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Kotkavirta, J. (2017). On the need of fundaments in psychoanalytic thinking. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 40(2):112-118.

(2017). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 40(2):112-118

On the need of fundaments in psychoanalytic thinking

Jussi Kotkavirta

The questions concerning the foundations of psychoanalytic knowledge have been pressing from the beginning. Beside as a therapeutic practice, Freud conceived psychoanalysis as a science, maintaining that like other sciences psychoanalysis should have sound empirical and conceptual fundaments. Freud claimed that there is an inseparable bond (ein Junktim) between cure and acquiring knowledge in psychoanalysis. One of his aims in developing a metapsychology (analogously to metaphysics) was to explicate the conceptual structure of psychoanalytic knowledge. After Freud psychoanalysts have not reached a consensus in the questions concerning the foundations. What kind of foundations does psychoanalytic knowledge need? Are they to be found from the psychoanalytic practice and research on the couch, or rather from metapsychological constructions? In what way should psychoanalysis rely on external scientific research? The article addresses these questions, arguing that even though psychoanalytic work and knowledge do gain justification from various external sources, in the end psychoanalysis stands on its own foundations. It is further argued that especially under the prevailing plurality of theoretical and clinical approaches, psychoanalysis does not have – and does not need – a foundation that could not be further questioned. Thus a coherentist picture of psychoanalysis is defended.

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