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Hamilton, V. (1993). Truth and Reality in Psychoanalytic Discourse. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:1066-1068.

(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:1066-1068

Truth and Reality in Psychoanalytic Discourse

Victoria Hamilton, Ph.D.

Dear Sirs,

Thank you for your invitation to respond to Evelyne Schwaber's letter of 29 March in which Dr Schwaber seeks to correct a 'significant misrepresentation' of her work as portrayed in my paper 'Truth and reality in psychoanalytic discourse' (IJPA, 1993, 1). First, I wish to clarify that the phrase 'clear and equal glass' which occurs in quotation marks in my paper is not from Dr Schwaber's work. The phrase is used by some philosophers of mind to describe a view of the mind as 'a glassy essence' which mirrors reality. (The quote, cited below, is from a passage in Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning.1 A full discussion of 'our glassy essence' occurs in the book Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature by Richard Rorty.)

In my paper, I referred to Dr Schwaber's work in order to illustrate a particular methodological approach to clinical practice. I described this 'listening stance' as 'radically empiricist'. The quotations in Dr Schwaber's letter are aimed to correct this description. My response aims to address both the complex issues raised by Dr Schwaber and the viewpoint discussed in my paper in which the reference to Dr Schwaber's work occurred.

I think it would be fair to deduce from the excerpts quoted in her letter that Dr Schwaber supports a constructivist theory of reality and a relativist theory of truth. She does not believe in 'theory-free data', 'objective reality' or truth by correspondence. Expanding on Freud's distinction between 'material' and 'psychic' reality, Schwaber states: 'what we can know of the world is by our own ways of seeing it'; 'our participation, as may be expressed in the ways in which we use our varying models, is intrinsic to the reality we are to discern and to articulate'.

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