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Hoit, M. (1995). The Influence of Hermeneutic Philosophy on Psychoanalysis. Ann. Psychoanal., 23:13-32.

(1995). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 23:13-32

The Influence of Hermeneutic Philosophy on Psychoanalysis

Michael Hoit, M.D.

Hermeneutic philosophy is the study of how meaning is derived from experience and of the role played by interpersonal communication. Modern hermeneutists have incorporated an antiscientistic movement in philosophy regarding the humanities. They classify psychology as one of the social sciences in which data are derived from empathetically recognizable personal intentions, and not as one of the natural sciences where the criteria involve measurement, replicable experimentation, and the belief that there is an underlying discoverable structure of reality. Hermeneutics has been inspired by psychoanalysis in that it considers dreams and associations or any other product of human thinking to be the equivalents of texts. In turn, it claims to offer an enhanced understanding of the psychoanalytic process, since psychoanalysis is an interpretive discipline par excellence.

In the social (human) sciences, evidence that can be used to make general statements about reality is derived from an empathic immersion in some product of human culture, such as a text, or a narrative of a life. Hermeneutic studies focus at the interface between social and individual psychological functioning and propose models by which one can understand how persons encounter, decipher, and find meaning in texts that have been produced by someone who may be quite differently constituted in terms of prejudices, beliefs, and knowledge. Some psychoanalysts feel that hermeneutic philosophy has supplied a general understanding of the act of interpretation and can throw additional light on the psychoanalytic clinical relationship and add to the ability of psychoanalysis to effect useful changes in analysands. In this essay I will discuss hermeneutic philosophy and its applications to psychoanalysis.

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