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Loewald, H.W. Meissner, W.W., S.J. (1976). New Horizons in Metapsychology: View and Review. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 24:161-180.

(1976). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 24:161-180

New Horizons in Metapsychology: View and Review

Hans W. Loewald, M.D. and W. W. Meissner, S.J.

Chairman Hans Loewald (New Haven) opened the panel by advancing a definition of metapsychology. Insofar as metapsychology is concerned with the theoretical assumptions on which a psychoanalytic system could be founded, developments in metapsychology, as distinguished from those in psychoanalytic psychology in general, are concerned with newly emerging ways of observing, ordering, and conceptualizing analytic material, rather than with new psychoanalytic observations. Moreover, theoretical constructs are not merely useful tools for clinical investigation, but rather have an inherent dignity and interest in their own right. Even though the theory of psychoanalysis stems from and transforms experience and is grounded in it, we may nonetheless value a good theory, even as we value a good work of art, as a creation of the human mind. Metapsychological abstractions may function at a considerable distance from the level of empirical observation, but they are not detached from it—even as sight functions at a distance from the object in comparison with touch. This distancing makes it possible to abstract from the empirical data their structure and interrelations, and thus the empirical data become understandable.

In the course of scientific evolution, the concepts of a theory tend to become part of the data of observation. Consequently, the structural context of the theory is increasingly taken for granted as a given of observation, so that theoretical concepts become "reified."

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