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Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2008 Mar;39(1):52-64. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2007.12.014. Epub 2008 Feb 14.

On the validity of Freud's dream interpretations.

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Underwood International College, Yonsei University, Seoul 120-749, South Korea.


In this article I defend Freud's method of dream interpretation against those who criticize it as involving a fallacy-namely, the reverse causal fallacy-and those who criticize it as permitting many interpretations, indeed any that the interpreter wants to put on the dream. The first criticism misconstrues the logic of the interpretative process: it does not involve an unjustified reversal of causal relations, but rather a legitimate attempt at an inference to the best explanation. The judgement of whether or not a particular interpretation is the best explanation depends on the details of the case in question. I outline the kinds of probabilities involved in making the judgement. My account also helps to cash out the metaphors of the jigsaw and crossword puzzles that Freudians have used in response to the 'many interpretations' objection. However, in defending Freud's method of dream interpretation, I do not thereby defend his theory of dreams, which cannot be justified by his interpretations alone.

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