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Nissim-Sabat, M. (1990). The Freudian Metaphor Toward Paradigm Change in Psychoanalysis by Donald P. Spence New York: W. W. Norton, 1987, xviii + 230 pp., $22.95. Psa. Books, 1(2):143-161.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Books, 1(2):143-161

The Freudian Metaphor Toward Paradigm Change in Psychoanalysis by Donald P. Spence New York: W. W. Norton, 1987, xviii + 230 pp., $22.95

Review by:
Marilyn Nissim-Sabat, Ph.D.

The widening gap between those who believe that psychoanalysis is or can be a natural science and those who believe that it is a hermeneutic discipline has reached crisis proportions, and jeremiads pour from the pens of prophesying partisans of each camp. Viewed from the perspective of the chief defect attributed to each by proponents of the other position, the hermeneutics versus natural science dichotomy is often expressed as “objectivism versus relativism.” Objectivism in this context means belief in an alleged, but now thoroughly discredited, radical split between the subject and the object of contemplation and investigation. Relativism connotes an inherently self-contradictory standpoint: that all is relative except the principle of relativism itself and an “anything goes” attitude that nullifies in advance all potential criteria for judgments of preference. The proponents of each position deny the defect or claim that the advantages of the position outweigh its disadvantages. Some have sought resolution through a new view that would obviate the dichotomy by discarding the defect of each and uniting what is advantageous in both positions. Because of the complex historical, conceptual, and dialectical interplay of hermeneutics and science, the task of evaluating any effort to end the crisis by obviating the dichotomy is extremely difficult.

Donald Spence also seeks resolution of the hermeneutics versus natural science dichotomy. In both this book and his Narrative Truth and Historical Truth (1982) Spence asserts that psychoanalysis cannot be a natural science because the truth germane to natural science, veridical, or, in the context of psychoanalysis, historical, presupposes the correspondence theory of truth.

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