Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: You can access over 100 digitized books…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

Did you know that currently we have more than 100 digitized books available for you to read? You can find them in the Books Section.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Gedo, J.E. (1991). Between Prolixity and Reductionism: Psychoanalytic Theory and Occam's Razor. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:71-86.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:71-86

Between Prolixity and Reductionism: Psychoanalytic Theory and Occam's Razor

John E. Gedo, M.D.


To achieve a coherent theory of mental functioning, psychoanalysis cannot continue to explicate its observations through the "complementary" use of models based on differing premises. Moreover, the current profusion of plausible theories is unmanageably prolix; it is true, however, that theory must account for the complexity of constant shifts of developmental levels in terms of currently used adaptive devices. The simplest possible clinical theory will add to existing theories of motivation and development only the concepts needed to explicate reasons for these shifts in modes of functioning. Motivations are preprogrammed in the brain, so that theories of motivation must be congruent with neurophysiological knowledge. But the current status of a person's organismic motivations can only be inferred on the basis of the affective reactions they generate.

The acquisition of symbolic capacities changes the infant from an organism automatically striving to fulfill a preprogrammed ground plan into a creature of self-awareness able to formulate wishes and to establish those priorities among them best called "self-organization." Thenceforth various wishes may come into conflict; the need to avoid the resultant discomfort gives rise to defensive operations. Defense may take the form of regression, although the latter is generally based on established deficits in the adaptive repertory—"apraxias." If developmental progress takes place, superseded modes of behavioral organization remain forever available for contingencies wherein they are advantageous. The theory presented meets the criteria of "Occam's razor"; it remains to be seen, however, whether it does so at the cost of some reductionism.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2019, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.