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Chessick, R.D. (2000). What is Psychoanalysis?. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 28(1):1-23.

(2000). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 28(1):1-23

What is Psychoanalysis?

Richard D. Chessick, M.D., Ph.D.

This is a summing-up of my 45 years of clinical and teaching experience. I believe psychoanalysis can have a scientific foundation, even if it is a procedure in which the investigator has an indissoluble influence on what is being investigated, and the possibility of replication is deeply compromised by the uniqueness of the relationship. Psychoanalytic notions do not readily lend themselves to empirical validation. Yet it has been increasingly recognized in contemporary philosophy of science that these problems are general to all scientific inquiry and that they represent the limitations of all science. The fact that it is very difficult to validate psychoanalytic hypotheses is not restricted only to psychoanalysis as a science; witness the plethora of theories and arguments in such traditional sciences as physics and astrophysics about quantum theory, about the so-called “cosmological constant” and whether it is necessary to postulate an inflationary phase in the origin of the universe, and the curious difficulty of locating proton decay, determining the mass of neutrinos, and finding gravitational waves predicted by the various theories but so far not convincingly demonstrated empirically. The whole conception of science in the twentieth century has shifted, but it does not follow from this that the data of psychoanalysis any more than the data of any other field are nothing but the current product of an interaction or a dialogue between patient and analyst. This is true in spite of the current intersubjective fashion as illustrated, for example, by the popularity of Bakhtin's (Emerson, 1997) postmodern concepts of dialogue, polyphony, and unfinalizability.

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