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Frank, G. (1990). The Freudian Paradigm: Toward Paradigm Change in Psychoanalysis. Donald P. Spence. New York: Norton, 1987, 230 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 77(4):617-620.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Review, 77(4):617-620

The Freudian Paradigm: Toward Paradigm Change in Psychoanalysis. Donald P. Spence. New York: Norton, 1987, 230 pp.

Review by:
George Frank, Ph.D.

Donald Spence, both psychologist and psychoanalyst, joins here the ever-increasing number of people writing critical commentaries on Freud's theory. Spence's book is a summary and extension of his previous writing as well as a summary and extension of the work of others.

Each critic of Freud's theory chooses some facet of the theory on which to focus their attention. Some criticize a particular explanatory principle Freud used (e.g., the energetic principle, instinct theory, the Oedipus complex, etc.), while others focus on some personal aspect of Freud's that they believe influenced his theorizing (e.g., some element of his personality, his familial upbringing, his cultural upbringing, his predilection for biological and archaeological metaphors, his commitment to Darwinian biology and Helmholtzian physicalism, etc.). Spence is one of those who criticize Freud's theorizing, but he does so in a rather unique way: He criticizes the validity of Freud's conclusions by criticizing how Freud came to his conclusions.

Freud was, one might say, driven to have psychoanalysis considered a science. Since he was the only one developing this “science,” he had to assert that the way he developed his ideas was objective and “scientific.” This is exactly what Spence challenges. In a previous book, Spence (1982) commented that while Freud believed that he had arrived at scientific “truth,” Freud had actually achieved what Spence called “narrative truth,” that is, “plausible explanations.

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