Truth and Psychoanalysis

Authored by: Charles Hanly

The Routledge International Handbook of Psychoanalysis and Philosophy

Print publication date:  November  2022
Online publication date:  November  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367276454
eBook ISBN: 9780429297076
Adobe ISBN:


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There are three criteria of truth. The first criterion is correspondence. This is the criterion Freud had in mind in his tally argument. A psychoanalytic interpretation is true if it tallies with what the patient is remembering or not remembering. The argument is that correspondence is the necessary and sufficient core criterion of truth. The second criterion is coherence. Some analysts have taken it to be a sufficient criteria of the truth of psychoanalytic knowledge, but it is not. It is argued that coherence is a necessary criterion of knowledge, but it is not sufficient. The third criterion is pragmatic. It is argued that it is necessary to differentiate scientific pragmatism from philosophical pragmatism. The pragmatism of psychoanalysis is scientific because it requires corresponding evidence that a beneficial change in the functioning of a patient has been caused by the interpretations made by the analyst. Psychoanalysis as a therapeutic process is in part Socratic, except that intellectual self-knowledge is not an end in itself. The goal of clinical psychoanalysis is the improvements in psychic functioning that remembering and knowing brings about. For this reason, the scientific pragmatic test of psychoanalysis has an important place in estimating the truth of psychoanalytic knowledge.

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