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Warme, G.E. (1982). The Methodology of Psychoanalytic Theorizing: A Natural Science or Personal Agency Model?. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:343-354.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:343-354

The Methodology of Psychoanalytic Theorizing: A Natural Science or Personal Agency Model?

Gordon E. Warme


It is argued that psychoanalytic theory is in an exciting and worthwhile state of unrest. The discussion focuses on a polarization which is increasingly emphasized; namely, that between natural science formulations and subjective-intentional formulations. An additional third point of view attempts an over-arching position that accommodates both positions.

The natural science model is that which has been used in evolving classical metapsychology, framed in terms of deterministically ordered forces, energies and structures analogous to those of Newtonian physics; the subjective-intentional stance has eschewed natural science in favour of explanation based on personal intention and non-deterministic reasons.

A critical discussion of the competing models—natural science, personal intention, and the over-arching position, concludes that the personal intention model best suits the needs of an evolving psychoanalytic theory. That theory would necessarily acknowledge a place for: (1)

the biology of human behaviour, (2) a language which specifies process and function rather than substantive structures and energies, (3) intention and meaning, (4) sexuality, (5) repetition, (6) synthesis, (7) unconscious processes, (8) the claiming and disclaiming of responsibility, (9) identification and differentiation.

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