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From 1895 onwards, Freud uncompromisingly rejected the philosophical orthodoxy of his day – the twin assumptions of body-mind dualism and the equation of mentality with consciousness. In place of the former, he argued that our mental processes are processes within a physical organ – the human brain – rather than a non-physical mind. This physicalist stance was, although not entirely unheard of at the time, certainly bold and unusual. Freud also rejected the view that we can investigate the mind through introspection, because ‘it follows, from the postulate of consciousness providing neither complete nor trustworthy knowledge of the neuronal processes that these are … to be regarded as unconscious and are to be inferred like other natural things’.

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