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Weiss, F.A. (1958). Discussion. Am. J. Psychoanal., 18(1):65-68.

(1958). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 18(1):65-68


Frederick A. Weiss, M.D.

I am grateful to Dr. Bieber for the opportunity to discuss his highly scholarly paper which deals with one of the fundamental problems of psychoanalytic theory. Dr. Bieber is right when he says: “Comprehensive criticism of the libido theory would require at least one good-sized volume.” And, I should like to continue: a comprehensive discussion of his paper would require at least a whole evening. But I shall limit myself to stating where I basically agree or disagree, and to outlining what I believe is the significance tonight's discussion could have for the future of psychoanalysis.

Freud used the libido theory to create a model of psychodynamics in closest analogy to the laws of thermodynamics of his time. Dr. Bieber says that Freud “so interlaced the fictitious concept with the phenomena he was explaining that the two became indistinguishable.”

Here Dr. Bieber touches on a methodological problem, the relationship between phenomena and concepts. I believe that Freud did more than mere interlacing, and I want to contrast two brief statements which, in my opinion, characterize an essential difference in method. In his “General Introduction” Freud writes: “The phenomena which we perceive, in our view, have to recede behind the trends which we merely infer.”1 The phenomena must give way to preconceived ideas.

Around the time Freud made this statement, Karen Horney wrote: “Science has often found it fruitful to look at long-familiar phenomena from a fresh point of view. Otherwise there is a danger that we shall involuntarily continue to classify all new observations among the same clearly defined group of ideas.”2 Here the phenomena are given priority over preconceived ideas and this, I believe, is the only road to further advancement of psycho-analysis.

More than twenty years ago, Horney discussed whether the increased need for love is to be seen as a libidinous phenomenon.

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