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Meadow, P.W. (1992). Is Psychoanalysis a Science?. Mod. Psychoanal., 17(2):137-160.

(1992). Modern Psychoanalysis, 17(2):137-160

Is Psychoanalysis a Science?

Phyllis W. Meadow, Ph.D.


As researchers were pointing out as early as 1962, the major problem for psychoanalysis, if it intends to qualify as a reputable science, lies in its ability to develop its own method for observing events.

In the early sixties when I was beginning to think about writing a dissertation at New York University, arguments abounded against the possibility of confirming psychoanalytic concepts. Logical positivism still dominated the thinking of social scientists. This was an approach to research that viewed truth as absolute rather than as relative to … or a function of. … Positivists sought answers to questions concerning causation. In its attempt to reach directly from the observed to the infinite, logical positivism declared theoretical concepts useless. In its methodology it adopted quantitative inductivism, the theory that the larger the number of examples provided, the greater the proof. A review of the literature of that day demonstrates that counting did not lead to new insights, but both groups continued to criticize the psychoanalytic research then in vogue.

Edelson (1984), a psychoanalyst and philosopher of science, summed up the fallacy of quantitative inductivism—the theory that the greater the number of persons observed, the greater the degree of support for an hypothesis—stating as an example of this thinking an investigation of the relationship between homosexuality and paranoia.

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