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American Imago 58.3 (2001) 623-625
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Peter L. Rudnytsky
Heisenberg: A touch of Elsinore there, perhaps.
Heisenberg: The darkness inside the human soul.
--Michael Frayn, Copenhagen
By inaugurating my editorship of American Imago with a special issue devoted to "The Significance of Psychoanalysis for the Human Sciences," I mean to look both to the past and to the future. In 1913, one year after the founding of the original German-language Imago, Hanns Sachs and Otto Rank jointly published a monograph with this title. Sachs, of course, cofounded American Imago with Freud in 1939 and became this journal's first editor until 1946, the year before his death. Sachs was followed by George Wilbur until 1963; and when, in 1964, Harry Slochower became Editor-in-Chief, he began his quarter-century tenure by reprinting the text of Rank and Sachs in its entirety.
Slochower, however, rendered the German Geisteswissenschaften as "Humanities," while I have preferred "Human Sciences." In this modification, I signal the direction I hope to take the journal in the future. The term "human sciences" is at once venerable and contemporary. It evokes the contrast in hermeneutic theory between the human or historical sciences, on one hand, and the natural sciences, on the other. The term is thus at least approximately synonymous with "the humanities" and captures the abiding concern of American Imago with the relations between psychoanalysis and culture in all its aspects. But there is both an elasticity and a rigor to the notion of "human sciences" that is lacking in "humanities." For in postulating an antinomy between the realms of "human" and "natural" science, the term paradoxically also brings them into conjunction. Must the human [End Page 623] sciences be opposed to the natural sciences, or do they, as Edward O. Wilson (1998) argues, exhibit a "consilience" that attests to the unity of knowledge?
The debates over the status of psychoanalysis as a discipline can be summed up in the ambiguities of "human science." To quote from Robert Wallerstein's review in this issue, there is "the range through the perspectives of psychoanalysis as a natural science (Freud's vision), or as a different social-behavioral science (with different methods of inquiry or not), or as a uniquely 'hermeneutic science' (Gill's coinage), or as no science at all, a totally hermeneutic discipline, historical or linguistic or philosophical." As Wallerstein adds, "these all have their advocates, and also their fierce opponents."
My own position on these questions is that it is vital for those who use psychoanalytic theory, whether as scholars or clinicians, to think critically about its assumptions and to be prepared to discard those principles of metapsychology that have been discredited by scientific research. Granted, one may still be able to write a brilliant paper using such speculative concepts as the death instinct or primary narcissism; and, as an editor, I see it as my function not to impose my views on an author, but rather to aid that author in expressing his or her thoughts as cogently and eloquently as possible. But while the journal is open to papers emanating from any wave length along the psychoanalytic spectrum, I am especially keen to publish work animated by genuinely critical thinking; and it is probably the case that those whose allegiance to psychoanalysis is more a matter of faith than of reason will have an easier time of it elsewhere.
I am pleased to offer the contents of this issue as a foretaste of what is to come. The four papers move dialectically from Stephen Frosh's situating of psychoanalysis at the crossroads of "Reason, Discourse, and Fantasy," to Virginia Demos's rigorous assessment of the comparative failure of attachment theory and the success of neuroscience in providing a scientific foundation for psychoanalysis, to Jason Glynos and Yannis Stavrakakis's defense of Lacan's style and use of mathematics against the strictures of Alan Sokol and Jean Bricmont, to Bennett Simon's interpretation of Hamlet in light [End Page 624] of contemporary trauma theory. As a feature of my editorship, American Imago will now include a limited...