The Grammar of the Unconscious

The Conceptual Foundations of Psychoanalysis

By (author) Charles Elder

Paperback - £28.95

Publication date:

15 September 1994

Length of book:

272 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271025674

The Grammar of the Unconscious is both an inquiry into certain long-standing conceptual problems and the exemplification of Wittgenstein's grammatical method. The problems are for the most part those that surround the question of the status of psychoanalysis as a theory of symbolism, psychosexual development, and culture. Using the method of grammatical analysis, Elder clarifies the distinctive features and conditions of the language of psychoanalysis—conceptual, logical, and grammatical—thus showing both the validity and the limits of its truth.

“This book makes an important contribution to understanding the nature and status of psychoanalytic theory by showing how a Wittgenstein-inspired clarification of Freud’s original work dissolves commonplace misunderstandings about the unconscious mind. Its detailed analysis of various aspects of the metapsychology represents an important contribution to deconstruction of empiricist claims on behalf of psychoanalysis. Elder’s apt adaptation of Wittgenstein’s grammatical method to psychoanalysis addresses questions at the core of the debate between hermeneuticists like Ricoeur and Habermas on the one hand and philosophers of science like Grunbaum and Edelson on the other. Elder argues convincingly that the value of psychoanalytic theory lies primarily in its innovative conceptual framework, set of terms, images, and models for the description of human experience. Whether or not one accepts Elder’s conclusions, one must be grateful for his careful and thorough treatment of the subject.”

—Ernest Wallwork, Syracuse University