Consciousness, Language, and Self: Psychoanalytic, Linguistic, and Anthropological Explorations of the Dual Nature of Mind is a new title by BPSI’s member, Michael Robbins, MD, published by Routledge in 2018. The book proposes that the human self is innately bilingual. Conscious mind includes two qualitatively distinct mental processes, each of which uses the same formal elements of language differently. The “mother tongue,” the language of primordial consciousness, begins in utero and our second language, reflective symbolic thought, begins in infancy.
Michael Robbins describes the respective roles the two conscious mental processes and their particular use of language play in the course of normal and pathological development, as well as the role the language of primordial consciousness plays in adult life in such phenomena as dreaming, infant-caregiver attachment, creativity, belief systems and their effects on social and political life, cultural differences, and psychosis. Examples include creative persons, extreme political figures and psychotic individuals. Five original essays, written by the author’s current and former patients, describe what they learned about their aberrant uses of language and their origins.
This book sheds new light on several controversies that have been limited by the incorrect assumption that reflective representational thought and its language is the only conscious mental state. These include the debate within linguistics about whether language is the expression of a hardwired instinct whose identifying feature is recursion; within psychoanalysis about the nature of conscious and unconscious mental processes, and within cognitive philosophy about whether language and thought are isomorphic.
Consciousness, Language, and Self will be of great value to psychoanalysts, as well as students and scholars of linguistics, cognitive philosophy and cultural anthropology.
Michael Robbins is a psychoanalyst and was formerly professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the University of California San Francisco. He is a member of the American and International Psychoanalytic Associations. His previous books include Experiences of Schizophrenia, Conceiving of Personality, and The Primordial Mind in Health and Illness: A Cross-Cultural Perspective.