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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;39(6):446-52.

Psychoanalysis, science and the seductive theory of Karl Popper.

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St. Vincents Hospital Area Mental Health Service, Melbourne, Australia.



To present a critique of the ideas of Karl Popper, the philosopher of science, whose depiction of psychoanalysis as a pseudoscience is often used to justify attacks on psychoanalysis.


Published sources are used to provide a brief intellectual biography of Popper, a summary of his concept of science and a summary of criticisms of Popper's view of science. His depiction of psychoanalysis and Freud's reply are presented. Clinical, experimental and neurobiological research which refutes Popper's view is summarized.


There is a vast scholarly published work critical of Popper's falsifiability criterion of science. Less recognized is Popper's misunderstanding and misrepresentation of psychoanalysis; his argument against it is logically flawed and empirically false. Even if Popper's theory of science is accepted, there is considerable clinical, experimental and neurobiological research in psychoanalysis which meets Popper's criterion of science.


Attacks on psychoanalysis based on Popper's theory of science are ill-founded and reflect inadequate scholarship.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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