma” in 1893 in a way that related to the “Organic and Hysterical Paralyses” definition of the hysterical lesion, see “Studies on Hysteria,” SE 2: 1–17, 6. There is a history of psychological trauma before Freud. Most conspicuously, Charcot converted John Erichsen's “railway spine” into a psychological condition. See Young Allan, The Harmony of Illusions (Princeton, 1995), 1242; and Leys Ruth, Trauma: A Genealogy (Chicago, 2000), 3–8.

107 Freud, Project, 348.

108 Ibid., 350.

109 Ibid., 349. As we shall see, it is the idea that an association can be repressed, i.e. that it is not available to consciousness and that an association can “pass through unconscious intermediate links until it comes to a conscious one” (Freud, Project, 355) that marks Freud's distance from association psychology.

110 Gauchet Marcel, L'inconscient cérébral (Paris: Seuil, 1992), 42–68, does not spend much time on the (anatomical) complexity of the reflex, e.g. he lumps together Müller and Hall, nor on association; Sandra Janßen, “Dissoziation,” offers a closer reading of Freud's texts to support her argument that the concept of the unconscious originated in the reflex paradigm. See also Smith David L., “Freud's Neural Unconscious,” in van de Vijver Gertrudis and Geerardyn Filip, eds., The Pre-psychoanalytic Writings of Sigmund Freud (London, 2002), 155–64.

111 E.g. Freud, “The Unconscious,” SE 14: 159–215, 167 f.

112 Freud suggested that the Bahnungen in the creation of Vorstellungen could be understood without appealing to consciousness. Freud, Project, 308.

* I would like to thank Edward Baring, Alice Christensen, John Forrester, Michael Gordin, Scott Phelps, and the three anonymous reviewers at MIH for their insightful comments and suggestions. I am also grateful for the support of a fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study in Konstanz, Germany.

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Modern Intellectual History
  • ISSN: 1479-2443
  • EISSN: 1479-2451
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