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Schlessinger, N. (1986). Hypothesis and Evidence in Psychoanalysis: By Marshall Edelson. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press, 1984. 179 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 55:334-338.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:334-338

Hypothesis and Evidence in Psychoanalysis: By Marshall Edelson. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press, 1984. 179 pp.

Review by:
Nathan Schlessinger

The author presents two essential questions as the motivation for his book. 1) Is there empirical evidence, by scientific canons, for the claim that psychoanalysis is therapeutically efficacious? 2) Is there empirical evidence in support of the provisional acceptance of psychoanalytic hypotheses about neurotic symptoms, dreams, and parapraxes? He regards the answers as of paramount importance to the future of psychoanalysis and presents a lucid, closely reasoned, affirmative response that is worthy of careful attention. He reviews the interaction between psychoanalysis and the philosophy of science, poses the relevant issues, and takes a prescriptive stand on them.

Logical positivism attacked psychoanalysis for being full of vague theoretical terms that were unconnected to empirical data, so that the hypotheses could not be validated. Edelson points out that the logical positivist conception of a scientific theory itself failed because it was impractical. Truth was required to be established by direct correspondence to what obtained in the real world and not as a function of subjective states of knowledge and belief. The paucity of close links between observables and theoretical terms is not limited to psychoanalysis, and a neutral, theory-free observational language is a fiction in any science.

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