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Solomon, R.Z. (1989). The Freudian Metaphor. Toward Paradigm Change in Psychoanalysis: By Donald P. Spence. New York/London: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1987. 230 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 58:466-470.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:466-470

The Freudian Metaphor. Toward Paradigm Change in Psychoanalysis: By Donald P. Spence. New York/London: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1987. 230 pp.

Review by:
Rebecca Z. Solomon

Donald Spence believes that reliance on metaphor to explicate psychoanalytic theory and practice is no longer useful, and that a change in the paradigm for psychoanalysis is indicated. He recognizes that all scientific theory is infiltrated with metaphor, but the validity of the theory depends on distinguishing metaphor from reality. In psychoanalysis, Spence claims, metaphor is confused with reality. Metaphor contributes to the establishment of scientific hypotheses. Metaphor helps to explicate and illustrate the assumptions on which theory and practice are based. The development of a science depends on the validation, by one means or another, of underlying assumptions. Unfortunately, the psychoanalytic metaphor has been reified and actualized. This precludes testing. When metaphors are treated as facts rather than as figures of speech, development of a field of inquiry ceases.

Spence illustrates the limitations of the Freudian metaphor by considering some basic psychoanalytic assumptions. Freud invoked the concept of the unconscious to account for lapses of memory and for apparently inexplicable behaviors. Freud distinguished between the descriptive and the substantive unconscious. The former refers to psychological processes operating outside awareness, the latter to complex phenomena, with specific characteristics postulated to explain parapraxes, dreams, symptoms, and other phenomena that are based on unconscious fantasies.

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