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Burying Freud

[ Burying Freud Homepage | Freud's Seduction Theory Homepage ]

I printed out the letter from your [Bernard X. Bovasso] web page. It is very impressive. I agree that a devaluing of critical introspection lies behind the Freud bashing. I think this point is probably wasted on the empiric medics who read the Lancet, but is of great interest to psychologists. I have been corresponding with a professor at Carnegie Mellon on the topic of ethical responsibility and its motivation of political action. One of the big trends in academia these days is the creation of centers for teaching business and professional ethics; so maybe some critical self reflection will balance things out.

The most interesting thing about your reply is the epistemological issues you raise. I have seen ideologues use science as a shield of ignorance with which they would disqualify all value judgments with which they disagree. I think back to my old thesis advisors' very Germanic distinction between natural and social sciences; the social sciences have a different epistemology, much like Comte's version of positivism (the moral science) before the Vienna circle and the logical positivists turned it into cultivated ignorance. Such a 'science' is inherently value laden, but self-reflective, whereas the empirical version of natural science conceals its agenda behind a method, which in and of itself, is value-free, as is any tool, whether a hammer or a gun. Freud's science is not value free, and thus lets no one off the hook. The empirics have a blind spot here. In the final analysis, psychiatrists are trading in psychoanalysis for pharmaceuticals the way a shaman trades in one ghost for another to effect a cure. From a purely technical standpoint, psychoanalysis may be obsolete. Its value may lie not in curing the masses, for whom behaviorist animal training and medication will do. However, Freuds' attempt at creating a philosophic system of critical self reflection is the foundation of Western philosophy. In this sense, I am not sure it is really 'modern', anymore than the technological fetishism which passes for science is much of an improvement on magical manipulations. In my research I have found that the medications used by 'modern' psychiatry are not substantially different from those used by shamans. Their use can be rationalized equally well by biological reductionism, psychoanalysis or evil spirits. Knowing the mechanisms by which drugs act (which passes for science) does nothing to effect a cure, or even a humane treatment, much less provide knowledge. In the final analysis, psychiatry and medicine in general is simply not scientific, and is not in a position to make statements about what is scientific. In fact, the decision process used by a psychiatrist to prescribe medication is grossly unscientific; their trial and error 'experiments' in prescribing drugs for individual cases are much less scientific than the hypothetico-deductive reasoning which a psychoanalyst may use. As for the biological understanding of the human being, what value does it really provide apart from the creation of biotechnology, which any other belief system also provides. Perhaps less, and that is an empirical question.

Gregory Bovasso


human-nature.com
Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

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 | Human Nature | The Human Nature Daily Review | Psychiatry Research Online |

Burying Freud

[ Burying Freud Homepage | Freud's Seduction Theory Homepage ]

I printed out the letter from your [Bernard X. Bovasso] web page. It is very impressive. I agree that a devaluing of critical introspection lies behind the Freud bashing. I think this point is probably wasted on the empiric medics who read the Lancet, but is of great interest to psychologists. I have been corresponding with a professor at Carnegie Mellon on the topic of ethical responsibility and its motivation of political action. One of the big trends in academia these days is the creation of centers for teaching business and professional ethics; so maybe some critical self reflection will balance things out.

The most interesting thing about your reply is the epistemological issues you raise. I have seen ideologues use science as a shield of ignorance with which they would disqualify all value judgments with which they disagree. I think back to my old thesis advisors' very Germanic distinction between natural and social sciences; the social sciences have a different epistemology, much like Comte's version of positivism (the moral science) before the Vienna circle and the logical positivists turned it into cultivated ignorance. Such a 'science' is inherently value laden, but self-reflective, whereas the empirical version of natural science conceals its agenda behind a method, which in and of itself, is value-free, as is any tool, whether a hammer or a gun. Freud's science is not value free, and thus lets no one off the hook. The empirics have a blind spot here. In the final analysis, psychiatrists are trading in psychoanalysis for pharmaceuticals the way a shaman trades in one ghost for another to effect a cure. From a purely technical standpoint, psychoanalysis may be obsolete. Its value may lie not in curing the masses, for whom behaviorist animal training and medication will do. However, Freuds' attempt at creating a philosophic system of critical self reflection is the foundation of Western philosophy. In this sense, I am not sure it is really 'modern', anymore than the technological fetishism which passes for science is much of an improvement on magical manipulations. In my research I have found that the medications used by 'modern' psychiatry are not substantially different from those used by shamans. Their use can be rationalized equally well by biological reductionism, psychoanalysis or evil spirits. Knowing the mechanisms by which drugs act (which passes for science) does nothing to effect a cure, or even a humane treatment, much less provide knowledge. In the final analysis, psychiatry and medicine in general is simply not scientific, and is not in a position to make statements about what is scientific. In fact, the decision process used by a psychiatrist to prescribe medication is grossly unscientific; their trial and error 'experiments' in prescribing drugs for individual cases are much less scientific than the hypothetico-deductive reasoning which a psychoanalyst may use. As for the biological understanding of the human being, what value does it really provide apart from the creation of biotechnology, which any other belief system also provides. Perhaps less, and that is an empirical question.

Gregory Bovasso


human-nature.com
Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

US -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.com logo

UK -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.co.uk logo

 | Human Nature | The Human Nature Daily Review | Psychiatry Research Online |