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The Authority of Logic and the Logic of Authority: The Import of the Grünbaum Debate for Psychoanalytically Informed Psychotherapy

Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(4):515-532,1996
Symposium on the Grünbaum Debate
©1996 The Analytic Press

Louis A. Fourcher, Ph.D.
55 East Washington Street, Suite 3505
Chicago, Illinois 60602


This paper assesses the implications of Grünbaum's critique of Freud's "science" for a discussion of the relation between theory and practice in psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy. Guided by the work of the French sociologist, Bourdieu, it places Grünbaum's argument within a logic of intellectualism -- a framework that tends to instrumentalize reason and romanticize practice, delineating the well known territories of objectivism and subjectivism. Grünbaum's arguments within this logic are taken to be rhetorical maneuvers -- such as valorizing the "tally argument" and then debunking it -- aimed at rejuvenating an objectivistic approach to theory and practice. Grünbaum is successful insofar as much of the debate generated by his views accepts the terms of his intellectualist bias. It is suggested, however, that these are terms that have long been suspect, that, indeed, it was Freud who helped bring them into question; and that there is a broader framework of discourse that relativizes intellectualism within a dialectical opposition to "participationism." A form of rationality founded in a non-conceptual knowledge of practice has begun to emerge within this more inclusive discourse under such rubrics as "social constructivist" and "relational" approaches to psychotherapy. It is argued that within the therapy situation a kind of "practical reason" can mitigate the controlling, instrumental authority of intellectualism as well as the collusive, sentimental servility of participationism.

[T]he theoretician's claim to an absolute viewpoint, the 'perspectiveless view of all perspectives' as Leibnitz would have put it, contains the claim to a power, founded in reason, over particular individuals, who are condemned to error by the partisan partiality of their individual viewpoints [Bourdieu,1990;p.28-29]. NOTE 1

Since its beginnings, the broad field of psychotherapy has been split between poles of intellectualism and "participationism" (see Caplan, 1969; Bourdieu, 1990), between an Apollonian insistence on the rule of theory and a Dionysian celebration of engagement in the practice. While Freud's psychoanalysis hardly resolved the inherent metaphysical conflicts between these disparate commitments, it provided an intellectual framework that allied the field with the era's cultural standards for rational activity and with the authority of science, thereby allowing a profession to emerge (Burnham, 1960). Of course, the framework has trembled and shifted and splintered as it has been challenged to resolve the paradox of its own dualistic foundation. The critique of Adolph Grünbaum (1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993) might appear to be only yet another challenge to the legitimacy of the Freudian empire. However, it is more fundamentally an attempt to reaffirm the most conservative elements of intellectualism -- which in essence is also a claim to power -- in the name of scientific authority. That such a claim, especially within today's world market of psychoanalytic discussion, would have received such deference and admiration from psychoanalytic practitioners is perhaps a sign of our continuing blindness to the dualistic choices imposed upon our theory-making and to the inherent tyranny of intellectualism.

The acceptance of an over-arching metapsychology as the theory of psychoanalytic practice has long been recognized as a danger for psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy in general (Gill, 1976; Klein, 1969). In recent years the increased context-specific focus of psychoanalytic discussions seems to have fostered a new concern for the principles according to which theoretical constructs are both developed and applied. Discernable within these discussions is the idea that a practice requires rethinking the relationship between theory and action (including, and especially, the action of interpretation). Increasingly the question is asked "Is theory a law that practice must follow?"

Despite its often bleak assessment of the corporeal and social constraints on our experience, our tradition has always adhered to an intellectualist bias -- a belief in the superiority of pure reason. No matter that we may at times recognize the irony of whistling past the graveyard of our former proofs; we continue to believe. What else is there to do? If we cannot theorize, how are we to understand what it is we do or what it is that, occurring between us and our patients, might be designated "therapeutic"?

Nevertheless our bias becomes an outright dilemma if we listen to the historians and social philosophers who suggest that our reasoning -- even in its more abstract manifestations -- is hardly "pure" (see Horkheimer & Adorno, 1944). What descended from Kant's transcendental apperception has a built-in assumption omitted from his critique: that rational thought dominates the body from which it is generated -- indeed that "pure" reason is instrumental in its effect and "knowledge consists of subsumption under principles" of "self-preservation" (p.82 & p.83). And, because the instrumentality of thought is invisible, or rather indistinguishable from rationality, it becomes the subtlest of means of control. The various "disciplines" of our self-training, formal and informal, from hopscotch to divorce court, are the contexts through which exogenous conceptual schemes establish the foundations of control within the choices of our everyday lives (Foucault, 1984). Our ideas commit us, entrap us within unexamined relations of power. Freedom becomes subordination; self-control becomes collusion; and therapeutic discipline becomes the assertion of authority.

There is an escape from this "postmodern" dilemma, a strategy found in several corners of the human sciences that can also be seen in recent efforts to describe the specific relational, intersubjective, interpersonal, perspectival, constructive, and dialectical aspects of the therapeutic context. It starts with recognizing the possibility of a distinct form of practical reason -- a rationality of emerging forms of action and imagination, of intuitions and gestures (Certeau, 1984; Taylor, 1989). It would be a mistake to think of these forms as being "indigenous" relative to the verbal forms of reflective thought (Schön, 1983). Nevertheless when approached developmentally, they can be understood as logically (but not necessarily chronologically) prior to the forms of language (Fourcher, 1975; 1981). The very recognition of this level of experiential structure calls for a reassessment of "pure" conceptual rationality the instrumental authority of which requires a double blindness: to its presumed control (Habermas, 1974) and to its intertwining with the actions that it presumes to oversee (Foucault, 1980). Such a reassessment need no longer be a dead-end deconstruction. The possibility of thinking of experience as not only multi-leveled in its forms of expression, but also as pluralistic in its logic, now suggests a new means of understanding the self as a heterogeneous social body, as a subject/object--object/subject (and all that is in-between). And then perhaps we can find within our practices a fuller discourse that, through respect for the wisdom of practical rationality, protects both therapist and patient from the excesses of dictatorial theory (see Fourcher, 1975; 1992; Hoffman, 1992; 1994a).


Defending the Logic of Authority

Brutus: What means this shouting? I do fear, the people
        Choose Caesar for their king.

Cassius: Ay, do you fear it?
         Then must I think you would not have it so.

Brutus: I would not, Cassius; yet I love him well.

Shakespeare's tragedy provides a good metaphor for the continuing discussion inspired by Grünbaum's critique of Freud's psychoanalytic methods. Grünbaum makes an excellent Brutus to Freud's Caesar. His critique of Freud suggests "republican" intentions, which, in political terms, is to say that he did it because he loved the rule of "science" more and not because he loved Freud less. Shakespeare's Brutus wanted to eliminate the threat to the Roman Republic of Caesar's growing dictatorial powers, but in doing so he only abetted the growing forces of imperialism which through civil war lead to the rule by "caesarism" for centuries to come. Grünbaum wants to demonstrate that psychoanalysis is not good science. But the effect of his rather selectively focused inductivism is to provide sustenance for a discursive regime that brooks no opposition.

The part of Anthony could also be played by Grünbaum but then there have been many other good candidates for the part -- both empiricists and hermeneuticists who in their zeal to answer Grünbaum's criticism of Freud's methods would both praise Freud and bury him (see the 'Open Peer Commentary" in Grünbaum, 1986). Shakespeare's Anthony knew quite well that he was cultivating support for a new regime when he stirred the funeral crowd with his aspersions on Ceasar's assassins as "honorable men." We and our collegial Anthonys, however, may not be fully cognizant of the forces served by our eulogies or even our attendance at the funeral.

For both practitioners and theorists of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytically informed psychotherapy, the most significant question resulting from Grünbaum's critique of Freud (and the debate that has followed) is not the potential determination of "the scientific status of psychoanalysis." Rather, the whole discussion, pro and con, has the effect of a false negative: an argument underscoring the weaknesses of a particular case in order, implicitly but nonetheless effectively, to buttress the legitimacy of the very principles which inform the logic of the argument. It may be that Grünbaum really wants to legitimize logical positivism itself and its "correspondence theory" of knowledge (Meisner, 1990). But there is reason to believe that he would concur with philosophers of science who buried the strict form of this metaphysics a few years back (Suppe, 1977). So, the degree to which Grünbaum's critique is "positivist" is not the question either.

The impact of the Grünbaum debate should be sought in the way we are asked to think about the relationship between theory and practice (by which I mean quite literally our ideas and our interpretations in psychoanalytically informed psychotherapy). We confront daily in our practices the question of "What is rational?" but Grünbaum proceeds as though the question has long been answered. He appears to be defending "science," but he is also affirming an idea of rationality -- an idea that is part of the dilemma of thought's relation to action that many of us are now trying to solve.

Consider the effect of Grünbaum's (1984) inductivist approach which he proclaims is ontologically neutral in the logical determination of causality: "the causal relevance of an antecedent state X to an occurrence Y is not at all a matter of the physicality of X; instead, the causal relevance is a matter of whether X -- be it physical, mental, or psycho-physical -- MAKES A DIFFERENCE to the occurrence of Y, or AFFECTS THE INCIDENCE of Y"(p. 72). In proclaiming a neutral perspective for the inductivist, Grünbaum is able to obscure his own ontological assumptions. Nevertheless, there is an ontological commitment here: a logical objectivist view in which logic inheres in reality, and, not surprisingly, reality is assumed to be best described in terms of the logic of physical objects. Reasons and causes may both be causes but "cause" is equated with "efficient cause" (like the cue ball): it is only required that "the antecedents make a difference to the outcome" (p. 72).

As a result of this "ontological" leveling, interpretations become "meaning connections"(1990), the temporal-physical context-dependence of charged particles is equated to the "historicality of experience" (1984; p.16-18) and the "Tally Argument" is hypostatized into Freud's "cardinal epistemological defense of the psychoanalytic method of clinical investigation and testing" (p. 135). Clearly there is little room in Grünbaum's logic for the likes of "intentionality" and "intersubjectivity" (which he confirms in his arguments with the so-called "hermeneuts"). But then his declared task was to take Freud's psychoanalysis at its word -- as an empirically based science of objectively determined events -- and to test, via his inductive approach, its methodological credentials. So, in any case, goes the story.

Grünbaum's choice of the tally argument is revealing in two-ways. First, it is a set-up. Grünbaum(1984) says that the "epistemological considerations" that lead Freud to the tally argument made him "a sophisticated scientific methodologist" (p.128). But Grünbaum in 1984 could not have thought much of Freud's methodological sophistication, as Robinson(1993) aptly demonstrates, since in 1978 he wrote: "There is no cogency in Freud's empirical claim that an analysis can be therapeutically successful only if the analyst's interpretations 'tally with what is real' in the patient" (p. 53; quoted in Robinson, 1993, p.231). Reminding us of the many ambiguities in Freud's statements about the measure of therapeutic success, Robinson puzzles over the reasons why Grünbaum used the previously unheralded articulation of the tally argument as the cornerstone of his critique. Perhaps it was simply a brilliant rhetorical device. But there is another view.

In the Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1916-1917) Freud characteristically anticipates his audience's question as to how it might be concluded that the patient does not experience the analyst's interpretations as simply suggestions, thereby making this form of treatment similar to many others. After clearly stating the objection, Freud concludes: "After all, [the patient's] conflicts will only be successfully solved and his resistances overcome if the anticipatory ideas he is given tally with what is real in him"(p. 452). Here certainly is a clear statement of the efficacy of the right idea; action (free of conflict and resistance) will be directed by reason. Herein lies, in fact, the Kantian ideal. And behind it also lies the presumption of authority.

Besides its rhetorical potential, I think Grünbaum chose this argument because of its unambivalent requirement of an absolute fit between idea and "reality." Theory rules action or it isn't true. This is where the influence of the terms of the Grünbaum debate is more important than its content. Note that whereas Grünbaum tends to avoid any commitments to a positive theory of mentality itself, there is a notion of subjectivity, or rather its shadow, that can be inferred from the terms of his argument. For example, in his discussions of motives as being designatable as causes as well as reasons Grünbaum (1984; pp.69-83; 1988; pp.149-167) relies on his ontologically neutral induction:

Plainly, if an agent is actually moved to do A by having a certain reason or motive M -- so that his having the motive M explains his action A -- then this very presence of M made a difference to his having done A. But, if so, then the agent's having M qualifies as having been causally relevant to what he did [Grünbaum, 1988; p.153].

Certainly, this is true as far as it goes; but it does not distinguish between what Schutz (1967) called the agent's "in-order-to motive" (the immediate, or first-person perspective, intention experienced in "the doing" of the action) and the "because motive" which the agent (or some observer) might attribute to his action after the fact (or, in other words, from a third-person perspective). This is an ontological distinction some version of which is required to understand the relation of reflective thought to action (see Taylor, 1989; p.130); but it is a distinction that Grünbaum will not make. In fact, he (1988) suggests that when human intentionality, say a belief, consistently fails to correspond to a logical "intensionality" (the definition of a term) -- for example when a student fails to see the logical equivalence of "all men are mortal" and "all non-mortal entities are non-men" -- then a neurological cause might best be sought (p. 165). He appears to say this with tongue in cheek, but he offers no other explanation. Effectively for Grünbaum, human intentionality is identified with the idea, the rule of logic. Mind is a unitary, homogeneous, locus of control.

For Grünbaum, the bogeyman is subjectivism as espoused by the "hermeneuts" who insist on the validity of the first-person perspective. Grünbaum must derail any suggestion of subjectivism in Freud, so that he can invalidate his methods on strictly objectivist grounds. But subjectivism (to which the writings of Habermas and Ricoeur cannot be simply reduced) has its own intellectualist biases, such as the thoroughly creative consciousness that springs from nowhere. For both the subjectivist and the objectivist, rational experience is homogeneous and configured as the controlling authority over action.

Practice Is More Than Technique

[T]he triumphalism of theoretical reason is paid for in its inability, from the very beginning, to move beyond simple recording of the duality of the paths of knowledge, the path of appearances and the path of truth, doxa and episteme, common sense and science, and its incapacity to win for science the truth of what science is constructed against [Bourdieu, 1990; p.36].

Freud, despite his Kantian dualism and perhaps inevitable commitment to a reductionistic determinism, opened up the discussion of rationality and action. He did so (in spite of himself as Habermas might argue) by describing what we are only beginning to recognize as a non-homogeneous subject (what I have designated as a "subject/object--object/subject"). Through so many dualistic concepts, especially "consciousness/unconsciousness," Freud referred to subjects as being in some ways like objects; and, most confusingly, sometimes objects, such as repressed ideas, seemed to "act" like subjects. We have begun to understand the many designations of ambivalent relations within the Freudian opus as indications of a heterogeneous reality strained through a dualistic screen. And, strained though it might be, psychoanalytic discourse has given rise to the recognition of a new way of understanding the relation between action and idea, practice and theory.

A later discussion of interpretation might be compared fruitfully to Freud's 1916-1917 invocation of an objectivistic "tally." In "The Question of Lay Analysis" Freud (1927) discusses the use of interpretation in psychoanalysis with an imagined "Impartial Person" during which the following epistemological issue arises. Freud says: "You must wait for the right moment at which you can communicate your interpretation to the patient with some prospect of success." The Impartial Person says: "'How can one always tell the right moment?'" And Freud replies:

That is a question of tact, which can become more refined with experience. You will be making a bad mistake if, in an effort, perhaps, of shortening the analysis, you throw your interpretations at the patient's head as soon as you have found them. In that way you will draw expressions of resistance, rejection, and indignation from him; but you will not enable his ego to master his repressed material. The formula is: to wait till he has come so near to the repressed material that he has only a few more steps to take under the lead of the interpretation you propose [p. 56].

Is Freud wise or simply ingenuous not to have his listener ask how he should know when the repressed material is "near" for the patient, or what measure of "near"-ness is to be used? Does not this exchange have some similarities with the ways that clinical theorists, teachers and supervisors today still talk about how psychotherapy is practiced?

There are three salient aspects of Freud's reply: First, when the application of a technique (in this case, the technique of interpretation) is described, another, less theoretically formalized kind of activity ("tact") is also called on for support. Second, the knowledge that is to guide this second activity is never clearly described but is always suggested to be a combination of personal experience and what one learns in the course of practice ("refined with experience"). Third, this other activity is subordinated to the actual technique in such a way as to hide its necessity to the success of the technique. In an intellectualist's universe, as Bourdieu (1990) notes, "genesis implies amnesia of genesis"(p.50). The application of the technique can thereby be construed as if it were largely a matter of theory-based, conscious decision. Thus, only when the problem of assessing the nearness of the repressed material to consciousness is obscured, because it is outside the realm of theoretically derived technique, is it plausible for Freud to offer a "formula" for the timing of interpretations. NOTE 2

Here in a nutshell are some of the crucial problems resulting from the objectivism/subjectivism duality inherent in the intellectualist bias of the discourse on the therapeutic situation. For the most part our theories have been constructed within a metaphysics that assumes "rational" human experience to be a pure (homogeneous) knowing activity and restricts this activity to conscious, conceptual thought. In addition, a dichotomy of knower and known is established which, in turn, requires a discontinuity of knowledge and action. Knowledge is therefore related to action only unilaterally through the objectification of the therapist's activity as "technique," or through the objectification of the patient's actions as expressions of some conceptual logic or "rule" articulated by theory. Techniques are presumed to be applied according to actions or interpretations dictated by theoretically organized procedural rules.

Of course when therapists attempt to describe the real, embodied and social interaction of their practices, it is nearly impossible to avoid some reference to activities that have not been completely theoretically derived, as in Freud's use of "tact." "We may say that gymnastics or dancing are geometry so long as we do not mean to say that the gymnast and the dancer are geometers" (Bourdieu, 1977; p. 118). Nevertheless, the intellectualist bias requires a meta-rationalization whereby such terms as "tact," "sense of timing." "style" are relegated to the realm of imperfect metaphor to be replaced someday by more exact designations of particular rules of which this activity is the execution. And so, with few exceptions, the intellectualistic, technique-oriented model has remained the dominant and, until recent years, relatively unquestioned paradigm for professional psychotherapeutics since the beginning of the century.

A Liberating Discipline Requires Practical Reason

[T}he "thinker" betrays his secret conviction that action is fully performed only when it is understood, interpreted, expressed, by identifying the implicit with the unthought and by denying the status of authentic thought to the tacit and practical thought that is inherent in all 'sensible' action [Bourdieu, 1990; p.36].

The intellectualist model of implicitly instrumental and controlling rationality has begun recently to lose some of its persuasiveness within the realm of clinical theory largely because of an increasing understanding of the social embeddedness of both the therapist's activities and her or his theories. The critical alternatives to this model have relied on many contemporary sources of ideas, but they continue to refer to Freud. Despite Freud's objectivist biases, the riches of his texts -- his dialectically ambivalent terminology, his "anthropomorphic" metaphors for unconscious dynamics, his ultimate depiction of the person as heterogeneous and social, and his reliance on non-mechanistic terms such as "tact" to describe the methods of psychoanalysis -- have nevertheless provided contemporary theorists with the leverage to challenge Freud's own deepest convictions.

Sometimes explicitly rejecting dualism and sometimes simply reaching for a new means of expression, recent "relational" (Gill, 1982; Bollas, 1983; Mitchell, 1988), "interpersonal" (Stern, 1983; 1989) "hermeneutical" (Stern, 1990; 1991; 1992; Schafer, 1983) and "social constructivist" (Hoffman, 1983; 1987; 1991; 1992; 1994a; 1994b) critiques have begun to shift the focus of discussion about psychotherapy from functional questions of technique to more specific questions about how we know what and when to do and say what we do (including the use of techniques) within this special situation. There has been a shift, in other words, from a simple acceptance of the paradigm of applying theoretical criteria that are external to the immediate context of action to reflection on what might be called "practical reasoning" or the nonconceptual knowledge that informs the therapist's activity in the immediate context of the therapy situation. Perhaps this shift signifies the fall of the dictatorship of absolute theory.

Schafer (1983), drawing on a hermeneutic understanding of how language informs action, emphasizes the active, constructive view of the analyst's approach. He says that "...one cannot distinguish sharply what the analyst finds and what the analyst introduces as a narrative organization; no absolute distinction between analytic subject and object is tenable; all perception is interpretation in context..."(p. 184). Hoffman (1987), noting the rigid and abstracting quality of a strictly instrumental approach to psychoanalytic technique, argues that within it "very little latitude is encouraged for a fluid kind of responsiveness to the patient which takes into account his or her special characteristics and the temperaments of both participants" (p.209-210). Among other things, Hoffman advocates a "working assumption" that "a patient's desires generally involve a complex shifting hierarchical arrangement of needs and wishes, and that it is virtually impossible to formulate an assessment of their relative weights and positions in that instant when the participating analyst or the therapist is called upon to respond" (p.212). Thus, Hoffman cultivates an atmosphere within the analytic session "in which uncertainty about the hierarchy of meanings implicit in a communication or action is valued" (p.211). In a similar vein Stern (1989) calls for an attitude of "curiosity, an openness or receptivity that requires the tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty, and sometimes pain" (p. 24). Stern (1990) also points out that such an attitude of openness is "an achievement, a result of knowledge and effort" that requires "that the analyst give up any vestigial belief in being a sensor, in being capable of registering the truth merely by being receptive"(p.474).

In each of the preceding examples there is an awareness of the practically determinate and conceptually unclear social context of the therapist's actions at any given moment. There is a reliance on responding to what actually transpires and a reluctance to presage the interaction via some diagnostic vision. Is this a new descent into "participationism"? Is there a growing distrust of reason itself? Indeed the concerns of Schafer and Stern could be articulated within a certain intellectualist and subjectivist framework. Yet, there is an obvious move away from an authoritarian consciousness; the windows of ambiguity have been opened. For Hoffman there is a more comprehensive rejection of the old ontology. The "subject" is a kind of bundling of different moments of subjectivity and objectness. Conceptual certainty is not adequate knowledge for the situation. A "fluid responsiveness" is called for.

What Bourdieu (1990) pointed out to his fellow sociologists also applies to psychoanalytically informed psychotherapists: the most fundamental epistemological polarity is that of intellectualism versus participationism. The Kantian ideal of pure reason is asocial, yet the context of our actions must always be defined in social terms. A pure intellectualism aims to dominate the situation, to control it. It contradicts participation. But then pure unreflective action, engagement without accountability, can obliterate reason and, along with it, concern and simple helpfulness. Neverthless, the important question is not whether a rejection of absolute theory will lead to an orgy of irresponsible involvements (only reconfirming the presence of dissociative power relations). It is rather the question of how we are to avoid (or correct for) therapist-patient interactions that are guided by a rationality that is intrinsically deceptively instrumental and controlling -- interactions, in other words, in which the marginally recognized intuitive, "irrational" concerns for tact, style, and spontaneity are logically excluded. Is it not such a regime of authoritarian "rationality" that the Grünbaum debate would have us reestablish?

Schön (1983) and others have suggested that such strategies as Freud's "tact" represent a realm of practical reasoning with its own non-conceptual "logic" and that familiarity with this logic represents a kind of knowledge. In a sense this practical rationality is a mediator between verbal-conceptual experience and the more concrete, more "labile" and action-specific experience of the body. Hoffman (1994b) points out that "The interaction of the experiences of the participants is constructed ... not just in the sense of interpretation that attaches meaning to those experiences 'after the fact' so to speak. Before that, there is the active construction of the 'fact' itself"(p.19). The action that is implied in every reflection has a structure that accounts for the non-conceptualized "practicalities" of the situation. Schön (1983) speaks of actions that are bounded by "appreciations," the very practical, "yes" and "no" feedback loops experienced through action "initiated by the perception of something troubling or promising, and ...terminated by the production of changes one finds on the whole satisfactory..." (p.151). Consider the jazz musician's improvisation.

The integrity of practical rationality is expressed in "a kind of stylistic unity which, though immediately perceptible, has none of the strict, regular coherence of the concerned products of a plan" (Bourdieu, 1990; p.102). The logic of practical rationality is "an often imprecise but systematic principle of selection, [which] has neither the rigor nor the constancy that characterize logical logic..." (p. 102). When nonconceptual "knowledge" is described in the romantic or mysterious terms reserved for the shadows of the dominant intellectualist epistemology, it is treated as somehow (magically) always correct. Such absoluteness is a reflection of the tie between romanticized notions of nonconceptual experience and the authority of instrumental rationality.

When the distinct integrity of practical rationality is recognized conceptual reasoning gives up some of its instrumental authority. The two forms of rationality can then inform one another and the heterogeneity of experience can emerge from the poverty of segregated logics. It becomes possible for situationally embedded knowledge to act as a corrective to theoretically derived technique. The hidden roots of power, of instrumental authority, in conceptual rationality would be uncovered and located in their specificity -- in the interaction being created. Conversely, it also becomes possible for theoretical knowledge to provide a fuller interpretation of practical rationality, neutralizing the instrumental politics of its authority while re-affirming its social origins. The mystified, collusive and sentimentalized packaging of practical rationality can then be removed to reveal a situation-specific aspect of subjectivity that is always present in even the most abstract of activities. The focus on practical reason is not an abandonment of theory but rather a grounding of it in the specific contexts of its actual emergence.

Conceptual rationality is instrumental because it is socially embedded without awareness of its contextual obligations; it reproduces the power relations inherent in the structures of society. Foucault (1979) understood the mechanism for deploying these power relations to be "disciplines": theoretically guided activities for self-improvement, training, education or rehabilitation; or "the unitary technique by which the body is reduced as a 'political' force at the least cost and maximized as a useful force"(p.221). The concept of discipline underscores the element of power -- the instrumental authority of logic -- in an intellectualist rationality. Cutrofello (1994) in his study of Foucault and Kant notes: "Disciplinary matrices destroy the conditions for the possibility of communities of resistance by training persons to reason not as bodies resisting a dominating power, but instead as "rational" players of a game"(p. 69-70). Experience that allows itself to be guided by strictly instrumental rationality puts parentheses around authentic engagement in the world of others.

The way out of these parentheses is through a respect for practical rationality -- a respect that cannot be expressed without effort. To pay attention to one's situation-specific knowledge is to question the ultimate authority of one's theoretical knowledge. Thus, in a framework dominated by instrumental rationality, to give credence to one's own immediate practical sense is an act of resistance. Within an intellectualist framework, knowledge implies power. "However, the power/knowledge equivalence need not commit us to the stronger view that all discourse is oppressive. For one thing, not all power is domination. There is a power of resistance" (Cutrofello, 1994; p.77). This is the power of practical reason, which is by definition less rigidly dependent on the structures of the social context and more concretely expressive of the immediate interaction. It follows, then, that "disciplines" become vehicles of domination only when there is no allowance within them for the efficacy of practical rationality.

In a recent paper Hoffman (1994b) explores the implications of respecting the integrity of his own practical reasoning. He suggests that the "rituals" involved in the maintenance of the "frame" (including the analyst's authority) can be experienced as creating both a benign, nurturant sanctuary and a patronizing, suffocating routine. He describes both the uncertainty and the sense of actions occurring outside of the rules insofar as they address the nonconceptualized experience of both analyst and patient. He says that "A readiness to deviate in certain limited ways may offset the exploitative meanings that can get attached to maintaining the frame in an inflexible manner" (p.7). Hoffman, who is hardly abandoning the theoretical underpinnings of the psychoanalytic frame, is nevertheless uncovering its potential as a discipline of "resistance" wherein both patient and therapist affirm their refusal to be subordinated to conceptual tyranny.

Contrary to Grünbaum's reading, there is within psychoanalysis plenty of room for practical reasoning. However, for much of its history psychoanalysis has subordinated references to non-conceptually guided practice (from "tact" to "listening with the third ear") to the magical zone of proto-techniques. Instrumental rationality, tied to an intellectualist bias, maintained its hegemony. In recent years the inherent conflicts of an instrumentally defined practice have been coming to the fore. Is theory simply the law of practice and practice the execution of theory? What is the role of uncertainty? Surprise? Spontaneity? When is self-disclosure oppressive? When is the analyst not self-disclosing? Can the rules be both necessary and dangerous? With such questions abounding, it has been suggested that the psychoanalytic regime is self-destructing; but it is really the intellectualist bias of psychoanalytically informed psychotherapy that is crumbling. The social naïveté required by the theoretical polarities of objectivism and subjectivism will no longer support a practice that promises greater freedom. Diminishing daily is the authority of a logic that recognizes no roots in worldly actions.


1. The work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1977; 1990; Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992) focuses on a scientific study of human interaction which is cognizant of the pitfalls of the conflicting poles within intellectualism of "objectivism" and "subjectivism" -- both of which are rejected and redefined relative to the recognition of a distinct "logic of practice." I hope that the perceived significance of this work to the understanding of psychoanalytic practice will justify my extensive use of quotations.

2. For a similar discussion, which focuses on technique but relies on something else, see Ferenzci's (1927; pp.186-189) description of how the analyst learns to gain control of the countertransference.



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[After Post-Modernism Conference. Copyright 1997.]

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