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The Information icon (an i in a circle) will give you valuable information about PEP Web data and features. You can find it besides a PEP Web feature and the author’s name in every journal article. Simply move the mouse pointer over the icon and click on it for the information to appear.

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Hanly, C. (1983). A Problem of Theory Testing. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 10:393-405.

(1983). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 10:393-405

A Problem of Theory Testing

Charles Hanly

SUMMARY

It is argued that the problem of testing inconsistent hypotheses in psychoanalysis cannot be satisfactorily solved by an appeal to an epistemology of theoretical relativism. Science and a substantial body of philosophical thought is based upon an objectivist epistemology. Consequently, psychoanalysts who appeal to the authority of philosophers such as Kuhn and Feyerabend in order to protect their hypotheses from falsification are employing the material fallacy of argumentation ad vericundiam in the absence of evidence that psychoanalysis has a crippling epistemological defect uncharacteristic of other sciences in that its theories are not subject to verification but must rely upon the point of view and basic assumptions of groups of analysts.

It is then argued that psychoanalysis is able empirically to test hypotheses which are currently under dispute. The logical and observational requirements for testing conflicting hypotheses concerning the value of object libidinal as opposed to narcissistic investments, the u-tube as opposed to the two streams theories of libido, competing hypotheses concerning the regulation of self-esteem and the defensive, compensatory nature or not of narcissistic configurations are set out.

In conclusion, it is argued that it is in the best interests of clinical work in psychoanalysis and the further development of psychoanalytic knowledge to resolve theoretical agreements by an appeal to observations which are compelling because they are objective and clinically helpful.

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