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Dorpat, T.L. (2002). Interpreting Interpretation: Elyn R. Saks, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000, 263 pp., $37.00.. Psychoanal. Psychol., 19(2):393-397.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 19(2):393-397

Interpreting Interpretation: Elyn R. Saks, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000, 263 pp., $37.00.

Review by:
Theo. L. Dorpat, M.D.

The author of this book on hermeneutic psychoanalysis, Elyn R. Saks, is a research clinical associate at the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and she is a law professor at the University of Southern California Law School. Saks has an exceptional understanding of contemporary philosophy and in particular the writings of philosophers on hermeneutics. In this book, she summarizes and critiques the writings of some analysts and other scholars on hermeneutic psychoanalysis.

Saks asserts that psychoanalytic interpretations should make some claims to truth and to causal explanations of behavior. Only those versions of hermeneutic psychoanalysis that make claims to truth and to causal explanations are appropriate for psychoanalytic treatment; the others, in the author's opinion, should be rejected. Saks focuses on one central feature of hermeneutic writings: their taking the supreme category to be that of meaning rather than facts or causes.

The heart of Saks's argument against hermeneutic psychoanalysis is what she terms the argument from patient rejection, the notion that patients would and should reject hermeneutic psychoanalysis if informed of its true nature. For her, the hermeneutic position in psychoanalysis is antiscientific, acausal, and meaning centered.

Saks does not discuss the writings of the original and seminal hermeneuts Jürgen Habermas and Paul Ricoeur because, unlike some more recent hermeneuts, they see psychoanalysis as a mixed hermeneutic and nonhermeneutic discipline.

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