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Modell, A.H. (1978). Affects and the Complementarity of Biologic and Historical Meaning. Ann. Psychoanal., 6:167-180.

(1978). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 6:167-180

III Clinical Theory

Affects and the Complementarity of Biologic and Historical Meaning

Arnold H. Modell, M.D.

The fundamental assumptions of psychoanalysis have recently been questioned by a group of scholars and clinicians (Holt, 1975; Klein, 1976; Gill, 1976; Schafer, 1976) who were all formerly students and collaborators of Rapaport. They have mounted a broadly based attack on metapsychology. Although their views differ, especially regarding the important issue of the relation of psychoanalysis to biology, they are consistent in their belief that metapsychology has been a pernicious influence on psychoanalysis and, as a corollary, that structural theory and ego psychology in general represent an unfortunate phase in the history of psychoanalysis and had best be forgotten.

The fulcrum of this attack on metapsychology is the observation that, unlike natural science, psychoanalysis is concerned with meaning and not causality. This point of view has also been championed by Home (1966) and by Rycroft (1966), who have argued that if psychoanalysts observe meaning and not causes, the methodology of psychoanalysis is that of the humanities and not of science. Those critics who believe that psychoanalysis is a branch of the humanities claim that the logic upon which psychoanalysis is based is the logic of language. And they are supported in this position by a fashionable movement in contemporary English philosophy based in part on the work of Wittgenstein.


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