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Eriksson, J. (2012). Freud's Metapsychology - The Formal a Priori of Psychoanalytic Experience. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 35(1):21-34.

(2012). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 35(1):21-34

Freud's Metapsychology - The Formal a Priori of Psychoanalytic Experience

Johan Eriksson, Ph.D.

The long-lasting debate over the status of psychoanalysis with respect to its orientation within the natural scientific and human scientific paradigms has been largely centered on the question of how to characterize Freudian metapsychology. Are the basic assumptions of metapsychology to be taken as empirical hypotheses principally verifiable or falsifiable by the results of experimental, natural scientific research? Or is metapsychology better understood as a speculative theory which generates pure ideas without factual referents, ideas that would work as help-constructions, at all times alterable due to pragmatic concerns, and whose value for clinical theory and practice would thus lie on a merely heuristic level? In close dialogue with the transcendental philosophies of Kant, Husserl and Heidegger, the author develops an argument according to which Freudian psychoanalysis should be understood as a science of subjectivity, and according to which metapsychology should be understood as the formal apriori of this science. It is precisely in their capacity as formal concepts - i.e,. concepts that do not have their ground in empirical generalizations but rather in transcendental formalizations - that the terms of metapsychology can become, not abstract conceptualizations alienated from our direct experiences of the empirical reality, but rather lived realities for clinical practice and theory.

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