Is language necessary for conscious thought? Assessing Freud's 'Word/thing-presentation' distinction

Simon Boag*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The belief that language is a necessary condition for consciousness is common within psychoanalytic literature. This, in turn, has led to accounts of 'passive primal repression', where pre-verbal mental content cannot become conscious at a later time. This paper discusses consciousness and unconsciousness as certain relations rather than as qualities of mental processes. On this view, to be conscious of mental content requires taking it as the object of a second mental act. The view that language is a necessary condition for consciousness is rejected on the basis that applying language to mental content requires knowing the mental content first (i.e., being conscious of it). Implications for primal repression theory, and the manner in which language may facilitate conscious awareness, are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPersonality down under
    Subtitle of host publicationperspectives from Australia
    EditorsSimon Boag
    Place of PublicationNew York
    PublisherNova Science Publishers
    Pages81-89
    Number of pages9
    ISBN (Print)9781604567946
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Keywords

    • Consciousness
    • Freudian theory
    • Language
    • Primal repression
    • Unconscious mental processes

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