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Solms, M. (2015). Reply to Barratt. Psychoanal. Rev., 102(2):209-219.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Review, 102(2):209-219

Reply to Barratt Related Papers

Mark Solms, Ph.D.

What is it about neuroscience that prompts otherwise sensible psychoanalysts to adopt such untenable positions?

The crux of Barnaby Barratt's (2015) argument in “Critical Notes on the Neuro-Evolutionary Archaeology of Affective Systems” is that although neuroscience may (he says “should”)1 influence psychoanalytic metapsychology, it should never influence psychoanalytic praxis. Moreover, only psychoanalytic praxis is psychoanalysis proper because, unlike metapsychology and neuroscience, psychoanalytic praxis is experience-near.2 Psychoanalytic praxis, in turn, boils down to Freud's free-association method.3

My counterargument is that the psychoanalytic method was developed in conjunction with Freud's metapsychology (initially derived from nineteenth-century neuroscience) and that it was always intended to advance metapsycholology (supplemented by future neuroscience). Such advances have necessary implications for psychoanalytic technique.

Contradicting his main argument, Barratt claims that Freud's metapsychological concepts of drive (Trieb) and repression “are necessary modes of ‘experience-near’ theorizing or ‘helpful ideas’4 that are intrinsically tied to experience with the method of free association—the praxis of psychoanalysis” (p. 195). Thus, these two aspects of metapsychology (drive and repression) are exempted from Barratt's “narrow definition” of psychoanalysis and its implications. He even concedes that these two concepts are inextricable from his definition: “One can abandon the notion of Trieb, but in doing so one abandons psychoanalysis itself as narrowly defined (and certainly one abandons the priority of the free-associative method)” (p. 197).

Why these two concepts are exempted is not clear. In places Barratt seems to argue that they were derived from the free-association method, whereas in other places he seems to argue that they were constitutive of the free-association method (e.g., “the idea of Trieb is necessary to, and necessarily emerges from, the method of free association,” p. 195).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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