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Opatow, B. (1996). Meaning In The Clinical Moment. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:639-648.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:639-648

Meaning In The Clinical Moment

Barry Opatow

In his introduction to the panel, Poland stated that Freud's radicalism was to extend the field of meaning, and that the search for meaning remains central to the work of clinical analysis. To state a meaning is to assert the inner connectedness of mental elements and structure. The analytic situation reveals the nature of the significative processes that generate the meaning of mental events. But does an analytic process effectively discover new meanings or, rather, create them? Are clinical explanations by means of reference to past events efficacious in virtue of their correspondance to historical actuality (i.e., reconstruction) or, instead, because of the coherence of the inner structure of our understanding (i.e., construction)? Seeing these questions as correlates, and taking meaning as a basic clinical unit, we are afforded a fresh, and clinical, approach to fundamental issues. Meaning is best seen as an evolving generative activity that is, as it were, intercepted and arrested at the moment of understanding—a dynamic which modifies both the knower and the known. The clinical analytic process is the best laboratory yet conceived for the elucidation of certain perennial philosophical questions. Today's panel addresses one of these: the core question of the meaning of meaning.

Hanly, the first panelist, began by stating the basic issues for psychoanalysis raised by the question of meaning.

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