Psychoanalysis and its scientific rational

A. Govrin

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Psychoanalysis and its scientific rational Aner Govrin, Ph.D. Very few of psychoanalysis' underlying theories had been empirically proved in any meaningful way and yet psychoanalysis (including psychoanalytic psychotherapy) is still being practiced all over the world by thousands of mental health workers. Moreover, psychodynamic psychotherapists are not merely practitioners in a technical manner. They strongly believe that the psychoanalytic theory they adhere to offers the most accurate explanations for the astonishing array of complex and irrational clinical phenomena with which the therapist is confronted. It also provides the practitioner with the appropriate tools for addressing these issues as well as with a wide range of possible therapeutic interventions. In this lecture I address the following question: How can rational people, devotees of Western culture with an education based on the scientific ethos can be fascinated by a theory with virtually none if its assumptions proven in a laboratory? I suggest that psychoanalysis is practiced by many clinicians because the theory provides satisfactory solutions to important problems. The philosopher of science Larry Laudan (1977) argues that science fundamentally aims toward arriving at solutions to problems. An empirical problem, Laudan argues, is “anything about the natural world which strikes us as odd, or otherwise in need of explanation” (p. 15). Theories should therefore be evaluated on whether they provide adequate solutions to significant empirical problems. It is less relevant to ask whether theories are “true,” “corroborated,” or “well-confirmed.” I describe the different empirical and conceptual problems psychoanalysis is trying to solve and explain why therapists perceive these explanations as adequate and satisfactory even though they are not backed by empirical research. Aner Govrin, Ph.D. is a director of a doctoral program Psychoanalysis and Hermeneutics at Bar-Ilan University, a psychoanalyst at Tel Aviv Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis (TAICP). His book Conservatives and radical perspectives in psychoanalytic knowledge: The fascinated and the disenchanted was published by Routlegde in 2015. His forthcoming book Ethics and Attachment: How we make moral judgments that will be published in 2019 by Routledge.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2018
EventMedicine: Public and Private, Conventional and Unconventional - Dan David 2018 Conferecnce, Tel Aviv, Israel
Duration: 30 Dec 20181 Jan 2019


ConferenceMedicine: Public and Private, Conventional and Unconventional
CityTel Aviv


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