One or two commenters have wondered where I was getting all this ‘Freud was wrong’ stuff, so I thought I would offer a small sample. There is an interesting article on Frederick Crews on Freud, and on Freudianism in general, for example.

One tip off to the pseudoscientific nature of psychoanalysis is to describe its institutional structure. In a real science there are no central organizations that function to ensure doctrinal conformity, expel those who deviate from the accepted truth, and present a united front to the world. It has long been apparent to observers, however, that this is exactly what psychoanalysis has done and continues to do…Unlike a real science, there is a continuing role for Freud’s writings as what one might term the sacred texts of the movement, both in teaching and in the current psychoanalytic literature. Arlow and Brenner (1988) note that Studies of Hysteria and The Interpretation of Dreams are almost 100 years old, but continue to be standard texts in psychoanalytic training programs…None of this is new to people even marginally acquainted with the scholarship on psychoanalysis. But it bears repeating because psychoanalysis, unlike a scientific theory but very much like certain religious or political movements, has essentially been immune from attacks leveled at it either from inside or outside the movement. Insiders who dissented from central doctrines were simply expelled and often went on to found their own psychoanalytically-oriented sects, typically with the same disregard for canons of scientific method as the parent religion.

And much more. And there is Crews’ reply to Jonathan Lear, which is an amusing read as well as an informative one.

Lear himself cites Plato, Saint Augustine, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, and Proust as sharing Freud’s insistence “that there are significant meanings for human well-being which are obscured from immediate awareness,” but he fails to pose the obvious question implied by such a list. What did Freud add to the previously garnered pearls of wisdom, and do his innovations constitute actual knowledge or merely a set of overweening speculations?…This paradox–one of several in Lear’s tremulously irrationalist article–rests on a fundamental confusion of categories. Although interpretation may preoccupy the analytic hour, the claims of psychoanalytic theory are not interpretations but determinate propositions about how the mind regularly works…But Lear has still another escape route handy, the contention (borrowed from Richard Wollheim) that Freudian propositions need no proof because they are merely “an extension of our ordinary psycho- logical ways of interpreting people in terms of their beliefs, desires, hopes and fears.” If we can guess why someone heads for the refrigerator, Lear believes, then we ought to be able to guess why, let us say, Freud’s Little Hans developed a horse phobia…Psychoanalysis as we know it blossomed when Freud, instead of admitting that he had tried to browbeat his patients into believing they had been molested, turned his own misdiagnosis into “false memories” supposedly generated by them in childhood to cover up their shameful and noxious practice of masturbation. Only later did he add his still more grotesque signature touch: the “memory” of having been abused could in most cases be regarded as an unconscious screen for the child’s desire to fornicate with one or both parents.

The complete articles are available online, in case you don’t already have any of the books. No need to take my word for all this.

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