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Michael, M.T. (2019). The case for the Freud–Breuer theory of hysteria: A response to Grünbaum’s foundational objection to psychoanalysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 100(1):32-51.

(2019). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 100(1):32-51

The case for the Freud–Breuer theory of hysteria: A response to Grünbaum’s foundational objection to psychoanalysis

Michael T. Michael

In his influential critique of psychoanalysis, philosopher Adolf Grünbaum has repeatedly objected that the psychoanalytic enterprise has a foundational flaw in that its fundamental claim that repressed thoughts can be pathogenic cannot be sustained. His criticism focuses on Freud and Breuer’s reasoning toward this claim in Studies on Hysteria, which Grünbaum rejects mainly on the ground that there is an alternative explanation, the placebo hypothesis, that Freud and Breuer have failed to rule out. I argue against this by showing in detail why Freud and Breuer’s claim about the pathogenicity of repressed thoughts can be sustained on the evidence presented in Studies. Providing such a detailed response to Grünbaum’s objection is important for several reasons, including that it illustrates how the possibility of the influence of suggestion that critics often bring against psychoanalysis need not be fatal, thereby offering an alternative, complementary solution to the problem of suggestion to one recently proposed.

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