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Phillips, J. (1991). Hermeneutics in Psychoanalysis: Review and Reconsideration. Psychoanal. Contemp. Thought, 14(3):371-424.

(1991). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 14(3):371-424

Hermeneutics in Psychoanalysis: Review and Reconsideration

James Phillips, M.D.

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the hermeneutic status of psychoanalysis that can be accounted for by two factors: on the one hand a reformulation of hermeneutics in the context of recent developments in the philosophy of science—inspired largely by Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; and on the other hand the imposing presence of a multiplicity of conflicting psychoanalytic theories. The newer understanding of hermeneutics sees the latter not, as in the traditional view, as a methodology distinctive to the human sciences, but rather as a way of dealing with incommensurable discourses in any field. From the perspective of this reformulation the hermeneutic discussion in psychoanalysis moves away from the positive-human science debate toward a discussion of how to reconcile conflicting and incommensurable psychoanalytic theories. This paper reviews both the traditional hermeneutic analysis of psychoanalysis as well as the current discussion of psychoanalytic theories from the perspective of a reformulated hermeneutics. The paper concludes with an argument that psychoanalysis is in fact hermeneutic in both the traditional and newer formulations of that concept.

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