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Eckardt, M.H. (1977). The Nature of Our Knowledge. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 5(4):415-416.

(1977). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 5(4):415-416

The Nature of Our Knowledge

Marianne Horney Eckardt

The human intellect cannot but arrange its experiences in certain structured and thus restricted ways, fitting them into patterns of space and time, although the flow of events may be experienced by other minds in quite different patterns. Any order which we believe in, will affect the ordering of subsequent experiences. All our knowledge is by its nature incomplete and burdened with a great measure of uncertainty, yet we believe in the probable truth of the concepts we most cherish. We are aware that we are intimately reflecting the changes of our time, yet one or the other of our beliefs may keep us harnessed to something which is passé. Our discipline's knowledge is not as scientific as we like, yet it contains rich principles of organizing facts and many invaluable methods of obtaining knowledge which do deserve the full respect of being scientific.

Psychoanalysis has had to retrench its vision of curing the irrationality of mankind. It may have to retrench into further modesty. An acceptance, however, of measures of uncertainty and respect for what we do not know, enhances rather than decreases the passion for search. Let me quote some eminent thinkers: J. Bronowski, in The Identity of Man, states: It is not possible for the brain to arrive at certain knowledge. I am tempted to say that we do not look for truth, but for knowledge. But I dislike this form of words, for two reasons. First of all, we do look for truth, however we define it; it is what we find that is knowledge. And secondly what we fail to find is certainty. Man constantly invents ideas to express what seems to him to lie behind the appearances of nature and to hold them together. The invention of these ideas and their interplay in language is imagination the making of images inside of our heads. The language of science cannot be freed from ambiguity, any more than poetry can; ambiguity lies in the very texture of all ideas. Unlike poetry, [science] does not seek to exploit its ambiguities, but to minimize them. The values of science are generated by the search and not by the findings.

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