Re: On Psychoanalysis (by NB)

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Sat Mar 02 1996 - 18:14:10 GMT

> From: "Bollons Nicholas" <>
> Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1995 22:45:51 GMT
> As a therapy ,Psychoanalysis is based on the
> observation that individuals are often unaware of the factors that
> determine their emotions and behaviour... Analysis is an intimate
> partnership, in the course of which the patient becomes aware of the
> underlying sources of his/her difficulties not simply intellectually
> ,but emotionally- by re-experiencing them with the analysts ...
> Eventually the patients life - his/her behaviour, relationships,
> sense of self ; changes in a deep and abiding way"
> There is no way to confirm individual
> experience or to check `whether your introspective reading was
> accurate'
> This has to be major flaw in the theory of Psychoanalysis if the
> analyst is unable to confirm whether any of his/her interpretations
> are accurate or if the analysand ( i.e. patient) has not just
> invented them.

You may not be able to confirm the patient's introspections or memory
are correct; you may not be able to confirm that the analyst's or the
patients's interpretations are correct; but, if patient's really get
better, is this a problem?

Separate the question of the medical effectiveness of psychoanalysis
for ailments from the question of the "scientific" testability or
correctness of the analyst's particular theory about a patient, or of
psychoanalytical theory in general: Is there evidence that (1) it works
or (2) it's true?

> Memories form an intregal part, if not `the basis', for
> introspection and the use of memories as a reliable source of
> information has to be questioned. Memories are `un-trustworthy ...
> (and) are constructions, not mere registrations (of the truth)'

True, but when a regular doctor takes a history, and asks you if you
have had any prior ailments, allergies, sutgery. etc., he relies on your
memory too: What's different in the case of psychoanalysis?

> method can become corrupted by suggestion and that `analysts induces
> their patients by suggestion to furnish the responses needed to
> validate their Psychoanalytic theory...' (Wilhelm Fleis 1954).

This is a big problem, as many, including Freud himself, pointed out:
How to can the correctness of an analytic interpretation be tested
without any influence of suggestion?

> there seemed to be a lack of evidence to validate
> the claim that the lifting of repression's cause symptoms to be
> removed

Is this because the theory was tested and failed the test, or because
the theory wasn't properly tested, or because the theory is

> Finally discussion of the problems of Psychoanalysis on a Philosophical
> level will be discussed. It will now be seen if `the couch' can weather
> `Scientifically Empirical Testing' storm. Due to it's methodology
> `there are no facts in Psychoanalysis, for the analysis does not
> observe he interprets (Riciour 1970). Graunbun 1982 Philosophical
> Critique Of Psychoanalysis looks in depth at the Freudian concept and
> it's status in the `scientific world' with specific reference to Popper
> (1980) theory that Psychoanalysis "is simply non-testable,
> irrefutable".

So, in the end, is it all interprtation, hence untestable? Both whether
it works and whether it is true?

You've touched on the main points, but kid-sib would not be able to sort
it out from what you wrote!

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