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Ahumada, J.L. (1997). Toward An Epistemology Of Clinical Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:507-530.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:507-530

Toward An Epistemology Of Clinical Psychoanalysis

Jorge L. Ahumada

Epistemology emerges from the study of the ways knowledge is gained in the different fields of scientific endeavor. Current polemics on the nature of psychoanalytic knowledge involve counterposed misconceptions of the nature of mind. On one side clinical psychoanalysis is under siege from philosophical “hard science” stalwarts who, upholding as the unitary model of scientific knowledge the Galilean model of science built around the “well-behaved” variables of mechanics and cosmology, argue clinical psychoanalysis does not meet empirical criteria for the validation of its claims. On the other side, its empirical character is renounced by hermeneuticists who, agreeing with “hard science” advocates on what science is, dismiss the animal nature of human beings and hold that clinical psychoanalysis is not an empirical science but a “human” interpretive one. Taking Adolf Grünbaum's critique as its referent, this paper examines how, by ignoring the differences between “exact” and observational science, the “hard science” demand for well-behaved variables misconstrues the nature of events in the realm of mind. Criteria for an epistemology fit for the facts of clinical psychoanalysis as an empirical, observational science of mind are then proposed.

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