Aldo Mosca

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


A cognitivist approach is applied in this thesis to the psychoanalytic explanation of neurosis. The received approaches to psychoanalysis, the reductionist and the hermeneutic, are discussed and rejected. The reductionist approach explains neurotic symptoms as discharges of psychic energy; it is characterized by a teleological mode of reasoning, and endures in the mentalistic thesis that neurotic symptoms are to be explained as wish-fulfillments. The hermeneutic approach is centered on the claim that symptoms are symbols of unconscious thoughts, and that psychoanalytic explanation must be understood as a deciphering of seemingly incomprehensible texts.;The cognitivist approach is applied, first, by construing both neurotic symptoms and their unconscious causes as propositional attitudes towards mental representations; and second, by construing the Freudian mechanisms of defense as transitions between unconscious and conscious states of mind. These transitions are at the core of the psychoanalytic explanation of neurotic actions and mental states. The degree of rationality of these mental processes is evaluated in the explanation of every classic symptom in psychopathology. It is shown that the wish-fulfillment thesis cannot encompass all the explanations offered by Freud, whereas the interpretation of symbols can be subsumed under a cognitivist perspective. It is concluded that the cognitivist approach is preferable to rival accounts of psychoanalytic explanation, and that psychoanalysis is best viewed as a branch of cognitive psychology.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.