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Opatow, B. (1999). On the Scientific Standing of Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(4):1107-1124.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(4):1107-1124

On the Scientific Standing of Psychoanalysis

Barry Opatow

This paper speaks for the claim that psychoanalysis qualifies as a scientific enterprise. It will derive from the conceptual and evidential structure of psychoanalysis a causal empirical hypothesis that admits of scientific intraclinical testing. Relevant topics from the philosophy of science (especially the nature of causal explanation and the work of Grünbaum) and the psychoanalytic theories of pathogenesis and therapeutic action are discussed in a preliminary way to create a framework for the demonstration. The dynamic unconscious is examined as the core causal concept of psychoanalysis. Taken together with an account of the structure of the mental apparatus, a coherent picture of mental causation (the propagation of an unconscious impulse) comes into view. This leads to the formulation of a set of clinical propositions that unite to generate a causal empirical hypothesis based solely on data from the analytic setting—namely, that the transferences and symptoms that appear in free association in the analytic situation possess an international structure that is theoretically implied and can be statistically confirmed.

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