Online Dictionary of Mental Health
Top Ten Bestsellers (continuously updated): abuse, adhd, adoption, aging, aids, alcoholism, alternative medicine, anxiety disorders, autism, bipolar disorder, child development, child care, conversion disorders, counseling psychology, cults, death and dying, depression, dissociative disorders, domestic violence, dreams, eating disorders, forensic psychology, gay, lesbian & bisexual, grief, learning disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, parenting, personality disorders, professional counseling and psychotherapy, psychiatry, psychopathy, PTSD, rape, schizophrenia, sexual disorders, self-esteem, self-help, stress, suicide, violence.

[ HOME | A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z ]

 | What's new | Search | Guestbook | Feedback | Add Your URL |

Burying Freud

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

I am interested in trying to get some version of "Grünbaum v. Crews" published by the New York Review of Books. To do this I believe I need help from others, since I received no response to my Letters to the Editor challenging Crews's dismissive attack on psychoanalysis. The New York Review of Books reaches an audience that is influential among the kind of people who have traditionally sought psychoanalytic treatment. I have asked Crews for help in getting this paper published, but he says the editor is tired of the topic. My argument is that in the free marketplace of ideas, the best arguments on both sides should be presented. I don't think Crews has ever answered these arguments.

I have published a paper presenting an empirical argument for parts of psychoanalytic theory -- A Clinical Strategy for the Validation of Psychoanalytic Theory" in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought (1990). The short "Grünbaum v. Crews" could be expanded to present a better argument for seeking psychoanalytic treatment. It seems to me some of the problems in answering Crews result from presenting arguments which he easily demolishes. So I will devote the rest of this message to what seems to me wrong with Jonathan Lear's defense of psychoanalysis published in The New Republic December 1995.

Part of the problem is focusing on Freud as a person and thinker. This is a fascinating topic but complex and difficult. It is also irrelevant to a person who today contemplates seeking psychoanalytic treatment. Therefore, I believe it should be treated as a separate issue. A major point of Lear's defense is the importance of the concept of the unconscious, but many claim that Freud was not the originator of this concept. Moreover, Lear fails to distinguish the Freudian unconscious from the nonFreudian unconscious central to cognitive psychology. Evidence for the nonFreudian unconscious does not help as an argument for seeking psychoanalytic treatment.

Another problem with Lear's argument is that much of it is ad hominem, focusing on the motivations of Freud bashers and, thus, contributing to the stereotype that analysts are addicted to ad homimen arguments. I agree with Lear on some points and focus here on the disagreements.

Lear says, "Freud's achievement, from this perspective, is to locate these meanings fully inside the human world. Humans make meaning, for themselves and for others, of which they have no direct or immediate awareness. People make more meaning than they know what to do with. This is what Freud meant by the unconscious. And whatever valid criticisms can be aimed at him or at the psychoanalytic profession, it is nevertheless true that psychoanalysis is the most sustained and successful attempt to make these obscure meanings." This description of Freud's achievement is extremely vague, and his claim for the success of psychoanalysis is unsupported by any argument.

Lear discusses the controversy over Freud's seduction theory, but this chapter in the history of psychoanalysis does not bring credit to psychoanalysis. It would be better to acknowledge it as a "mistake" (Simon JAPA, 1990). I know from my psychiatric training at Mount Zion (1962) that analysts did not deny the importance of actual seduction, but it was avoided in the psychoanalytic journals as is easily verified by comparing published discussion before and after Masson. Milton Klein's (1980) writings were totally ignored. Janet Malcolms's description of the response Masson encountered to the initial presentation of his ideas to psychoanalysts accurately conveys how psychoanalysts often respond to new heretical ideas, regardless of Masson's genuine failings as a scholar.

Lear says, "Psychoanalysis distinguishes itself from other forms of talking cure by its rigorous attempt to work out a procedure which genuinely avoids suggestion." This kind of argument is so easily refuted that it discredits rather than supports psychoanalysis. The nature of psychoanalytic technique makes suggestion unavoidable. It has often been noted that analysands tend to adopt the pet theories of their analysts. This does not mean that psychoanalysis is worthless. It means that analysts should try to improve their theories and be aware of the inevitable effects of suggestion.

Lear's response to Grünbaum's critique seems to me inadequate. I think the best way to reconcile psychoanalysis with natural science is to view psychoanalysis as working at a high level of uncertainty, much higher than is acceptable to those working in the natural sciences. The methods of natural science are inappropriate to psychoanalysis, but the concepts of truth, evidence, and causality are no different. Lear says, "There is no doubt that the causal claims of psychoanalysis cannot be established in the same way as a causal claim in a hard-core empirical science like experimental physics. But neither can any causal claim of any form of psychology which interprets people's actions on the basis of their motives-- including the ordinary psychology of everyday life." I believe that commonsense psychology plays an important role in supporting parts of psychoanalysis, but not as used by Lear. Robinson focuses on the Tally argument, whereas the crux of Grünbaum's critique is pp. 256-66 using Mill's cannons of induction. Psychoanalysis has found no alternative way to support the causal claims of Freud. The causal beliefs of every day psychology fit natural science epistemology despite obvious differences from the methods of physics.

Lear says, "Humans are inherently makers and interpreters of meaning." This is very vague with no definition of "meaning," a very slippery term. I don't disagree, but I don't believe this statement does much to help psychoanalysis. What he says about history is true but merely means that the social sciences operate at a greater level of uncertainty. Nothing Lear says would persuade a historian to seek psychoanalytic treatment because Lear presents no argument of the kind that would persuade a historian to believe any psychoanalytic hypothesis. As stated earlier, Lear's talk about the unconscious fails to distinguish the Freudian from the nonFreudian unconscious. My proposed paper would attempt to support specific psychoanalytic ideas with commonsense arguments.

Eric Gillett, M.D.

 


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 |

Burying Freud

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

I am interested in trying to get some version of "Grünbaum v. Crews" published by the New York Review of Books. To do this I believe I need help from others, since I received no response to my Letters to the Editor challenging Crews's dismissive attack on psychoanalysis. The New York Review of Books reaches an audience that is influential among the kind of people who have traditionally sought psychoanalytic treatment. I have asked Crews for help in getting this paper published, but he says the editor is tired of the topic. My argument is that in the free marketplace of ideas, the best arguments on both sides should be presented. I don't think Crews has ever answered these arguments.

I have published a paper presenting an empirical argument for parts of psychoanalytic theory -- A Clinical Strategy for the Validation of Psychoanalytic Theory" in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought (1990). The short "Grünbaum v. Crews" could be expanded to present a better argument for seeking psychoanalytic treatment. It seems to me some of the problems in answering Crews result from presenting arguments which he easily demolishes. So I will devote the rest of this message to what seems to me wrong with Jonathan Lear's defense of psychoanalysis published in The New Republic December 1995.

Part of the problem is focusing on Freud as a person and thinker. This is a fascinating topic but complex and difficult. It is also irrelevant to a person who today contemplates seeking psychoanalytic treatment. Therefore, I believe it should be treated as a separate issue. A major point of Lear's defense is the importance of the concept of the unconscious, but many claim that Freud was not the originator of this concept. Moreover, Lear fails to distinguish the Freudian unconscious from the nonFreudian unconscious central to cognitive psychology. Evidence for the nonFreudian unconscious does not help as an argument for seeking psychoanalytic treatment.

Another problem with Lear's argument is that much of it is ad hominem, focusing on the motivations of Freud bashers and, thus, contributing to the stereotype that analysts are addicted to ad homimen arguments. I agree with Lear on some points and focus here on the disagreements.

Lear says, "Freud's achievement, from this perspective, is to locate these meanings fully inside the human world. Humans make meaning, for themselves and for others, of which they have no direct or immediate awareness. People make more meaning than they know what to do with. This is what Freud meant by the unconscious. And whatever valid criticisms can be aimed at him or at the psychoanalytic profession, it is nevertheless true that psychoanalysis is the most sustained and successful attempt to make these obscure meanings." This description of Freud's achievement is extremely vague, and his claim for the success of psychoanalysis is unsupported by any argument.

Lear discusses the controversy over Freud's seduction theory, but this chapter in the history of psychoanalysis does not bring credit to psychoanalysis. It would be better to acknowledge it as a "mistake" (Simon JAPA, 1990). I know from my psychiatric training at Mount Zion (1962) that analysts did not deny the importance of actual seduction, but it was avoided in the psychoanalytic journals as is easily verified by comparing published discussion before and after Masson. Milton Klein's (1980) writings were totally ignored. Janet Malcolms's description of the response Masson encountered to the initial presentation of his ideas to psychoanalysts accurately conveys how psychoanalysts often respond to new heretical ideas, regardless of Masson's genuine failings as a scholar.

Lear says, "Psychoanalysis distinguishes itself from other forms of talking cure by its rigorous attempt to work out a procedure which genuinely avoids suggestion." This kind of argument is so easily refuted that it discredits rather than supports psychoanalysis. The nature of psychoanalytic technique makes suggestion unavoidable. It has often been noted that analysands tend to adopt the pet theories of their analysts. This does not mean that psychoanalysis is worthless. It means that analysts should try to improve their theories and be aware of the inevitable effects of suggestion.

Lear's response to Grünbaum's critique seems to me inadequate. I think the best way to reconcile psychoanalysis with natural science is to view psychoanalysis as working at a high level of uncertainty, much higher than is acceptable to those working in the natural sciences. The methods of natural science are inappropriate to psychoanalysis, but the concepts of truth, evidence, and causality are no different. Lear says, "There is no doubt that the causal claims of psychoanalysis cannot be established in the same way as a causal claim in a hard-core empirical science like experimental physics. But neither can any causal claim of any form of psychology which interprets people's actions on the basis of their motives-- including the ordinary psychology of everyday life." I believe that commonsense psychology plays an important role in supporting parts of psychoanalysis, but not as used by Lear. Robinson focuses on the Tally argument, whereas the crux of Grünbaum's critique is pp. 256-66 using Mill's cannons of induction. Psychoanalysis has found no alternative way to support the causal claims of Freud. The causal beliefs of every day psychology fit natural science epistemology despite obvious differences from the methods of physics.

Lear says, "Humans are inherently makers and interpreters of meaning." This is very vague with no definition of "meaning," a very slippery term. I don't disagree, but I don't believe this statement does much to help psychoanalysis. What he says about history is true but merely means that the social sciences operate at a greater level of uncertainty. Nothing Lear says would persuade a historian to seek psychoanalytic treatment because Lear presents no argument of the kind that would persuade a historian to believe any psychoanalytic hypothesis. As stated earlier, Lear's talk about the unconscious fails to distinguish the Freudian from the nonFreudian unconscious. My proposed paper would attempt to support specific psychoanalytic ideas with commonsense arguments.

Eric Gillett, M.D.

 


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 |