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Hinshelwood, B. (2015). Neuroscience and the “Science” of Psychoanalysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(6):1677-1681.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(6):1677-1681

Letter to the Editor

Neuroscience and the “Science” of Psychoanalysis Language Translation

Bob Hinshelwood

Dear Editor,

In a recent submission to the Journal, I put a case against relying too much on neuroscience evidence as if it were evidence for psychoanalysis. The paper was turned down, perhaps for good reasons, but I was invited to submit an idea or two about the way psychoanalysts participate in interdisciplinary debate - or rather the way they do not participate. I am responding to the invitation with this letter.

For some decades psychoanalysis has experienced so-called ‘Freud-bashing’ (e.g. Hook, 1959; Cioffi, 1970; Masson, 1984; Crews, 1993, 1998; Fish, 1989; Webster, 1995; and see Forrester, 1997). But also more cogent criticisms have been turned against psychoanalysis for even longer (Eysenck, 1953; Popper, 1959, Grunbaum, 1984, 1993). Moreover, from the 1970s, serious internal criticism has developed (Kohut, 1971; Fromm, 1971; Atwood and Stolorow, 1984); and at the same time the divergence of object-relations theory in Britain (Klein, 1935, 1946; Winnicott, 1960; Bowlby et al., 1952) away from Freud's psychic energy model, displayed the increasing heterogeneity of psychoanalysts’ commitments. It is not surprising that there has been a tendency to retreat from engagement with criticism, and has resulted in recent years in a search for something that might give psychoanalysis an apparent support from ‘objective’ science.

The relations between psychoanalysis and neuroscience have been varied over the years. It is ironic that in the heyday of psychoanalysis, Karl Pribram (1962; Pribram and Gill, 1976) was keen to recruit psychoanalysis to the new field of neuroscience.

[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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