The Grand Challenge for Psychoanalysis and Neuropsychoanalysis: A Science of the Subject

Frontiers in Psychology 8:1259 (2017)
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In 2011 we proposed that the modern advances in neurosciences would eventually push the field of psychology to an hour of truth as concerns its identity: indeed, what is psychology, if psychological functions and instances can be tied to characterized brain patterns (Bazan, 2011)? As Axel Cleeremans opens this Grand Challenge with a comparable question1, and as there is growing disagreement with the “I am my brain” paradigm, we think that the topic is indeed, 5 years later, crucially at stake. We had, in 2011, contextualized this question, as one driven by the advances in biology—anatomy in the sixteenth century, (neuro-)physiology in the nineteenth century and neurosciences today. Indeed, with each major advance, decisive moments came for psychology: in the sixteenth century, the name psychologia was launched, in the nineteenth century, psychology became a full-blown scientific field, and today, its specific identity is being questioned (Bazan, 2015). It now appears indeed that it is neuroscientists themselves, who formulate the possibility of a science of representational life, which is autonomous as regards to its biological substrates. For example, the neuroscientist Etienne Koechlin in a conference in Paris on February 2nd, 2016, gave as an alternative definition for neuroscience “the mechanisms and computational operations which govern the mental representations independently from their material substrate and its content2”. We will further propose that this autonomy is to be regarded as an organizational autonomy.

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Ariane Bazan
Université Libre de Bruxelles


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