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Concept

CONCEPT

For Wilfred Bion, conception is the result of coupling a pre-conception, an innate a priori idea, and a realization, elements of the real that are provided by external-sensory or internal-emotional experience. The concept is derived from conception through abstraction and generalization. Language and the attribution of a name to a concept unite preconception and realization, preventing any loss of experience in the process. In Bion's grid conception appears in row E, below the pre-conceptions (row D). The transition from D to E occurs when a pre-conception (for example, the infant's innate expectation of the breast) encounters a negative realization (absence of the real breast).

In a key article on the theory of thought, presented during the International Congress of Psychoanalysis held in Edinburgh in 1961, Bion appears to contradict himself when discussing his theory of conceptions. In one paragraph he says that the union of the preconception (innate expectation of the breast) with the realization ("the breast itself") gives rise to a conception, associated with an experience of satisfaction. In the following paragraph he writes that it is only when the pre-conception is joined with frustration that a conception (thought) is produced.

There is a problem with Bion's first statement. For if there is no internal object because that object has not been thought, it is difficult to justify how the "breast itself" could make contact with the pre-conception. Bion's second statement leads us to believe that the sensation of hunger (emotion), combined with the frustration (absence of the breast), will create the conception of "no breast," a "non-object," which then, through contact with the mother and the intervention of the container-contained mechanism, , will be able to become a "good breast." The presence of two innate pre-conceptions, present at the start of life: "bad" and "good" breasts, which are coupled with the realizations concerning the "absent breast" and the nourishing breast also need to be recognized. This will be the basis of the first internal object. Additionally, it is the infant's constitution, which enables him or her to tolerate the frustration of hunger, of the "absent breast," while preventing it from becoming prematurely the "bad breast" whose fate is then to be evacuated in the same way as feces, tears, et cetera (beta-elements).

Bion considers the concept a conception that has been assigned a name. The concept signifies a growth of the abstraction that enables us to expand the generalization of psychoanalytic theories, which, as a whole are judged to be too descriptive, too concrete. Concepts can be articulated in a deductive scientific system that functions like an Ars combinatoria .

Pedro Luzes

See also: Grid; Breast, good/bad object; Preconception; Realization; Thought.

Bibliography

Bion, Wilfred. (1962a). Learning from experience. London: Heinemann; New York: Basic Books.

. (1967). A theory of thinking. In Second thoughts. London: Heinemann. (Reprinted from International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43, 4-5.)

. (1963). Elements of psycho-analysis. London: Heinemann.

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concept

con·cept / ˈkänˌsept/ • n. an abstract idea; a general notion: the concept of justice. ∎  a plan or intention; a conception: the center has kept firmly to its original concept. ∎  an idea or invention to help sell or publicize a commodity: a new concept in corporate hospitality. ∎ Philos. an idea or mental picture of a group or class of objects formed by combining all their aspects. ∎  [as adj.] (of a car or other vehicle) produced as an experimental model to test the viability of new design features.

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concept

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