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Hartmann, H. (1958). Comments on the Scientific Aspects of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. St. Child, 13:127-146.

(1958). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 13:127-146

Contributions to Psychoanalytic Theory

Comments on the Scientific Aspects of Psychoanalysis

Heinz Hartmann, M.D.

What I propose to tell you in this lecture will not increase your analytic knowledge as to facts or theories. I will examine this body of facts and theories we call psychoanalysis from a point of view not altogether widely discussed in our literature. We all consider psychoanalysis, among other things, a science. It is, however, not always clearly understood to what degree and in what respects this statement is true, nor is it always easy to say what are the distinctive formal and methodological characteristics of this science. If the analyst is often shy of discussing such questions with representatives of other, more highly systematized and methodologically more firmly established fields of science, this may well be due to the rather forbidding difficulties to explain to these others even comparatively simple aspects of analytic method or content. But it is also true that not many of us give much thought to such matters, and that with even fewer it is in the foreground of their interest and work. This is undoubtedly the result of a characteristic feature of psychoanalysis as a profession which is a union of practical with scientific activities, and of the development of our profession. It easily leads to what E. Kris (1947) has called a lack of "trained clarifiers" of the kind we find in physical science. But I think that progress in the clarification of our hypotheses, and in systematization, and the consideration of methodological principles is no less important in analysis than in other sciences. The possibility fully to extricate their meaning from our observations depends on it. Later I shall briefly speak about attempts in this direction, coming, in part, from outside professional analysis. It is true that hypotheses used in our work can be tested, for instance, experimentally. Still, this statement is not generally true.

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