A confusion of tongues between psychoanalysis and philosophy: Is the controversy over drive versus relational theory a philosophical one?

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In recent years the controversy over Drive versus Relational models of the psyche has become entangled in a philosophical controversy over epistemology. Some have argued that the Drive model was a relic of an age of positivistic science, while Relational models are a product of a postmodern condition. This paper argues that the controversy need not be a philosophical one, and that Relational views are not, in fact, a product of postmodernism, nor are they necessarily dependent on a postmodern epistemology. Separating the epistemological from the psychological more carefully may help return the debate to its proper, psychoanalytic domain, and perhaps contribute to a more fruitful dialogue across what, at times, seems like an abyss between Relational views and Drive theory.

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