Self-Awareness and Desire

Schilder and Dolto on the continuity of the self


  • Stefan Kristensen University of Strasbourg



Body schema, Body image, Minimal self, Regressions, Experience of desire


This paper asks the question of how the subject develops a sense of a continuous self, spanning over several separate singular experiences -- a very much debated question in contemporary phenomenology. In order to do this, it examines the link between affectivity and the constitution of basic subjectivity in Paul Schilder’s work and in Françoise Dolto, two clinicians whose thinking relied on the notion of body schema and/or body image. The intimate link between affectivity and the structure of subjectivity established through the clinical practice of both authors is then put in connection with the contemporary debates about minimal selfhood. The main claim is that to go from a thin momentary self that is tied only to the particular experience, to a diachronic continuous self, something more than reflexivity of the self is needed: a desiring relation with the caring others. If this holds, we have formulated a crossing between the psychoanalytic and the phenomenological tradition.