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Old 09 Sep 2017, 10:30 PM   #676579 / #1
lpetrich
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Default Another Book on Sigmund Freud

Resistance is confirmation - Butterflies and Wheels Ophelia Benson notes a new book on psychologist Sigmund Freud, Frederick Crews’s Freud: the Making of an Illusion, a book that she plans to blog on as she reads it.

She quotes from Laura Miller's review of the book in Frederick Crews’ Freud and the value of the hatchet job.. LM wants to put Frederick Crews on the couch for writing what she considers a hatchet job of a biography. Basically, FC argues that SF was both a terrible person and a terrible scientist, and LM asks why he came up with such strong conclusions. One might speculate on his motives. Wanting to set the record straight about what he considers a great fraud on the scientific community, most likely.

So could we call him Sigmund Fraud?

FC's case against SF is damning, though it must be noted that one should separate SF the person and SF the scientist. Sir Isaac Newton had done very good science, but he was a very unpleasant person. On the other side, Bertrand Russell says about Plato's description of Socrates that "As a man, we may believe him admitted to the communion of saints; but as a philosopher he needs a long residence in a scientific purgatory." because "He is dishonest and sophistical in argument, and in his private thinking he uses intellect to prove conclusions that are to him agreeable, rather than in a disinterested search for knowledge."

In BC's book, SF comes across as a Donald Trump figure, someone who was much better at self-promotion than at the work that he claimed that he was doing.

SF was an awful doctor, someone who often did much more harm than good to his patients, and someone who despised them. "I could throttle every one of them," he once stated. He tried to make his patients fit his theories, and when they resisted, he took their resistance as confirmation of them.

Many of his theories were projections of his idiosyncratic past and personality, and it is not surprising that later psychologists found them less than convincing. Even some of his followers broke with him about his theories.

Then the question of whether he invented "empathetic psychotherapy" or the "talking cure", as it may be called. FC argues that he didn't. But in fairness to SF, he popularized it. Consider why Galileo Galilei is much more famous for discovering mountains on the Moon than Thomas Harriot. TH saw them first, but he didn't publicize he discovery. But GG did so.

I've posted on the decline of psychoanalysis in this thread: What did Freud get right? - Secular Café It's hard to find much on that subject, but what I've found is revealing. Psychoanalysis has become detached from the mainstream of psychology, almost like some cult.
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Old 10 Sep 2017, 04:12 PM   #676588 / #2
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Ophelia Benson has another one: Wrong but so cuddly - Butterflies and Wheels noting How we feel about Freud: Susie Orbach and Frederick Crews debate his legacy | Books | The Guardian -- Susie Orbach is a Freudian psychoanalyst.

SO, after talking about coming to Freud's ideas:
Quote:
His work has had an impact of such magnitude that it’s not possible for us to think about what it means to be human, what motivates us, what we yearn for, without those very questions being Freudian.

Freud’s conceptions of the human mind and its complexity, whether exactly accurate, are not at issue here. What is worth talking about is the way in which late-20th-century and early-21st-century culture have taken up what they have understood of his ideas.

It is very easy to dismantle the specific interpretations of Freud. Every generation does and I have done so myself. That is not to do away with Freud. Rather, it shows the strength of the edifice he created.
Seems like she is talking about a religion, complete with Freud as its inspired founder. Also with allegorical interpretations of its less supportable doctrines, like how just about everything we do is about sex.

FC responded
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If, as you say, psychoanalytic theory has functioned as a powerfully shaping “explanatory tool”, surely it matters whether Freud’s explanations ever made empirical sense. If they didn’t, the likelihood is considerable that he raised false hopes, unfairly distributed shame and blame, retarded fruitful research and education, and caused patients’ time and money to be needlessly squandered. Indeed, all of those effects have been amply documented.

In your writings, you assert that Freud’s emphasis on the Oedipus complex was androcentric and wrong; that he misrepresented female sexual satisfaction and appears to have disapproved of it; that envy of the penis, if it exists at all, is not a key determinant of low self-esteem among women; and that his standard of normality was dictated by patriarchal bias, thus fostering “the control and subjugation of women”.

This list, which could be readily expanded, constitutes an indictment not only of harmful conclusions but also of the arbitrary, cavalier method by which they were reached. Yet elsewhere in your texts, you refer to Freud’s “discovery of the unconscious” and to his “discovery of an infantile and childhood sexuality”. Were those alleged breakthroughs achieved in a more objective manner than the “discovery” of penis envy? What are the grounds on which any of Freud’s claims deserve to be credited?
SO responded
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We are on different planets here. My job is to listen, to engage with the world of the analysand, to hear their difficulties, confusions, conflicts, agonies and questions.
continuing in this vein. But what is so special about Freudianism in this context?

FC responded, after noting that some Freudian notions are not only false but with bad consequences,
Quote:
One such consequence has been an ongoing disregard, by psychoanalysts and their academic allies, of the principle that hypotheses ought to be held accountable to a preponderance of evidence. Freud’s psychological writings contain not a single item of raw data. We meet only “psychoanalytic findings”, suave stories, evasions and heroic posturing. That charade has seduced many an unwary professor, including yours truly 50 years ago. Even today, regrettably, the Freudian vogue in its least rational (Lacanian) form remains entrenched in the humanities.
SO responded
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Here’s what I see as our difficulty, – you want the world to see Freud as a scoundrel and a bully, and you want me to repeat my own difficulties with his specific interpretations of unconscious processes. I’m not a throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater type. Just as Newtonian physics has been superseded and Darwin was not the only person working on evolution, physicists and biologists don’t need to trash their predecessor in order to move the field along.
Newtonian physics was not so much superseded but incorporated as a limiting case into relativity and quantum mechanics. It was very successful, and it continues to be very successful within its domain of validity relative to more recent theories.

Can Freudians point to anything like that?
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Old 10 Sep 2017, 09:05 PM   #676596 / #3
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While I have rejected the idea of psychoanalysis as a testable theory and as a useful tool, I cannot agree that Freud unfairly distributed shame and blame because he never expressed any moral judgement on homosexuality, neuroses, psychoses or perversions at all. Freud was very much a determinist. Blame and shame did not fit anywhere in his scheme. What other people made of it has nothing to do with psychoanalysis itself.
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Old 10 Sep 2017, 11:20 PM   #676604 / #4
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Quote:
Just as Newtonian physics has been superseded and Darwin was not the only person working on evolution, physicists and biologists don’t need to trash their predecessor in order to move the field along.
True, but I don't think that's why we trash our predecessors; people do that because it makes them feel smart to cleverly critique a famous person. Intellectuals trash-talk the previous generation's geniuses for the same reason sports buffs talk down players who are having a bad season, even if they themselves are talentless walruses.

Personally, I don't consider someone smart for echoing a common criticism of a scholar; judiciously considering someone's contributions to the field while being clear about where their errors lie and why is much higher-order thinking than simply repeating something you heard about Freud or Lamarck or whomever pop culture of academia has left behind.
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Old 11 Sep 2017, 03:57 AM   #676610 / #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
Personally, I don't consider someone smart for echoing a common criticism of a scholar; judiciously considering someone's contributions to the field while being clear about where their errors lie and why is much higher-order thinking than simply repeating something you heard about Freud or Lamarck or whomever pop culture of academia has left behind.
I'll note as well that old Aristotle comes in for quite the tongue-lashing in articles and books on science that I've read. This includes his mistaken laws of motion. But then nobody else did any better on that for centuries until Galileo came along.
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Old 12 Sep 2017, 02:04 AM   #676650 / #6
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I've been wondering whether I should pick this book up from the local library. Thanks; now I know I should.

Rob
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Old 14 Sep 2017, 02:19 AM   #676726 / #7
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Have ordered it through local library.

Rob
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Old 17 Sep 2017, 10:39 PM   #676866 / #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
Quote:
Just as Newtonian physics has been superseded and Darwin was not the only person working on evolution, physicists and biologists don’t need to trash their predecessor in order to move the field along.
True, but I don't think that's why we trash our predecessors; people do that because it makes them feel smart to cleverly critique a famous person. Intellectuals trash-talk the previous generation's geniuses for the same reason sports buffs talk down players who are having a bad season, even if they themselves are talentless walruses.
Who's "we"?

If some predecessors' work is flawed, then it's worth pointing out the flaws. It is also worth asking whether those predecessors could have avoided those flaws.

For Aristotle, it would have been hard for him to do.

But for Freud, we had good ideas of how to test hypotheses and do experiments, and Freud failed miserably there. He was a good storyteller, but he was very bad at testing hypotheses.
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Old 18 Sep 2017, 02:28 PM   #676886 / #9
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To reiterate something I posted in that earlier thread you linked to LP:

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Freud was well aware of his own tendency to build an enormous body of deductions from a single fact – a fertile and creative method, but a two-edged sword, if the significance of that single fact was misinterpreted. Freud wrote Jung in 1909:
Your surmise that after my departure my errors might be adored as holy relics amused me enormously, but I don’t believe it. On the contrary, I think that my followers will hasten to demolish as swiftly as possible everything that is not safe and sound in what I leave behind.
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Old 18 Sep 2017, 03:59 PM   #676888 / #10
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As to Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, he has gotten a bump rap for his belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. That is an ancient bit of folklore, and it was widely accepted before the early 20th cy. Charles Darwin himself believed that "the effects of use and disuse" could be inherited.

He was one of the first big-name biologists to propose descent with modification, more usually called biological evolution. But he thought that IoAC was only a side mechanism, and that the main mechanism of evolution was some internal forces that create greater complexity -- orthogenesis. That was a widely-accepted mechanism of evolution until the mid 20th cy. with its Darwinian "Modern Synthesis".

He also didn't believe in extinction -- a species fades off into its descendant species.

His contemporary Georges Cuvier established that extinction happens. Examining fossil mammoths, he showed that they were a species of elephant distinct from present-day African and Asian elephants. He then noted that nobody has ever claimed to have found any present-day mammoths, and that it is very difficult for a mammoth to hide, and even more for a herd of them to hide. So he concluded that mammoths are now extinct.

He rejected evolution, because he thought that species are too adapted to their lifestyles for them to change to become new species, but he had convincing counterevidence for a common belief of back then. The belief that God would not allow any of his creations to go extinct.

So Lamarck believed in evolution without extinction, and Cuvier extinction without evolution.
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Old 20 Sep 2017, 02:14 AM   #676950 / #11
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Got my copy from the library. I'll let you know what I think after I read it.

Rob
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