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Litowitz, B.E. (2014). Introduction: The Theorist and the Theory. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 62(6):983-985.

(2014). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 62(6):983-985

The Theorist and the Theory

Introduction: The Theorist and the Theory

Bonnie E. Litowitz

To see in the day or in the year a symbol

Of the days of man and of his years,

To transmute the outrage of the years

Into a music, a murmur of voices and a symbol …

—Jorge Luis Borges, “Ars Poetica”

We all agree that as psychoanalysts we are working in a time of theoretical pluralism. We strive to understand whether we are awaiting the arrival of a new paradigm that will incorporate the best of current theoretical perspectives into a grand, inclusive theory (Kuhn 1962), or if a multiplicity of perspectives is itself the new paradigm, comparable, for example, to complementarity in quantum physics? This would seem, therefore, an appropriate time to consider whence theories have arisen in the past.

We are accustomed to viewing changes in psychoanalytic theory as arising from our work with patients. In Kuhnian fashion, we change or extend our theoretical perspectives when we find that existing theory cannot fit all the data we encounter in our work. Freud himself set the example for this approach as he changed his theory throughout his life, adjusting and reformulating to explain expanding clinical evidence.

An alternative perspective on how theoretical change arises is suggested by Robert Wallerstein (2014) in his recent essay on Erik Erikson.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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