The Brain, the Mind and the Self: A Psychoanalytic Road Map, by Arnold Goldberg, Routledge, New York, 2015, 164pp.

  • John Turtz
  • Published 2017 in American journal of psychoanalysis


Arnold Goldberg’s book, The Brain, the Mind and the Self: A Psychoanalytic Road Map is innovative, philosophically grounded, and quite thought-provoking. His entry into the philosophical domain of defining and contrasting the terms mind, brain, and self is fascinating, enlightening and well worth the read. By differentiating these terms, Goldberg sees an opportunity for psychoanalysis to free itself from the constraints of psychiatry and neuroscience in order to grow and develop along its own unique path. Goldberg is refreshingly subversive and insightful when differentiating the brain from the mind from the self. From my perspective, this was the most vital and valuable focus of this thoughtful book. Unlike certain scientists such as Francis Crick (the co-discoverer of DNA) and certain notable philosophers such as Daniel Dennett, Goldberg does not view the mind as synonymous with the brain. In this day and age where neuroscience is revered and practically worshipped, this is a perspective well worth exploring and examining. Goldberg sees the discipline of psychoanalysis as critical in differentiating brain from mind from self. For Goldberg, the brain refers to neuronal connections and functioning. In contrast to the brain, the mind refers to more than brain physiology; the mind brings into being the world of meaning. ‘‘Thus the mind, wholly dependent upon and generated by the brain, is the arena wherein we see what the world means to us. Meaning becomes a larger concept than the brain’’ (p. 14). The concept of the self refers to the ‘‘seat of agency’’ (p. 14). The mind and the self cannot simply be reduced to brain functioning. The mind depends upon the brain and emerges from brain functioning, but the mind extends far beyond the brain. In fact, the mind extends into the world whereas the brain remains inwardly separate from the world. Rather than view the mind as made up of internalized perceptions and representations of the outer world, Goldberg opts for a model of enactivism, whereby the mind extends into and interacts with the world. This is grounded in the philosophy of Heidegger, who saw human nature as inherently ‘‘being in the world.’’ Goldberg enlists Rupert Sheldrake’s field theory of mind as well as Kohut’s concept of the self object to illustrate how the mind extends into the world. The thinking of the philosopher, Paul Ricoeur with regard to language is also examined. Ricoeur considered the brain and the mind to be two completely separate ‘‘universes of discourse’’ (p. 144), using totally different languages, which results in the impossibility of either being reduced to the other. Given his philosophical inclinations and references to Heidegger, Goldberg might have also explored the concepts of one of Heidegger’s teachers, the The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2017 2017 Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis 0002-9548/17

DOI: 10.1057/s11231-017-9092-7

Cite this paper

@article{Turtz2017TheBT, title={The Brain, the Mind and the Self: A Psychoanalytic Road Map, by Arnold Goldberg, Routledge, New York, 2015, 164pp.}, author={John Turtz}, journal={American journal of psychoanalysis}, year={2017}, volume={77 2}, pages={203-205} }