The Ego’s Attention and the Therapist’s Attention to Reality in Freud. At the Threshold of Ethics

Ana Lucía Montoya


This article aims to show that the practice of attention can create an openness to the truth, from where ethics arises. It does so by exploring the role attention plays, according to Ricoeur, in Freud’s thought. Ricoeur shows how in the first stage of Freud’s thinking – that of the Project of a Scientific Psychology – attention is one of the instances in which a purely mechanical quantitative explanation can be questioned. Further on, with the introduction of narcissism, Ricœur shows that attention, insofar as it opens a space for the “wounding truth,” opposes narcissism. Finally, the article explains how in the therapeutic setting an attentional epochē allows the therapist to be “the reality principle in flesh and in act,” so that the ego can gain control. According to Ricœur, this non-judgmental gaze opens a space of truthfulness for the patient’s self-knowledge which, although not being the totality of ethics, constitutes its threshold.


Attention; Reality Principle; Narcissism; Truth

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