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Opatow, B. (1991). Motivation and Explanation: An Essay on Freud's Philosophy of Science. By Nigel Mackay. Psychological Issues, Monograph 56. Madison, CT: International Universities Press. 1989. Pp. 254.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 18:100-103.

(1991). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 18:100-103

Motivation and Explanation: An Essay on Freud's Philosophy of Science. By Nigel Mackay. Psychological Issues, Monograph 56. Madison, CT: International Universities Press. 1989. Pp. 254.

Review by:
Barry Opatow

Nigel Mackay is a theoretical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Wollongong, Australia. His essay marks a sophisticated and timely intervention into the raging debate on psychoanalytic theory. Inspired by a reaction of intense disagreement at a lecture given by Roy Schafer on the invalidity of the Freudian metapsychology, Mackay immediately decided on a topic for his doctoral thesis. This book is an elaboration of his dissertation. It is an impassioned, intricate and, at times, trenchant advocacy of the importance of metapsychological theory. Mackay wants to demonstrate that, far from being an incoherent, outdated or redundant theoretical superstructure, metapsychology refers to the existing entities and processes that causally generate observable behaviour and subjective experience. As such, it fully qualifies as an explanatory science on a par with those whose object is the physical world. To achieve this goal, he implements the complex conceptual machinery of theoretical psychology that can assimilate Freud's motivational concepts with the theoretical concepts of natural science. Although I agree that the anti-metapsychologist's positions are deeply mistaken, I believe that Mackay pays too high a price to establish his result of a 'realist construal' of metapsychology. I will describe the major lines of Mackay's presentation and then offer a critique.

The author sets the scene by cogently demonstrating that there are fundamental formal invariants that run through the successive major revisions of Freud's metapsychology beginning with the Project. [The discussions of the Project, Chapter 7, the metapsychological papers of 1915, and 'The ego and the id' are very fine and can be interestingly contrasted with those in Ricoeur's (1970) essay on Freud.] According to Mackay, these enduring principles of energy and structure reveal that Freud always adhered to a basic materialistic philosophy which holds that mind is nothing but a functional property of brain processes.

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