*Becoming Freud*

by on June 1, 2014 at 3:52 pm in Books, History, Philosophy | Permalink

That is the new and excellent book by Adam Phillips, in the US available on Kindle only.  Here is one bit:

…Freud was discovering that we obscure ourselves from ourselves in our life stories; that that is their function.  So we will often find that the most dogmatic thing about Freud as a writer is his skepticism.  He is always pointing out his ignorance, without ever needing to boast about it.  He is always showing us what our knowing keeps coming up against; what our desire to know might be a desire for.

And later:

Psychoanalysis would one day be Freud’s proof that biography is the worst kind of fiction, that biography is what we suffer from; that we need to cure ourselves of the wish for biography, and our belief in it.  We should not be substituting the truths of our desire with trumped-up life stories, stories that we publicize.

Recommended.

dearieme June 1, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Bah: bloody fraud.

Dismalist June 1, 2014 at 4:56 pm

I am sympathetic, but what empirical evidence could contradict, or prove consistent with, that last hypothesis?

Tracy W June 2, 2014 at 6:35 am

And what if one of the truths of your desire is to publicize trumped-up life stories? (

Steve Sailer June 1, 2014 at 5:47 pm

The bizarrely high repute of Freud when I was young struck me as perfectly understandable example of ethnic cheerleading. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960-70s, I was surrounded by a brilliant Jews, but they didn’t have too many generations of secular Jewish heroes to adulate. There just hadn’t been many old Jews doing much of anything the new Jews found interesting before a few generations before. So they over-elevated Freud into a Genius for the Ages to give their people more of a past to be proud of.

By the standards of 20th Century charismatic cult leaders, Freud was pretty benign and almost sort of responsible.

anon June 1, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Jewish intellectuals have been good talkers and self promoters. Even Einstein is overrated in the mind of the general public, in my opinion. More people know of Einstein and general relativity than Schrodinger and quantum mechanics. Einstein was the better media man.

Jewish intellectuals have historically not had the reserved empirical sensibilities of, say, the English scientist. I think this has something to do with Jews’ love of polemics, but maybe someone with more knowledge of Jewish intellectual history can comment.

Whatever June 2, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Einstein seems overrated until you learn a lot of physics. General Relativity is a unique masterpiece, probably 50 years ahead of time, almost snglehandedly constructed by Einstein, and one of exactly 2 pillars of modern physics.

Not only that (although it would suffice), but Einstein also contributed mightily to statistical physics, and I would even consider him one of the father of quantum mechanics (in spite of his later criticisms). Indeed, his explanation of the photoelectric effect is an application of quanta, and he later (1907) rested the idea in the now-called Einstein model for a solid. The more physics you know, the more you realize how much Einstein contributed.

And tha doesn’t even take into account what is normally mentioned. Special relativity, browning motion, Bose-Einstein condensates, etc.

Special relativity alone is brilliant. It is worth reading the papers by Pointcarre or Lorentz at the time, and compare with Einstein seminal 2 papers of 1905. Pure genius.

Shrodinger just formalized what grad student de Broglie had proposed. He realized that his equation was not manifestly invariant, but couldn’t generalize. He also didn’t fully understand or accept what he had discovered. Schroedinger isn’t comparable to Einstein.

So Much for Subtlety June 1, 2014 at 8:06 pm

I think there was an element of self-protection as well. Jews of that period had to deal with a lot of antisemitism and discrimination. Along comes Freud to tell you that in fact the bigots had an unhealthy anal obsession and were fixated on their mothers. Science proved that the Christians were all wrong, and not just wrong but sick – what joy!

I would think that Marxism was popular for much the same reason.

Steve Sailer June 1, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine’s award-winning 2004 book “The Jewish Century” explains the appeal of Marxism to his mother’s side of the family during the first three decades of the Soviet state as:

1. Jews were persecuted for being a different nationality, and Marxism promised to abolish nationality.

2. Jews were persecuted for being a different religion, and Marxism promised to abolish religion.

3. Jews were persecuted for being good at capitalism, and Marxism promised to abolish capitalism.

Ray Lopez June 1, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I wonder, like GM B. Fischer, does our fiend SS suffer from a hatred for Jews despite being a Jew? Does he have too high standards for them? Now Freud the man indeed was a myth, but recent meta studies have found that “talk therapy” (which arguably Freud and Jung perfected), or even ‘talking to a friend’ is just as good (albeit much more expensive) than Prozac and benzodiazepines like Xanax for many types of simple mental illness. True, Prozac is better for severe mental illness. So essentially Freud helped people before modern second-generation psychiatric drugs were on the market.

So Much for Subtlety June 2, 2014 at 3:33 am

Actually the only talking cure that has been shown to have any benefit at all is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Freudian talking cures, in all their myriad forms, do not work at all. You may as well say that the Catholic Church invented psychotherapy because talking to a priest works as well as talking to a therapist. Probably better actually.

So you have probably got that correlation the wrong way around – Talking therapies are as useless as talking cures. Little better than placebos.

A meta-analysis published by Kirsch in 2008 suggests that in those with mild or moderate symptoms, the efficacy of fluoxetine and other SSRIs is clinically insignificant.[23] A 2009 meta analysis by Fournier et al., which evaluated patient level data from 6 trials of the SSRI paroxetine and the non-SSRI antidepressant imipramine has been further cited as evidence that antidepressants exhibit minimal efficacy in mild to moderate depression.[24] A 2012 meta analysis utilizing individual patient level data from 18 randomized controlled clinical trials of fluoxetine for the treatment of depression concluded that statistically and clinically significant benefit was seen irrespective of baseline depression severity, and that there was no significant effect of baseline severity on observed efficacy.[25]

asdf June 2, 2014 at 12:16 pm

This says more about the unpredictable effects of psychotropic drugs than the virtues of talk therapy.

wwebd tried June 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm

This is not a comment on the book, but rather on the ludicrous proposition that Freud had, in his sphere of inquiry, proof of anything. Like Dickens and Picasso, Freud almost literally overdoses on a perception of himself as an explorer (for Dickens, an explorer of sentimentality, for Picasso, an explorer of the collision of pastiche and artistic truth, for Freud, an explorer of transcribed versions of the unconscious). Each of them could have reached the levels of true artistic achievement, and each, in a way, did, but not in the way they tried, and not without an excessive amount of charlatanism, thereby crowding out the proof of anything in the world they would have liked to demonstrate except the evidence of their own talent (and, in the case of Dickens, a few deep but sentimental truths).

karl June 1, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Freud was the pioneer who drew the first maps. These maps became more accurate when more people traveled down the same roads. Why the hate?

Vernunft June 1, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Because what you said is false.

Psychology has abandoned Freud, as it’s become empirical. Freud is only relevant with silly literary criticism types who haven’t got the memo that he was a fraud.

derek June 1, 2014 at 6:41 pm

It took what, two or three generations for psychiatry to be able to see past Freud. He illustrates the danger where someone puts forward a plausible theory about something in the soft sciences, and because it is first it is taught and practiced, and it takes a long while before someone else with a better understanding can overcome the deadweight of the bad ideas.

It is a good idea to ‘hate’ soft science stars.

Mark Thorson June 1, 2014 at 7:49 pm

If L. Ron Hubbard had been born 50 years earlier, we’d be discussing how psychology took two or three generations to move past Dianetics.

Steve Sailer June 1, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Dianetics was originally marketed as a cheaper version of Freudian talk-therapy. That’s what Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” is vaguely about: Joaquin Phoenix plays one of a huge number of WWII vets with what we’d today call PTSD, but, outside of religion, there wasn’t much in the way of talk therapy available in the later 1940s. Freud’s cultists had the expensive end of the market, but Hubbard intuited that there ought to be a market for cheaper listeners.

Steve Sailer June 2, 2014 at 12:07 am

There was plenty of other and better psychology that Freud mostly distracted from. America, for example, had William James, who was 14 years older than Freud and far wiser. Yet, in the middle of the 20th Century, New York intellectuals talked about Freud perhaps a couple of orders of magnitude more often than William James.

It’s hard to make any sense out of the Freud Fad without being cognizant of the ethnic element: Reform Judaism intellectually liberated a lot of very high IQ Jews who lacked sufficient secular Jewish intellectual heroes, so there was vast celebration of Marx, Freud, and Einstein. The last proved worthy, the first proved trouble, and middle one seems interesting today mostly as an amusing example of the Jewish tendency to make cult figures out of Wise Rabbi-types.

charlie June 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Not disagreeing, but you’ve also got to account thats science was a good escape valve for jews in 20th century america. Classic case of turning lower middle class kids into upper middle class ones.

wwebd tried June 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm

No “hate” from me… Freud is often classed with the clownish Marx and the Wodehousian newt-lover Darwin. I bumped him up a class by putting him in with Dickens and Picasso ….

karl June 1, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Yes, you did. And it’s a legitimate line, but one difference between them might be that Freud’s exploration of the unconscious mind was not “artistic” — no one disputes that it exists. I’m glad that Aristotle doesn’t get the “Freud treatment” from his critics.

Besides, my comment was directed more at the first commenter — and was bait left for those like him to come out of the woodwork, which they just did.

It’s perfectly reasonable to discard old theories in a field of investigation as new evidence is discovered, but there must be so much more at work when the first investigator is so thoroughly reviled.

Vernunft (may his humility be praised) actually agreed with me but didn’t seem to realize it. I don’t know if Derek hates “soft science stars” or “soft science” itself. Either way, calling two or three generations a “long while” shows a distinct lack of patience in the pursuit of knowledge.

And would either of these two call economics a “soft science” — many respected professionals do.

So Much for Subtlety June 1, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Dickens and Picasso are greater than Darwin? Oh dear.

I would class him with Marx myself. Not as bloodthirsty mind you.

Steve Sailer June 2, 2014 at 6:23 am

Jung was the better artist of the pair.

So Much for Subtlety June 1, 2014 at 7:25 pm

So we will often find that the most dogmatic thing about Freud as a writer is his skepticism. He is always pointing out his ignorance, without ever needing to boast about it.

Amazing. It is as if a whole host of critics, the most accessible of which is probably Frederick Crewes, never even existed.

Whatever else you can say about Freud, he was not a skeptic about himself or his work. He never claimed ignorance. And no matter what suffering and torture he inflicted on patients in the name of his quasi-religion, he never ever doubted he was right.

Steve Sailer June 1, 2014 at 11:56 pm

Freud described himself as having the personality of a conquistador.

P June 2, 2014 at 3:37 am

Perhaps Freud was sceptical of other people’s ideas, but his own theories are based on enormous leaps of faith. Only someone with heroic confidence in his own brilliance can come up with something as far-fetched as the Oedipus complex.

P June 2, 2014 at 3:50 am

Psychoanalysis would one day be Freud’s proof that biography is the worst kind of fiction, that biography is what we suffer from; that we need to cure ourselves of the wish for biography, and our belief in it. We should not be substituting the truths of our desire with trumped-up life stories, stories that we publicize.

But the basic idea of Freudianism is that the biography of childhood is extremely important for understanding adults and that it’s possible to reliably reconstruct it with an analyst’s help. Freud both didn’t realize how fallible memory is and how it’s doubly fallible when an analyst with his or her theoretical presuppositions is trying to pry memories out of a patient. Furthermore, what modern behavioral genetics shows is that the influence of early childhood on adult behavior, including mental disease, is limited. Genetic differences are by far more important.

Tracy W June 2, 2014 at 6:27 am

Indeed. It struck me that the main evidence Freud supplies for this point is by serving as a bad example.

Steve Sailer June 2, 2014 at 6:35 am

Freud’s great contribution to 21st Century thought is the concept of “projection:” “Freud considered that in projection thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one’s own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone else.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center is a hate group (it’s just America’s most lucrative one). Or, Stephen Jay Gould was constantly denouncing real scientists for being bad at science due to ethnic bias. And, the current World War T against bullying is a classic example of bullying:

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2014/01/bullying-and-projection.html

Steve Sailer June 2, 2014 at 6:29 am

This vast and absurd episode in 20th Century intellectual history only makes sense as an example of ethnic weight-throwing. It was a fairly non-malign outbreak of ideological nuttiness — there was no Freudian Great Terror or Holocaust — so it ought to be a useful example to us of how Jewish intellectualizing can go off the rails and yet still be celebrated by other Jewish intellectuals and puffed up into a seemingly important thing for many years, no matter how ridiculous it really is.

But gentiles aren’t supposed to notice Jewish influence in a non-adulatory manner, so it’s just left as a baffling incident.

Jim June 2, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Next to people like Jesus or Mohammed, Freud was among history’s greatest charlatans.

Donald Pretari June 2, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Thanks for the recommendation. I just bought the kindle edition. Based on the comments, I’m betting the book is excellent.

Joe Ynot June 2, 2014 at 9:39 pm

There’s no question that Freud was wrong about a lot of stuff, especially when he tried to apply his theories to history and social science. As some have pointed out, science has advanced beyond him in many areas, and the talking cure is, well, not a cure. As for his ideas on sex, well…

However, he had a truly great mind. An intelligent person cannot read “The Interpretation of Dreams” his work on the structure of the brain, or thoughts on neurosis without advancing intellectually and being stimulated to think about the world and themselves in new and exciting ways.

All the Jewish stuff here is anti-intellectual, irrelevant, and contemptible. It’s about a half-step above talking about “Jewish Physics.”

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