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date: 26 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter develops a concept of epistemic anxiety and explores its particular relevance to educational settings and to wider contexts in contemporary society. The idea brings into conjunction two significant psychoanalytical ideas. The first is that of the epistemophilic instinct proposed, following Freud’s reflections on anxiety, by Melanie Klein and developed by Wilfred Bion into a theory of thinking and its relations to love and hate. The second is the theory of unconscious social defences against anxiety which first evolved within the Tavistock tradition of psychoanalytic social research in the 1950s and has recently been subject to reappraisal and new applications. Its argument is that epistemic anxiety frequently arises in learning situations, and that learning and thinking can be facilitated if this is understood.

Keywords: epistemophilic instinct, unconscious anxiety, social defences, learning difficulties, Melanie Klein, Wilfred Bion

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