Re: Psychoanalysis

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Sun Nov 26 1995 - 20:26:03 GMT

> > From: nicholas bollons <>
> > Date: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 17:30:38 GMT
> Grunbaum begins with an explanation of the hermenuetic criticisms of
> Freud's work by Habermas and Ricoeur who both attacked the validity of
> theory and therapy."Strictly speaking there are no facts in
> psychoanalysis only analyst's interpretations"(Ricoeur 1970). But what
> Ricoeur has misinterpreted is the idea behind cause and effect that
> Freud was trying to identify and not to empirically prove "reasons
> rather than causes" for human conduct (Klein 1976)

Freud would not have been happy to concede that his "science" was really
just hermeneutics (interpretation, opinion). Yes, he thought he was
dealing with real scientific cause/effect.

> The main weakness of Frued's theory is its empirical testability.

To declare your theory an empirical one is one thing, to actually make
it testable is another, and to make it successfully pass the empirical
test is yet another. Freud appears only to have done the first of

> (we have all discovered that
> introspection is an empirical/ scientific "dead horse") and degraded
> Freudianism to the status of a nonscience.

I don't see the connection here, unless you are referring to
introspective criteria for whether or not a patient gets better (surely
you have to give SOME weight to how they feel about it). On the other
hand, if it is introspection about cause an effect -- e.g.: repression
as cause, neurosis as effect, lift repression, cause neurosis to lift),
then certainly this needs empirical, not just introspective or
interprative support.

> This leads onto the refutability of the methods employed by
> psychoanalysis and it is this aspect that we see major flaws not only
> in scientific analysis but also in Freud's status in Psychology. The
> idea of implied and suggested symptomology (that the therapist has the
> ability to create neurosises through words and phrasing ) is not
> unknown to us .

It's not the creation of neurosis during the session that's at issue,
but the attribution of cause and the ability to cure. That's where
suggestion could be masking the absence of cause or the absence of

> "the improvements observed after
> treatment were caused by the lifting of the repression " (Grunbaum) and
> that therapy sessions are catalysts for the emergence of repression
> .And that" lifting repressions caused symptoms to dis appear"

If this had been made testable (rather than just something the therpais
and patient settled on y interpretation), and if it had been tested, and
if the test had come out positive, then there would have been something
to psychoanalysis. But it never even got to the first step: It stepped
instead into the risk-free hermeneutic circle of interpretation instead
of the empirical testfield of hypothesis and expperiment.

> Free association is contaminated by therapy suggestion and "does not
> play the role it is claimed to play in revealing repressions "(Erikson
> 1954) . Has therapy actually "cured" the neurosis cause or does the
> patient only percieve that he is cured due to them having been to
> therapy and something has been discovered This "placebo effect" was
> ignored by Freud,and although it has had little testing ,using control
> groups to identify wether therapy has worked , it remains important
> evidence against Psychoanalysis. Freud's work on dream analysis falls
> apart on the basis of the problems identified to free association and
> the weak link between Freudian slip's and repreesion are identified by
> Glymour(1980).

In other words, there's no evidence that it either cures or predicts
anything; most of it is circular, as interpretations tend to be. And the
little that is empirical is either still untested, a hundred years
later, or haslong failed the test.

> The summary ends with an anacdote similar to my "sinking ship " idea :
> that although Psychoanalysis is alive it is" considerably unwell "
> And although Grunbaum identifies the citics and criticism's towards
> Freud's work , he in fact comes over as considerably sympathetic
> towards Psychoanalysis . He denotes that" extra clinical findings will
> either validate or disconfirm Freudian theory" and until then the ship
> WILL continue to steer it's way through troubled waters.

Grunbaum thinks there are still tests to be done, but if there are, they
must be pretty remote from psychoanalytic practice, which has chugged
merrily on, oblivious to any empirical score-card. Psychoanalysis has
much more the flavour of a cult than a treatment looking to be
validated, like a cure for diabetes or malaria...

By the way, there are probably still a few empirical tests left to be
done to check whether there is any truth to astrology, but the
horoscopes in the papers are doing fine without worrying about the

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