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Weiss, F.A. (1968). Determinism and Freedom in Psychoanalysis: Awareness and Responsibility: A Round Table Discussion. Am. J. Psychoanal., 28(1):59-62.

(1968). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 28(1):59-62

Determinism and Freedom in Psychoanalysis: Awareness and Responsibility: A Round Table Discussion Related Papers

Frederick A. Weiss, M.D.

Born During the end of the last century, psychoanalysis in its childhood received the impacts of the age of enlightenment—impacts which today prevent it from realizing its full potential. I have dealt in earlier papers1 with the mechanistic closed-system thinking, the tendency to biologize psychological phenomena, the Victorian approach to sex and morality, the overemphasis on the therapeutic power of knowledge per se and on pathology. The rigid determinism which provided the philosophical foundation of orthodox psychoanalysis is another factor which interferes with the advancement of psychoanalysis.

From the beginning two souls resided within the breast of psychoanalysis: that of the nineteenth-century scientist, committed to the dogma of total determinism, and that of the therapist who had to assume a gradually increasing freedom to choose as an indispensable prerequisite for change in therapy. Freud himself reflected this conflict when in 1916 he declared belief in the freedom of will unscientific: “It must give ground before the claim of determinism which governs mental life.”2 But eleven years later he defined therapy as an attempt “to give the patient's ego freedom to choose one way or the other.”8 Psychoanalysis repeatedly tried to free itself from the s trait jacket of determinism; thus Marjorie Brierley stated: “There can be no question that living is creative and that … the ego appears to have some possibility of choice. Every decision is a fresh decision, which may represent a new beginning.

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