In 2007, Rachel Blass and Zvi Carmeli ignited a debate when they published what they considered to be apposite and timely arguments against neuropsychoanalysis in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. Their article has subsequently resulted in a response from a number of influential academics and clinicians from the fields of psychoanalysis, neuroscience and neuropsychology. In essence, the criticisms put forward revolve around their belief that the biological focus of neuroscience and its empirical findings (an ‘only what is biological is real’ perspective) has negative implications for psychoanalysis as a field, and undermines the fundamental and unique purpose and tradition of psychoanalytic theory and practice: to interpret and understand, in a distinctively psychological way, the meanings of patients’ difficulties through the lens of discourse. In constructing their argument, Blass and Carmeli claim and cite a number of fallacies, drawing on different areas of neuroscientific study, such as trauma and memory, as examples.
Below follows the chronological sequence of how this ongoing debate has unfolded amongst the various authors, with links to the articles and letters provided.
- Here is Blass and Carmeli’s initial article that got this debate started:
Blass, R. B., & Carmeli, Z. (2007). The case against neuropsychoanalysis. On fallacies underlying psychoanalysis’ latest scientific trend and its negative impact on psychoanalytic discourse. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 88(Pt 1), 19–40.
- In 2015, Yovell, Solms and Fotopoulou responded with a counter response to Blass and Carmeli:
Yovell, Y., Solms, M., & Fotopoulou, A. (2015). The case for neuropsychoanalysis: Why a dialogue with neuroscience is necessary but not sufficient for psychoanalysis. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 96, 1515 – 1553.
- In turn, Blass and Carmeli then again responded to the arguments put forward to by Yovell, Solms and Fotopoulou:
Blass, R. B., & Carmeli, Z. (2015). Further evidence for the case against neuropsychoanalysis: How Yovell, Solms, and Fotopoulou’s response to our critique confirms the irrelevance and harmfulness to psychoanalysis of the contemporary neuroscientific trend. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 96(6), 1555–1573.
- Canestri also then weighed into the debate on the side of neuropsychoanalysis:
Canestri, J. (2015). The case for neuropsychoanalysis. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 96(6), 1575–1584.
- In 2016, Luba Kessler contributed to the ongoing dialogue, as did Sandberg and Busch:
Kessler, L. (2016). Commentary on ‘The case for neuropsychoanalysis’. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 97(4), 1145–1147.
Sandberg, L. S. (2016). On the argument for (and against) neuropsychoanalysis. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 97(4), 1149–1150.
Busch, F. (2016). How the impact of medication on psychoanalytic theory and treatment refutes Blass and Carmeli (2015). The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 97(4), 1151-1153.
- Most recently, Blass and Carmeli have offered a response to the perspectives put forward by Kessler, Sandberg and Busch:
Blass, R., & Carmeli, Z. (2016). Response to Kessler, Sandberg, and Busch: The case for and against neuropsychoanalysis. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 97(4), 1155–1158.
- Finally, two additional letters are in the pipeline, along with a further response by Yovell, Fotopoulou and Solms coming soon to the International Journal of Psychoanalysis.
Posted by Ross Balchin, December 9, 2017.
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