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Meissner, W.W. (1996). The Genealogy Of Psychoanalysis. By Michel Henry. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1993, xxviii + 353 pp., $39.50.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:599-602.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:599-602

The Genealogy Of Psychoanalysis. By Michel Henry. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1993, xxviii + 353 pp., $39.50.

Review by:
W. W. Meissner

In the course of the last few years, we have seen a significant deepening and enrichment of the exploration of the philosophical roots of psychoanalysis. The approach of philosophers to psychoanalysis has not been enlightening or constructive: the positivist onslaught launched by Ernest Nagel and Karl Popper, and extended in the trenchant criticisms of Adolf Grünbaum (1984, 1993), has taken the approach of trying to tell analysis what it should be if it insists on laying claim to scientific validity. The effort to fit psychoanalysis onto the procrustean bed of positivist critical theory has not helped to shed much light on the epistemological nature or validity of psychoanalytic formulations or of psychoanalytic clinical method itself.

The philosophical mind has fortunately found other avenues of approach to the understanding of the psychoanalytic phenomenon. A second channel of inquiry set out to explore the meaning of psychoanalysis as a method of knowing and as a distinctive approach to the human condition that was worthy of philosophical analysis. Rather than reducing psychoanalytic phenomena to preconceived conditions of acceptability, these philosophers made every effort to respect the rich complexity of the subject and to bring the resources of philosophical understanding to make sense of and provide intellectual standing to the analytic enterprise. The first steps in this process were provided by Paul Ricoeur (1970) in his seminal work on Freud and Philosophy. But even Ricoeur's effort addressed psychoanalysis through a hermeneutical perspective that had the effect of reducing the psychoanalytic method to its language and the symbolic dimension of meanings and their derivations—another truncated version of analysis.

The subsequent quarter century has seen a continuing flow of exceptional and thoughtful treatises dealing with the philosophical roots of psychoanalysis.

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