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Holt, R.R. (1982). The Manifest and Latent Meanings of Metapsychology. Ann. Psychoanal., 10:233-255.

(1982). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 10:233-255

The Manifest and Latent Meanings of Metapsychology

Robert R. Holt, Ph.D.

There is a good deal of confusion on the question of what metapsychology is. Marie Jahoda (1977p. 93) has summed it up admirably:

according to Jones [1955p. 185] it implies “a comprehensive description of any mental process,” while David Rapaport [Rapaport and Gill, 1959pp. 795-796] reads it to mean “the study of the assumptions upon which the system of psychoanalytic theory is based”; in another publication [1960], however, he identified metapsychology as the “principles in psychoanalytic theory.” Hartmann [1964p. 328], who apparently felt uneasy about the term, defines it as theory on the highest level of abstraction. Strachey [1957p. 105], in the editorial introduction to the papers on metapsychology, uses the slightly odd phrase “views on psychological theory” to characterise metapsychology, obviously implying something different from the theory itself. Hilgard [1962] seems to suggest that metapsychology is a collection of Freud's models of man, and Laplanche and Pontalis [1973p. 249] say that “metapsychology constructs an ensemble of conceptual models which are more or less far-removed from empirical reality.”


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