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Renik, O. (2004). Reply to Elizabeth Bott Spillius. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(5):1061-1064.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(5):1061-1064

Reply to Elizabeth Bott Spillius Language Translation

Owen Renik

I am delighted to have Elizabeth Bott Spillius's response to my remarks. By raising questions and objections with characteristic forthrightness, she permits me the opportunity to clarify and elaborate upon several points that deserve further attention.

Her concluding quotation declares unequivocally that Spillius considers psychoanalysis to be a science that aims at the truth. In this regard we stand together on a crucial common ground, not occupied by those of our colleagues who conceptualize psychoanalysis as an enterprise outside science which need not employ scientific methodology. At the same time, however, Spillius states that she does not share my ‘sensible American pragmatism: put crudely, truth is what works’. Here I find an important contradiction and misunderstanding.

There is nothing especially American about my pragmatism. My pragmatismis the pragmatism of the experimental method, which constitutes the foundation ofscientific method everywhere in the world. Nor is it crude to say that truth is what works. In science, always, the true hypothesis is the one that works best—the one that makes the most successful predictions under the greatest number of conditions. The alternative to pragmatism is belief in articles of faith. Galileo proposed that the earth revolves around the sun because that understanding worked better than the geocentric understanding of his day to predict astronomical observations. The church, having no use for pragmatism, rejected Galileo's truth.

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