The Vagaries of Psychoanalytic Interpretation: An Investigation into the Causes of the Consensus Problem in Psychoanalysis

Philosophia 42 (3):779-799 (2014)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Though the psychoanalytic method of interpretation is seen by psychoanalysts as a reliable scientific tool for investigating the unconscious mind, its reputation has long been marred by what’s known as the consensus problem: where different analysts fail to reach agreement when they interpret the same phenomena. This has long been thought, by both practitioners and observers of psychoanalysis, to undermine its claim to scientific status. The causes of this problem, however, are dimly understood. In this paper I attempt to illuminate one important cause of the consensus problem by investigating the role which reliance on ‘associative evidence’ has in generating consensus failures. Various options for overcoming the difficulties with this form of clinical evidence are then examined. It is argued that these problems can be mitigated by the notion of overall associative fit, though they are exacerbated by certain loose standards used for what counts as acceptable associative evidence. The possibility of using more rigorous standards is discussed.

Similar books and articles

The unconscious: How does it speak to us today?Bent Rosenbaum - 2003 - Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review 26 (1):31-40.
The scientific status of psychoanalytic clinical evidence (I).Michael Martin - 1964 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 7 (1-4):13 – 36.
Interpretation and difference: the strangeness of care.Alan Bass - 2006 - Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
A missing link in psychoanalytic technique: Psychoanalytic consciousness.Betty Joseph - 2004 - International Journal of Psychoanalysis 85 (3):572-574.
Gr nbaum's Freud.Donald Levy - 1988 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 31 (2):193 – 215.
Freud and the unconscious.Mick Power - 2000 - The Psychologist. Special Issue 13 (12):612-614.
Have we changed our view of the unconscious in contemporary clinical work?Jonathan Dunn - 2003 - Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 51 (3):941-955.


Added to PP

823 (#18,743)

6 months
175 (#17,684)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Kevin Lynch
Huaqiao University

References found in this work

The Interpretation of Dreams.Sigmund Freud & A. A. Brill - 1900 - Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 10 (20):551-555.
Psychological Issues.Adolf Grünbaum - 1959 - International Universities Press.
Psychoanalysis--A Theory in Crisis.Marshall Edelson - 1990 - University of Chicago Press.

View all 18 references / Add more references