Psychoanalytic Epistemology

The details
Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
17 June 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA C89012 Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA C89024 Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA C890MO Psychoanalytic Studies,
MPHDC89048 Psychoanalytic Studies,
PHD C89048 Psychoanalytic Studies

Module description

Many of the discoveries of psychoanalysis (the unconscious, transference, childhood sexuality, the super-ego) have become so accepted in Western culture that they are part of the general attitude to life. Yet, at the same time, critics of psychoanalysis claim that psychoanalysis is not a science, or that its 'discoveries' are artefacts, or that it is a flawed or a pseudo-science: perhaps a belief or religious system. Freud was clear about it: it is a science; what else could it be? This module critically examines the ways that knowledge is – and has been – generated in psychoanalysis, specifically in psychoanalytic practice, that is, in the psychoanalytic process.

In other modules, you are exploring the context in which psychoanalysis originated, aiming to address the issue of how it stands apart from its context. You are also looking in depth into psychoanalytic theory and exploring the way it enhances our understanding of groups, organizations and culture.
In this module, in contrast, we will examine psychoanalysis from the outside, from the perspective of the philosophy of science. We will first critically explore Freud's methodology for the construction of his theories. We will subsequently read some of the main criticisms and reinterpretations of his theories.

Psychoanalysis is located at the edge of the two traditions classically called Aristotelian and Galilean. We will attempt to understand what this means for the psychoanalytic claims of scientificity and, based on that assessment, on what type of methodology is most suited to study it objects.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To debate the nature of psychoanalytic evidence

  • To review claims of psychoanalytic writers for the validity of their observations and conclusions

  • To examine the relations between psychoanalysis and the ideas and theories of other fields of study

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the methods of generating knowledge from clinical practice

  2. Engage in critical analysis of psychoanalytic discoveries, on the basis of debates arising both in the psychoanalytic literature and brought to the psychoanalytical literature (eg from philosophy).

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • A general introduction by the lecturer, a presentation of the paper/s by the student/s, followed by a group discussion


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   PA928 essay    100% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Leonardo Niro, email:
Dr Leonardo Niro
Student Administrator 5A.202; Tel: 01206 873745 Email:



External examiner

Prof Calum Bruce MacDonald Neill
Edinburgh Napier University
Professor of Psychoanalysis & Continental Philosophy
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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