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Interpreting Interpretation

Interpreting Interpretation: The Limits of Hermeneutic Psychoanalysis

Elyn R. Saks
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Interpreting Interpretation
    Book Description:

    Psychoanalytic interpretation, according to the hermeneutic view, is concerned with meaning rather than facts or causes. In this provocative book, Elyn R. Saks focuses closely on what hermeneutic psychoanalysis is and how the approaches of hermeneutic psychoanalysts differ. She finds that although these psychoanalysts use the same words, concepts, images, and analogies, they hold to at least five different positions on the truth of psychoanalytic interpretations. Saks locates within these five models the thought of such prominent analysts as Roy Schafer, Donald Spence, and George Klein. Then, approaching each model from the patient's point of view, the author reaches important conclusions about treatments that patients not only will-but should-reject.If patients understood the true nature of the various models of hermeneutic psychoanalysis, Saks argues, they would spurn the story model, which asks patients to believe interpretations that do not purport to be true; that is, the psychoanalyst simply tells stories that give meaning to patients' lives, the truth of which is not considered relevant. And patients would question the metaphor and the interpretations-as-literary-criticism models, which propose views of psychoanalysis that may be unsatisfying. In addition to discussing which hermeneutic models of treatment are plausible, Saks discusses the nature of metaphorical truth. She arrives at some penetrating insights into the theory of psychoanalysis itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14726-1
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    Like other disciplines in our universities, psychoanalysis has lately been reinterpreted as a hermeneutic discipline. Indeed, many traditional hermeneuts have singled out psychoanalysis, among the human sciences, as the exemplar of a hermeneutic discipline, and many psychoanalysts proclaim themselves converts to the hermeneutic reading of their discipline. An equally large number of psychoanalysts, however, repudiate that reading and reaffirm traditional understandings. The arguments for their repudiation are many, but in this book I am concerned with one in particular: the idea that, if patients were informed of the true nature of psychoanalysis on the hermeneutic reading, they would reject psychoanalysis...

  5. 2 The Hermeneutic Analytic Thinkers
    (pp. 18-79)

    I have selected eight representative thinkers who have written about hermeneutic psychoanalysis for consideration in this chapter. They are a disparate group in many ways: some are practicing psychoanalysts, some are not; some have written extensively about hermeneutic psychoanalysis, some have not; some have written at one time, some at another; some have one clinical view, some another. Indeed, several of these thinkers might reject the idea of being grouped with the others. But that is part of the point: these people sound quite a lot like each other but are actually very different. I select these eight thinkers, then,...

  6. 3 The Models
    (pp. 80-119)

    The eight hermeneutic thinkers I have presented often speak the same language—use the same words and concepts, images and analogies. And, indeed, some commentators take them to be holding essentially the same position.¹ Yet this is a mistake. There are at least five possible views that these hermeneutic thinkers may be holding.² I organize these five views around the hermeneuts’ position on the truth of psychoanalytic interpretations. Although a theory’s position on truth may be orthogonal to its status as a hermeneutic theory, there is value to this organization, which the reader will appreciate when I come to critique...

  7. 4 The Plausibility of the Story Model of Hermeneutic Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 120-162)

    I want to evaluate the five visions of hermeneutic analysis primarily in terms of the argument from patient rejection; each vision may have additional weaknesses and strengths that I do not discuss. The story model is most vulnerable to the argument, and I devote the most attention to it. The other versions of hermeneutic psychoanalysis are less vulnerable to the argument or possibly vulnerable to it only in a different form.¹ Thus, in the course of discussing the models of hermeneutic psychoanalysis, I identify a strong and a weak version of the argument from patient rejection. Later I return to...

  8. 5 The Plausibility of the Other Models of Hermeneutic Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 163-206)

    The clinical psychoanalysis model and the alternative metaphysics model escape the criticism that applies to the story model. They are not subject to the argument from patient rejection—at least in the form in which I have presented it. The reason is that neither model asks patients to believe interpretations that do not purport to be possibly true.

    On the clinical psychoanalysis model, psychoanalysts give interpretations that refer to psychological states, conscious and unconscious, that help explain behavior, and they eschew interpretations that refer to neurophysiological antecedents of behavior. But the interpretations referring to these psychological states are true in...

  9. 6 The Weak Form of the Argument from Patient Rejection Revisited
    (pp. 207-219)

    The strong form of the argument from patient rejection seems to me robust vis-à-vis the story model of hermeneutic psychoanalysis. That argument says that patients not only will, but also ought to, reject psychoanalytic interpretations because analysts are asking them to believe things that do not purport to be possibly true. The strong form of the argument applies to the story model alone because on all of the other models psychoanalytic interpretations purport to be true in at least some sense of “true.” A more sophisticated version of the strong form of the argument, which questions whether patients will accept...

  10. 7 Implications for Theoretical Psychoanalysis and Other Concluding Thoughts
    (pp. 220-230)

    In this concluding chapter I make a foray beyond the realms hitherto occupied. Thus far I have confined myself to the viability of psychoanalysis as apracticeon the hermeneutic views. But these views also have consequences for how we are to think of psychoanalysis as atheoryof psychology. I want now to consider these implications, raise other issues that deserve further research, and summarize my findings in this work.

    Psychoanalysis purports to be not only a therapy, but also a source of knowledge about the psychology of human beings. And the versions of hermeneutic psychoanalysis have important implications...

    (pp. 231-246)
  12. References
    (pp. 247-254)
  13. Index
    (pp. 255-263)