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Memory as Malady and Therapy in Freud and Hegel

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image of Journal of Phenomenological Psychology

The following paper, delivered as a lecture to the philosophy departments of a number of American universities in 1979, traces a parallel between Hegelian phenomenology and Freudian psychoanalysis. It stems from a project I have been working on for several years now entitled Erinnerungsversuch or "Essay in Remembrance. " In my studies of Freud and Hegel for that project I was struck by the importance of memory for their work, not only as a field of investigation but also as a method of the investigation itself. Remembering and forgetting are the crucial events for both psychoanalysis and phenomenology, crucial yet maddeningly intertwined, so that while memory seems eminently subject to malfunction and even illness it remains the sole source of insight and cure. I therefore determined to extend the parallel as far as it would go-perhaps even farther-and the present paper is the result. I am of course aware that Hegel was not a psychotherapist, Freud not a systematic philosopher, and realize that if essays like this one may be excused at all it is only because they eventually grow silent and allow irreconcilable differences to reassert themselves. Yet there is a sense in which Hegel's creative recapitulation of the history of philosophy, seeking as it does to liberate philosophical thought from a crippling self-ignorance, amounts to therapy of spirit; and there is a sense in which Freudian therapy must shatter traditional prejudices in our thoughts about what the psyche or spirit is, by letting psychological phenomena show themselves as they are. I have tried to make the parallel as concrete as possible, shunning Freud's metapsychology and turning instead to one of his earliest accounts of psychoanalytic praxis, eschewing sweeping remarks about Hegel's "system" and concentrating on just a few pages from the Phenomenology. Readers trained in philosophy will know that a few pages of Hegel are bound to contain labyrinths. I hope that my psychologist-readers will overlook the oversimplified presentation of Freud-which results partly from the lecture form-and will forgive my unwillingness to make Hegel's thought seem less demanding than it is. Finally, if I am right, the Freud-Hegel parallel with respect to memory tells us a good deal not only about this fascinating faculty but also about that singular creature who is so ardent to remember and so prone to forget.


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