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Rendon, M. (1986). Philosophical Paradigms in Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 14(4):495-505.

(1986). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 14(4):495-505

Philosophical Paradigms in Psychoanalysis

Mario Rendon, M.D.

This paper postulates that there have been two conflicting structures or trends in psychoanalysis, which are reflected in two different, at times opposite, conceptualizations of the matter at hand (i.e., “deficit” versus “conflict” theories). For heuristic purposes, the two epistemological structures have been dichotomized as Cartesian versus Hegelian. This dichotomy is, however, artificial, and it is important to understand that both tendencies have been necessary parts of the development of psychoanalysis and that only their synthesis, which will both incorporate and supersede them, will represent an advance. Although the Cartesian model seems less advanced than the Hegelian, the latter could not have taken place without the former being there. Historically, Descartes preceded Hegel by two centuries. The Cartesian system did not have the benefit of sciences having branched out of philosophy as much as the Hegelian one did, but it was the former which set the stage for such an occurrence. In this respect, psychoanalysis is a relatively late scientific development.

This paper is not about psychoanalyzing Descartes or Hegel. As tempting as that may be, the focus here is rather opposite to that approach. It sees the two philosophers as representatives of their times, their cultures, their societies. This is not to deny that their personalities had a profound impact on their writings and made them the ideal vehicles for the philosophical steps which they represent. During Descartes’ time, namely the early 1600s, the rudiments of psychology were still part of philosophy and particularly theology.

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