Publication 6313

Mackay N. (2003) Psychotherapy and the idea of meaning. Theory & Psychology 13: 359–386. Fulltext at
A number of influential theorists in psychotherapy and psychology rightly argue that meaning is central to psychology. However, they ground this insight on further claims that persons autonomously create meaning and reality; and that a constructivist, anti-realist, postmodern philosophy offers justification for the centrality of meaning. These further claims are mistaken. They confuse symbolic meaning with meaning as salience. The latter, the meaning usually of concern to psychotherapy, is a relation between a person (specifically motives) and objects. It results from the interaction between persons and objects relevant to their motivational interests. It is part of the real, determinate world and in principle scientifiically investigable. The argument that meaning is part of autonomously created realities is incoherent. Further, anti-realist, postmodern constructivism depends on the realist assumptions about facts, truth and objective knowledge that it denies. The genuine insights of the meaning-making movement require a realist account of knowledge, truth and objectivity.

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