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Langs, R. (1987). Psychoanalysis as an Aristotelian Science—Pathways to Copernicus and a Modern-Day Approach. Contemp. Psychoanal., 23:555-576.

(1987). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 23:555-576

Psychoanalysis as an Aristotelian Science—Pathways to Copernicus and a Modern-Day Approach

Robert Langs, M.D.

THE ISSUE OF THE SCIENTIFIC STATUS of psychoanalysis is of concern to us all. For the clinician, it is essential that psychoanalysis offer a foundation that meets accepted scientific standards. For his or her patients, the assurance of a scientific foundation to psychoanalysis promises the best possible cure available at the moment. And for the clinical researcher, there is a need to develop research approaches founded on a philosophy of science that promotes suitable forms of measurement, prediction, and perhaps above all, opportunity for new discoveries and advancement.

It is the main thesis of the present paper that psychoanalysis is in principle and in large measure—though of course, not entirely—an Aristotelian science. As such, it is primarily naturalistic, based on common sense observation and the statistical norm, concerned with the "essential nature" of the psyche's presumed elements, and intent on classifying those elements in terms of their apparent attributes and predetermined course of development. It is my intention to present arguments designed to reveal the Aristotelian spirit and philosophy at the heart of psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic endeavor in both theory and practice. Because the history of


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Copyright © 1987 W. A. W. Institute

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Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 24, No. 4 (1987)

1 This essay was written in response to Kurt Lewin's classic "The Conflict Between Aristotelian and Galileian Modes of Thought" (see page 517). I would like to thank my research assistant, Lenore Thomson, for her ideas and suggestions in the writing of this paper.

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