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Cavell, M. (1998). The Dynamics of Theory Change. M. Eagle. Pp. 373-409. Psychoanal Q., 67(3):531.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Dynamics of Theory Change. M. Eagle. Pp. 373-409

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(3):531

The Dynamics of Theory Change. M. Eagle. Pp. 373-409

Marcia Cavell

Morris Eagle asks the following questions about the prevailing movements in psychoanalysis: 1) What does the theory claim? 2) How did it come to occupy the place it does on the contemporary psychoanalytic scene? 3) What is its evidential basis? and 4) What is the warrant for its etiological claims about psychopathology? Eagle contends that neither object relations theory nor Kohutian self psychology escapes Adolf Grünbaum's fundamental criticisms of Freud in The Foundations of Psychoanalysis. Like Freudian theory, current theories maintain a causal connection between infantile events, repression, and present symptoms for which clinical experience does not give sufficient warrant.

As the title of his essay suggests, Eagle addresses the question of how theoretical changes occur in psychoanalysis. His discussion of this question begins by noting that new theories are often formulated to account for particular pathologies: e.g., object relations theory and self psychology for the schizoid and narcissistic disorders, respectively. Yet self psychology rejects virtually all the tenets central to traditional Freudian theory. The interesting question, then, is why self psychology is accepted as a “psychoanalytic” theory at all. Eagle believes that one explanation has to do with political factors; the other with the tendency among contemporary psychoanalysts to define psychoanalysis solely in terms of treatment setting and technique.

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Article Citation

Cavell, M. (1998). The Dynamics of Theory Change. M. Eagle.. Psychoanal. Q., 67(3):531

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