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Paniagua, C. (1989). Metaphysics, Innateness and Plato's/socrates' Method. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 70:549-550.

(1989). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 70:549-550

Metaphysics, Innateness and Plato's/socrates' Method

Cecilio Paniagua

Dear Mr Tuckett,

I would like to make a comment on Dr Charles Hanly's paper which appeared in I.J.P.A. 69:389, 1988.

Dr Hanly has contributed greatly in this and other works to make us more familiar with the pertinence of the ideas of philosophers of Antiquity to psychoanalysis. In addition, in Metaphysics and innateness: A psychoanalytic perspective he has helped us understand how psychoanalytic thinking can assist in the elucidation of the dynamics involved in metaphysical beliefs, especially the innateness of concepts.

Dr Hanly mentioned how in the Republic Plato 'thought that progress toward a true grasp of reality depended upon a dialectical uncovering of ideational replicas of the forms within the mind' (p. 389). This 'dialectical uncovering' refers, of course, to the Socratic method. I would like to point out, however, that this method was not designed only to uncover similarities between observable phenomena and mental archetypes. Socrates' maieutic method was also designed to arrive at psychological knowledge in a manner strikingly reminiscent of the psychoanalytic method.

Certainly, Freud's 'soul searching' techniques were not anticipated by Plato or Socrates, his teacher. They did not conceptualise the phenomenon of transference, they did not use free associations, and in Plato's Dialogues Socrates' attention is far from being 'evenly suspended'. However, Socrates was in possession of a method to arrive at some 'true births of the soul' and help those who dialogued with him, and the similarities between his 'midwifery' approach to psychological knowledge and Freud's clinical/investigative method do not seem entirely formalistic.

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