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Burying Freud

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

Psychoanalysis and F. Crew's Idea of Science

The point Frederick Crews tries to make against Freud contains many biases, one of which I want to underline here: it concerns the very concept of science. If I was sure of not offending anyone, I would suggest that Crew's conceptions of science are strongly marked by the fruitless attempt of behaviorism at making psychology a "true" science, that is by applying the well known principle of the Procrustean bed: whatever doesn't fit in our traditional concept of science, let us ignore.

In fact, Mr. Crews demonstrates a belief that there is an objective, external, criterion of what science is, and that everyone must comply to this criterion. Ironically, this means reintroducing... God, for only God could spell an impartial criterion for what is and what is not science. Otherwise, as his ongoing Freud-bashing campaign shows very well, Mr. Crews seems to know that a lot in science relies upon the art of convincing our colleagues of the validity of our reasoning. One way of doing it is by invoking some absolute, external criterion of scientificity, and convincing others that this is the way science is done. But, again, this amounts to reinserting God in science. So it is that by pursuing a scientific ideal a bit too far, we end up in the arms of faith. Which is ironic indeed, since it is Mr. Crews who attacks psychoanalysis as demanding an act of faith. And, on this forum, we recently saw a series of "name-calling" of a similar inspiration : defenders of Freud's legacy are deemed orthodox Freudians, "true-believers" and so on. The authors of these inelegant remarks, however, seem to have not reflected long enough about what is implied in their conception of science and of scientific validation.

In fact, here we could say we are asked to concede a large domain to what I shall call "the pharmacological paradigm" of psychology, for this is the model most critics of psychoanalysis explicitly or implicitly refer to nowadays. They ask for proof of effectiveness the way we ask to be shown that a given chemical agent is truly effective against depression. Here is where a serious misunderstanding intervenes, a misunderstanding -it is true- Freud himself encouraged by his wish to make of psychoanalysis a "natural science". For we can make experimental cohorts of patients to study the effectiveness of Prozac only insofar we are studying the impersonal, common, biological (in the "animal" sense of the word) consequences of taking a chemical agent named fluoxetine. Would it be too much to recall our undertakers that psychoanalysis does not work at the same level? And moreover, that psychoanalysis is a strictly human, and strictly individual experience? That this experience cannot be duplicated, since it is an open-ended experience, open towards the unknown, towards becoming?

Here again, it must be acknowledged that the strictly deterministic stance adopted by many psychoanalysts opens the door to the kind of criticism we deal with here, because it brings back psychoanalysis at the level of animal experimentation. But a systematic study of the Freudian _method_ shows that it is not necessarily a matter of establishing (and removing) causes (much the way Moliere's physician "malgre lui" would have it: "Voila Madame pourquoi votre fille est muette"= "This is why, Madam, your daughter is deaf..."). The process of psychoanalytic investigation is to untangle the knots (this is what "analyzing" means) in order to give the analysand the freedom to knit something new. Psychoanalysis is therefore not, and must not be, a predictive science.

What Messers Crews, Tallis, Goldberg and others fail to understand, is that every new discovery is potentially creating its own criteria of scientificity. And that many major discoveries effectively did so. They created a new science. "New science" does not only mean a new application of the existent criteria, but also a modified set of criteria, a change in paradigm, as is well known. Mr. Crews also seems to believe that only the experimental is scientific. And he fails to understand the new paradigm of knowledge that was introduced by Freud (and which Freud himself possibly did not fully understand since he tried to be "scientific" the way Mr. Crews would have liked him to be, that is: in the sense of the natural sciences) does not belong to the usual way of making science.

In spite of his wish to see psychoanalysis as a natural science, Freud inscribed psychoanalyzing among the "impossible professions", along with governing and educating. This contradiction should make us think a little longer than Mr. Crews and others would like us to. What is so "impossible" about psychoanalysis, if not that it cannot indeed be practised the way an experiment is conducted in a laboratory? But let's us indeed consider the comparison with governing and educating (see also Tim Kendall's recent contribution to this forum rightfully considered child rearing). If we applied Mr. Crews way of thinking to government, then we should conduct "scientific" tests on which kind of political system is... what? The most "effective"? In terms of what: economic prosperity? individual freedom? spiritual elevation? We immediately see that there is no way we could constitute "experimental" cohorts. At least I (and I suspect, many of us) would not want to be in the eventual "dictatorial control group". The question indeed is: WHO would be in the right place to judge in an "objective" manner the different political systems? The answer is of course no one, since whoever tried out such a thing would be playing... God (again...). No one can declare himself outside the political field when discussing (or studying) a political system.

The psychoanalytical experience bears much resemblance to the political field, in that none of the partners can place him/herself outside its framework without destroying the process itself. You cannot be a neutral witness to the psychoanalytic process. You are necessarily part of it. This is by no means an ordinary experimental situation. Does it mean then that the process is worthless? I ask this: Is democracy worthless because we cannot test it experimentally? Or isn't it rather that we need new ways of assessing the knowledge we can can gather from such an experience? After all, what is "science all about if not different means of gathering knowledge?

I can hear Frederick Crews replying that in government, precisely, enters a lot of ideology, manipulation, suggestion... This is of course the danger of every system allowing free speech. But this is accessory; the question is not if there are misuses and abuses of psychoanalysis (we know there are, just as in any other field where one human being calls upon another for help), but whether psychoanalysis itself is only one more ideology. This is where the question of method becomes central. It must be remembered that psychoanalysis is first and foremost A METHOD of investigation, moreover, it is a method which doubts of everything, it puts every assertion on the same level; it does not buy the subject's emphasis on one part of its speech, as it does not neglect that which the speaker is downplaying. The psychoanalytic method of listening is therefore a principled enemy of ideology.

Do all psychoanalysts share this view of psychoanalysis? Probably not.

But this does not go against what we are saying. It just illustrates that there are many ways of understanding Freud. And this is another of Tallis, Crews and others' flaw: They build up the strawman of orthodox Freudians who religiously repeat their catechism, thus ignoring psychoanalysis very first lesson: that Freud s opus itself needs to be submitted to the psychoanalytic method. Here another parallel can be drawn between psychoanalysis and democracy. As Churchill once said, there is only one possible cure for the ills of democracy: more democracy. We can similarly say that the only way to work upon Freud s (and other s) limitations is to thoroughly apply his method to his own writings. This is the original methodological and epistemological stance of psychoanalysis, akin to what it asks of every analysand (and analyst): to dig inside oneself, with method. This is also why there can be no scientific psychoanalysis in the traditional sense of the natural sciences, for there can be no animal model of a self-reflecting, self-theorizing, self-symbolizing psyche. Now, the animal model is the bottomline of Crews and Tallis idea of science, even if they do not seem to notice. For only through such paradigm could there be an external validation of psychoanalysis as such (for I believe that non-psychoanalytic i.e. psychological hypotheses can be, and are currently drawn -and tested- from the psychoanalytic field, but this would require a long parenthesis on the difference between psychoanalysis and psychology). At the other end of Tallis or Crews reasoning, as we have seen, there is God. Psychoanalysis is precisely somewhere else, concerned with a being that is not completely an animal, nor a god: we call it being human. As a science of the human, psychoanalysis cannot, and should not, aim at the status of a natural science. It could only, in so doing, betray its method as well as its raison d' etre.

Dominique Scarfone, M.D
Universite de Montreal and Societe psychanalytique de Montreal (Canadian Psychoanalytic Society).
Sat, 04 May 1996 13:10:08

 


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Burying Freud

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

Psychoanalysis and F. Crew's Idea of Science

The point Frederick Crews tries to make against Freud contains many biases, one of which I want to underline here: it concerns the very concept of science. If I was sure of not offending anyone, I would suggest that Crew's conceptions of science are strongly marked by the fruitless attempt of behaviorism at making psychology a "true" science, that is by applying the well known principle of the Procrustean bed: whatever doesn't fit in our traditional concept of science, let us ignore.

In fact, Mr. Crews demonstrates a belief that there is an objective, external, criterion of what science is, and that everyone must comply to this criterion. Ironically, this means reintroducing... God, for only God could spell an impartial criterion for what is and what is not science. Otherwise, as his ongoing Freud-bashing campaign shows very well, Mr. Crews seems to know that a lot in science relies upon the art of convincing our colleagues of the validity of our reasoning. One way of doing it is by invoking some absolute, external criterion of scientificity, and convincing others that this is the way science is done. But, again, this amounts to reinserting God in science. So it is that by pursuing a scientific ideal a bit too far, we end up in the arms of faith. Which is ironic indeed, since it is Mr. Crews who attacks psychoanalysis as demanding an act of faith. And, on this forum, we recently saw a series of "name-calling" of a similar inspiration : defenders of Freud's legacy are deemed orthodox Freudians, "true-believers" and so on. The authors of these inelegant remarks, however, seem to have not reflected long enough about what is implied in their conception of science and of scientific validation.

In fact, here we could say we are asked to concede a large domain to what I shall call "the pharmacological paradigm" of psychology, for this is the model most critics of psychoanalysis explicitly or implicitly refer to nowadays. They ask for proof of effectiveness the way we ask to be shown that a given chemical agent is truly effective against depression. Here is where a serious misunderstanding intervenes, a misunderstanding -it is true- Freud himself encouraged by his wish to make of psychoanalysis a "natural science". For we can make experimental cohorts of patients to study the effectiveness of Prozac only insofar we are studying the impersonal, common, biological (in the "animal" sense of the word) consequences of taking a chemical agent named fluoxetine. Would it be too much to recall our undertakers that psychoanalysis does not work at the same level? And moreover, that psychoanalysis is a strictly human, and strictly individual experience? That this experience cannot be duplicated, since it is an open-ended experience, open towards the unknown, towards becoming?

Here again, it must be acknowledged that the strictly deterministic stance adopted by many psychoanalysts opens the door to the kind of criticism we deal with here, because it brings back psychoanalysis at the level of animal experimentation. But a systematic study of the Freudian _method_ shows that it is not necessarily a matter of establishing (and removing) causes (much the way Moliere's physician "malgre lui" would have it: "Voila Madame pourquoi votre fille est muette"= "This is why, Madam, your daughter is deaf..."). The process of psychoanalytic investigation is to untangle the knots (this is what "analyzing" means) in order to give the analysand the freedom to knit something new. Psychoanalysis is therefore not, and must not be, a predictive science.

What Messers Crews, Tallis, Goldberg and others fail to understand, is that every new discovery is potentially creating its own criteria of scientificity. And that many major discoveries effectively did so. They created a new science. "New science" does not only mean a new application of the existent criteria, but also a modified set of criteria, a change in paradigm, as is well known. Mr. Crews also seems to believe that only the experimental is scientific. And he fails to understand the new paradigm of knowledge that was introduced by Freud (and which Freud himself possibly did not fully understand since he tried to be "scientific" the way Mr. Crews would have liked him to be, that is: in the sense of the natural sciences) does not belong to the usual way of making science.

In spite of his wish to see psychoanalysis as a natural science, Freud inscribed psychoanalyzing among the "impossible professions", along with governing and educating. This contradiction should make us think a little longer than Mr. Crews and others would like us to. What is so "impossible" about psychoanalysis, if not that it cannot indeed be practised the way an experiment is conducted in a laboratory? But let's us indeed consider the comparison with governing and educating (see also Tim Kendall's recent contribution to this forum rightfully considered child rearing). If we applied Mr. Crews way of thinking to government, then we should conduct "scientific" tests on which kind of political system is... what? The most "effective"? In terms of what: economic prosperity? individual freedom? spiritual elevation? We immediately see that there is no way we could constitute "experimental" cohorts. At least I (and I suspect, many of us) would not want to be in the eventual "dictatorial control group". The question indeed is: WHO would be in the right place to judge in an "objective" manner the different political systems? The answer is of course no one, since whoever tried out such a thing would be playing... God (again...). No one can declare himself outside the political field when discussing (or studying) a political system.

The psychoanalytical experience bears much resemblance to the political field, in that none of the partners can place him/herself outside its framework without destroying the process itself. You cannot be a neutral witness to the psychoanalytic process. You are necessarily part of it. This is by no means an ordinary experimental situation. Does it mean then that the process is worthless? I ask this: Is democracy worthless because we cannot test it experimentally? Or isn't it rather that we need new ways of assessing the knowledge we can can gather from such an experience? After all, what is "science all about if not different means of gathering knowledge?

I can hear Frederick Crews replying that in government, precisely, enters a lot of ideology, manipulation, suggestion... This is of course the danger of every system allowing free speech. But this is accessory; the question is not if there are misuses and abuses of psychoanalysis (we know there are, just as in any other field where one human being calls upon another for help), but whether psychoanalysis itself is only one more ideology. This is where the question of method becomes central. It must be remembered that psychoanalysis is first and foremost A METHOD of investigation, moreover, it is a method which doubts of everything, it puts every assertion on the same level; it does not buy the subject's emphasis on one part of its speech, as it does not neglect that which the speaker is downplaying. The psychoanalytic method of listening is therefore a principled enemy of ideology.

Do all psychoanalysts share this view of psychoanalysis? Probably not.

But this does not go against what we are saying. It just illustrates that there are many ways of understanding Freud. And this is another of Tallis, Crews and others' flaw: They build up the strawman of orthodox Freudians who religiously repeat their catechism, thus ignoring psychoanalysis very first lesson: that Freud s opus itself needs to be submitted to the psychoanalytic method. Here another parallel can be drawn between psychoanalysis and democracy. As Churchill once said, there is only one possible cure for the ills of democracy: more democracy. We can similarly say that the only way to work upon Freud s (and other s) limitations is to thoroughly apply his method to his own writings. This is the original methodological and epistemological stance of psychoanalysis, akin to what it asks of every analysand (and analyst): to dig inside oneself, with method. This is also why there can be no scientific psychoanalysis in the traditional sense of the natural sciences, for there can be no animal model of a self-reflecting, self-theorizing, self-symbolizing psyche. Now, the animal model is the bottomline of Crews and Tallis idea of science, even if they do not seem to notice. For only through such paradigm could there be an external validation of psychoanalysis as such (for I believe that non-psychoanalytic i.e. psychological hypotheses can be, and are currently drawn -and tested- from the psychoanalytic field, but this would require a long parenthesis on the difference between psychoanalysis and psychology). At the other end of Tallis or Crews reasoning, as we have seen, there is God. Psychoanalysis is precisely somewhere else, concerned with a being that is not completely an animal, nor a god: we call it being human. As a science of the human, psychoanalysis cannot, and should not, aim at the status of a natural science. It could only, in so doing, betray its method as well as its raison d' etre.

Dominique Scarfone, M.D
Universite de Montreal and Societe psychanalytique de Montreal (Canadian Psychoanalytic Society).
Sat, 04 May 1996 13:10:08

 


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 |