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Guntrip, H. (1967). The Concept of Psychodynamic Science. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:32-43.

(1967). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48:32-43

The Concept of Psychodynamic Science

H. Guntrip

The paper on "The Concept of Mind" by H. J. Home (1966) re-aroused my interest in this subject which had concerned me closely in writing Personality Structure and Human Interaction in 1961. I give a brief indication of the position taken by Mr Home, as our starting point here. He defined "mind" as the meaning of "behaviour". We do not speak of the "behaviour" of dead (inanimate) objects but only of their activity, because it has no "meaning". "Meaning" only exists for live objects and constitutes their subjective experience of their own activities and those of other live objects, in terms of their aims and purposes. He regarded science (i.e. "natural" science) as the study of the activities of dead objects. The objective methods of such science are useless for dealing with the "meanings" of the subjective experience of live objects, but this is what psycho-analysis sets out to study. He concluded that psycho-analytic or psychodynamic thinking is not "scientific" but is "humanistic thinking", based on our knowledge of ourselves and our capacity to identify with (and therefore to know inwardly) other people.

The basic emerging problem is that of the status and nature of specifically psychodynamic studies. Home worked out thoroughly one of the two possible answers, namely that psychodynamics is not a scientific but a humanist study. The other possible answer is to expand the meaning of science. Like the philosopher Hume, he pursued an important line of argument to its logical bitter end and so highlighted all the problems involved.

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