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Gedo, J.E. (1978). A Grammar for the Humanities. Ann. Psychoanal., 6:75-102.

(1978). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 6:75-102

A Grammar for the Humanities

John E. Gedo, M.D.

Introduction: The Thesis

One result of the intensive psychoanalytic study of man's created products and of the lives of those who produce them has been the spread of a conviction that psychoanalysis and all of the arts share a common humanistic goal which might be designated as the development of a science of man. In contrast to the biological and physical sciences, which have looked for causes and mechanisms, an anthropic science must concentrate on the discovery of meanings and values. A coherent picture of man should draw upon the information accumulated by all disciplines and correlate their conclusions by means of a unifying frame. The role of the latter would then be analogous to that of mathematics for natural science.

The application of psychoanalytic psychology to the problems of the humanities (far transcending the problems of the narrative content of the arts) betrays our intention to place its schema of the laws of human behavior into such a central position for the study of the humanities. The claim might be put into the form of the following thesis:

No depiction of man, of his activities, or of the meaning of his existence can be genuine and significant unless it is congruent with the scientific understanding of human behavior, that of the evolving body of hypotheses that make up psychoanalytic psychology.

In this essay I shall examine the extent to which psychoanalytic psychology has already been used to perform this boundary function in the major subdivisions of the humanities, and I shall hazard some predictions about the future directions of its potential influence.

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