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Bornstein, M. Silver, D. (1981). Prologue. Psychoanal. Inq., 1(3):323-327.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 1(3):323-327


Melvin Bornstein, M.D. and Donald Silver, M.D.

Theodore Shapiro, one of the authors in this issue of Psychoanalytic Inquiry, writes, “I … would see our recent interest [in empathy] as arising within psychoanalysis as a new defensive conceit…. I will suggest that psychoanalysis is, above all, a rationalistic enterprise devoted to observations involving all the senses and implying judgments about those perceptions, without the requirement that we make of empathy an additional function that will remove us prematurely from the rest of science … if we do not pay attention to our rationalistic base, in fact, the first rationalistic science to include a significant theory of affects, we will find ourselves in the rank of other artists of the mind, such as novelists.”

In essence, Shapiro argues that empathy does not warrant the consideration currently being given to it by others as a significant psychoanalytic concept. We hope that this inquiry will lead to a balanced reevaluation of empathy, both critical, as is evident in Shapiro's paper, and affirmed, as it is in most of the other papers — but each from a standpoint that delineates important differences among its advocates.

We have mentioned Shapiro's criticisms first because they can serve as the hub around which the reader may grasp the issues contained in the subsequent papers. There are two axes to this criticism. The first places insight and rational understanding at one pole, and emotionality and sympathetic affective attuning at the other; the second places a psychoanalytic theory of affect development and communication at one end, and romanticism and mysticism at the other. To many analysts, the farthest reaches of the mystical end are comprised of the occult and extrasensory perception.

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