On the Matter of Neuro-Psychoanalysis: A Reason to Resist or Resistance to Reason?

Panel Discussion with Prof. Dr. Christine Kirchhoff and Prof. Dr. Mark Solms

A hybrid event hosted by krIPU Berlin and moderated by Benedikt Salfeld

About the Panel Discussion

The scientific position and legitimation of psychoanalysis have always been the subject of heated debates. The discipline is frequently confronted with accusations of being unscientific, either to vilify it as a whole or to finally (re-)place it on the solid ground of the exact sciences – and most recently: that of brain research.

Already Sigmund Freud gave conflicting answers to the question about the relationship between psychoanalysis and neuroscience. At times, he indulged in the dream of the arriving of a unified science that would bring certainty where he was still venturing in speculative darkness. At other times, he precisely warned against the confusion of the actual object of psychological investigation – the psyche – and neurophysiology. Observation, however, remained observation for him, no matter whether it was the cell of a snail or the dream of a patient, and thus in 1940, approaching the end of his life, he resumed: “Psychology, too, is a natural science. What else can it be?”

Neuropsychoanalysis cherishes this by promising integrative work with the aid of scientific methods, whereas psychoanalytic schools continue to pluralize and seemingly coexist without contradiction. Neuropsychoanalysis challenges this with the central question of how they can then still guarantee a binding nature of their concepts and thus of the basis of their therapeutic work. Is neuropsychoanalysis the unified science that Freud sometimes longed for?

However, the positivistic promise of exact findings, must not only be doubted in view of the prophetic staging of some brain researchers and the recurring crises of replication. It would be even more fundamental to ask whether the originality of psychoanalytical experience should not be sought precisely in its resistance. In that which eludes the unifying subsumption under existing systems of knowledge, and which cannot be fixated by any laboratory.

Can id, ego and superego become visible by imaging techniques? Does metapsychology correspond with ‘things’ in the brain? Can the core thesis of psychoanalysis – that there is an unconscious that can never become fully accessible – be refuted by neuropsychoanalysis and its methods? Or does the psychoanalytic experience remain entirely unaffected by neurocognitive findings? Is the Freudian “package of healing and research” to be strengthened or must it give way to a division of labour between laboratory and couch? And does psychoanalysis thus prove its resisting spirit when it opposes neuroscientific incorporation, or does it irrationally defend itself against the mortification of having its interpretational sovereignty taken away by researchers beyond its practice?

Prof. Dr. Christine Kirchhoff and Prof. Dr. Mark Solms will debate the matter of neuropsychoanalysis and its implications for the epistemology, metapsychology and clinic of psychoanalysis at the invitation of the krIPU BERLIN. The discussion will be moderated by Benedikt Salfeld.

Friday, February 11th, 2022, 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm

In Person: Auditorium 1 (3rd Floor), Stromstr. 2, 10555 Berlin
Online: Link will be sent to everyone registered.