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Ahumada, J.L. (2016). Is the Nature of Psychoanalytic Thinking and Practice (e.g., in Regard to Sexuality) Determined by Extra-Analytic, Social and Cultural Developments? Insight under Siege: Psychoanalysis in the ‘Autistoid Age’. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(3):839-851.
(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(3):839-851
Is the Nature of Psychoanalytic Thinking and Practice (e.g., in Regard to Sexuality) Determined by Extra-Analytic, Social and Cultural Developments? Insight under Siege: Psychoanalysis in the ‘Autistoid Age’
Jorge L. Ahumada
My brief response to the question raised in this controversy may be found in my views on how in the ‘Autistoid Age’ (as I have referred to it) insight comes under siege. Let me explain.
Psychoanalytic thinking encompasses ‘enquiry’ and ‘theory’. My book Insight: Essays on Psychoanalytic Knowing(2011a) detailed that psychoanalytic concepts are not ‘clear, distinct, indubitable’ as requested by the agelong tradition issuing from astronomy and physics running from the Pythagoreans to Plato, Euclid and Ptolemy, and in modernity from Descartes to positivisms. Psychoanalytic concepts are at the same time hazy concepts, superimposed at different levels, and open concepts, redefined in diverse contexts of use. Thus, psychoanalytic thought is not amenable to reduction to universal, timeless, material “ultimate simples” (Quine, 1966, p. 81), and it forsakes strict deductivism. Relevantly, Freud did not grant epistemic priority to theories: “They are not the bottom but the top of the whole structure and they can be replaced or discarded without damaging it” (Freud, 1914, p. 77). Moreover, changing as they do across different epochs, human beings are historical, and so is the psyche and its pathologies: therefore psychoanalytic thinking, stemming from the study of neuroses, must change as its object of study changes. Some incidents depict how it changed in the last century.
The first occurred some 25 years ago when the Spanish philosopher Julián Marias, José Ortega y Gasset's foremost disciple, visited the annual Buenos Aires Book Fair as key speaker, at an advanced age. As he randomly walked about the bookstands, a young newsman asked him two questions: firstly, “had he noticed that thought had gone out of fashion?”; and then, “what did he opine of the idea that children throw away books and spend their time watching videoclips?”.
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