The psychodynamic self : a true integration of mind and body.
Philosophers have long been interested in ‘the self’ from a theoretical point of view, rather than in the everyday sense suggested by Sherrington. From Plato and Aristotle to Nietzsche and Foucault; from the biologists to the psychologists, and the politicians to the social constructionists; clearly, selfhood has been recognized, emphasized and investigated. But what is not so clear is what this important and ubiquitous ‘self’ really is. Those who have been involved in contemporary discussions about ‘personal identity’ usually fall into one of two broad categories: those who think that being a person is a question of having a certain kind of continuing consciousness; and those who think it is a question of being a certain kind of living creature. In this thesis, I will investigate the considerations for and against both the psychological criterion and the biological criterion of ‘personal identity’. However, neither of these criteria proves to be satisfactory, since they both encounter some serious problems which they seem to have little chance of overcoming. The shortcomings of these ‘identity criteria’ will lead me to look more closely at the logical concept of ‘identity’ – the identity of things in general, as opposed to the identity of persons, specifically. As this investigation progresses, the conclusion that this concept ‘identity’ is quite inappropriate for application to persons begins to look more and more inescapable. This being the case: having given up the ‘personal identity’ idiom, I will be faced with the problem of how to salvage some of our common-sense intuitions about what it means to be a person – to have a self. In this problem, I will allow myself to be guided by Sigmund Freud: a writer to whose expertise, and incredible insight, I can only hope to do adequate justice. Freud remained adamant, throughout his career, that the explanations for most psychological phenomena were firmly rooted in biology. When he was writing (the late 19th and early 20th centuries), Freud and his contemporaries lacked the knowledge and technologies that would have enabled them to spell out the exact mechanisms by which the psychological phenomena he proposed might be realized. But we no longer lack these technologies. Contemporary neuroscience, although it is not sufficiently advanced to investigate all the Freudian concepts relevant to this discussion of selfhood, has made some great steps towards confirming and elaborating on Freud’s insights. We are not psychological selves. We are not biological selves. We are selves that are both psychological and biological. We are, in fact, Freudian selves.