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Keywords:

  • social constructivism;
  • critique of psychoanalysis;
  • pseudoscience;
  • epistemic defects;
  • Sigmund Freud;
  • Frank Cioffi;
  • David Bloor

Abstract

Social constructivist approaches to science have often been dismissed as inaccurate accounts of scientific knowledge. In this article, we take the claims of robust social constructivism (SC) seriously and attempt to find a theory which does instantiate the epistemic predicament as described by SC. We argue that Freudian psychoanalysis, in virtue of some of its well-known epistemic complications and conceptual confusions, provides a perfect illustration of what SC claims is actually going on in science. In other words, the features SC mistakenly ascribes to science in general correctly characterize the epistemic status of Freudian psychoanalysis. This sheds some light on the internal disputes in the field of psychoanalysis, on the sociology of psychoanalytic movement, and on the “war” that has been waged over Freud's legacy with his critics. In addition, our analysis offers an indirect and independent argument against SC as an account of bona fide science, by illustrating what science would look like if it were to function as SC claims it does.