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Leavy, S.A. (1973). Psychoanalytic Interpretation. Psychoanal. St. Child, 28:305-330.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 28:305-330

Psychoanalytic Interpretation

Stanley A. Leavy, M.D.

INTERPRETATION IS THE FOUNDATION OF PSYCHOANALYSIS. THEORY OF whatever degree of abstraction can be tested only by reference to some kind of data, and in psychoanalysis the data follow from the act of interpretation. We have been interpreting so long, and have for so long depended on the basic interpretations made by Freud and his followers, that we often interpret without knowing we are doing so; it is otiose to have to go through a series of steps of thought when we know by experience what the outcome will be. All the same even the simplest psychoanalytic account we can give has in it must be salutary to reexamine this fundamental process from time to time.

The question "what is interpretation?" admits of several kinds of answer. In the first place there would be an empirical answer, coming down to a detailed scrutiny of the operations involved in making an interpretation, without deliberately offering any theoretical explanation, although theoretical ideas already learned would undoubtedly influence any such enterprise. A second answer would be historical, showing the origins and development of the concept and its connections with other concepts. Related to the historical approach would be a theoretical one, in which the theory of explanation is restricted to psychoanalysis itself. That has the plain limitation of being circular, since it must draw upon inferences from the very act of interpretation which we are trying to explain.

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