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Psychoanalysis And Research: A Matter Of Ethics

The Letter, Issue 28, Summer 2003, Pages 96 - 108


An Lievrouw

In our society, the notion of knowledge has become dependent on the notion of science. The latter holds that knowledge can be collected and classified through formal abstraction and that it can be made accessible, provided that methodological rules are respected. By following a methodological guiding system, scientists aim at getting as close as possible to reality in as objective a way as possible. In line with this trend non-analysts and analysts often discuss the scientific status of psychoanalysis. The general tenor of these discussions is that psychoanalysts should concentrate on the scientific foundations of psychoanalysis.[1] A remarkable trend in these discussions is the tendency psychoanalysis. to consider science as equivalent to statistically based research.

Considering human sciences in general, it is remarkable that quantitative research should be considered the most suitable method to obtain knowledge on human functioning. This kind of research is bound to live up to standards of objectivity (using standardized samples, objective and reliable measuring procedures, etc.) and ought to produce purified knowledge, that is, quantified knowledge that is not contaminated by a researcher's subjectivity. Qualitative research implies an alternative approach, since it is based on 'data in the form of words - that is, language in the form of extended text'.[2]

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