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Br J Med Psychol. 1982 Mar;55(Pt 1):1-11.

Refutation and the appropriation of truth in psychoanalysis.


It is important in psychoanalysis to retain Popper's emphasis on theories that can be mistaken, and which therefore can be improved. This idea about the value of mistakes should not be rejected, as Will has done in his recent article. The main problem about the status of psychoanalysis is not, as Will argues, to understand science in such a way that psychoanalytic theories will be seen to be scientific. A prior question is whether the implicit personal theories of clients in therapy, the practical theories by which they live, can be effectively tested and improved in the psychoanalytic setting. The value of bringing to bear ideas from the philosophy and sociology of science is that they provide us with metaphors for the growth and change of theories in general. So if the psychoanalytic session has value, it is as a setting in which we can learn from mistakes, just as the experiment is a setting in which theories of natural science can be improved by refutations. Therapists' theories describe the implicit personal theories of their clients, rather as metatheories in the philosophy and sociology of science describe theories in physics and other sciences. Making these distinctions allows the question of the status of psychoanalytic theory and practice to be seen more clearly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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