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Psychoanalysis, science and the seductive theory of Karl Popper
Article first published online: 7 JUN 2005
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Volume 39, Issue 6, pages 446–452, June 2005
How to Cite
Grant, D. C. and Harari, E. (2005), Psychoanalysis, science and the seductive theory of Karl Popper. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 39: 446–452. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1614.2005.01602.x
Edwin Harari, Consultant Psychiatrist
St. Vincents Hospital Area Mental Health Service, Melbourne, Australia
- Issue published online: 7 JUN 2005
- Article first published online: 7 JUN 2005
- Received 9 May 2004; revised 7 September 2004; accepted 13 September 2004.
- philosophy of science;
Objective: To present a critique of the ideas of Karl Popper, the philosopher of science, whose depiction of psychoanalysis as a pseudoscience is often used to justify attacks on psychoanalysis.
Method: Published sources are used to provide a brief intellectual biography of Popper, a summary of his concept of science and a summary of criticisms of Popper's view of science. His depiction of psychoanalysis and Freud's reply are presented. Clinical, experimental and neurobiological research which refutes Popper's view is summarized.
Results: There is a vast scholarly published work critical of Popper's falsifiability criterion of science. Less recognized is Popper's misunderstanding and misrepresentation of psychoanalysis; his argument against it is logically flawed and empirically false. Even if Popper's theory of science is accepted, there is considerable clinical, experimental and neurobiological research in psychoanalysis which meets Popper's criterion of science.
Conclusion: Attacks on psychoanalysis based on Popper's theory of science are ill-founded and reflect inadequate scholarship.