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Burying Freud

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

Bernard X. Bovasso replied to my first long posting focussing on the question of lunacy, delusion, religion, etc. There is much in B. X. Bovasso's piece that I have sympathy for. I am happy that he has extended the debate to broader questions than the narrowly scientific. I am sorry that he misinterprets me as narrowly scientistic.

I agree that Freud was hateful of the black mud of occultism, and that this would explain his reluctance to notice any parallel with his own ideas, though they were there. I am not sure you can call his theory of race memory metaphysical, however. I think it was simply Lamarckian, and Lamarck, despite Darwin, was not yet entirely dead as a scientist (nor is he even today: his shadow continues to haunt much of psychology). I am not familiar enough with Jung s archetypes to agree or disagree regarding their epistemological cogency.

I most emphatically did not draw the case that Freud could not be taken to account for lunatic notions simply because such notions may have been shared by a great number of people. Our apparent disagreement here is likely semantic. I took issue with the inappropriate use of lunacy. According to the semantic conventions I subscribe to, lunacy was a category mistake by Tallis: a wrong idea cannot be delusional if it is culturally shared. This means I also disagree with Freud who talks of illusion or delusion in connection with religion. A nonlunacy can still be entirely wrong. Even if it is not shared, it is not necessarily lunatic. Think of Kepler s idea that the celestial spheres to which were attached the planets also enclosed the 5 perfect solids nested inside one another -- a perfectly lunatic idea. But we don t call it that. His idea was not impervious to evidence to the contrary. He then got it right, and paved the way for Newton. Similarly, psychopathy is generally called sociopathy or antisocial these days, which is not what you mean to say -- again, semantic differences.

On to the substance of your comments: why the renewed urgency to bury Dr. Freud?

Is the scientificity of psychoanalysis a relevant question? Yes, I think so, but I would agree with you that it is NOT the most pertinent question. I agree that any historical evaluation (rather than validation) of Freud requires a perspective that does not limit him to the criteria of hard edge (classical) empirical science. But I also believe that you are entirely mistaken in construing the Popperian epistemology as utilitarian, or as obsolete. Most current epistemologies remain prePopperian. Popper has rendered THEM obsolete. So Popper is still very much alive. And I would suggest that you read Popper on utilitarianism.

You suggest that science has to do with a manner or mode of interpreting reality as it is grasped in any given epoch. I prefer to use concepts such as epistemology or metaphysic or Weltanschauung for this. Between objectivist truth and subjectivist truth: that is where Freud stands (rather than lies). Paul Ricoeur is very good on this point, I think.

I think you are quite right that psychoanalysis replaced religion for a significant segment of bourgeois society. This would be true for me as well: I was raised Catholic, and was once an altar boy. The question of a secular religion or ideology is an interesting one. I believe that psychoanalysis is to some extent an ideology. I also believe that there are significant aspects of human existence that are insusceptible to the Popperian scientific project. For example, the psyche. In this regard, Popper agrees. His psychology embodies, by his own admission, a nonscientific metaphysic. When we don t like these things, we call them ideologies. When we do, we call them something else, like psychology. It is always interesting to to identify the ideological base of a psychology. Some ideologies are better than others. I have come to prefer psychoanalysis to Catholicism. The reasons are complicated.

In your last part, I have difficulty following you. You go on to talk of New Age religion and esoterica, contemporary sexuality, the new preeminence of the single parent maternal family, the welfare state, feminism, gay rights, etc. as hostile to Freud. I agree. Your hypothesis regarding the two options of the male child with single maternal parent -- to be gay or macho -- is an interesting one. I agree that psychological introspection has been conveniently transpersonalized. I doubt these trends would have mollified Freud, though. I suspect he would regard them all with deep suspicion.

You seem to claim that Freud is both an obsolete skeptic and a continued agency for conscience. This I do not follow. You interpret the motivation of Webster, Tallis et al. as a peculiar sort of indwelled but unreflected contemporary suffering that is marked by a dread for what haunts...the individual psyche. I think there is the New Age way of doing this, which transpersonalizes the intrapsychic, and projects it into the social, or cosmic; and then there is the scientistic way of doing it, which simply abolishes the intrapsychic. I think this is what Webster, Tallis et al. are doing -- simply denying the haunting.

Regarding Gregory Bovasso's comments on B.X.B.'s comments, I agree that a devaluing of critical introspection lies behind the Freud bashing. I agree that when science is used as a shield of ignorance, that it becomes ideological (in the bad sense), and precritically value-laden. I don t agree that scientific method is value-free, just that it poses as value-free. When it does this, however, it is generally making the inductivist error -- commiting the fallacy of affirming the consequent in some fashion. This is the blind spot.

However. I have not found psychoanalysis to be obsolete from a technical standpoint, though it is labour-intensive and thus difficult to deliver to the masses. G.B. suggests that behaviorist animal training and medication are preferable. I assume he is being facetious. I would not hold that medications used by 'modern' psychiatry are comparable to those used by shamans. I think we likely disagree on what science is all about. I could not follow his concluding remarks about science and scientific psychiatry, except to have the feeling that I disagreed with it. I think it is a mistake to swing from the scientistic pole to the opposite. Freud stands in between.

John A. O Neil, MD, FRCPC
McGill, Montreal, Canada.

 


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

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Burying Freud

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

Bernard X. Bovasso replied to my first long posting focussing on the question of lunacy, delusion, religion, etc. There is much in B. X. Bovasso's piece that I have sympathy for. I am happy that he has extended the debate to broader questions than the narrowly scientific. I am sorry that he misinterprets me as narrowly scientistic.

I agree that Freud was hateful of the black mud of occultism, and that this would explain his reluctance to notice any parallel with his own ideas, though they were there. I am not sure you can call his theory of race memory metaphysical, however. I think it was simply Lamarckian, and Lamarck, despite Darwin, was not yet entirely dead as a scientist (nor is he even today: his shadow continues to haunt much of psychology). I am not familiar enough with Jung s archetypes to agree or disagree regarding their epistemological cogency.

I most emphatically did not draw the case that Freud could not be taken to account for lunatic notions simply because such notions may have been shared by a great number of people. Our apparent disagreement here is likely semantic. I took issue with the inappropriate use of lunacy. According to the semantic conventions I subscribe to, lunacy was a category mistake by Tallis: a wrong idea cannot be delusional if it is culturally shared. This means I also disagree with Freud who talks of illusion or delusion in connection with religion. A nonlunacy can still be entirely wrong. Even if it is not shared, it is not necessarily lunatic. Think of Kepler s idea that the celestial spheres to which were attached the planets also enclosed the 5 perfect solids nested inside one another -- a perfectly lunatic idea. But we don t call it that. His idea was not impervious to evidence to the contrary. He then got it right, and paved the way for Newton. Similarly, psychopathy is generally called sociopathy or antisocial these days, which is not what you mean to say -- again, semantic differences.

On to the substance of your comments: why the renewed urgency to bury Dr. Freud?

Is the scientificity of psychoanalysis a relevant question? Yes, I think so, but I would agree with you that it is NOT the most pertinent question. I agree that any historical evaluation (rather than validation) of Freud requires a perspective that does not limit him to the criteria of hard edge (classical) empirical science. But I also believe that you are entirely mistaken in construing the Popperian epistemology as utilitarian, or as obsolete. Most current epistemologies remain prePopperian. Popper has rendered THEM obsolete. So Popper is still very much alive. And I would suggest that you read Popper on utilitarianism.

You suggest that science has to do with a manner or mode of interpreting reality as it is grasped in any given epoch. I prefer to use concepts such as epistemology or metaphysic or Weltanschauung for this. Between objectivist truth and subjectivist truth: that is where Freud stands (rather than lies). Paul Ricoeur is very good on this point, I think.

I think you are quite right that psychoanalysis replaced religion for a significant segment of bourgeois society. This would be true for me as well: I was raised Catholic, and was once an altar boy. The question of a secular religion or ideology is an interesting one. I believe that psychoanalysis is to some extent an ideology. I also believe that there are significant aspects of human existence that are insusceptible to the Popperian scientific project. For example, the psyche. In this regard, Popper agrees. His psychology embodies, by his own admission, a nonscientific metaphysic. When we don t like these things, we call them ideologies. When we do, we call them something else, like psychology. It is always interesting to to identify the ideological base of a psychology. Some ideologies are better than others. I have come to prefer psychoanalysis to Catholicism. The reasons are complicated.

In your last part, I have difficulty following you. You go on to talk of New Age religion and esoterica, contemporary sexuality, the new preeminence of the single parent maternal family, the welfare state, feminism, gay rights, etc. as hostile to Freud. I agree. Your hypothesis regarding the two options of the male child with single maternal parent -- to be gay or macho -- is an interesting one. I agree that psychological introspection has been conveniently transpersonalized. I doubt these trends would have mollified Freud, though. I suspect he would regard them all with deep suspicion.

You seem to claim that Freud is both an obsolete skeptic and a continued agency for conscience. This I do not follow. You interpret the motivation of Webster, Tallis et al. as a peculiar sort of indwelled but unreflected contemporary suffering that is marked by a dread for what haunts...the individual psyche. I think there is the New Age way of doing this, which transpersonalizes the intrapsychic, and projects it into the social, or cosmic; and then there is the scientistic way of doing it, which simply abolishes the intrapsychic. I think this is what Webster, Tallis et al. are doing -- simply denying the haunting.

Regarding Gregory Bovasso's comments on B.X.B.'s comments, I agree that a devaluing of critical introspection lies behind the Freud bashing. I agree that when science is used as a shield of ignorance, that it becomes ideological (in the bad sense), and precritically value-laden. I don t agree that scientific method is value-free, just that it poses as value-free. When it does this, however, it is generally making the inductivist error -- commiting the fallacy of affirming the consequent in some fashion. This is the blind spot.

However. I have not found psychoanalysis to be obsolete from a technical standpoint, though it is labour-intensive and thus difficult to deliver to the masses. G.B. suggests that behaviorist animal training and medication are preferable. I assume he is being facetious. I would not hold that medications used by 'modern' psychiatry are comparable to those used by shamans. I think we likely disagree on what science is all about. I could not follow his concluding remarks about science and scientific psychiatry, except to have the feeling that I disagreed with it. I think it is a mistake to swing from the scientistic pole to the opposite. Freud stands in between.

John A. O Neil, MD, FRCPC
McGill, Montreal, Canada.

 


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 |