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Harris, A. (1996). The Conceptual Power of Multiplicity. Contemp. Psychoanal., 32:537-552.

(1996). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 32:537-552

The Conceptual Power of Multiplicity

Adrienne Harris, Ph.D.

Michael Rustin has proposed that psychoanalysts respond to the attack on the scientific validity and verifiability of our work and our theories, not by defending abstract hypotheses of the nature of mind or of pathology, but simply by describing what we do. He points out that “practical interest has shifted from developmental history towards the subtleties and ambiguities of the interactions between patient and analyst, on both conscious and unconscious levels” (Rustin, 1994p. 111). He argues that this preoccupation with the microprocess and sequence of clinical experience should be the cornerstone of our attempts to ground our theoretical and practical work as a scientific practice. “All sciences have to deal with an interface between their abstract conceptualizations and the world of experience which these order and describe,” Rustin argues, and it is this minutely observed and traced experience that analysts need to communicate within their field and to the larger intellectual and scientific community. “What distinguishes mutative . . . knowledge in psychoanalysis is that it is knowledge anchored to a specific moment of experience or to a specific emotional referent. Psychoanalytic concepts are more or less useless except where they are linked closely to the experience and recognition of actual states of mind” (p. 114).

Rustin is proposing that analysts take a particular and more confident stance in relation to criticisms of

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