[lit-ideas] Re: Violence as Destruction of Doubt

  • From: John McCreery <mccreery@xxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2005 15:31:06 +0900

On 2005/09/16, at 15:01, Eric Yost wrote:

There you go. Another theory. Doesn't require the unconscious. Plus it has some empirical backing.

Good point. I wonder, though, if we shouldn't introduce a bit more rigor into the way we use terms like "the unconscious."

In, for example, The New Essays on Human Understanding, Leibniz observes, contra Locke, that perception cannot be entirely a matter of conscious awareness. He cites, for example, being wakened from sleep. The perception of the stimulus that wakes us begins before we become conscious of it; else, we would not wake at all.

This view has now, I believe, become quite widely accepted by cognitive scientists and neurophysiologists who point to the huge amount of information processing that goes on in simple acts like walking across a room of which we are rarely if ever aware.

As I understand it, there is in Freudian thought a distinction between two types of unconscious, the preconscious (below the level of active awareness, the sort of thing that Leibniz and the cognitive scientists seem to be pointing) and the subconscious, conceived of in psychoanalytic theory as a body of material actively suppressed because it conflicts with the normative demands of the Superego, the embodiment of social norms learned through parental example and instruction. In strictly Freudian psychoanalysis there is the further idea that subconscious materials largely have to do with sex and aggression. Jung goes off in another direction, envisioning the subconscious as composed of the Archetypes that make up the Collective Unconscious.

I am not advocating any of these specifically psychoanalytic notions or theories that build on them to "explain" religion. I am, however, suggesting that casually tossing around the word "unconscious" does little to advance understanding of religion or anything else.

John mcCreery
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