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Moore, A.T. (1984). Unique Individuality Redeemed—Sullivan's Misinterpretation of Bridgman's Operationalism. Contemp. Psychoanal., 20:1-32.

(1984). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 20:1-32

Unique Individuality Redeemed—Sullivan's Misinterpretation of Bridgman's Operationalism

Anthony T. Moore, Ph.D.

WITHIN THE LAST TWELVE YEARS, THIS JOURNAL has published several excellent articles (Crowley, 1971), (1973) ; (Davis, 1978) ; (Friedland, 1978) ; (Klenbort, 1978) ; (Wolstein, 1971), (1975), (1981) dealing with Sullivan's attitude toward unique personal individuality. Fundamentally, the debate has revolved around the question whether unique individuality must be excluded from interpersonal psychiatry. While both sides of the issue have received more than adequate treatment, one aspect of the problem has continually gone unquestioned. All commentators seem to agree that one of Sullivan's primary reasons for excluding unique individuality was his desire to adhere to certain norms of scientific method which he derived from Percy Bridgman's theory of operationalism. In what might well stand as a classic statement of Sullivanian orthodoxy in this regard, Crowley (1973) stated:

Sullivan's theory of interpersonal relations is an attempt to formulate psychiatric phenomena in operational terms amenable to observation and consensual validation. The traditional, individualistic point of view toward ourselves and other people must be abandoned, according to Sullivan (p. 131). … The traditional, conventional concepts of our personal and unique individuality are not useful in a psychiatry concerned with an operational statement of interpersonal relations (p. 132).

More recently, Klenbort (1978) has attempted to develop a more positive role for unique individuality by an appeal to those passages in Sullivan which seem to allow for some recognition of what is unique or individual. Nevertheless, she continues to follow the standard interpretation that unique individuality is "inaccessible to operational definition" (p.

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