Freud and the intentionality of affect

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I argue that Freud implicitly adopted Brentano's thesis that the essence of the mental is intentionality (i.e., mental representation), while rejecting Brentano's Cartesian assumption that intentionality must be conscious. But, how can a feeling like free-floating anxiety, which does not seem to represent or be about anything, be fitted into Freud's representational framework? Several possible answers are examined, including: (a) affects are ideas, (b) affects are always attached to ideas, (c) consciousness is perception of internal mental states, and (d) affects are perceptions of internal bodily processes. I argue that only the 'bodily perception' account is systematically developed by Freud, is consistent with Freud's other doctrines, and is intrinsically plausible even in the context of contemporary debate. Freud's intentionalistic account of affect is shown to be part of an overall explanation of Freud's paradoxical rejection of unconscious affects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalPsychoanalytic Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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