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Gay, P. (2000). Against Post-modernism. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 247-254.

Gay, P. (2000). Against Post-modernism. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 247-254

Against Post-modernism Book Information Previous Up Next

Peter Gay, Ph.D.

Are psychoanalysts susceptible to post-modernism? The evidence is not overwhelming, but there are some disturbing symptoms, and I have written this paper to diagnose them. Other than checking triumphalism, this French invasion is a road to deep shallowness pointing away from the psychoanalyst's essential business.

Post-modernism is an orgy of subjectivity. It privileges language over substance, coherent stories over empirical investigations, competing narratives over a single truth. Post-modernists maintain that what they call the Enlightenment “project” with its supposed dream of universal reason and triumphant science has proved bankrupt. Hence they have assailed long-honoured categories of inquiry like truth, causation, or reality, which separate the observer from objects of observation, “unmasked” reality as a fairy tale, and, since everything is at heart a fiction, “discredited” the distinction between fiction and fact. Since, post-modernists say, every observer confronts the world with presuppositions, with blinkers or distorting spectacles, the stories anyone tells about the past, the present, and other minds, never deserve absolute authority. Every “fact” is laden with theory; Donald Spence puts scare quotation marks around the word. Pure perception is a myth.

It follows for post-modern psychoanalysts that, the sooner analysts and analysands acknowledge this, the more clearly they may understand, perhaps rescue, the patient's inner world. I appreciate Spence's and Schafer's bravery. They have entered the sacred domain of Freudian edicts without their shoes on. We owe both a debt.

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