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Smith, H.F. (1998). Response by Henry F. Smith. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(2):565-568.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(2):565-568

Response by Henry F. Smith

Henry F. Smith

John Gedo is right that my article was inspired by the roundtable discussion of his plenary address but wrong that it was an attempt to “accuse” him of “stupidities” or to have the “last word.” It is difficult to imagine anyone accusing John Gedo of being stupid. Rather than having the last word on these complex matters, my effort, as I tried to make clear, was to broaden the dialogue and to make some observations about how we build theory and how we use it clinically.

If Gedo thinks that I believe “innovators” are “more responsible for the current Babel,” he has missed my point. Rather, I was trying to suggest that in various ways we all inevitably misread texts for personal purposes, even those among us who would let sleeping dogs (or texts) lie. The crucial issue is what effect our misreadings have on our work and on our assessment of others.

Nor was I claiming that Gedo is “more likely to resort to neurobiological explanations” than are other analysts. There is indeed a neurobiological substrate to all our work, and he is right to point out the historical role that analogies to neurobiology have played in our conceptualizations. It is precisely because of these factors and because we are faced today with such important and startling advances in neurobiology, which are at risk of being prematurely appropriated into psychoanalytic theory, that I wanted to open a dialogue about how we currently use neurobiology in our conceptualizations.

I do not believe the “activation of new neural networks” is “pragmatically irrelevant.” My point was that I did not see how a statement such as “the process of working through necessarily involves … the actual reorganization of the relevant aspects of brain function” (Gedo 1995p. 352) does more than state the obvious. It does not tell us anything of pragmatic importance that we don't already know.

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