|August 5th, 2010||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Sigmund Freud, Jewish Quack
Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc by Malcolm Macmillan
Amsterdam: North Holland, 1991. 687 pp., $140.
Reviewed by Frederick Crews, University of California, Berkeley
During the past twenty-five years, a momentous change has been overtaking the study of Sigmund Freud and his elaborate, engrossing, but ever more controversial creation, psychoanalysis. Formerly, those who deemed Freud worth discussing at book length tended to be either Freudian loyalists or partisans of some variant doctrine that shared at least a few of Freud's depth-psychological premises. Their critiques were often selectively astute but rarely rigorous or thoroughgoing. No doubt the same can still be said of most new books in the field, produced as they are by practicing analysts on the one hand and, on the other, by academic humanists who have raised their sights above narrowly "positivistic" (alias empirical) concerns. Increasingly, however, Freud's oeuvre has been receiving sustained attention from scholars who hold no personal stake in the fortunes of psychoanalysis. As recent works by Scharnberg (1993), Esterson (1993), Wilcocks (1994), Dawes (1994), Webster (1995), and Erwin (1995) attest, independent studies have begun to converge toward a verdict that was once considered a sign of extremism or even of neurosis: that there is literally nothing to be said, scientifically or therapeutically, to the advantage of the entire Freudian system or any of its component dogmas.
Four books stand out as paramount contributions to the emergence of this still contested but, in my view, warranted judgment:
1. Priority in time belongs to the late Henri Ellenberger's The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970), whose long and learned chapter on Freud demolished the myth, carefully nurtured by Freud himself and his Boswell, Ernest Jones, of the master's utter originality, his facing up to disturbing truths unearthed in his clinical practice, and his solitary defiance of his contemporaries' prudish hypocrisy. By displaying Freud's all-too-human opportunism and disingenuousness and by bringing him down from the clouds into nineteenth-century intellectual history, Ellenberger tacitly invited other scholars to inquire whether the vast cultural success of psychoanalysis rested on any actual discoveries. 1
2. One such scholar was Frank Sulloway, whose monumental Freud, Biologist of the Mind (1979) went farther than its author himself initially intended, or even realized, toward dismantling Freud's claims. 2 Sulloway's Freud is an ingenious plagiarist, a dogged and ruthless self-promoter, and a habitual devotee of crackpot ideas and premature conclusions. After Sulloway, it has become harder to avoid perceiving that Freud's conveniently unexaminable case material always fit perfectly with whatever notion he had most recently pressed into service from unacknowledged and often questionable sources.
3. Third, Adolf Grünbaum's formidable The Foundations of Psychoanalysis (1984) demonstrated that "clinical evidence," the purported engine of reliable psychoanalytic knowledge, could not underwrite that knowledge even in principle. The problem of contamination through therapist suggestion, Grünbaum showed, is pervasive and intractable, and even uncontaminated clinical data, if any such could be found, would necessarily lack the causal import that Freud and others have ascribed to them. 3
4. The fourth classic of Freud revisionism is the book now under review. To call it a classic, however, is more a prediction than a statement of settled fact. Although Macmillan's Freud Evaluated has been in print since 1991, and although it has been highly praised by Morris Eagle (1993) and Donald Spence (1996) among others, its influence thus far has been slight. I will indicate below why this is the case, why I am confident of a very different future for this book, and, most important, why Freud Evaluated must be painstakingly studied by anyone who aspires to make pronouncements about the good, the bad, and the ugly in Freudian thought. But first, precisely because Macmillan is still largely unknown to American readers, a word of introduction is in order.
Until his recent retirement, Malcolm Macmillan was Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Monash University, Australia; he now serves as Adjunct Professor in the School of Psychology at Deakin University in the same country. A past president of the Australian Psychological Society, he has published widely on such diverse topics as Janet and Charcot, Freud's seduction theory, brain localization and injury, retardation, and even the kinesiology of the football kick. However, if one does not count a precursor volume internally printed by Monash's Department of Psychology (Macmillan, 1974), Freud Evaluated is Macmillan's only book to date.
Significantly, this work emerged from a set of lectures that "had dealt separately," as the preface informs us, "with the twin themes of psychoanalytic personality theory and the application of scientific method in psychology" (p. v). The seed of Freud Evaluated was planted when Macmillan realized that those themes belonged together: Freud's style of theory building was casting a useful light on basic issues of methodology. The book that eventuated is no mere compendium of lecture notes but rather the most comprehensive, coherent, and unimpeachable assessment of Freud's concepts and tenets that has yet been mounted--or is ever likely to be.
Unfortunately, however, the scope of Macmillan's achievement has been obscured by frustrations and vicissitudes of the publishing trade. Twelve years in the writing, Freud Evaluated languished for another five years while American university presses were rejecting it as too long, too specialized, and/or too critical of the beloved genius whose ideas it addressed with so little obeisance. Finally, Macmillan had to settle for a publishing house, North-Holland, that printed only 1200 copies, set the price at a forbidding $140, and made only the most negligible gestures toward advertising and distribution. Furthermore, North-Holland provided no copyediting or proofreading and no galleys for Macmillan to check, with the result that the work abounds in vexing typos and infelicities that could lead a reader to believe, mistakenly, that the author's intellectual labor was equally careless. It is not surprising that to date only a few hundred copies of the book have been sold or that many scholars who consider themselves Freud experts remain unaware of its very existence.
But thanks in large part to the efforts of this journal's editor, who shares my admiration for Macmillan's feat, the purgatory of Freud Evaluated is about to end. In July 1996 The MIT Press will issue an affordable paperback edition that will have been rewritten with an American audience in mind. Although Macmillan expects to append a brief account of Freud studies in the 1990s, all but a very few of his judgments in the first edition will remain unaltered. The crucial difference will simply be the book's greater accessibility. Beginning in mid-1996, there will be no plausible excuse for anyone to ignore Macmillan's argument.
But "argument" may not be quite the right term. The works I have cited by Grünbaum, Scharnberg, Esterson, and Erwin are arguments in the familiar sense--step-by-step demonstrations of theses about the shortcomings of psychoanalytic claims. But Freud Evaluated, though it arrives at a comparable conclusion to theirs, is a book of a different kind. Macmillan has molded his text to the shape of Freud's career, describing, contextualizing, and then evaluating each burst of theory in its chronological order. Thus, although the reader soon gathers that Freud's confusions, unsolved problems, and ill-advised expedients at one stage will probably plague his efforts at the next one, the book continues to proceed inductively, postponing what Erwin would call "a final accounting" until the full journey has been negotiated from Josef Breuer's Anna O. case and its aftermath through Freud's culminating "structural" version of metapsychology. Only then does Macmillan permit himself to sum up his findings and to look beyond Freud to the standing of psychoanalysis in general as a theory, a therapy, an investigative method, and a putative science.
Macmillan's decision to conjoin history and logic constitutes a knowing defiance of the commonplace view that the validity of a theory has nothing to do with the circumstances of its origin. That is all very well, says Macmillan, if logic alone can reveal what relation the theorizer's constructs bore to his available facts. But suppose, as in Freud's case, that a purely formal assessment gets us no farther than a realization that the theory remains unconfirmed:
By itself, the failure provides no guide as to where the fault lies. Perhaps the original facts were inaccurately described or the original theoretical terms inadequately formulated. Would it not be sensible to see how those terms or statements were arrived at? Was there a worthwhile theory to begin with? . . . In brief, historically based evaluations help us to establish what has to be explained and whether any explanatory effort is justified. We are also placed on more certain ground in deciding which kinds of evidence should count as confirmatory and which as disconfirmatory. (p. 4)
Macmillan's ground rules confer several advantages, both rhetorical and heuristic. For one thing, a book containing 612 large pages of main text would be tedious if its negative overview were insisted upon from first to last. In following the narrative path of Freud Evaluated, we remain curious to see whether Freud will ever perceive what a tangle of pseudo-explanatory quasi-entities he has been conjuring and whether, accordingly, he will make a corrective swerve toward empirical accountability. He never does, but that very fact acquires an almost morbid fascination as we watch him draw from his sleeve one conceptual wild card after another.
At each theoretical juncture in Freud's career, Macmillan supplies us with a unique boon: an informed reconstruction of Freud's (always scanty) observational base, of the extant theories that he drew upon or rejected, of other influences on his thinking at the time, and of the anomalies that he needed to address or somehow evade. As a consequence, Macmillan's segments of formal evaluation, though unsparingly condemnatory, read less like an author's expressions of opinion than like the drawing of inferences already inherent in the evidence. But this impression does too little credit to Macmillan's intellect. In truth, his evaluations are tenacious and brilliant analytic exercises that bring order into the thicket of Freud's gratuitous complexities. The contrast between Freud's consistent urge toward mystification and Macmillan's contrary rationality makes for a kind of drama--a dauntingly technical one, to be sure--that builds in intensity through much of the book.
Above all, Macmillan's approach is ideally geared to dislodging a prejudice that still deters most observers from gazing on the perfect nakedness of Emperor Freud: the belief that the intricacy of Freudian theory more or less matches that of the human mind. So long as that misunderstanding prevails, a wholesale rejection of Freud will look like an unthinkable throwback to behaviorism, positivism, associationism, or a primitive psychology of faculties or humors. But no such drastic choice is required if we realize that psychoanalysis owes its complexity to a sequence of peremptory and indefensible moves. Macmillan shows, and any diligent reader can now be satisfied, that each major complication in Freud's model was added not to account for observations of conflicted behavior but to paper over a failure of coherent linkage between his prior constructs and the reputed evidence for them.
When Freud declared that the unconscious draws no distinction between real and fantasized events, for example, he was not reporting a testable finding but concocting an excuse for the collapse of his seduction theory, sparing himself the embarrassment of admitting that he had secured no relation at all between supposedly repressed sexual material and the origin of psychoneuroses, and concealing the ominous tendency of his method of inquiry--the one that he kept right on using--to generate false results. 4 Likewise, as Macmillan shows, Freud was led into the conceptual maze of infantile sexuality not by any observation of children but by this same unwillingness to face the seduction debacle forthrightly. Rather than abandon his thwarted belief in the sexual meaning of symptoms, he chose to transplant the blame for precocious eroticism from the "seducer" to the child's own constitution. The result was a veritable funhouse of zones, modes, phases, and drives, proliferating with a wildly cavalier disregard for parsimony. Even "hereditary taint," the all-purpose diagnostic shibboleth that psychoanalysis had supposedly rendered obsolete, eventually found its way back into Freud's theory and acquired an unprecedented phylogenetic grandiosity as his here-and-now explanations, predictions, and therapeutic boasts continued to turn to dust. All in all, psychoanalytic theory became ever more Byzantine, and mental activity was alleged to be ever more "overdetermined," as a consequence of Freud's insistence on salvaging his far-fetched repression etiology by any means necessary. 5
But this is only part of the story. Macmillan's distinctive achievement is to have shown that Freud's excesses also derived from his loyalty to certain key assumptions that he could never bring into doubt. Chief among them was psychic determinism, which in Freud's apprehension meant not just that all mental events bear causes but that regularly observed phenomena must have invariable causes, rooted in physiology. In the tradition of Sulloway (1979), Macmillan shows that Freud remained faithful to the views of his early mentor Theodor Meynert, who conceived of the coupling between one association and its temporal successor as a literal matter of contact between cortical nerve cells connected to one another by nerve fibers. Thus, "[f]ollowing a train of associations in the way Freud did was equivalent to unravelling a chain of causes and so revealing the internal logic of hysteria" (p. 113). This assumption accounts for the bewildering doubleness of Freud's explanatory manner, whereby, for example, dreaming is ascribed both to a struggle over the expression of forbidden wishes and to a regressive flow of excitation.
We would be losing Macmillan's point if we took such parallel descriptions as a mere sign that Freud felt obliged to touch base with physiology from time to time. Rather, his determinism of successive and reversible innervations shaped the very heart of psychoanalytic theory. For a relatively simple instance, consider the idea that every dream expresses a repressed infantile wish. As an inference drawn from the consulting room, it is flatly preposterous; there is no thinkable way of discerning which element of the patient's dream report is a holdover from the nursery. But if we begin from Meynert's schema and assume, simplistically, that each associative chain is a row of dominos extending into the past, the notion becomes at least conceivable. So, too, does Freud's generous array of sexualized and desexualized instincts, none of which have anything to do with clinical observation; they were called into being by a felt need to make his imagined excitations run both forward and backward on the rails of a mechanized psyche.
It was precisely Freud's devotion to physiological determinism that, at the outset of his path toward psychoanalysis, prompted him to rule out suggestion as a possible source of the hypnotic effects induced by Charcot in Paris. Since suggestion varied from one hypnotist to the next, and since science deals with uniformities, suggestion had to be excluded as an insufficiently objective factor:
If the supporters of the suggestion theory are right, all the observations made at the Salpêtrière are worthless; indeed, they become errors in observation. The hypnosis of hysterical patients would have no characteristics of its own; but every physician would be free to produce any symptomatology that he liked in the patients he hypnotized. We should not learn from the study of major hypnotism what alterations in excitability succeed one another in the nervous system of hysterical patients in response to certain kinds of interventions; we should merely learn what intentions Charcot suggested (in a manner of which he himself was unconscious) to the subjects of his experiments--a thing entirely irrelevant to our understanding alike of hypnosis and of hysteria. (Freud, 1888, pp. 77-78; italics added)
If Freud Evaluated poses a cautionary moral, it is that Freud's fatal error lay exactly here. For, in Macmillan's words, "Freud was to be as wrong about hysteria as he had been about hypnosis" (p. 72)--and in just the same manner. Although he made token efforts to reason his way around the obstacle posed by suggestion, he refused to take the phenomenon seriously:
When Freud came to treat his own patients, he never accepted that influences transmitted unconsciously from him to them had important effects upon what they claimed to recall about the origins of their symptoms. His view was that the important determinants of remembering were internal, part of the very fabric of the patient's thoughts, and as impervious to outside influence as the processes determining the phenomena of hypnosis and hysteria at the Salpêtrière were supposed to have been. (p. 73)
The price of this mistake was a record of tragicomic blundering that Macmillan traces from Freud's cases of "Elizabeth von R." and "Dora" through his most arcane feats of system building and those of his successors, who themselves have evidenced a nearly total indifference to suggestion. 6
Freud's dogmatic determinism, Macmillan shows, not only rendered him complacent about the problem of suggestive influence but concomitantly imbued him with excessive trust in the "fundamental rule" of psychoanalysis, free association. Any gaps or peculiarities in a patient's ramblings, he posited, could be ascribed to the patient's enduring repressions rather than to constraints and proddings within the therapeutic dialogue or to trivial chance factors. Hence the central diagnostic claim of classical analysis: that a progressively narrowed study of associations can reliably uncover the causes of a neurosis lying in the infantile past.
By now, of course, that pretension has been thoroughly refuted and, indeed, abandoned by most analysts. Yet their heightened diffidence about arriving at precise reconstructions of early trauma has failed to weaken their reliance on free association as a paramount investigative tool. As Macmillan reminds us, modern analysts fail to grasp that the privileged status of such evidence rested on a number of improbable conceptions: that the mind is a reflex apparatus for fending off stimulation; that memories are inextinguishable; that dreams and symptoms and associations transcribe remote memory traces; that symptoms are acquired from traumas in a fixed sequence of events; that symptoms reenact the sensory content of the original traumatic shock; and that motives or reasons can be treated as if they were physical causes. 7 Absent all that folklore, the probing of free associations dwindles to the amusing but expensive parlor game that, in fact, it always was.
Let us suppose, as a mental exercise, that Freud had not been such a prisoner of his billiard-ball determinism and that we could trust him as a reporter of his own and other investigators' findings. 8 Would his theory then have approached scientific respectability? The question is of interest because even the most orthodox contemporary Freudians acknowledge that Freud left them with a defective doctrine--though there is nothing resembling a consensus about the needed repairs. In Macmillan's view, the most serious demerits of Freud's way of gathering and evaluating data apply with equal force to the approach to psychoanalytic theory formation that prevails today. They are not specific errors of fact and emphasis but fundamental departures from the scientific ethos. For example:
1. Hypothetical entities or processes should be characterized; that is, they ought to possess attributed properties that lend themselves to confirmation outside their immediate role in the theory at issue. If they lack this quality, "[t]heir referents are the very relations they are supposed to explain" (p. 193); they are only placeholders for mechanisms that may not exist at all. 9 This is just what we regularly find in the case of psychoanalytic postulates. A term like repression, Macmillan notes, points to no independently known reality but merely gives a name to the questionable survival of traumatic memory traces in an unconscious which itself remains uncharacterized. Moreover, incompatible burdens are placed upon the term, indicating that the theory behind it is fatally muddled. 10 When repression is then invoked as an explanatory factor in new contexts, true believers may feel that fresh territory is being conquered, but the scope of Freud's circularity is simply being widened. The same flaw of empty conceptualization appears in virtually every feature of his system, from the preconscious through the ego, introjection, the death instinct, and so forth.
2. A theory should not create its own facts. Psychoanalysis, however, does so at every turn. For example, repression is invoked to account for the delayed effect of childhood trauma in producing adult psychoneuroses, but the only reason for believing that such an effect occurs is a prior belief in repression. A dream is regarded as a disguised representation of its latent content, the dream thoughts, but such thoughts can be detected only by Freudian dream interpretation. So, too, castration threats, real or fantasized, supposedly trigger the onset of the male latency period, but the latency period is itself a pure artifact of the theory. Or again, Freud invoked penis envy to explain female submissiveness, masochism, and incapacity for cultural strivings, but in this instance the theory and the "facts" alike derived from cultural prejudice.
3. A theory should have testable consequences; "only if the facts [to be independently verified] can be deduced from the fundamental statements of the theory can we say that they are explained by it" (p. 168). Notoriously, however, Freudian tenets are scarcely challenged, much less refuted, by unexpected outcomes. The vagueness of the theory is such that it can withstand almost any number of surprises and be endlessly revised according to the theorist's whim, without reference to data. Indeed, as Macmillan emphasizes, Freud drew on the same pool of evidence in offering three incompatible etiologies for homosexuality (pp. 352-353), and he did the same in proposing three incompatible paths for the overcoming of narcissism (pp. 358-359). Throughout his whole career of lawgiving, the linkage between evidence and theory was established by rhetorical guile and nothing more.
4. A hypothesis should be treated as such; that is, its adequacy ought to be methodically tested. Instead, Macmillan shows, Freud habitually offered postulates that he labeled as hypotheses but treated as firm expectations or even as certainties. Understandably, premature closure about one issue left him vulnerable to the same mistake with the next one. For example, all the while that he was pretending to be alarmed at his reluctant clinical discovery of sexual factors in hysteria, he was importing the conclusions he had already erroneously reached about the sexual roots of the (nonexistent) "actual neuroses."
5. Finally--though this list could be considerably extended--heed must be paid to the difference between necessary and sufficient causes. An assertion that factor x causes effect y in neurotic group A is vacuous if one merely establishes the presence of factor x in typical members of that group. Even on the most optimistic interpretation (that x is necessary to produce neurosis), x cannot be regarded as a sufficient cause unless, at a minimum, it is shown to be absent from non-neurotic group B. Never once in his psychoanalytic career, however, did Freud conduct such a demonstration or publicly indicate that it was called for. 11 On the contrary, he consistently maintained that all the reassurance of correctness he required was the stream of confirmations that flowed from clinical experience--in other words, from "group A" alone. At his most scrupulous, he was content to find a few cases in which the positive correlation he was seeking appeared, however momentarily, to obtain. A palm reader or faith healer could have done as well.
In summary, we learn from Macmillan that the founder of psychoanalysis, once he had forsaken laboratory work for the care and understanding of neurotics, neither thought nor acted like a scientist; he sincerely but obtusely mistook his loyalty to materialist reductionism for methodological rigor. In fact, it was just the opposite, an inducement to dogmatic persistence in folly. Thus we cannot be amazed--except insofar as we may be veteran subscribers to the Freud legend--that the product of his efforts proved to be a pseudoscience.
Can a pseudoscience be reformed into a science through piecemeal interventions? Freud's successors "tamper with the structures or alter the nature and status of the drives," Macmillan observes, "but their own concepts of drive and structure are inferred from facts gathered by a defective method" (506). A defective method can produce only ersatz results. Although Freud Evaluated shows that nearly everything that can be said against Freudian theory has been pointed out by one uneasy psychoanalyst or another, it also shows that analysis as a whole remains powerless to address the heart of the problem. And understandably so, since a thoroughgoing epistemic critique, based on commonly acknowledged standards of evidence and logic, decertifies every distinctively psychoanalytic proposition. As I indicated at the outset, Macmillan is hardly alone in reaching that conclusion. Now, however, he steps to the forefront of those who have offered a detailed rational basis for affirming it.
Last edited by Mike Parker; August 8th, 2010 at 09:09 AM.
|August 6th, 2010||#2|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Professor R.C. Tallis
A century has passed since Freud started publishing the works that established his reputation as a scientist, healer, and sage, as one of the major thinkers of the 20th century, and as, in the words of the Freudian literary critic Harold Bloom (cited by Webster, p3, ref 1), "the central imagination of our age". Although his standing as a clinical scientist and biologist of the mind has always been precarious among those capable of judging scientific competence, his admirers have by no means been confined to the laity. In 1938, the secretaries of the Royal Society brought him their official charter to sign, "thereby joining his signature with Newton's and Darwin's" (ref 1, p 430). Despite much early hostile criticism-sometimes motivated by overt or covert anti-Semitism-Freud's reputation simply grew. He was, and remains, more famous than his critics, who have often seemed mere detractors. And yet his reputation is deeply mysterious. Esterson (ref 2) has reflected that "the rise of psychoanalysis to a position of prominence in the twentieth century will come to be regarded as one of the most extraordinary aberrations in the history of Western thought". Medawar (ref 3) expressed similar sentiments:
"Opinion is gaining ground that doctrinaire psychoanalytic theory is the most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century: and a terminal product as well - something akin to a dinosaur or a zeppelin in the history of ideas, a vast structure of radically unsound design and with no posterity."
The tide now seems to be turning against Freud as the long overdue detailed and systematic appraisal of his contribution to our understanding of the psychobiology and organisation of the human mind, of the place of reason and passion in human affairs, and of the aetiology and treatment of mental illnesses has finally been undertaken. The verdict has been uniformly negative: Freud as a scientist, metapsychologist, and diagnostician of society emerges as a quack. This view has not greatly perturbed true believers. Freud's theories, notoriously, have an inbuilt survival kit: disagreement with them is regarded as a symptom of the very resistance they themselves predict, and therefore counts as confirmatory evidence. Psychoanalysis thus enjoys an extraordinary ability to shake off decisive criticism. The American historian Paul Robinson (cited by Webster ref 1), writing as recently as 1993, asserted that Freud's critics "would do him no lasting damage":
"At most they have delayed the inevitable process by which he will settle into his rightful place in intellectual history as a thinker of the first magnitude. Indeed the very latest scholarly studies of Freud suggest that the anti-Freudian moment may already have begun to pass."
Evidently, anyone who would dispose of Freud once and for all faces a rather special challenge. A recent book has risen to that challenge: Richard Webster's 'Why Freud was wrong' is not only a mighty work of synthesis, bringing together the immense recent research that has unpicked the interwoven legends of Freudian so-called science and Freud the man, but also places psychoanalysis in a wider context that enables us to understand the aetiology (I use the word advisedly) of the thought and of its influence. The result is a definitive critique from which it seems unlikely that Freud's reputation and that of the pseudoscience he invented will ever recover. Freud wanted, above all, to be recognised as a scientist, and famously resented friendly critics such as Havelock Ellis who suggested that psychoanalysis was more of an art than science. Grünbaum (ref 4) has examined Freud's procedures and shown how they bear no resemblance to the methods that have proved elsewhere so effective in arriving at reliable, generalisable, and practically useful conclusions. Consider the discovery of the repressed Oedipus complex. For Freud, this was the key to every neurosis; and it is the cornerstone of psychoanalytic thought. It was postulated on the basis of data acquired during his period of self-analysis. The crucial datum (note use of the singular) was Freud's recollection of a long train journey with his mother, when he was 2 years old, during which, according to the differing accounts he gives, he either must have seen her naked or actually did so, as a result of which he conceived a sexual desire for her. A few weeks after retrieving this quasi-memory, he concluded that the male sexual love of the mother was a universal event of early childhood. This huge jump was subsequently supported, Freud claimed, by direct observations in children, especially in analysis. Details, however, are strikingly lacking. Out of a single evaporating drop of pseudo-fact, he had created a roomful of steam. Those few of Freud's case histories that are possible to assess are invalidated, as evidence, by a confirmatory bias. Esterson (ref 2) shows how, again and again, Freud muddled his own conjectures of what was going on in his patient's unconscious with their accounts of what they later remembered and, over time, he came to represent the former as the latter. It was hardly surprising, then, that, like a first-year medical student or a hypochondriac making diagnoses, Freud found that everything he recalled from his consultations could fit his theories. This circularity, whereby the theory created the facts that supported the theory, should have been evident to anyone reading the published works, but few had noticed it. Only his disciples were sufficiently committed to read Freud's primary clinical papers, and the books in which Freud presented his work to a wider public dishonestly suggested much independent corroborative evidence. "The applications of analysis", he had blithely informed his disciples, "are always confirmations of it as well" (quoted in ref 2, p 246). In psychoanalysis Freud says:
"the physician always gives his patient . . . the conscious anticipatory ideas by the help of which he is put in a position to recognise and to grasp the unconscious material" (Standard Edn 10:104, quoted in ref. 2)
But it is in the nature of psychoanalysis that analytical experience is strongly influenced by the subjective notions of the physician who supplies the anticipatory ideas. Woe betide the analysand if he (or more often, she) does not cooperate. Freud described his brutally inquisitorial methods with extraordinary candour:
"The work [of therapy] keeps coming to a stop and they keep maintaining that this time nothing has occurred to them. We must not believe what they say, we must always assume, and tell them too, that they have kept something back . . We must insist on this, we must repeat the pressure and represent ourselves as infallible, till at last we are really told something . . . There are cases, too, in which the patient tries to disown [the memory] even after its return. 'Something has occurred to me now, but you obviously put it into my head' . . . In all such cases, I remain unshakeably firm. I . . . explain to the patient that [these distinctions] are only forms of his resistance and pretexts raise by it against reproducing this particular memory, which we must recognise in spite of all this". (ref 5)
Not surprisingly, this approach, more like rape of the mind than history taking, led to catastrophic diagnostic errors. When a little girl whose abdominal pains he had been treating as an "unmistakable" hysteria died of an abdominal lymphoma 2 months after he had seemingly cured her, he defended himself robustly, claiming to have dealt satisfactorily with the hysteria (which he said "had used the tumour as the provoking cause"). Such were the means by which Freud built up the minute corpus of empirical data on which he erected - like an inverted pyramid-his huge theoretical edifice. In her pioneering study Thornton (6) showed how, by the time of his fundamental discoveries, Freud had moved far away from the science of his day and in which he had been trained. His speculations were crucially influenced by an old-fashioned quasi-scientific Naturphilosophie (particularly evident in his foundational Project for a scientific psychology ref 7), by the lunatic numerological notions and mystical fantasies of Wilhelm Fleiss-whom Freud described variously as the Kepler of biology and as his Messiah, and from whom he derived the idea of infantile sexuality-and by his own cocaine addiction. There are many reasons why it has taken so long to recognise Freud as a "cargo cult scientist" (to use Feynman's ref 8 term), who was closer to L. Ron Hubbard than to Einstein. Freud's mastery of the rhetoric of science to sustain his scientific fairy tale has been brilliantly investigated by the literary critic Robert Wilcocks.(ref 9). The Fliessian roots of Freudian thought were long suppressed by the keepers of the flame policing the archives. (refs 10, 11). Endless recycling of a handful of so-called classic cases created the impression of a huge clinical database.
And then there has been the reputation of Freud the man. Freud, George Steiner observed, was "a master narrator and builder of myths" (quoted in ref 1, p 7). The most important of these myths was hat of himself as a selfless searcher after truth, a man of granite-like integrity, utterly incapable of fraud or even self-deception. This myth has not withstood close inspection. Thornton's (ref 6) exposure of the early cocaine episode was a fatal blow. Freud, desperate for academic glory, claimed to have found the cure for morphine addiction: substitution by cocaine which, he asserted, was non addictive. He allowed his paper to be published, even when he knew that his single case, a close friend, had become a hopeless cocaine addict. The pattern of basing claims for universally applicable cures on a tendentiously reported. series of n=1 cases was established.
Webster (ref 1) builds on Thornton's (ref 6) portrait of a ruthlessly ambitious man, a brutally insensitive and unscrupulous clinician, quite unrepentant about those of his terrible diagnostic blunders of which he was aware, and a supreme manipulator of friends and colleagues in his endless quest for self-promotion. This portrait, convincing, chilling, and unforgettable, firmly rooted in documentary evidence, is somewhat at odds with the shilling lives and hagiographies (notably that of the obsequious Ernest Jones ref 2).
The sheer crankiness of Freud's ideas was concealed by his marvellous prose, which gave the ideas a veneer of clarity and a feeling of inevitability. Most cranks write badly. Moreover, his lunacy came from an unexpected angle: just like real science, analytical theory was difficult, technical, tough minded, and counterintuitive. His work also seemed at first to offer liberation-from prudishness, hypocrisy, and oppressive institutionalised religion, to 'which he gave a secular interpretation that put it in its place as a distorted expression of human desires. And, although his vision of humanity was not merely diminishing but also impoverishing, it was richly elaborated and wonderfully expressed. Freud had an untrammelled imagination (fuelled in the crucial years by cocaine) and a wonderful ability to connect the remotest corners of his intellectual world-to relate, as Webster puts it, "the sexual anatomy of prehistoric birds to the obstinacy of 2-year-old children and the organic evolution of crocodiles to the meanness of Viennese aristocrats". So the idea of the work and the image of the man converged in that of a tough-minded clinical scientist who saw things that were concealed from others and had the courage to speak the unspeakable truths about humanity. Then there was the attraction of the movement he founded. As Gellner (ref 13) has argued, Freud's theories were alluring because they seemed to arise out of scientific clinical medicine while simultaneously answering to the residual religious longings of a secular age: "Freud did not discover the unconscious but endowed it with a ritual and a church"- thus combining the white coat with the cassock. The church was "manned by a well-groomed clergy who promised a new kind of salvation" (ref 13) and who were incorporated into closely regulated guild. The early psychoanalytical movement was very much a gnostic brotherhood. As Strachey (cited by Malcolm ref 14) reported, new recruits required no qualification other than a training analysis with Freud or one of his approved disciples-a process that combined the ritual of confession with the laying on of hands. People are starting to count the cost of the talking cure that Freud invented and marketed. The criticism hat psychoanalysis is expensive and inefficacious has given way to the graver charge that it is often dangerous and destructive. Psychoanalysts have frequently imitated their master in attributing to psychological causes serious illnesses that have organic origins, with often fatal consequences. Even where they are not medically incompetent, their peculiar ideas often confuse and further undermine desperately vulnerable individuals. Few psychoanalysts are as nakedly psychopathic as Lacan, (refs 15, 16) Freud's most prominent French disciple, but many do not shrink from manipulating the affections and misplaced faith of their clients to ensure continuing lucrative commitment to their quack remedies. Freud's once unique ability to suggest to his patients the very facts that he required to support and fulfil his theory-fantasies, reinforced by his aura of wisdom; is now disseminated among hundreds of thousands of disciples who may not be psychoanalysts but who have derived from his theories a belief in the central importance of certain kinds of repressed memories and in the therapist's privileged access to them. The scale of the damage has recently become manifest in the USA, where, according to Crews, (ref 5) since 1988 1,000,000 families have been estimated to be affected by therapist-inspired charges of sexual molestation, supposedly uncovered by the awakening of repressed memories. There are especially bitter ironies here. During this century, as Webster (ref 1) points out, many women have suffered immensely as a result of orthodox psychoanalysts construing real episodes of sexual abuse as oedipal fantasies. Now the all- knowing therapist is able to persuade individuals that they have suffered sexual abuse of which they have no recollection. The irresponsible guesswork of the recovered memory therapists damages; not only those who have not been sexually abused, but also threatens to discredit the testimony of those who have. Common to both the Freudian therapists' denial of real sexual abuse and recovered memory therapists' imputation of sexual abuse the victim does not recall is an arrogant over-riding of the testimony of ordinary people. The zealots are unlikely to be impressed by arguments that the theory of repression is both unnecessary and incoherent. When Freudians talk about the unconscious, they are often simply talking about things of which we are conscious but are not yet conscious of reflectively.' In accordance with their own theories, they should not, of course, fuse these things: the unconscious is supposed to be composed of psychic elements that have been actively repressed rather than simply not yet brought into full consciousness. But this crucial notion of active repression is incoherent. As Sartre( ref 18) pointed out, the unconscious has to know what it is that has to be repressed in order (actively) to repress it; it has also to know that it is shameful material appropriate for repression. If, however, it knows both these things, it is difficult to understand how it can avoid being conscious of it. The only way round this difficulty would be to reduce repression to forgetfulness, and this would undermine the fundamental Freudian principle that repression is, unlike mere forgetfulness, active and targeted. The greatness of Webster's book lies not only in his review of the primary and secondary literature, nor only in his wonderfully lucid and witty prose, but in the penetration of his understanding of the man and his influence. Webster is also a brilliant story-teller. His account of the early days of the movement - the schisms pursued with the irrationality and vindictiveness of confessional wars, the loves that collapse into hatreds, the paranoia, the misuse of clinical judgment to discredit enemies, the use of personal insult and demonological abuse to deal with reasoned dissent - is utterly enthralling. And he never loses sight of the fundamental themes: Freud's messianic fantasies, his lifelong dream, as Freud himself states, of "opening all secrets with a single key", his deep insecurity, his raging hunger for recognition, and the theological and biogenetic underpinning of his thought.
Webster's critique offers a context within which Freud can be placed and a viewpoint from which he can be seen. Webster shows how, despite his biological rhetoric, Freud belongs firmly within a gnostic and Manichean framework, and is imbued with a Judaeo-Christian asceticism that would puritanically dispose of the body. Freud does "not so much sexualise the realm of the intellect as intellectualise the realm of the sexual" - by reducing it to abstract categories, and so separating clean mind from dirty body, lifting Man out of Nature by favouring abstraction over incarnation. Webster takes issue with this "doomed and tragic attempt. to reconstitute at the intellectual level a sensual identity which has been crucified at the level of the vital and spontaneous body" and. offers the beginnings of an alternative, Darwinian, framework for understanding humanity. This latter is a marvellous challenge to people, including myself, for whom neo-Darwinian thought spectacularly fails to account for the distinctive features of humankind. (ref 19) Even when psychoanalysis has been shown to be utterly misconceived-as the basis of a treatment, as a theory of human nature, as a means of thinking about society and the world-it is difficult to shake off a sneaking suspicion that it must have some kind of special validity, if only because it has always been there, with its all-purpose explanations, since one first came to reflective consciousness. After Webster's book, we can not only see that psychoanalysis is utterly without merit but also wake up out of it: Why Freud was wrong - at once a major intellectual biography and a signal contribution to the intellectual history of our times-is liberating. Towards the end of 20th century, Webster has lifted the incubus Freud placed, at the beginning of the century, on the minds of all those who think about their own, and human, nature.
|August 7th, 2010||#3|
Join Date: Jul 2007
"I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker. I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador--an adventurer, if you want it translated--with all the curiosity, daring, and tenacity characteristic of a man of this sort" (Sigmund Freud, letter to Wilhelm Fliess, Feb. 1, 1900).
"By the 1950s and '60s, the master's warning had been drowned in a tumult of excited voices. Psychoanalysts and psychiatrists could cure even schizophrenia, the most feared mental disease of all, they claimed, and they could do it simply by talking with their patients" (Dolnick, 12).
"The person best able to undergo psychoanalysis is someone who, no matter how incapacitated at the time, is basically, or potentially, a sturdy individual. This person may have already achieved important satisfactions—with friends, in marriage, in work, or through special interests and hobbies—but is nonetheless significantly impaired by long-standing symptoms: depression or anxiety, sexual incapacities, or physical symptoms without any demonstrable underlying physical cause. One person may be plagued by private rituals or compulsions or repetitive thoughts of which no one else is aware. Another may live a constricted life of isolation and loneliness, incapable of feeling close to anyone. A victim of childhood sexual abuse might suffer from an inability to trust others. Some people come to analysis because of repeated failures in work or in love, brought about not by chance but by self-destructive patterns of behavior. Others need analysis because the way they are—their character—substantially limits their choices and their pleasures." (American Psychoanalytic Association)
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is considered the father of psychoanalysis, which may be the granddaddy of all pseudoscientific psychotherapies, second only to Scientology as the champion purveyor of false and misleading claims about the mind, mental health, and mental illness. For example, in psychoanalysis schizophrenia and depression are not brain disorders, but narcissistic disorders. Autism and other brain disorders are not brain problems but mothering problems. These illnesses do not require pharmacological or behavioral treatment. They require only "talk" therapy. Similar positions are taken for anorexia nervosa and Tourette's syndrome (Hines 1990: 136). What is the scientific evidence for the psychoanalytic view of these mental illnesses and their proper treatment? There is none.
Modern psychoanalysis may be evidence-based, but Freud's work was based on personal insights and inferences from work with patients, his and those of other therapists. This entry makes no claims about the efficacy of current treatments by psychoanalysts. It is about Freud and some of his early followers.
Freud thought he understood the nature of schizophrenia. It is not a brain disorder, but a disturbance in the unconscious caused by unresolved feelings of homosexuality. However, he maintained that psychoanalysis would not work with schizophrenics because such patients ignore their therapist's insights and are resistant to treatment (Dolnick 1998: 40). Later psychoanalysts would claim, with equal certainty and equal lack of scientific evidence, that schizophrenia is caused by smothering mothering. In 1948, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, for example, gave birth to the term "schizophrenogenic mother," the mother whose bad mothering causes her child to become schizophrenic (ibid. 94). Other analysts before her had supported the notion with anecdotes and intuitions, and over the next twenty years many more would follow her misguided lead.
Would you treat a broken leg or diabetes with "talk" therapy or by interpreting the patient's dreams? Of course not. Imagine the reaction if a diabetic were told that her illness was due to "masturbatory conflict" or "displaced eroticism." One might as well tell the patient she is possessed by demons, as give her a psychoanalytic explanation of her physical disease or disorder. Exorcism of demons by the shaman or priest, exorcism of childhood experiences by the psychoanalyst: what's the difference? So why would anyone still maintain that neurochemical or other physical disorders are caused by repressed or sublimated traumatic sexual childhood experiences or wishful fantasies? Probably for the same reason that theologians don't give up their elaborate systems of thought in the face of overwhelming evidence that their systems of belief are little more than vast metaphysical cobwebs. They get a lot of institutional reinforcement for their socially created roles and ideas, most of which are not capable of being subjected to empirical testing. If their notions can't be tested, they can't be disproved. What can't be disproved, and also has the backing of a powerful institution or establishment, can go on for centuries as being respectable and valid, regardless of its fundamental emptiness, falsity, or capacity for harm.
The most fundamental concept of psychoanalysis is the notion of the unconscious mind as a reservoir for repressed memories of traumatic events which continuously influence conscious thought and behavior. The scientific evidence for this notion of unconscious repression is lacking, though there is ample evidence that conscious thought and behavior are influenced by nonconscious memories and processes. And there is ample evidence that childhood abuse, sexual or otherwise, can seriously affect a person's mental and physical well being. There is also ample evidence that not everyone who is sexually abused grows up to have psychological or mental problems.
Related to these questionable assumptions of psychoanalysis are two equally questionable methods of investigating the alleged memories hidden in the unconscious: free association and the interpretation of dreams. Neither method is capable of precise scientific formulation or unambiguous empirical testing.
Scientific research into how memory works does not support the psychoanalytic concept of the unconscious mind as a reservoir of repressed sexual and traumatic memories of either childhood or adulthood. There is, however, ample evidence that there is a type of memory of which we are not consciously aware, yet which is remembered. Scientists refer to this type of memory as implicit memory. There is ample evidence that to have memories requires extensive development of the frontal lobes, which infants and young children lack. Also, memories must be encoded to be lasting. If encoding is absent, amnesia will follow, as in the case of many of our dreams. If encoding is weak, fragmented and implicit memories may be all that remain of the original experience. Thus, the likelihood of infant memories of abuse, or of anything else for that matter, is near zero. Implicit memories of abuse do occur, but not under the conditions that are assumed to be the basis for repression. Implicit memories of abuse occur when a person is rendered unconscious during the attack and cannot encode the experience very deeply. For example, a rape victim could not remember being raped. The attack took place on a brick pathway. The words 'brick' and 'path' kept popping into her mind, but she did not connect them to the rape. She became very upset when taken back to the scene of the rape, though she didn't remember what had happened there (Schacter: 232). It is unlikely that hypnosis, free association, or any other therapeutic method will help the victim accurately remember what happened to her. She has no explicit memory because she was unable to deeply encode the trauma due to the viciousness of the attack, which caused her to lose consciousness. The best a psychoanalyst or other repressed-memory therapist can do is to create a false memory in this victim, abusing her one more time.
Essentially connected to the psychoanalytic view of repression is the assumption that parental treatment of children, especially mothering, is the source of many, if not most, adult problems ranging from personality disorders to emotional problems to mental illnesses. There is little question that if children are treated cruelly throughout childhood, their lives as adults will be profoundly influenced by such treatment. It is a big conceptual leap from this fact to the notion that all sexual experiences in childhood will cause problems in later life, or that all problems in later life, including sexual problems, are due to childhood experiences. The scientific evidence for these notions is lacking.
In many ways, psychoanalytic therapy is based on a search for what probably does not exist (repressed childhood memories), an assumption that is probably false (that childhood experiences cause the patient's problems) and a therapeutic theory that has nearly no probability of being correct (that bringing repressed memories to consciousness is essential to the cure). Of course, this is just the foundation of an elaborate set of scientific-sounding concepts which pretend to explain the deep mysteries of consciousness and behavior. But if the foundation is illusory, what possibly could be the future of this illusion?
There are some good things, however, that have resulted from the method of psychoanalysis developed by Sigmund Freud a century ago in Vienna. Freud should be considered one of our greatest benefactors if only because he pioneered the desire to understand those whose behavior and thoughts cross the boundaries of convention set by civilization and cultures. That it is no longer fashionable to condemn and ridicule those with behavioral or thought disorders is due in no small part to the tolerance promoted by psychoanalysis. Furthermore, whatever intolerance, ignorance, hypocrisy, and prudishness remains regarding the understanding of our sexual natures and behaviors cannot be blamed on Freud. Psychoanalysts do Freud no honor by blindly adhering to the doctrines of their master in this or any other area. Finally, as psychiatrist Anthony Storr put it: "Freud's technique of listening to distressed people over long periods rather than giving them orders or advice has formed the foundation of most modern forms of psychotherapy, with benefits to both patients and practitioners" (Storr 1996: 120).
|August 8th, 2010||#4|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Psychoanalysis Is Pseudoscientific Quackery?
by John Fleming
I had rather believe all the tales in the Talmud, than that there is any truth to psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud was a quack, although a successful one. There is no “id,” “ego,” or “superego,” the concepts being either superfluous or unverifiable. In reality, there is no “Oedipal complex,” the tomfoolery used by Freudian quacks to mean a boy wants to have sex with his mother and despises his father as a rival.
Psychoanalysts claim that the complex is so deep-seated that it does not lend itself to easy study. It is supposedly a part of the unconscious, so that people are not consciously aware when it operates. Yet this is a two-way street, since in so arguing one can point out that if it is so archaic or mentally repressed, it is also impossible for even the Freudian cranks to discover. If the complex is part of primitive instinct, how can you even find evidence for it or say it exists in the first place?
Freudian psychobabble caught on no place so well as the United States. I believe the reason has to do with professional aggrandizement, with the need of psychoanalysts and “depth psychology” writers to carve out a living for themselves. The original psychoanalytic quack—who somehow “discovered” facts about the human mind that no thinker for millennia had any notion of—did much the same thing. Freud was a Jew who never would have achieved such fame as an ordinary physician. Unfortunately, some psychologists who should know better partially incorporate psychoanalysis into their publications and research.
They tolerate the pseudoscience instead of criticizing it as unscientific. Thus, DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the publication of the American Psychiatric Association) lists a few “illnesses” that exist nowhere but in the mind of a few sorely deluded psychoanalytic practitioners. Where is the evidence for these bizarre theories? How can they possibly be accepted when they are not empirical? Why did noone else for thousands of years perceive these ideas until the “great discoverer of the unconscious mind” came along trumpeting some crazy notions about a vagina with teeth?
“Oedipal” quackery states that mother-son incest has to be overcome for a boy to mature into a psychologically-well-adjusted man. Psychoanalytic writers claim that many social problems have a basis in this alleged complex. But mother-son is one of the rarest types of incest. The most common types are father-daughter, brother-sister, and other male-initiated ones such as grandfather-granddaughter. Indeed, mother-son incest would strike most people as horrifying. What male would want to have sex with his mother? Such a scene would be shocking, yet undaunted the “analysts” push their gullible notions into psychiatry, psychology and other areas where people are too stupid to know better.
One standard dictionary—The Random House College Dictionary—defines “Oedipus complex” as “the unresolved desire of a child for sexual gratification through the parent of the opposite sex, especially the desire of a son for his mother. This involves, first, identification with and, later, hatred for the parent of the same sex, who is considered by the child as a rival.” You would think that the editors of the dictionary would realize that most boys love their father and do not, subconsciously, unconsciously or preconsciously, wish to eliminate his presence. “See Electra complex,” says the dictionary, defined as “the unresolved desire of a daughter for sexual gratification from her father.” Obviously, like blue for boys and pink for girls, you cannot have an Oedipal for the former without likewise burdening the latter with an imaginary “Electra”! Another dictionary—The American Heritage Dictionary—defines “Oedipus complex” as “libidinal feelings in a child, especially a male child, for the parent of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by hostility to the parent of the same sex and generally manifesting itself first between ages three and five.” Parents beware, check your children for Oedipal symptoms, the boy for putting his own “construction” on his mother’s lack of a penis, it having been bitten off, and the girl for troublesome penis envy, though it would only be fair if you could spread further confusion and parental incompetence with clitoris envy.
Psychoanalysis is unscientific. Its theories and assumptions are not based on observation or experiment. It is an impediment to progress in social science and it is a social nuisance, and society would be better off without its bizarre armchair fictions.
John Fleming is the author of Word Power, which can be ordered by
phoning in the U.S. 1-800-462-6420
|September 9th, 2010||#5|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Freud and the Question of Pseudoscience
Interpreting Freud's Dreams
Freud and the Question of Pseudoscience by Frank Cioffi (Open Court, 1998, ix + 313 pgs.)
The validity of Freud's theories seems at first sight far removed from the usual concerns of The Mises Review. In fact, it is not. Freud mounted a strong attack on morality and tradition. If, as Freud believed, conscience arises through irrational and bizarre unconscious processes, what grounds have we to pay heed to its dictates?
Why respect the rights of others, if moral obligation results from repression? But, it may be said, does not our series of questions rest on a common mistake? Freud's account of the genesis of morality did not aim to alter or abolish it. Quite the contrary, Freud strictly confined himself to science. Unlike Marx, he aimed to understand the world, not to change it.
As Frank Cioffi shows in his devastating criticism of Freud, this is but one of many myths propagated by the Master or his acolytes. In fact, Freud sometimes did preach the "sexual liberation" that popular belief associates with his name. In his 1910 paper "Wild Psychoanalysis," Freud did not unequivocally, as the psychoanalyst Nathan Hale[!] avers, "issue a warning against wild psychoanalysis-the prescription of sexual intercourse for the relief of neurosis" (p. 41, quoting Hale). Freud said in that very paper that "the advice to seek sexual gratification `often . . . led to good results'" (p. 41, quoting Freud).
Those who fear (or hope) that Freud wished to undermine traditional morality, then, are not altogether imagining things. And as far as religion is concerned, Freud's revolutionary intent is entirely evident. To him, religious belief is altogether irrational.
Freud condemns religion in strong terms: "If ever there was a case of a lame excuse we have it here. Ignorance is ignorance; no right to believe anything can be derived from it. . . . Where questions of religion are concerned, people are guilty of every possible sort of dishonesty and intellectual misdemeanor" (S. Freud, The Future of an Illusion, Norton, 1961, p. 32). He looked forward to a time when people would reject "the fairy tales of religion."
Those favorable to traditional values have every reason to pay careful attention to the claims of psychoanalysis. A preliminary difficulty confronts any attempt to do so. Before we can evaluate psychoanalysis, we must know what it claims. But nowhere does Freud set out clearly the tenets that officially constitute his system of therapy.
Of course, we can consult Freud's books and papers. But should we there locate some enormity, we will be told that it was merely advanced as speculation and is not part of the creed. When Freud tells us in Moses and Monotheism, e.g., that the Hebrews of Exodus killed the Egyptian Moses, how is this to be taken? Must one accept this farrago in order to be an analyst in good standing?
Professor Cioffi does not solve our problem by providing his own list of canonical Freudian dogmas. He does however subject to withering criticism an aspect of psychoanalysis universally accepted as central to the theory: the Oedipus complex. According to this part of Freudian doctrine, boys at an early age sexually desire their mothers. Because they fear castration by their fathers as retribution for these wishes, they repress their desires. From their place in the unconscious, the desires that constitute the complex powerfully affect personality development. (And Freud has the gall to call religion a fairy tale!)
Professor Cioffi locates in this theory a crucial weakness. Boys repress their sexual desires, it is claimed, because of fears of castration. But "[c]astration threats are far from universal and when they are made they are not linked to the child's erotic feelings for his mother. So why does he make this connection?" (p. 45). If it is contended that the infant makes the association because he is ashamed of his fantasies, why assume this? "I believe that only two commentators have noted the anachronism involved in imputing to an infant the incest horror which is a product of culture, Voloshinov and G.K. Chesterton" (p. 46).
I think that Cioffi ought to have dealt at this point with claims, advanced by sociobiologists like E.O. Wilson, that aversion from incest is innate. But such claims do not help Freud: if the aversion is built into our genes, what need have we of Freud's saga?
Even if we dismiss doubts about the internal coherence of the Oedipus complex, we have so far not been given reason to accept the theory. In part, Freud based the theory on the results of his own self_analysis; but Professor Cioffi finds Freud's account unconvincing.
"At the time when he [Freud] imputed infantile incestuous feelings to himself he was a self_diagnosed hysteric. Might that not be a sufficient explanation of his infantile desire for his mother without the need to invoke a universal incestuous propensity" (p. 45)?
The pattern Cioffi finds in the Oedipus complex, an implausible hypothesis backed up by inadequate evidence, recurs throughout the Freudian edifice. The most basic and general concept in all of psychoanalysis is the unconscious mind. Our author does not reject the notion of the unconscious in toto, but he brings to light the bizarre lengths to which Freud carried his theory. For one thing, the unconscious in his view can carry out astonishingly complex feats of reasoning. "Freud freely acknowledged his inferiority to his unconscious in performing arithmetic calculations or aiming accurately. Freud also informs us that apparently clumsy movements can be most cunningly used for sexual purposes. One such which he relates `was accomplished with the dexterity of a conjuror'" (p. 96).
As if this were not enough, Freud also believed that the unconscious can cause organic illnesses. Because this was eccentric, even by Freud's lax standards, he only hinted at this medical unorthodoxy.
A Freudian might respond to what has been said thus far that however odd one may find the theory, it is well supported by evidence. But exactly this is what our author is most concerned to deny. Freudian theory is pseudoscientific, Cioffi claims, because whatever occurs is taken to be confirming evidence. If, say, a patient is told that certain behavior manifests his Oedipus complex, he may respond by accepting the interpretation. If so, his agreement is taken as confirmatory. But if the patient rejects the theory, that also counts as evidence for its truth. Here the patient's resistance shows Freud's view correct.
For Cioffi the key point is not that psychoanalysts stick to their theory in the face of falsifying evidence. Often scientists retain a well_confirmed theory that, for the moment, cannot cope with anomalies. Rather, once again, the problem is that, by Freudian "logic," the theory can only be confirmed, whatever happens.
Our author has a yet more extreme complaint against Freud. Much of the fame of psychoanalysis rests on Freud's intricate account of a few famous case histories: Little Hans, Dora, the Rat Man, and the Wolf Man, are, to Freudian adepts, names to conjure with. Professor Cioffi offers strong evidence that Freud deliberately misled his readers about these cases and other matters.
One example must here suffice. Freud claims that he arrived at his seduction theory with great reluctance. Only after a number of patients of their own volition told tales of sexual abuse did Freud give the theory credence.
Cioffi is able to show from earlier statements Freud made that he himself suggested the theory to his patients: he did not derive it from them. And if we cannot trust Freud's honesty and accuracy as an observer, the persuasive force of psychoanalysis evaporates.
|September 9th, 2010||#6|
Join Date: Jun 2009
id id id id id yid
From the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet:
Commander John J. Adams: What is the Id?
Dr. Edward Morbius: [frustrated] Id, Id, Id, Id, Id!
Dr. Edward Morbius: It's a... It's an obsolete term. I'm afraid once used to describe the elementary basis of the subconscious mind.
Commander John J. Adams: [to himself] Monsters from the Id...
Dr. Edward Morbius: Huh?
Commander John J. Adams: Monsters from the subconscious. Of course. That's what Doc meant. Morbius. The big machine, 8,000 miles of klystron relays, enough power for a whole population of creative geniuses, operated by remote control. Morbius, operated by the electromagnetic impulses of individual Krell brains.
Dr. Edward Morbius: To what purpose?
Commander John J. Adams: In return, that ultimate machine would instantaneously project solid matter to any point on the planet, In any shape or color they might imagine. For *any* purpose, Morbius! Creation by mere thought.
Dr. Edward Morbius: Why haven't I seen this all along?
Commander John J. Adams: But like you, the Krell forgot one deadly danger - their own subconscious hate and lust for destruction.
Dr. Edward Morbius: The beast. The mindless primitive! Even the Krell must have evolved from that beginning.
Commander John J. Adams: And so those mindless beasts of the subconscious had access to a machine that could never be shut down. The secret devil of every soul on the planet all set free at once to loot and maim. And take revenge, Morbius, and kill!
Dr. Edward Morbius: My poor Krell. After a million years of shining sanity, they could hardly have understood what power was destroying them.
Dr. Edward Morbius: Yes, young man, all very convincing, but for one obvious fallacy. The last Krell died 2,000 centuries ago. But today, as we all know, there is still at large on this planet a living monster.
Commander John J. Adams: Your mind refuses to face the conclusion.
Dr. Edward Morbius: What do you mean?
|June 6th, 2012||#7|
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: George Town Tasmania
An Additional Comment: A Prose-Poem
Psychiatrist Anthony Storr wrote that: "Freud's technique of listening to distressed people over long periods rather than giving them orders or advice has formed the foundation of most modern forms of psychotherapy, with benefits to both patients and practitioners" (Storr 1996: 120). I find Storr's statement is, for me, a starting point. Freud's 28 volumes on library shelves and his delightful use of language is also a starting point for me. I close this comment with a prose-poem, a very personal piece of introspection.-Ron Price, Tasmania
SIGMUND FREUD AND ME
Philip Rieff(1922-2006) was an American sociologist and cultural critic who taught sociology at the University of Pennsylvania from 1961 until 1992. I was only beginning my study of sociology when Rieff started his teaching career. I was a first year arts student at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario.
Rieff was the author of a number of books on Sigmund Freud including Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (1959). In that book Rieff argued that the father of psychoanalysis was also a moralist, and a conservative one at that: conservative in both his personal mores and in his deep seated conviction that self-restraint is essential to civilization. In his science, Freud prescribed a vision of the good life and in that regard he was, for all his sneering at philosophy, a member of the Socrates guild. I did not come to know about Rieff until I had retired from the world of jobs, endless meetings, social and community responsibilities, as well as the demands of being a father and a husband in the first decade of the 21st century.
Socrates’s was famous for many ideas of which “know thyself” was, arguably, the most well-known. It may come as a surprise to some philosophers that self-knowledge requires more than intellectual self-examination. It demands knowing something about one’s feelings. In my experience philosophers are, in general, not the most emotionally attuned individuals. Many are prone to treat the ebb and flow of feelings as though one’s passions were nothing but impediments to reason. Freud, more than the sage of Athens, grasped the moral importance of emotional self-transparency. Like the Greek tragedians, but in a language that did not require an ear for poetry, he reminded us of how difficult it is to own kinship with a whole range of emotions.
If there is one wisp of wisdom that we could pluck from the mind of Freud it might be this: those who are unaware of their feelings risk becoming puppets of those feelings. We need to recognize the possibility that our commitments might not be based as much upon reason as on unacknowledged emotions and desires. No group has appropriated this fundamental Freudian point more than the advertising industry.
Like Kierkegaard(1813-1855), that 19th century philosopher and fountainhead of existentialism, Freud endlessly mucked around in the morass of anxiety and depression and, like many other great explorers of the mind, was often accused of being too depressing. Yet, when pressed to provide some positive vision of health, Freud more than once implied that what is fundamental to happiness is the ability to love and work; that is, to be able to invest in something other than yourself. In an age often daubed in Freudian terms as “narcissistic” and which, in part thanks to Freud, has come to deify the self, getting outside of one’s own orbit might be a wise and practical ideal.-Ron Price with thanks to Gordon Marino, Freud as Philosopher, 9 October 2011, The New York Times.
Freud had been gone for 20 years
when your book was published;1 &
I had just joined the Baha’i Faith in
the midst of my world of sport, and
a small town smugness that saw truth
only to be found in that holy trinity of:
Catholic, Protestant, and Jew.
Looking back at my 70 years in these
towns & cities, houses & relationships,
I am convinced that Freud was right in
relation to the subject of restraint. And
that religion I joined back in the 1950s
has helped me acquire and maintain the
restraint without which my life would
have been one long & endless confusion.
1 Philip Rieff, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, 1959.
5 June 2012
|every jew a quack, frederick crews, jewish pseudoscience, psychoanalysis, sigmund freud|