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Kaplan, A.H. (1981). From Discovery to Validation: A Basic Challenge to Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 29:3-26.

(1981). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 29:3-26

From Discovery to Validation: A Basic Challenge to Psychoanalysis

Alex H. Kaplan, M.D.


Psychoanalysis had its origin many years ago in the basic theoretical discoveries of Freud and in his data of clinical observation. While his theoretical hypotheses were frequently modified, he insisted that the data of observation were the foundation of the science of psychoanalysis. But much of our scientific discourse has centered not on the clinical evidence gathered by such observations, but on inferences and theories; and many of these theories, which have been used as explanations for normal and pathological behavior, have not added to the understanding of such behavior. While psychoanalysis has been enriched by additional theoretical hypothesis after Freud, the time seems propitious to emphasize the other significant aspect of the science of psychoanalysis, the process of validation. This is the scientific challenge to psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis, despite the fact that it is a psychology of human behavior, relying heavily on the data of observation involved with the subjective experience both in the patient and the analyst, and includes interpretation and inferences leading to clinical generalizations and theories, must still have a logic on which it bases its acceptance or rejection of its hypotheses and theories. But problem areas persist in our continuing need to validate our psychoanalytic hypothetical discoveries, in our theories, our psychoanalytic nosology, and the psychoanalytic situation itself. Many of our nonexperiential meta theories are not subject to validation or invalidation. Furthermore, some of our psychoanalytic diagnoses are more a product of preformed conceptions than verifiable descriptions of pathological behavior. In addition, the study of the psychoanalytic situation

has been inhibited by the disinclination to make it public, so the psychoanalytic process cannot readily be studied and substantiated. In all of these areas the application of scientific methods should lead us to emphasize the verification of our basic data of observation and psychoanalytic evidence, which can then lead to more meaningful inferences and theories.

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