Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: To sort articles by author…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

While performing a search, you can sort the articles by Author in the Search section. This will rearrange the results of your search alphabetically according to the author’s surname. This feature is useful to quickly locate the work of a specific author.

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

Richards, M. (2004). Psychoanalytic Theories: Perspectives from Developmental Psychopathology by Peter Fonagy and Mary Target. Published by Whurr, London, 2003; 402 pages; £25.00 paperback.. Brit. J. Psychother., 20(3):384-387.

(2004). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 20(3):384-387

Psychoanalytic Theories: Perspectives from Developmental Psychopathology by Peter Fonagy and Mary Target. Published by Whurr, London, 2003; 402 pages; £25.00 paperback.

Review by:
Michael Richards

The philosopher Karl Popper, working in Alfred Adler's Vienna child clinic in 1919, brought a case to Adler that he thought might refute Adler's theory (about inferiority). Adler said that he couldn't accept Popper's refutation. ‘Why?’ asked Popper. ‘Because of my hundred-fold clinical experience,’ replied Adler. To which Popper replied, ‘And I suppose next time you will refer to your hundred-and-one-fold clinical experience’.

Popper frequently came into my mind while reading this book because of his important contribution in demarcating science from other human endeavours. He (Popper 1959) pointed out that you don't prove scientific theories by finding cases to support them; instead you refute (or modify) them by finding cases that are inconsistent with their predictions. This important book takes up Popper's implicit challenge to psychoanalysis to demonstrate that it belongs on the scientific side of his demarcation. It is also worth recalling that, unlike the positivist philosophers, Popper did not regard human endeavours on the non-scientific side as worthless. They were valuable in helping us make sense of our human journey but could not be demonstrated to be objectively true, i.e. they were not open to falsification. Marxism, religion and psychoanalysis were judged non-scientific in this sense and he used to elaborate this by claiming that no imaginable event would stop followers of one these disciplines from continuing their allegiance. I will return to this issue.

Peter Fonagy and Mary Target have made it their aim both to describe and to evaluate all the major psychoanalytic theories in use in the English-speaking world, Lacanian theory excepted. The book seemed during my reading to call for two reviews: one to comment on the choice and treatment of the theories described, and one to comment on the authors' critique of these theories and on psychoanalysis in general. But this thought merely reminds one how unusual is their approach. I don't recall during my training much discussion of the evidence adduced in support of Klein's or Kohut's ideas; the fact that they had followers made them worth studying. And presumably the fact that they had followers meant that their ideas were found to be valuable in the consulting room.

[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 © 2020, 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.