An Epistemic Defence of Psychoanalysis



Psychoanalysis is now a historical curiosity. An obscurant pseudoscience that used ad-hoc explanations to particulars. However, the study has to be reclaimed and the empty barrages unveiled. Starting with its epistemic defence.

Falsification has been the keystone to philosophy of science. Before, the problem of demarcation – as to differentiate science from non-science – had no satisfactory answer. As evident by its loose parlance, even by Freud.

It allowed for definite boundaries as to what science meant. Soon after, psychoanalysis came under attack. The Achilles heel being its unfalsifiable nature. While psychoanalysis remains unfalsifiable and a non-science, the inferred falseness? Merely a non-sequitur1. For that another assumption is warranted, that science is the only road to epistemic certainty.

As Popper writes –

Note that I suggest falsifiability as a criterion of demarcation, but not of meaning

The Logic of Scientific Discovery2, Karl Popper

The direct consequence of such an assumption is a complete disregard of non-sciences, including logic. A trivial example is the unfalsifiability of the proposition – All men are mortal3. Concerning psychoanalysis, other difficulties follow. Namely that falsifying psychoanalytical propositions is impossible, for there exists nothing to be falsified.

Falsifiability requires propositions in the inter-subjective sphere. Such that if a claim is made, it can be disproved through evidence accessed here. For science, the inter-subjective space is empirical reality. In psychoanalysis, only the analysand4 has direct access to the evidence. Then indirectly communicated to the analyst and other individuals. The lack of an inter-subjective space makes it incoherent for falsifiability regarding psychoanalysis.

In Truth, Certainty and Language5, I show the assumed certainty of language to be the maximal assumed certainty possible in the inter-subjective sphere. Psychoanalysis, as Breuer put it, is the talking cure. Questioning the epistemic certainty of psychoanalysis is essentially questioning that of language. Even empirical science has to be communicated within language.

For the matters outside language, one cannot say anything of.

Epistemic validity of non-conscious thoughts must be considered. The unconscious ones, parapraxes6 and dreams, to aware non-conscious ones, the superego and other inner monologues. A variation of the Wittgensteinian private language7 argument suffices. As per the former, a true private language is impossible. Here, the existence of non-conscious thoughts with a sense8 reveals another part of our consciousness.

As yet, no sufficient defence has transpired. For that, I must conceive of the psychoanalytic method and its structure.

The Psychoanalytic Method
  1. Collect fragments of the non-conscious. Both the strictly unconscious and aware non-conscious ones.
  2. Retrieve the associated non-conscious thought in a state of uncontemplation.
    • As Freud explains, throughout his work, the state of uncontemplation happens when the analysand disassociates with the Ego. Such that no filtering prevents associated thoughts from being communicated, however repulsive they may be.
  3. Analyst interprets the meaning, presents it, and seeks a response from the analysand.
  4. Upon the correct interpretation, phenomenological certainty happens.

The aim is to study the analysand and help them realize self-truths. Analysts acquire knowledge from the advancement of this pursuit. Thus, how does one know truths about oneself? If the maximal certainty possible in the inter-subjective sphere is of language, the (only) certainty possible in the pure subjective sphere is phenomenological certainty.

How can one know of happiness? What prompts the “Aha” of a long lost memory? What signals the reclamation of a parapraxis, the sudden remembrance of your lost keys? How does one know that one exists, the I knows that it’s an I?

One simply knows. That is phenomenological certainty. As it cannot be reasoned through language, the incompatibility of the inter-subjective and pure subjectivity between, this is my defence. And the only required, and possible, one too.

A successful psychoanalytic treatment consists of such moments. When theories prompt the certainty of truth. Truth of the phenomenological kind, of the subjective kind.

That’s what I talk about when I talk about psychoanalysis

  1. The implication doesn’t follow from the premise
  2. Popper, K. (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery
  3. The classic example of syllogism

    All men are mortal
    Socrates is a man
    Socrates is morta

  4. The person being analysed
  5. Krishna, N. (2023) Truth, Certainty and Language
  6. One example being Freudian Slips
  7. Wittgenstein, L. (1992). Philosophical Investigations. Blackwell
  8. thoughts with meaning in language

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