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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

There is a tension in psychiatry between clinical and neurobiological approaches to mental disorder. The accounts provided by Freud and his successors, however, should not be taken as alternatives to a fuller neurobiological understanding, but rather as indicating paths we might take towards attaining one. The main mental disorders are rooted in emotional conflict, and these are conflicts to which the basic emotional regulatory systems that produce both behavior and consciousness are liable. These emotional conflicts, in turn, are rooted in evolution, together with the "moral" emotions that go awry in mental disorder as well. Although these claims are speculative they are increasingly sustained by evidence. Insofar as they are correct we should expect psychoanalysis and our future claims about the neurobiology of mental disorder to converge, at least within the limits set by their categories. Understanding mental disorder in this way is of a piece with understanding the irrationalities that are part of human nature, and we may hope to progress in both together.

Keywords: psychoanalysis, Freud, conflict, depression, schizophrenia, superego, emotion, neuroscience, evolution

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