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Galatzer-Levy, R.M. (1996). Validation In The Clinical Theory Of Psychoanalysis: A Studyin The Philosophy Of Psychoanalysis. By Adolf Grünbaum. Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1993, 417 pp., $52.50.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:594-598.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:594-598

Validation In The Clinical Theory Of Psychoanalysis: A Studyin The Philosophy Of Psychoanalysis. By Adolf Grünbaum. Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1993, 417 pp., $52.50.

Review by:
Robert M. Galatzer-Levy, M.D.

In the movie Help, Beatle Ringo Starr discovers that a newly acquired, highly adhesive ring marks him as the next sacrifice to the god Kaelli. Ringo and his mates seek help from the best sources. Naturally, among these is the Scientist, a white-coated man who operates gadgets with complex names. The Scientist has the most powerful technology available. His assistant, a model of scientific precision, carefully announces each step—“Now I am turning the knob one quarter turn to the right.” Yet the Scientist's efforts fail. The Scientist explains away the problems—bad plugs, inadequate funding, and poorly trained assistants. Wisely, the Beatles seek help elsewhere. Still, the Scientist, seeing a chance for personal gain, pursues them doggedly.

Like Ringo, psychoanalysis has problems, maybe even life-threatening ones. In reading or listening to psychoanalysts, it is often difficult to assess the validity of psychoanalytic statements or even to clearly know on what bases their truth is claimed. Central analytic propositions often lack rigorous support and, commonly, their meaning is unclear. The relationship between psychoanalytic and nonanalytic ideas about related phenomena is often murky. One reason Freud's writing is so persuasive is that Freud skillfully obscured these issues. While he claimed his work was “scientific,” Freud's writing evokes conviction neither from empirical data nor rigorous argument. Later psychoanalytic writers were rarely as persuasive as Freud, but most psychoanalytic contributions continue to obscure the reasons for their assertions. Asking to what extent psychoanalysts should be believed is reasonable. Philosophers of science, and other epistemologists, carefully explore the bases for belief. They seem a promising source for help clarifying and resolving questions of the status of psychoanalytic statements.

A distinguished leader in his field has volunteered his help. Adolf Grünbaum is a Scientist, which is to say he is a true believer in the method of investigation he calls Science. Consistent with the true believer's stance he wants to be sure no one claims Scientific status for disciplines that do not use the methods he equates with Science. In fact, for Grünbaum, only methods that are Scientific (by his standards) can make legitimate claims to truth. This is an unusual attitude in the late twentieth century.

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