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Sherwood, M. (1973). Another Look at the Logic of Explanation in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 2(1):359-366.

(1973). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 2(1):359-366

Another Look at the Logic of Explanation in Psychoanalysis

Michael Sherwood, M.D.

I am grateful indeed for the opportunity to respond to the foregoing reviews and thereby to contribute to what in my book I called the continuing dialogue between psychoanalysis and the natural sciences. The wide range of topics in the present volume is itself testimony to the vitality and complexity of that dialogue. My own book, too, touched on many different issues, sometimes I am afraid far too simplistically, as Drs. Eagle and Rubinstein suggest. It is significant in this regard that the two critics focus on entirely different issues; and in both cases, important points are made.

Neither Dr. Eagle nor Dr. Rubinstein argues for the “separate domain” view of psychoanalysis; thus we all share what I take to be one of the most important of the book's conclusions, that psychoanalysis must be made to stand or fall according to the same criteria by which all other sciences are judged, and that it not be accorded a private domain with its own private rules of procedure. Dr. Eagle's two major criticisms are, in fact, that in certain ways I implicitly re-introduce just such a view, at least in the section entitled “The Evaluation of Psychoanalytic Narratives.” In that section I refer to the three-tiered system for evaluating explanations which I tried to develop throughout the book, a system which is outlined and diagramed on page 20. The first tier is governed by criteria of appropriateness and is discussed at length in Chapter 2. In that discussion I point out that explanations may be rejected as “inappropriate” because they (1) are not placed in the proper frame of reference, (2) do not address the proper “puzzle” or “incongruity” within that frame of reference, or (3) are not formulated at the proper level of complexity. Examples of each of these types of inappropriateness are presented. The second and third tiers of this system, criteria of adequacy and criteria of accuracy, are discussed in the section to which Eagle addresses himself.

Eagle's first point is that of these three sets of criteria, “only accuracy is critical for evaluating a scientific explanation.”

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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