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Elene Ladaria (Ilia State University)

Elene Ladaria

Elene Ladaria
Image Credit: private

Fellow in Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies"

June 2024 

The Unconscious: A Chiasmatic Crossing Point between Psychoanalysis and Soviet Psychology?

In recent scholarly investigations into the history of Soviet thought there has been a noticeable emphasis on the concept of 'activity', which emerged in the 1960s and extended across various scientific disciplines. While not achieving complete conceptual clarity and uniformity, through its subtle variations it often not so much challenged but rather added complexity to the established paradigm of reflection, which has consistently maintained its foundational epistemological role within the framework of dialectical materialism. Indeed, this trend, labelled the "activity approach", sought to explore the division, while simultaneously highlighting the interconnectedness between the inner and outer and the subject and object, and also contributed to the revitalisation of various disciplines, including philosophy, psychology and educational theory. Nonetheless, a body of literature suggests that the concept of activity as a constituent element in theoretical construction had been utilised in earlier Soviet periods as well. This study will examine one such instance, specifically within the context of the Georgian psychological school, pioneered by Dimitri Uznadze. The specificity of Uznadze's psychological theory lies in its delineation — utilising the category of activity — of a distinct realm within the psyche that, despite its unconscious nature, does not compromise the integrity of the psyche. This diverges from the segmented and conflicting model of the psyche seen in psychoanalysis and its associated understanding of the unconscious.

Building on the work of Uznadze, followed by those of his disciples, and drawing from collaborative volumes created by Uznadzian psychologists in conjunction with psychoanalysts from Western countries, this project aims to explore the term "unconscious" as a nominal chiasmatic point of intersection between Uznadze's set theory and psychoanalysis, in order to elucidate the differences between the two frameworks in their manner of conceptually loading it. The divergence in their conceptualisations of the unconscious, along with the array of homonymous yet displaced concepts they evoke, complicates the navigation of points of contention or agreement between the two approaches. The project will, first, clarify these nuances as a foundation for further comparative analysis intending to elucidate the underlying understandings of society and the human subject within each theoretical framework, as well as the nature of the relationship between society and the individual.

Elene Ladaria is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. She is also affiliated with the Institute for Social and Cultural Research at the same university. While her teaching activity is devoted to the history of philosophy with an emphasis on the major moments of the metaphysical tradition, her research interest is mainly in the history of Soviet thought with a focus on the attempts at re-invention of disciplinary arrangements in the scientific field and, more broadly, of a conception of knowledge. From this perspective, she has worked extensively on Konstantin Megrelidze's project of a historical science of thought, which she proposes as an epistemological component of Marr's broader project of a reordering of the human sciences.