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8 - The bodily ego

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2009

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Summary

1. ‘The ego’ Freud writes in The ego and the id ‘is first and foremost a bodily ego’ (1923b, XIX, 26). ‘The Bodily Ego’, a striking phrase, does not recur in Freud's writings. Nevertheless I believe there to be a thesis of the bodily ego which plays an important part, certainly in Freud's later, but probably also in his earlier, thinking. In this essay I want to consider the nature of this thesis, and to say something about its place within Freudian theory.

2. The thesis of the bodily ego contributes to the question how mind and body are related, or the mind–body problem. Currently, it is true, the problem is interpreted very narrowly, only one relation – that of identity – is taken into account, and only the question whether mind is identical with body is raised. To this question the thesis of the bodily ego has nothing to say, and the contribution that the thesis makes to the mind–body problem becomes apparent only when the full range of theoretically interesting relations between mind and body is taken account of. Let us see how those relations are reached.

To the question whether mind is identical with body or whether for every mental particular – a thought, a feeling, an access of desire – there is some physical particular with which it is identical, the answer may be yes or no. Those who answer yes subscribe to the identity thesis and are, on ordinary metaphysical assumptions, materialists.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1982

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