Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis

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Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis: A Study in the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis
Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis.jpg
Cover
Author Adolf Grünbaum
Country United States
Language English
Series Psychological Issues
Subject Psychoanalysis
Publisher International Universities Press
Publication date
1993
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 417
ISBN 0-8236-6722-7

Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis: A Study in the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis is a 1993 book about psychoanalysis, and related topics such as the nature and effectiveness of the placebo and its role in psychiatry and medicine, by the philosopher Adolf Grünbaum. The book, in part a sequel to Grünbaum's earlier The Foundations of Psychoanalysis (1984) and a response to analytic critics of that work, received both positive reviews and more mixed assessments. Reviewers found it an important work about both psychoanalysis and the concept of the placebo, but noted that Grünbaum's writing style made it difficult to read.

Summary[edit]

Grünbaum describes Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis as being in part a sequel to his The Foundations of Psychoanalysis (1984), and a response to analytic critics of that earlier work. Grünbaum argues that the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud maintained a view, which he refers to as "Freud's Master Proposition", according to which, "A neurosis can be dependably eradicated only by the conscious mastery of the repressions that are causally required for its pathogenesis, and only the therapeutic techniques of psychoanalysis can generate the requisite insight into the specific pathogen." He evaluates the significance of the proposition.[1]

He also criticizes the hermeneutic interpretations of psychoanalysis advanced by the philosophers Jürgen Habermas and Paul Ricœur, expands on his previous criticisms of the philosopher Karl Popper's critique of psychoanalysis, discusses the concept of the placebo and its role in psychiatry and medicine, responds to criticism of his views from the psychoanalyst Marshall Edelson, criticizes Philip Rieff and his book Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (1959), and presents new arguments against Freud's theory of dreams.[2]

Publication history[edit]

Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis was published in 1993 by International Universities Press.[3]

Reception[edit]

Mainstream media[edit]

Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis received a negative review from the philosopher Owen Flanagan in The Times Literary Supplement. Flanagan described Grünbaum's arguments as "relentless, breathless, sometimes windy". Though he considered the critique of psychoanalysis important, Flanagan wrote that "the battle will not be won by sticking as close to the text and its logical relations as Grünbaum does" and that it was necessary "to look more closely at the actual practices of therapists".[4]

Scientific and academic journals[edit]

Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis received positive reviews from Ann Casement in the Journal of Analytical Psychology and the philosopher Patricia Kitcher in Philosophy of Science and mixed reviews from the sociologist Edith Kurzweil in Society and Melvin Berg and Jon G. Allen in the Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic.[5][6][7][8] The book was also reviewed by Aaron H. Esman in the American Journal of Psychiatry and Nathaniel Laor in Philosophy of the Social Sciences.[9][10]

Casement described the book as a "major sequel" to The Foundations of Psychoanalysis. She credited Grünbaum with using his "profound knowledge of modern physics" to criticize Habermas, and with demonstrating that "many practices in orthodox medicine are placebogenic". She concluded that the book was essential reading for anyone interested in psychoanalysis despite Grünbaum's "dense writing style", which made it "a difficult book to penetrate."[5]

Kitcher credited Grünbaum with offering a compelling critique of psychoanalysis, including the views of "contemporary Freudians". She endorsed his argument that psychoanalysis rests on the "Master Proposition". She agreed with Grünbaum that the only methodologically sound way of demonstrating the "Master Proposition" would have been to conduct studies showing that psychoanalytic treatment cures neurosis at a rate better than placebo treatment, something neither Freud nor his followers did, and wrote that the "Master Proposition" was never supported by "reasonable evidence" and has now been shown to be false. She also wrote that Grünbaum provided an "illuminating account of placebos". However, she wrote that his criteria for determining "the adequacy of evidential support for a theory that turns out to revolutionize the intellectual landscape" seemed "unrealistically high", and that he "can only present a convincing case that psychoanalysis was not just wrong, but wrong-headed by being more sensitive to Freud's scientific context."[6]

Kurzweil wrote that Grünbaum employs a highly technical philosophical terminology that made his book "often impenetrable", and predicted that "Grünbaum's abstruse discourse will put off the ordinary reader." She criticized Grünbaum for making "gratuitous, peripheral observations that obstruct the flow of his arguments", for example by referring to the political activist Anita Bryant in the course of a discussion of Popper's claim that psychoanalysis is not falsifiable. She found Grünbaum's responses to the analyst Edelson's criticisms of his views unproductive, arguing that neither Grünbaum nor Edelson truly appreciated the other's position and that they were "talking past each other". Nevertheless, she concluded that Grünbaum "is the most erudite and sophisticated spokesman for the long-standing empiricist hostility to psychoanalysis."[7]

Berg and Allen wrote that Grünbaum displayed a "powerful intellect capable of discerning the internal logical girders upon which clinical inference making rests" and that his reasoning was "meticulous and capable of building intricate arguments that spring upon the reader with conclusions as gripping as a bear trap." However, while they credited him with "scholarly knowledge of Freud" and "proficiency at revealing logical flaws in Freud's reasoning", they concluded that his discussion of Freud came across as a polemic rather than a judicious evaluation and that there were places where the "logic of his own argument becomes strained and incoherent". They criticized him for citing "laboratory studies of perception and memory that employ experimental paradigms so far removed from the essential qualities of the psychoanalytic situation as to result in a meaningless comparison." Though appreciating his critique of Freud's original theories, they accused him of not being fully aware of the current state of psychoanalytic clinical theory and practice. They concluded that Grünbaum's book was "tough going" but also "essential reading" for psychoanalysts "who want to examine the basic assumptions underlying their work".[8]

Evaluations in books[edit]

The psychologist Michael Billig, writing in Freudian Repression (1999), noted that while Grünbaum believes that Freud's theories have been almost entirely discredited, that verdict is not universally shared, since psychologists such as Seymour Fisher, Roger P. Greenberg, and Paul Kline "argue that the main elements of Freudian theory have been confirmed."[11]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Grünbaum 1993, pp. ix, 28.
  2. ^ Grünbaum 1993, pp. 1–107, 229–257, 267–268, 357–384.
  3. ^ Grünbaum 1993, p. iv.
  4. ^ Flanagan 1993, p. 3.
  5. ^ a b Casement 1994, pp. 135–136.
  6. ^ a b Kitcher 1995, pp. 166–167.
  7. ^ a b Kurzweil 1994, pp. 81–84.
  8. ^ a b Berg & Allen 1995, p. 129.
  9. ^ Esman 1995, p. 283.
  10. ^ Laor 1996, p. 432.
  11. ^ Billig 1999, pp. 5, 269.

Bibliography[edit]

Books
Journals
  • Berg, Melvin; Allen, Jon G. (1995). "Book reviews". Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. 59 (1).  – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Casement, Ann (1994). "Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis: A Study in the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis (Book)". Journal of Analytical Psychology. 39 (1).  – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Esman, Aaron H. (1995). "Book forum". American Journal of Psychiatry. 152 (2).  – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Flanagan, Owen (1993). "Memory playing false". The Times Literary Supplement (4726).  – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Kitcher, Patricia (1995). "Book reviews". Philosophy of Science. 62 (1).  – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Kurzweil, Edith (1994). "Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis: A Study in the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis". Society. 31 (4).  – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Laor, Nathaniel (1996). "Book reviews". Philosophy of the Social Sciences. 26 (3).  – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)