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Hansell, J.H. (2002). Discussion of Brenner: Reflections on Psychoanalysis—Rigor and Reductionism. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 11(1):83-89.

(2002). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 11(1):83-89

Discussion of Brenner: Reflections on Psychoanalysis—Rigor and Reductionism

James H. Hansell, Ph.D.

For almost half a century, Charles Brenner has been a beacon of clarity and rigor amidst the turbulent, muddled waters of psychoanalysis. For anyone who has sat through too many frustrating case conferences in which every idea is treated as equally valid—and who hasn't?—Brenner's call for a more disciplined approach to evaluating psychoanalytic propositions and theories is always welcome. Brenner's body of work is often immediately associated with a conservative wing of psychoanalysis. But he has always stood for the principle of evaluating psychoanalytic ideas on their merits rather than on the basis of received authority. This essay stands in that tradition.

In this paper, Brenner brings his usual clarity to argue for two main points: first, that psychoanalysis is a natural science, and second, that oedipal conflict theory deserves to hold the preeminent place within psychoanalysis. In so doing, he avidly lobbies against the trend in psychoanalysis toward theoretical pluralism, and specifically attacks the validity of those Kleinian theories that emphasize the etiological importance of complex fantasies in the first year of life. In the space available to me, I cannot do justice to the full and rich range of ideas in Brenner's essay. Rather, I will focus my response on what I see as the major questions at issue: pluralism in psychoanalysis, psychoanalysis as science, and the place of oedipal conflict theory in contemporary psychoanalysis.

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