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Laufer, E. (2000). Commentary by Eglé Laufer. Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(2):232-234.

(2000). Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(2):232-234

Commentary by Eglé Laufer

Eglé Laufer

I am grateful to Paul Whittle for opening up a discussion about experimental psychology and psychoanalysis that makes it possible to discuss the gulf which he says has developed between the two disciplines during the past century. I found the analogy he draws, of the differences between the two disciplines as being like that between two totally different cultures, completely convincing and I admire his ability to move with such ease between the two. But I am much less happy with his idea that this gulf has come about to allow for a division of labor between the two where both are thriving in their own domain. Because, according to Whittle's views, this implies that both disciplines agree to privilege experimental psychology with the knowledge about the functioning of the mind that is scientifically proven and thus not open to challenge, while leaving psychoanalysis the task of “increasing personal insight” or addressing “human nature,” and where its ideas and concepts belong to the “religious” as opposed to the “irreligious” of experimental psychology. That is not how I would view psychoanalysis.

I welcome what seems to be a wish and hope on his part that this gulf can begin to be bridged in the twenty-first century. He seems to be basing this wish on his own experience of his awareness of needing to enrich his own thinking in order to get beyond the constraints imposed on his thinking by experimental psychology. Isolated as I am in my own culture, I had not appreciated the extent to which experimental psychology in identifying itself as an experimental science, has felt constrained to limit its field of observation purely to the psychological phenomena which can be made predictable in the laboratory.

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