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Gay, V.P. (1989). Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and the Problem of Change. Psychoanal. Inq., 9(1):26-44.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 9(1):26-44

Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and the Problem of Change

Volney P. Gay, Ph.D.

My argument in brief is that psychoanalysts rarely espouse metaphysical opinions. Hence to contrast an analytic philosophy of change with its competitors, one must first uncover metaphysical opinions that are only implicit in psychoanalytic writings. In this paper I do just that. Freud's basic theory of cure, I suggest, is best seen as a variation on the theme of mourning stated in his essay, “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917). There we learn that change and object loss are permanent features of human experience. Indeed, without object loss there can be no maturation. The philosophic corollary of this clinical claim is that philosophers who deny the reality of object loss thereby frustrate mourning, and they therefore inhibit the possibility of full human development. To make this point clear I contrast Freud's valuation of mourning with two metaphysical competitors: ancient religious beliefs and Christian religious beliefs. Finally, I argue that Freud's basic metaphysical concerns reappear in clinical discussions of the goals of analysis, where we find represented analytic values, which, in turn, stem from his unswerving opposition to religious promises of transformation.

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