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Horowitz, M.H. (1977). The Quantitative Line of Approach in Psychoanalysis: A Clinical Assessment of its Current Status. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 25:559-579.

(1977). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 25:559-579

The Quantitative Line of Approach in Psychoanalysis: A Clinical Assessment of its Current Status

Milton H. Horowitz, M.D.


The metapsychological points of view were designed by Freud, using the vocabulary of the science of his time, to provide a

model of the mental apparatus based on the data of conflict. This model, like other primitive scientific models, was based upon metaphor. One of those metaphors was a quantification concept; in the absence of any specific thing to measure, it presented a niche in the structure for future dimensional quantification; moreover, developmental issues of structure formation may require further quantitative concepts. The economic metaphors ("displaceable quantity") serve some usefulness in the model of personal history in which events of the past achieve significance in the present.

The dynamic and economic viewpoints contribute a model of a stylized segment of experience defined by the historical method. It is a model that may not be suitable for other exploratory methods. It may not stand up to other exploratory methods, which would require their own theory. This does not mean that it need be discarded, any more than we would discard Newtonian mechanics. We would simply regard the theory as limited to its observational method, and it could be retained in clinical theory as explanatory of symptom formation, interpretation of dream content, the theory of the self, etc. As in other branches of medicine, the case history is an essential beginning of clinical investigation; it cannot lead to precise etiological formulations and unitary explanations.

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