Explanation and interpretation in psychoanalysis : a reading of Freud's introductory lectures on psychoanalysis.
A reading of the first volume of Sigmund Freud's Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
(1916-17 [1915-17]), concentrating on the account of the technique for the interpretation
of dreams. In these lectures Freud attempts to elaborate an empirical model for the
investigation and explanation of the dream. Closer examination of this argument,
however, quickly brings to light certain diffIculties that allow us to question whether the
validity of psychoanalytic procedures could ever be sustained in these terms. It is
suggested that this account requires the introduction of conditions and assumptions of
This argument amounts to a critique of the attempt to provide empirical foundations for
certain key psychoanalytic concepts, in favour of a deduction of the validity of those
concepts at the level of formal conditions of the technique of interpretation itself. It
suggests that the legitimacy of that technique of interpretation depends upon a particular
mode of deduction that can be considered characteristic of psychoanalytic procedure in
general. The validity of the central concepts of psychoanalysis is then to be considered in
terms of the procedure of argument from which their status is derived.
Two models of psychoanalytic investigation are considered - an empirical model for the
explanation of the dream and a more formal account of the fundamental principles of
interpretation. The thesis concludes that these two models are not in fact exclusive but are
rather complementary, and that a comprehensive statement of the conditions of validity of
the technique of psychoanalytic interpretation can only be achieved through their
interaction and articulation. At the same time it attempts to demonstrate that these issues
have a fundamental influence upon our conception of the orientation and goals of that
technique of interpretation.