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Ephratt, M. (2014). Grice's Cooperative Principle in the Psychoanalytic Setting. Psychoanal. Rev., 101(6):815-845.

(2014). Psychoanalytic Review, 101(6):815-845

Grice's Cooperative Principle in the Psychoanalytic Setting

Michal Ephratt, Ph.D.

Grice's “cooperative principle,” including conversational implicatures and maxims, is commonplace in current pragmatics (a subfield of linguistics), and is generally applied in conversational analysis. The author examines the unique contribution of Grice's principle in considering the psychotherapeutic setting and its discourse. Such an investigation is called for chiefly because of the central role of speech in psychoanalytic practice (the “talking cure”). Symptoms and transference, which are characterized as forms of expression that are fundamentally deceptive, must be equivocal and indirect, and must breach all four of Grice's categories and maxims: truth (Quality), relation (Relevance), Manner (be clear), and Quantity. Therapeutic practice, according to Freud's “fundamental rule of psychoanalysis,” encourages the parties (analysand and analyst) to breach each and every one of Grice's maxims. Using case reports drawn from the literature, the author shows that these breachings are essential for therapeutic progress. They serve as a unique and important ground for revealing inner (psychic) contents, and demarcating real self from illusive self, which in turn constitutes leverage for integrating these contents with the self.

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