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(1956). The Scientific Monthly. LXXIX, 1954: Meaning of Psychoanalytic Concepts and Confirmation of Psychoanalytic Theories. Else Frenkel-Brunswik.. Psychoanal Q., 25:288-290.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Scientific Monthly. LXXIX, 1954: Meaning of Psychoanalytic Concepts and Confirmation of Psychoanalytic Theories. Else Frenkel-Brunswik.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:288-290

The Scientific Monthly. LXXIX, 1954: Meaning of Psychoanalytic Concepts and Confirmation of Psychoanalytic Theories. Else Frenkel-Brunswik.

The author discusses four chief objections to the method and content of psychoanalysis. 1. Freud's lack of sophistication concerning the philosophy of science and his tendency to reify his concepts. 2. It is unscientific to assume the existence

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of internal conditions—the unconscious, instincts, reaction-formation, and 'central' processes—on the basis of such evidence as subjective fantasies. 3. Psychoanalysis is introspectionistic and its theories too far removed from observable data. 4. Psychoanalysis tends to weaken ethical principles and to foster immorality while minimizing the role of reason.

In Frenkel-Brunswik's critique, Freud and psychoanalysis not only emerge as scientifically respectable but are—surprisingly—vindicated by the views prevailing among the philosophers of science. It is clear that Freud generally proceeded in a now approved 'operational' way long before operationalism was conceptualized. Frenkel-Brunswik writes, 'Actually Freud, in contrast to some of his followers, was keenly aware of logical and epistemological problems… Freud's concept of instinct is a truly explanatory, inferential construct imbued with some degree of independence. He avoided unnecessary duplication by fully considering the functional ambiguities inherent in the relationships between drives and behavior rather than by directly projecting behavioral trends back into the subjects.

'One of the most bewildering aspects of psychoanalytic theory is the turning away from the obvious face-value picture of personality as it derives from introspection or from the direct, "phenotypical" observation of external behavior segments. An example is the reinterpretation of overt friendliness as a sign of underlying hostility, or of extreme tidiness as a sign of preoccupation with dirt. The discrepancy disappears with the specification of a set of fixed or variable operational conditions that determine when overt behavior is to be interpreted as "genuine" and when as manifesting some heterogeneous latent factor.

'Psychoanalysis shares with modern physics the fact that its statements do not lend themselves to the most direct and obvious types of confirmation. In each case, the highly interpretive statements involved do not carry the rules of their confirmation as obviously with themselves as do more descriptive statements. In reviewing the extensive literature on objective studies of psychoanalytic hypotheses, one is impressed by the fact that the more descriptive types of hypotheses involved in the theory of "fixation" and "regression" proved to be more readily accessible to experimental confirmation than the more explanatory ones on "repression", "projection", and "reaction-formation". This may indeed be due to the fact that the latter derive from the more inferential and abstract parts of psychoanalytic theory. Complex conditions, such as those involved in the analysis of transference, are required before that which has been repressed may become conscious.'

The last sentence tends to contradict the author's preceding conjecture that the concepts of repression, projection, and reaction-formation belong to the more inferential and abstract parts of psychoanalytic theory. They can be demonstrated just as easily as can fixation and regression, not in ordinary experience of life or in the laboratory, but in the 'objective' experimental situation in psychoanalysis. Whether psychoanalytic theory in general can be validated—except in a secondary and tangential way—by nonpsychoanalytic methods is highly questionable.

'Regardless of how imperfect psychoanalytic theory may be in its formal structure it has no rival among psychological theories as far as the range of both its evidence and its explanatory power is concerned… Acceptance of the ambiguous relationship between motivation and manifestation, which is the chief discovery of psychoanalysis, requires cognitive tolerance of ambiguity on the part of

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the scientist. Its opposite, the concretistic, compulsive, and dogmatic patterns of perception and thought that have been so vividly described by both psychiatrists and psychoanalysts and are not infrequent among scientists are not conductive to the acceptance of psychoanalysis.'

As to the shortcomings of psychoanalytic theory, Frenkel-Brunswik believes that because of its inherent incompleteness, 'psychoanalysis did not altogether manage to avoid the pitfalls of motivational relativism and of a genetic dissolution of overt adjustmental values. This one-sidedness has, to a certain extent, been remedied in the more recent turning of psychoanalysis from an almost exclusive emphasis on the id and on motivation to an increased concern with the ego—that is, with reality-oriented behavior, and with adjustment in general. Even so, psychoanalytic expansion in this direction has been more programmatic than real, and there are a number of problems that can be solved only by an explicit integration of psychoanalysis with psychology proper and with sociology. The conceptual tools of psychoanalysis just are not sufficient to explain fully rational and social behavior. In fact, if we were to deny this we would obscure the essential theoretical contribution of Freud, which is his discovery of motivational dynamics.' She feels too that the 'defensive' approach to character structure is too narrow; 'this view does not do justice to all the satisfactions gained from moving along constructive social avenues'. Here the author's criticism, I believe, is valid only if applied to some psychoanalytic writers. Few psychoanalysts maintain or imply that psychoanalysis is a 'complete' system or that psychoanalysis will supply the final answers to every question in psychology or sociology; witness the increasing participation of psychoanalysts in multidisciplinary treatment and research. Psychoanalysis as a Weltanschauung is affirmed almost exclusively by the straw men erected by antipsychoanalytic writers.

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Article Citation

(1956). The Scientific Monthly. LXXIX, 1954. Psychoanal. Q., 25:288-290

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