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Schimmel, P. (2016). Wish-Fulfilment in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: The Tyranny of Desire by Tamas Pataki Routledge, Hove, 2014; 228 pp; £90. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(1):247-250.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(1):247-250

Wish-Fulfilment in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: The Tyranny of Desire by Tamas Pataki Routledge, Hove, 2014; 228 pp; £90

Review by:
Paul Schimmel

Tamas Pataki is an Australian philosopher who has long been an advocate of the importance, indeed the necessity, of the psychoanalytic endeavour.

In his preface Pataki gives an engaging account of his experience in Melbourne, ‘many years ago’, in psychoanalysis with Hungarian émigré and Australia's first training analyst, Clara Geroe. “She was already old and very frail … afflicted with what bureaucrats call time management issues,” and “a great stickler for patient anonymity” (p. x). Despite her difficulty in being on time, Pataki clearly valued the experience and found his imagination engaged. At the time, “I deprecated the human sciences with the typical immaturity of the young logician” (p. x), however his psychoanalytic experience led into the literature, where he found: “The psychoanalytic material I was reading, though I found it immensely suggestive, lacked rigour and a concern for the conceptual clarity that was the hallmark (or at least the aspiration) of the Analytic philosophy, … that was then my school. I do not mean that the psychoanalytic material lacked scientific rigour…. science was not, as I saw it, the problem. Lack of conceptual clarity and analysis was” (p. xi).

His criticism is surely justified. From the beginning, psychoanalytic thinking, especially metapsychological formulation, has been bedevilled by a lack of conceptual clarity and rigour. This is perhaps hardly surprising given the difficult nature of the conceptual terrain the psychoanalytic thinker is attempting to traverse. A central tenet of Pataki's book might be formulated thus: in order to traverse the terrain of metapsychological speculation we need good conceptual tools (a good vehicle) and to undertake the ongoing psychological work of maintaining those conceptual tools.

Pataki is equally critical of the failure of many philosophers to provide satisfactory and coherent conceptual analyses of psychological phenomena.

[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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