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Wilson, E., Jr. (1973). The Structural Hypothesis and Psychoanalytic Metatheory: An Essay on Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Philosophy of Science. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 2(1):304-328.

(1973). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 2(1):304-328

The Structural Hypothesis and Psychoanalytic Metatheory: An Essay on Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Philosophy of Science

Emmett Wilson, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.

I. The Functional Analysis of Psychic Structure

In The Ego and the Id (1923) Freud introduced into his theory the claim that there are three divisions of the mind, the id, the ego, and the superego. These divisions of the mental apparatus are called psychic structures, and this aspect of the theory has been designated the structural hypothesis. Freud attempted to specify the functions performed by each of these divisions of the mind. More recently, the claim has sometimes been made that psychic structure is “defined by its functions.” This view is frequently found in the psychoanalytic literature, and is associated with Heinz Hartmann and his collaborators. It is a view that has had great influence on the teaching of psychoanalytic theory. In the literature this thesis has appeared as the standard by which other theoretical discussions are judged and criticized. Moreover, some theorists, notably David Beres (1958, 1965), have developed Hartmann's view into a functional theory of mind, replete with widespread implications for the relationship of mental to physical phenomena, the nature of the mental apparatus, and the nature of theorizing in psychology. However, the meaning, implications, and possible difficulties of this emphasis on function have remained comparatively unexamined.

1 I wish to acknowledge in this paper special indebtedness to the work of Jerry A.

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