|At the end of the 19th Century the mind-body problem was a hot topic, especially among the philosophers of Vienna. Fin de siecle Vienna is seen as one of the birthplaces of European Modernism and was crowded with cultural icons like Strauss, Brahms, Malher, Schoeburg, Wittgenstein, Husserl, Brentano, Klimt, and Hertzl. There was a salon-style collection of serious philosophical thinkers who eventually became known as the 'Vienna Circle' and Freud was an occasional participant in their dinner-party discussions. |
This group were committed to the intentional and representational theories of mind: that the worlds of our senses and our body comes to the mind in the form of representations, and that our minds control behavior through intentions. Our senses directly perceive the world we live in, and this gives rise to a mental representation of the world.
Freud was perhaps the first medical practitioner to see that this philosophical approach toward the mind might could help in diagnosing and treating patients who suffered from hysteria and other forms of mental disorder. Freud identified our animal and bodily natures as the Id. Like sensory input, the instinctual material of the Id comes to our mind as representational ideas -- as symbols. For example Eros, the instinctual life force of the Id, is not directly present in the mind; what our mind has access to are its symbols and representations. In this regard he was completely in sync with the prevailing idea of how the senses and visceral feelings are related to the mind.
Freud's new insight was there is a large part of this mind that is outside of our consciousness. There is the other unconscious portion of the mind, and it operates just like our conscious mind, with symbols and intentionality. The unconsicous portion of our mind can actually make decisions and control behavior all by itself, even though we are not aware of it. Psychological problems will arise, for example, when the unconscious portion of the mind makes decisions and takes actions that conflict with what the conscious portion would wish it to do. And these problems can be solved by analysing the unconscious, by studying its symbols and its choices, to discover why that portion of the mind is acting as it does.
Historically, the original philosophical perspective of representationalism and intentionality is very much alive, and I would say that it is the same basic outlook that is now known as the 'computational theory of mind,' which is espoused by a large number of cognitive psychologists and philosophers such as Stephen Pinker and Jerry Fodor.
Does this sound right to you?