Freud's Darwinian struggle between ideas?

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Tue 02 Mar 2004 - 03:30:38 GMT

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    In his _The Origin and Development of Psycho-Analysis_ (1910) Freud talks about pathogenic memory traces from affectively toned experiences being repressed into the unconscious. He uses an analogy of someone disturbing him during a lecture and having guards (resistances) kick this rude person out of the lecture room (a process he makes analogous to repression). The lecture room is the conscious part of the psyche where the area outside is the unconcious (a privative delineation of the unconcious?). After this interesting analogy he goes on to talk about a competition between mental complexes (memory traces) saying "we explain it dynamically by the conflict of opposing mental forces, we recognize in it the result of an active striving of each mental complex against the other." Is this some sort of crude neural Darwinism?

    I'm not buying into Freud's repression theory and I'm not sure if the case he makes in _Civilization and Its Discontents_ about the permanence of memories is valid. In the beginning of that book he argues for a longetivity to memory-traces whereby they can, via regression, be recalled much later. Are memories truly that permanent? Are they actually discrete units (engrams or traces)? I'd also be worried about false memories being "retrieved" during analysis.

    Yet, this struggle between conflicting memory-traces that Freud hints at above (in _Origin and Development of Psycho-Analysis_) cannot be passed by without comment. A pearl in the mud?


    Sigmund Freud. 1961. Civilization and its Discontents. WW Norton & Company. New York, New York

    Sigmund Freud. 1910. "The Origin and Development of Psycho-Analysis" as found in The Major Works of Sigmund Freud (Great Books of the Western World series Volume 54). 1952/1986 Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. Chicago

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