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Journal of Soc. & Psy. Sci. 2010 Volume 3 (2): 1-18 Available at: www.jspsciences.org

To Think or Not to Think A Phenomenological and Psychoanalytic Perspective on Experience, Thinking and Creativity
Lene Auestad
E-mail address: lene.auestad@gmail.com

Abstract
Juxtaposing Bion's and Arendt's reflections on 'thinking' as an activity provoked by experience, the article aims to question the preconditions for openness to the differences of new situations encountered. Both theorists, in very different ways, illuminate how thinking rests on some social conditions, how the individual is not self-sufficient as a producer/perceiver of meaning. It is argued that the acquisition of a conceptual framework involves an epistemic closure as well as enrichment, and that thinking rests jointly on a fundamental felt security and willingness to risk one's supporting frameworks. Keywords: Arendt, Bion, meaning, plurality, thinking

Oxford Mosaic Publications Ltd 2010. All rights reserved ISSN 1756-7483 (print) 1756-7491 (online)

Journal of Soc. & Psych. Sci.

(2010) Vol.3 (2): 1-18

Lene Auestad

"Thoughts are a nuisance," says Bions patient in Learning from Experience; "I don't want them" (1962b:34-35). "Thinking", writes Arendt in The Life of the Mind, is "equally dangerous to all creeds and, by itself, does not bring forth any new creed" ([1971]1977:176). Both these writers present theories of what thinking is, and about the risks associated with thinking; why we would sometimes not want to think. The purpose of this paper is to question how learning, conceived not as mechanical reproduction but as a process of creative engagement with the encountered material comes about. I shall do this through putting together Arendts philosophical account of thinking with Bions psychoanalytic account, aiming to show how each of these theories is enriched by an encounter with the other. Both of these theories illuminate, each in their own way, how thinking is not a necessary component of a human life, though it would be a poor one without it, how it has a potential to undermine the existing social and mental frameworks on which we rely for support, and how thinking, as an activity arising out of experience, is deeply dependent on some social conditions for its existence. To explore this theme, I shall first present two pre-psychoanalytic tales which have been central to psychoanalytic thinking, Hoffmanns story of The Sandman, as read by Rand and Torok, and Sophocles King Oedipus, primarily as seen by Bion. In these interpretations, both the play and the fairy tale are concerned with the theme of inquiry and its potential dangers. THE SANDMAN In Hoffmann's fairy tale The Sandman (1816), which forms the basis for Freud's essay The Uncanny (1919), the harmony of Nathaniel's family is disturbed on evenings when his father receives an unknown visitor, and the children are rushed to bed, being told that the Sandman is coming. The answers the hero receives to his questions about the Sandman's identity does not satisfy him, and hiding in his father's room he discovers that the visitor is the lawyer Coppelius, a family friend feared and hated by the mother and children and treated with admiring subservience by the father. The two men perform some mysterious work involving a fire, and when Nathaniel is discovered, Coppelius wants to throw burning coals

Oxford Mosaic Publications Ltd 2010. All rights reserved ISSN 1756-7483 (print) 1756-7491 (online)

Journal of Soc. & Psych. Sci.

(2010) Vol.3 (2): 1-18

Lene Auestad

into the boy's eyes to steal them, but his father intervenes and prevents it. A year later his father dies in an explosion during a visit from Coppelius, after which the lawyer vanishes. As an adult Nathaniel receives a visit from the barometer-dealer Coppola whom he suspects of being identical with Coppelius. The latter's friend, professor Spalanzani, has the beautiful, but curiously stiff daughter Olympia, whom everyone but our hero realizes is a doll (Hoffmann 1816). In Rand and Toroks re- interpretation of the nature of the uncanny, based on their reading of Hoffmans story, damage to the eyes, rather than providing an image of castration, represents an epistemic loss: Injury to the eyes is a crucial element in The Sandman, but it needs to be understood figuratively as a lack of insight followed by the loss of reason. The heros madness is due to his inability to gain insight into the murky affairs of his own family. (Rand and Torok 1994:188) The authors emphasis is on the effects of secrecy in the family, which "disrupts the intimacy and familiarity of the home" (1994:189). When attempting to inquire into the nature of the Sandman, Nathaniel is told by his mother that "When I tell you that the Sandman is coming, it only means that you are sleepy and cant keep your eyes open any longer, as though someone had sprinkled sand into them" (1994:193). His sisters nurse, on the other hand, informs him that the Sandman "is a wicked man who comes to children when they refuse to go to bed and throws handfuls of sand in their eyes till they bleed and pop out of their heads" (1994:193). The point is that the mother and nurses explanations reveal the element of wilful deception involved in their stories; To speak, in the context of Nathanaels questions, of someone who throws sand in childrens eyes until they bleed and jump out is tantamount to revealing, as in an involuntary slip of the tongue, what one is actually doing: throwing dust in the childs eye in order to prevent him from finding out what the real situation is. [] The expression they use "to throw sand in someones eyes" (Sand in die Augen streuen) is the German equivalent for the English "to throw dust in someones eyes", meaning to mislead, to dupe or trick (Rand and Torok 1994:194,196).

Oxford Mosaic Publications Ltd 2010. All rights reserved ISSN 1756-7483 (print) 1756-7491 (online)

Journal of Soc. & Psych. Sci.

(2010) Vol.3 (2): 1-18

Lene Auestad

As the story evolves, Nathaniel, while looking at her through a pocket telescope Coppola has sold him, falls madly in love with the doll Olympia, thus failing to realize the fact which is obvious to his companions that she is a piece of mechanical clockwork rather than a human being. As in his childhood the hero is deprived of the insight those around him possess. The implied threat in the nurses story: "if you try to look, you will be blinded" (1994:196) is in the end made true as Nathaniels search for the truth ends in madness and he throws himself out from a tower whilst in a delusional state. In Rand and Toroks interpretation: "the Sandman represents the devastating metaphor that constitutes the unthinkable stuff of Nathanaels hallucinations" (1994:198); the figure stands both for the ongoing fraudulent activity in the family and for the fact that its existence is covered up. In describing how linguistic usage has X the term heimlich into its opposite unheimlich, Freud writes, citing Grimm's dictionary, "From the idea of 'homelike', belonging to the house', the further idea is developed of something withdrawn from the eyes of strangers, something concealed, secret" (1919:225). He concluded that the uncanny is something "familiar and old-established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression" (1919:241). Rand and Torok's argument is that The Sandman provides a less than perfect illustration of Freud's thesis. In Hoffmann's story the uncanny is not the return of something Nathanael himself has repressed, but the return of the secrets his family has kept from him (1994:202). In so far as we should talk about repression here, we should think of it as happening primarily on a social level. KING OEDIPUS In Bions interpretation of the Oedipus myth; No element, such as the sexual element, can be comprehended save in its relationship with other elements; for example with the determination with which Oedipus pursues his inquiry into the crime despite the warnings of Tiresias (Bion 1963:45).

Oxford Mosaic Publications Ltd 2010. All rights reserved ISSN 1756-7483 (print) 1756-7491 (online)

Journal of Soc. & Psych. Sci.

(2010) Vol.3 (2): 1-18

Lene Auestad

Indeed, the heros persistent search to discover the truth is the core of the story as Bion sees it. Oedipus "represents the triumph of determined curiosity over intimidation and may thus be used as a symbol for scientific integrity" (1963:49). Bion draws a parallel between this narrative and those of the Garden of Eden and the Tower of Babel curiosity, in all these stories, has the status of transgression; it amounts to encroaching upon the territory of the gods: In the Jehovistic version of the creation a feature of the myth of the expulsion is the apparent conflict between the thirst for knowledge and the will of the deity. [] The punishment in Eden is expulsion from the garden: in the Babel story the integrity of the language is destroyed []. The exile theme common to both stories is discernible in the exile of Oedipus. (Bion 1963:82-83) Inquiry, in all these instances, is associated with potential danger. In the Oedipus myth the heros inquiry is about himself. The riddle posed by the Sphinx, a creature who in its sexual ambiguity can be seen as representing both his parents, is about the nature of man, and the answer to Oedipus questions about the cause of the plague and the identity of the murderer of King Laius is no other than the questioner (see also Shengold 1989). The story differs from the biblical myths in that Oedipus, when faced with the sphinx, is victorious. He guesses the answer to the riddle, whereupon the sphinx dies. The sphinx, a divine creature, was arrogant in its certainty that a mere human would be incapable of grasping his own nature, of knowing himself, but when its secret is wrested from it, it vanishes into thin air. There is an ambiguity in the story about whether knowledge is good or bad on the one hand we witness a victory of reason; the sphinx who simply dissolves once its secret has been discovered on the other hand there is the presence of the notion that insight into the true state of affairs may be too devastating to bear. The end of the story, where Oedipus blinds himself, is interpreted by Steiner (1985) along these lines, as an instance of self-mutilation signifying a shedding away from the truth. The truth is too painful to live with, too gruesome to face, and he pokes his eyes out so as to not having to see it, thus destroying his insight shortly after having gained it. In this version, the story echoes the theme of the nurses prophesy in The Sandman; "Do not look, or you will be blinded."
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Journal of Soc. & Psych. Sci.

(2010) Vol.3 (2): 1-18

Lene Auestad

But the ending may also be interpreted differently, more in line with the symbolic significance of blindness in antiquity; in poking his eyes out, Oedipus becomes like the blind seer Tiresias. His state may be regarded as that of having left behind the world of appearances, as having taken up residence in the world of spiritual truth, thus no longer being prey to the deceptive theatre presented to his senses. Steiner's (1985) thesis is that each of the chief participants, Oedipus, Jocasta and Creon chose to turn a blind eye to the truth, thus staging a cover-up that suited them all. Leaving aside the question of Creon's motivation, I agree that it becomes increasingly clear that Jocasta realizes the truth but evades it. She says to Oedipus; "Do not by the Gods, if you care at all for your life,/Pursue this!" and then exclaims; "O damned one, may you never know who you are!" (Sophocles [429]2004:87). Concealing the attempted infanticide, Jocasta has an interest in stopping the inquiry, but it is striking that Tiresias, the spokesman for the gods, would also like it to cease. His opening statement runs; Damn damn how terrible it is to understand where understanding is useless [] Let me go home. Most easily shall you bear/Your burden to the end and I mine, if you consent. (Sophocles [429]2004:59) Thus, while Steiner's interpretation where Oedipus is to blame, because he realized what he was doing is a very intriguing one, it is a version in which the tragic element of the play is lost. To Oedipus' crucial question; "Who among mortals made me?" Tiresias responds; "This very day will make and then dissolve you" (63), but he is not actually told who his parents are. This is a repetition of his earlier question to the oracle before leaving Corinth, where the response did not state the identity of his parents, but instead told him the prophesy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Precisely because he leaves Corinth in an attempt to avoid fulfilling the prophesy, he walks right into the trap set up for him by the gods. What the oracle says, though true, is practically impossible to understand. Tiresias, not on the side on enlightenment, seems incapable of giving a straight answer; OEDIPUS Everything you utter is so dark a riddle. TEIRESIAS But werent you born the best at solving them? OEDIPUS Mock me for that wherein youll find me great.

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Journal of Soc. & Psych. Sci.

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Lene Auestad

TEIRESIAS Of course that very talent has destroyed you. (Sophocles [429]2004: 63-64) Tiresias, like the gods, knows what is going to happen. But the gods, being immortal and invulnerable, are not in a position to empathise with human beings. Oedipus is acquainted with some of the facts, but he fails to understand them before it is too late. The situation can be compared to Bion's (1963:50) example of reversible perspective drawings, where the perceivers look at the same thing and yet see two different things. The image can be used to illustrate the distinction between meaning and truth. There is the perspective of the eternal truth of the gods, and there is the meaning of the event to human beings. The human spectators, who like the hero are fallible interpreters endowed with character flaws, being neither omnipotent nor omniscient, are able to grieve for the fate of the hero, which could have been their own. ARENDT ON THINKING The reason for recounting the stories of the Sandman and of Oedipus was to show how their depiction of thinking and inquiry as potentially dangerous activities strike a theme that has intrigued psychoanalysts. Yet if thinking is not clearly distinguished from an instrumental activity, this point is easily missed entirely. Conceived as an activity of radical questioning, its potential becomes clearer. In thinking, states Arendt, I am 'two-in-one' I am conducting a dialogue with myself, but it is a dialogue in which other people are represented (1951:476). Hence thinking presupposes the human condition of plurality. This is not the case with what she calls cognition and logical reasoning, as these activities can be performed by 'Man in the singular'. Thought is distinguished from cognition by the fact that it has no utility function; it has neither an end nor an aim outside itself, and it does not produce any results other than the works of art it inspires, which are themselves useless. Cognition, on the contrary, always pursues a definite aim, and it comes to an end once this result is achieved. It is the intellectual work associated with processes of fabrication, and it includes the cognitive processes that lead to scientific discoveries as well as those involved in workmanship of various kinds ([1958]1988:170-171). Though the mental activity of the scientist may be more intellectually advanced than that of the workman,

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(2010) Vol.3 (2): 1-18

Lene Auestad

these are both instances of cognition, devoted to the aim of fabrication. Thus it is important to see that Arendt does not wish to equate 'thinking' with any mental activity pertaining to specific professions or layers in society; Thinking in its non-cognitive, non-specialized sense as a natural need of human life, the actualization of the difference given in consciousness, is not a prerogative of the few but an ever-present faculty in everybody; by the same token, inability to think is not a failing of the many who lack brain power but an ever-present possibility for everybody scientists, scholars, and other specialists in mental enterprises not excluded. ([1971]1977:191) Furthermore, Arendt distinguishes logical reasoning from both thought and cognition. Deductions from axiomatic statements as well as subsumption of particular instances, specimens, or occurrences under general rules are activities which obey the laws of logic. Therefore, they are activities which are characterized by a total absence of freedom; logical laws, to the mind, carry the same force of compulsion as do natural laws to the body. Logical reasoning, driven as it is by necessity, bears a closer resemblance to labour than to any other activity. Arendt equates logical reasoning with "brain power" or "intelligence" ([1958]1988:171), hence her specification that an inability to think is to be distinguished from stupidity, or a lack of intelligence (1971:423). Reason, to Arendt, seeks meaning rather than truth. Taking over from Kant the distinction between reason (Vernunft) and the intellect (Verstand), she declares that thinking, belonging to the faculty of reason, is inspired not by the quest for truth, but by the quest for meaning (1977:14-15). While the intellect strives to grasp what is given to the senses, reason desires to understand the meaning of that which appears. Questions of truth are answered by the evidence provided by the common sense which belongs to the realm of appearances. Questions about meaning, to the contrary, cannot be answered by common sense (1977:57-59). They are meaningless to common sense, since common sense makes us feel at home in the world in such a way that we feel no need to question what appears in it. Yet, thinking does have one positive characteristic in common with action, namely that of freedom. Arendt states that "both action and thought occur in the form of movement and that, therefore, freedom

Oxford Mosaic Publications Ltd 2010. All rights reserved ISSN 1756-7483 (print) 1756-7491 (online)

Journal of Soc. & Psych. Sci.

(2010) Vol.3 (2): 1-18

Lene Auestad

underlies both: freedom of movement" (1968:9). Thinking, although it cannot replace action, is another way of moving in the world of freedom. Both thinking and action depend on contact with others. Action, to Arendt, involves a spontaneous disclosure of the acting and speaking agent, of who, as opposed to what, he or she is, and it can only be performed together with others. This revelation, which is always to others, accounts for the meaning of action. It contains the answer to the question "Who are you?" Like thinking, it is not a means to an end, but an end in itself (1958:178-182). Thinking takes place in solitude, but in the dialogue of thought other people are represented. Thus thinking is a state of inner plurality, in which I have a conversation with myself. In loneliness this two-in-one collapses into one; it is a state of being one person deserted by all the others (1951:476); In this situation, man loses trust in himself as the partner of his thoughts and that elementary confidence in the world which is necessary to make experiences at all. Self and world, capacity for thought and experience are lost at the same time. (1951:477) This is a description of what takes place in totalitarian societies. Whereas tyrannies, to Arendt, destroy the public sphere and thus the capacity for action, totalitarian states, destroy the private sphere as well and thus ruin the capacity for thought. Through terror on the one hand and the strict force of purely logical deduction on the other, people were prepared for totalitarian domination. Totalitarian movements are characterized by a mixture of cynicism and gullibility, more cynicism higher up and more gullibility further down in the ranks, though the members share a strict principle of authority (1951:382). What distinguishes the elite is its members' total contempt for facts and reality, their ability to understand a statement of fact as a declaration of purpose (1951:385). Think of the proto-genocidal logic involved in processes where a segment of the population is declared as inferior, and then unliveable social conditions are created for this segment, whereupon the leaders point to the results and say; "Look how these people live. It proves we were right, that they actually are inferior." If we imagine a state of affairs where the neighbour has suddenly disappeared, and everyone knows, seemingly instinctively, that they are not to ask any questions, to proceed as if nothing ever happened, and
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pretend that he or she never existed, we can begin to discern the outlines of a situation where fear is instigated as an attack on thought, memory, curiosity, imagination, creativity or mental freedom. An act of physical extermination would be followed by an attack on memory, where victims are to wiped out from the minds of those who knew them and from the consciousness of the surrounding world. An internalization of coercion takes place, based on the feeling that some things are too dangerous to be thought about. Thus creativity is severely restrained one's thoughts can no longer move around freely for fear of what they might encounter. Prevented from receiving confirmation from others, one is put in a state where one's senses become untrustworthy. "Even the experience of the materially and sensually given world," writes Arendt, depends on contact with others, "without which each of us would be enclosed in his own particularity of sense data which in themselves are unreliable and treacherous" (1951:475-476). "Only because [] not one man, but men in the plural inhabit the earth can we trust our immediate sensual experience" (476). Hoffmann's story of Nathanael can be read as an expression of a similar totalitarian situation existing in the family. The hero's attempts to inquire are answered with threats; 'Do not ask questions, or else', and his understanding is thwarted. His senses fail him, and he is drawn into a land of shadows, unable to distinguish deceit, in the shape of the doll Olympia, from the real and genuine, embodied by his human fiance Clara. Since this is a gothic/Romantic fairy tale, there is no path proceeding towards enlightenment; the reader is left more or less in the same position as its hero, not being able to draw a clear line between his hallucinations and what should be taken to be objectively happening. Experience and thinking are undermined when human beings are prevented from engaging in meaningful contact with others. Arendt's account of totalitarianism is not only intended as a historical description. It ends on a note of warning, stating that in a social situation where people are made superfluous as human beings, when they are placed outside of a context where they can exchange opinions, exercise judgment and act together with others, a totalitarian temptation is created. When meaning is not upheld interpersonally, the world becomes inhuman, like a desert, from which ideology may provide an escape;

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What prepares men for totalitarian domination in the nontotalitarian world is the fact that loneliness, once a borderline experience usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the evergrowing masses of our century. The merciless process into which totalitarianism drives and organizes the masses looks like a suicidal escape from this reality. The "ice-cold reasoning" and the "mighty tentacle" of dialectics which "seizes you as in a vice" appears like a last support in a world where nobody is reliable and nothing can be relied upon. It is the inner coercion whose only content is the strict avoidance of contradictions that seems to confirm a man's identity outside all relationships with others. (1951:478)

BION ON THINKING While Arendt has shown how an ability to think depends on the current social conditions, Bion's analysis displays meaning as social in a different way; it reveals how a capacity to think is developmentally dependent on a space for sharing experiences. Bion starts from the premise that thinking is based on a negative realization: It comes into being when there is a pre-conception of a good object and the expectation of its appearance is unfulfilled; The model I propose is that of an infant whose expectation of a breast is mated with a realization of no breast available for satisfaction. This mating is experienced as a no-breast, or "absent" breast inside. [] If the capacity for toleration of frustration is sufficient the "no-breast" inside becomes a thought and an apparatus for "thinking" it develops. (Bion 1962a:111-112) If the painful experience of this absence cannot be tolerated; What should be a thought, a product of the juxtaposition of preconception and negative realization, becomes a bad object, indistinguishable from a thing-in-itself, fit only for evacuation. [] [The psyche] operates on the principle that evacuation of a bad breast is synonymous with obtaining sustenance from a good

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breast. The end result is that all thoughts are treated as if they were indistinguishable from bad internal objects (Bion 1962a:112) Bion bases this description on Freuds (1911) distinction between the pleasure principle and the reality principle. It is in accordance with the pleasure principle that bad states are not felt but replaced by hallucinatory wish-fulfilment; thus absence as negativity is replaced with a positive phenomenon. Only if the absence of the breast is held on to, does it become a thought. One could use this theory to state that thoughts are by their nature about what is absent, but a different point could also be made; an expectation of something other than what is has to be present. In order to describe a situation as characterized by the absence of something, one must expect this something to be there. Awareness of such subjective contribution to one's perception is lacking in the latter example, where the painful material has become a concretely felt, independently existing entity, a beta-element subjecting one to an attack. A collapse in the self-other relation has thus entailed a collapse in subjectivity. Bion describes a third way of relating to, or handling, reality, also a kind of collapse in subjectivity, though not psychotic in the psychiatric sense; If intolerance of frustration is not so great as to activate the mechanisms of evasion and yet is too great to bear dominance of the reality principle, the personality develops omnipotence as a substitute for the mating of the pre-conception, or conception, with the negative realization. This involves the assumption of omniscience as a substitute for learning from experience by aid of thoughts and thinking. (Bion 1962a:114) Bion states that in this case a moral distinction between right and wrong replaces a factual one between true and false, and adds that the morality engendered is a function of psychosis. His description resembles Arendt's analysis of ideological reasoning, and based on the latter we can clarify the meaning so as to state that it is not the case that moral judgments replaces reality-testing because the distinction between the two is in fact blurred in such a way that neither one can correct the other. Within this logic, factual findings cannot correct moral prescriptions because they are subordinate to them, but these prescriptions are again merely functions of
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natural or historical laws, thus a moral critique of the factual circumstances is as impossible as a fact-based critique of the moral system, since neither perspective is granted sufficient independence from the other to articulate a different point of view. Bion's greatest contribution to psychoanalytic thinking is his theory of containment, where he articulates how meaning, thinking and subjectivity originate in an interpersonal constellation; Normal development follows if the relationship between infant and breast permits the infant to project a feeling, say, that it is dying into the mother and to reintroject it after its sojourn in the breast has made it tolerable to the infant psyche. If the projection is not accepted by the mother the infant feels that its feeling that it is dying is stripped of such meaning as it has. It therefore reintrojects, not a fear of dying made tolerable, but a nameless dread. (Bion 1962a:116) Like the bird-mother who feeds the baby bird with food she has digested, Bion's mother nurtures her infant with digested experience, leading to the growth of an ability to think. While the bird's digestive organs grow on their own, the growth in the infant's capacity for thinking presumably results from first a mimicking and then an elaboration of the mother's interpretative activity. While Arendt dwells on the necessity of a social space, a space between people, for meaning and thinking, Bion elaborates on the requirement of an inner space and on the historical and possibly renewed presence of a receptive other. In their different ways they convey how assigning meaning to experience, in the intimate sphere as in the public sphere, rests on a collective effort. The starting point for both these paths of reflection is how meaning is destroyed, in Arendt's case from without through the collapse of a public, political space and in Bion's case from within through a collapse of a psychic space. These seemingly similar processes are intertwined. It is interesting to note that Freud, when attempting to explain the concept of the censor, employs the example of political censorship in Russia; I will try to seek a social parallel to this internal event in the mind. Where can we find a similar distortion of a psychical act in social life? Only where two persons are concerned, one of whom possesses a certain degree of power which the second is obliged to take into account. [] A writer must beware of the censorship,
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and on its account he must soften and distort the expression of his opinion. [] The stricter the censorship, the more far-reaching will be the disguise and the more ingenious too may be the means employed for putting the reader on the scent of the true meaning. [] This censorship acts exactly like the censorship of newspapers at the Russian frontier, which allows foreign journals to fall into the hands of the readers whom it is its business to protect only after a quantity of passages have been blacked out. (Freud 1900:141-142, 529) Freud is in effect saying take this political phenomenon, of tyranny, and try to imagine it as taking place on an individual level. Bion's description of nameless dread goes further in conceiving of how the social reaches into the soul of the individual. Not only is meaning distorted and covered up; it is thoroughly destroyed. The object of refuted containment has acquired an additional quality by being refuted; it has become meaningless, indigestible, that-which-cannot-be-thought. Bion's analogy of witnessing not so much the remnants of a past civilization as a primitive catastrophe (1957:88) paralleled the political situation that gave rise to Arendt's thought, where human beings had not simply been killed on a massive scale, but an attempt had been made to destroy their humanity before killing them and to eradicate the memory of them in the aftermath. The situation was not one in which one could not simply pick up the pieces of past Western thought and gather them together again; a thorough effort at re-thinking was required.

THINKING AND EXPERIENCE Ferenczi ([1932]1988) described how a traumatic event leads to splitting and a cessation of thinking and awareness. Bion's concepts can be used to state a similar point. In Brown's (2005) formulation, trauma may destroy alpha function and thus the formation of meaning. Out of the undigested beta-elements a rigid beta screen is formed, in effect a 'second skin' (Bick) that reinstates cohesiveness but inhibits the imagination. To overcome such a state, new attempts at symbolization are required. One may here think of the modernist movement as a whole, and of writers such as Beckett. Psychoanalysis can be seen as such at attempt to reinstall

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or recreate meaning, to think about the unthinkable. But considered as a, or perhaps rather several conceptual schemes, it is also socially determined. This means that it is guided by power structures, as we saw in the quote by Freud, but another point in the context of thinking is that as long as you are operating within a conceptual scheme, you are making sense, but once you start to test the limits of that conceptual scheme, you risk meaninglessness. Thinking is, as we have seen, essentially disruptive. It "brings out the implications of unexamined opinions and thereby destroys them", thus it liberates the faculty of judgment. It has a political function only in times of crisis; "When everybody else is swept away unthinkingly by what everybody else does and believes in, those who think are drawn out of hiding because their refusal to join is conspicuous" ([1971]1977:192). The story of Anton Schmidt, a sergeant in the German Army, who for five months supplied the Jewish underground in Poland with forged papers and military trucks until he was arrested and executed in March 1942, shows that "under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not" ([1963]1994:231-233). Examples that such actions are possible are needed for the worldly preservation of meaning. The stories of thinking that interest Bion; the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel and the myth of Oedipus, all end in expulsion, pointing towards his interest in the potentially stifling quality of the group. Arendt's ideal type Socrates, the thinker par excellence, was, as we know, finally executed for corrupting the youth of Athens. Yet his example is twosided as his thinking was always dialogical; he always thought with someone, yet he was also gotten rid of by the community. A twofold quality can be discerned in teaching and learning as well. In learning, acquiring, a conceptual scheme one is enriched with a capacity to experience reality through its concepts, but the process also serves to set up a barrier against that which cannot be grasped through them. Thus in teaching someone a conceptual scheme one is also teaching them where not to look. One is simultaneously, to a greater or lesser extent saying; "We will throw sand into your eyes".

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To appeal to Arendt's clarifying distinctions, cognition can be taught, but thinking cannot. She referred to Socrates as the purest thinker of the West because he remained 'in the wind of thought' ([1971]1977:174); rather than stopping to write things down, he always continued to re-examine. When one writes one's conclusions down, one is engaged in a process of fabrication, which amounts to craftsmanship rather than thinking. Thinking cannot be copied, or passed on like a piece of knowledge, only inspired. Around the age of 14 I had a teacher who, in the context of speaking about the French Revolution started asking; 'What are the preconditions required for a revolution to take place?'. Rather than saying 'this is the truth because it says so in the book', he was taking a step back and wondering why. I mention this because it was a kind of revelatory experience to me, where I thought; 'he is standing up there and actually thinking'. In doing so, he was creating a space in which such activity could take place. To Arendt, conscience is a result of the experience of thinking itself ([1971]1977:189). When Socrates debates with himself, he is engaged in a dialogue with an inner friend, his daimon. At the end of his life, when imprisoned, and deciding not to take the opportunity for escape offered by his friends, he declares; 'Since my daimon has remained silent, I know I am doing the right thing'. I have previously argued, using Klein, that Arendt overlooks the emotional basis of such inner dialogue (reference removed), but she has a keen eye for how it may be lost under destructive social conditions. Towards the end of the play, in an hour of need, Oedipus calls out for his daimon, asking where it has gone ([429]2004:97). Thinking psychoanalytically, one could say that he is calling out for an inner object to come to his support. The word eudaimonia, misleadingly translated as happiness, means literally living in peace with one's daimon, i.e. a harmonious co-existence of the various parts of the soul, or stated in psychoanalytic terms; a good relationship to one's inner objects. Finally, I have aimed to imply that Arendt has something essential to add to an idea of containment extended in a social sense, namely an epistemic point about perspectival plurality. A particular form of humanism is inherent in her emphasis on the irreducibility of the different positions people occupy and the potential for extended vision each participant's
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perspective lends to all. According to Hect, the translator of King Oedipus, the hero is the person to whom the riddle of the sphinx does not apply. Having had his feet pinned together as an infant, Oedipus was in fact handicapped; he never walked upright on his own two feet without the support of a walking stick (2004:xx). Thus an Arendtian interpretation of this fact could be that the place in the world he occupied as a result of this specific deformation allowed him to see what everyone else overlooked. What to everyone else would be too obvious to notice, walking upright and unsupported, was not obvious to him, thus he was the only one who was capable of guessing the riddle. Whether a teacher is capable of taking up a perspective that comes from the sideline in terms of culture, class, gender etc. depends, I think, jointly on a basic security and a willingness to take a risk. Bion's concepts illuminate how this security is an unconscious state of affairs and how it is unconsciously communicated. The element of courage required to put one's concepts into play and risk one's frameworks of support is fruitfully explored in Arendt's political existentialism.

References ARENDT, H. ([1951] 1976) The Origins of Totalitarianism. San Diego/N.Y./London: Harcourt Brace. ARENDT, H. ([1958] 1988) The Human Condition. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press. ARENDT, H. ([1963] 1994) Eichmann in Jerusalem. N.Y.: Penguin. ARENDT, H. (1968) Men in Dark Times. San Diego/N.Y./London: Harcourt Brace. ARENDT, H. (1971) "Thinking and Moral Considerations" in Social Research vol. 38, no. 3. ARENDT, H. ([1971]1977) The Life of the Mind. San Diego/N.Y./London: Harcourt Brace. BION, W.R. (1957) "On Arrogance" in Second Thoughts. London: Karnac, 1984. BION, W.R. (1962a) "A Theory of Thinking" in Second Thoughts. London: Karnac, 1984. BION, W.R. (1962b) Learning from Experience. London: Karnac.

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BION, W.R. (1963) Elements of Psychoanalysis. London: Karnac. BROWN, L.J. (2005) "The Cognitive Effects of Trauma: Reversal of Alpha Function and the Formation of a Beta Screen" in Psychoanalytic Quarterly, vol. 74 no. 2. FERENCZI, S./Dupont, J. ed. ([1932]1988) The Clinical Diary of Sndor Ferenczi. Cambridge, Mass./London: Harvard U.P. FREUD, S. (1900) The Interpretation of Dreams. SE, vol. 4 & 5. FREUD, S. (1911) Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning. SE, vol. 12. FREUD, S. (1919) The Uncanny. SE, vol. 17. HECHT, J. (2004) "Introduction" in Three Theban Plays. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth. HOFFMAN, E.T.A. (1816) The Sandman. Available electronically: http://www.fln.vcu.edu/Hoffmann/sand_e.html RAND, N./TOROK, M. (1994) "The Sandman looks at "The uncanny" in Shamdasani, S./Mnchow, M. eds. Speculations after Freud. London/N.Y.: Routledge. SHENGOLD, L. (1989) Soul Murder. N.Y.: Fawcett Columbine. SOPHOCLES. ([429] 2004) "Oedipus the Tyrant" in Three Theban Plays. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth. STEINER, J. (1985) "Turning a blind eye: the cover-up for Oedipus" in Int.R.Psych.-Anal., 12: 161-72.

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