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Michels, R. (1995). Commentaries. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:1023-1026.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:1023-1026


Robert Michels

Psychoanalysts have paid relatively little attention to the recent flurry of interest in psychiatric diagnostic categories. The reason for this is easy to understand. Unlike descriptive psychiatrists, psychoanalysts are interested in the meaning of the individual patient's experience, how it stems from his earlier life and will go on to shape his future, and how it is reflected in, and can be modified by, the analytic process, rather than the description and labeling of its surface manifestations.

When psychoanalysts shift their attention from their patients, where they are expert, to the world of scholarly dialogue, where they are amateurs, they often shift strategies as well. Now they are intensely interested in categories—for example, whether or not psychoanalysis is a science. This question may interest some philosophers of science, at least those who are concerned with demarcating the boundaries of their discipline rather than exploring fascinating phenomena wherever their method may prove fruitful. However, I don't understand why psychoanalysts should care, and I suspect that, other than for reasons of pride, most of them don't.

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