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Burying Freud

[ Burying Freud Homepage | Freud's Seduction Theory Homepage ]

In "Grünbaum Versus Crews" I attempted to show how Adolf Grünbaum undermines Crews's dismissive critique of psychoanalysis by underscoring the difference between arguing that there is no solid evidence for psychoanalysis versus arguing that psychoanalysis is worthless. Grünbaum has always emphasized the heuristic value of psychoanalysis and finds empirical plausibility in Freud's theory of defense.

Before commenting on Eagle's response to Crews, I want to point to the ambiguity and vagueness of the term "evidence." There is an important difference between (1) claiming there is sufficient evidence to justify the scientific community in accepting a theory versus (2) claiming there is sufficient evidence to justify continued research into the claims of that theory. Crews, Grünbaum, and others may be justified in denying the existence of evidence type (1). It has never been shown that evidence of type (2) is lacking. Part of the problem is that there is no precise and objective definition of the term "evidence." Consequently, Crews's denial that evidence exists for any of psychoanalysis rests on a weak premise. Allegre (The Behavior of the Earth 1988 Harvard U. Press) in his history of Wegener's theory of Continental Drift describes the way the two Atlantic coastlines fit together as "evidence" for Wegener's theory, but many years passed before new evidence appeared sufficient to persuade the scientific community to accept his hypothesis.

However, most would agree that Crews is correct in claiming that no evidence satisfying standard scientific criteria exists for Freudian beliefs. The eminent analysts Wallerstein and Edelson agree with him on this and only argue that the possibility for obtaining such evidence from the clinical situation exists. There is one weakness in Wallerstein's claim that I have not seen previously noted. He argues (1986) for the possibility of testing psychoanalysis on the basis of the Menninger long-term study on psychoanalytic psychotherapy described in his 42 Lives (1986 Guilford Press). However, the "testing" is based on "predictions" about the patients made by clinicians. This notion of prediction confuses the "guesses" clinicians can always make about the future clinical course with "logical deductions from the theory" which are required for testing in the scientific sense. Psychoanalytic theory is not yet formulated with sufficient precision to make such deductions possible. But let us turn to Eagle's response in the NYRB (4/21/94) to Crews.

Eagle says, "In presenting his indictment of psychoanalysis as a pseudoscience, Crews appears to assume that psychoanalytic theory belongs to the psychoanalytic establishment and that its parochial practices are decisive for determining the status of the theory. But psychoanalytic theory belongs to the intellectual and scientific community and, as I will show, has had a significant heuristic impact on that community. He also assumes--and is able to do so because broadsides substitute for careful argumentation--that psychoanalysis is a monolithic entity. It is not. It consists of a somewhat heterogeneous body of propositions, formulations, assumptions and hypotheses, some of which are foundational assumptions, some of which are indeed relatively immune to refutation, and some of which are eminently testable. . . . A critical consideration in assessing the status of any theory is its heuristic value in generating research and further theory-building. This issue, far more important than any of the other matters taken up in his essay, Crews totally ignores. Let me provide merely one example: During the last number of years, an exciting an important body of research on 'repressive style' and its correlates has appeared in scientific psychology journals and books (e.g. Singer ed. Repression and Dissociation 1990 U. Chicago Press) " I will not quote all of Eagle, and interested readers should turn to the original.

What I will try to show is that Crews's answer to Eagle is "evasive" (one of Grünbaum's favorite terms in responding to his critics). Crews begins with the statement that Eagle's letter "rests on a manifestly untenable premise. This is that 'heuristic value,' or stimulation to further insight, ought to be weighed more heavily than intrinsic plausibility in the scrutinizing of propositions about the mind." Eagle does say that the issue of "heuristic value" is "more important than any of the other matters taken up in [Crews's] essay," but it is illogical and implausible to infer that Eagle is claiming that heuristic value is more important than confirmation or that Eagle's point on heuristic value is a "quixotic means of safeguarding his favorite notions." A more plausible interpretation of Eagle is that the lack of standard scientific evidence for psychoanalysis has been much discussed whereas its heuristic value has been relatively neglected.

Later Crews says, "One may doubt whether the alleged conceptual breakthrough of 'repressive style' is adequate recompense for all the inconvenience, anguish, and confusion wrought by Freud's theory of repression." Following the same line of reasoning one might wonder if scientific knowledge of the atom is "adequate recompense" for all the social-political problems resulting from the atomic bomb, but this line of reasoning rarely if ever appears in scientific deliberations.

Crews then says, "Eagle well knows, but now chooses to forget, the identifying of an authentic 'style' does not thereby validate any given explanation of how that style gets developmentally formed," but he cites nothing in Eagle's writing to justify the inference that Eagle has "forgotten" or believes this.

Crews says, "Finally, Eagle is mistaken in saying that I overlook the heterogeneity of psychoanalytic propositions. They are so heterogeneous, I have argued, as to constitute a self-condemning jumble of dubious and incompatible claims. I am concerned to explore the laxity of method that makes such chaos inevitable." This statement hints at a possible logical error. "Incompatible claims" are "self-condemning" only in the sense that both cannot be true. Perhaps Crews means "self-condemning" in some other sense. It is true that logical inconsistency is a grave flaw in an allegedly complete and valid theory, but Eagle is quite explicit in denying any such view of psychoanalysis. Crews's response is "evasive" in the sense of misinterpreting Eagle in ways I would not expect a reader of his intelligence and sensitivity to do and by turning the focus to Freud's alleged failings as a scientist. A less evasive answer would have dealt with the examples Eagle cited from Singer's "Repression and Dissociation."

Eric Gillett, M.D.

 


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Burying Freud

[ Burying Freud Homepage | Freud's Seduction Theory Homepage ]

In "Grünbaum Versus Crews" I attempted to show how Adolf Grünbaum undermines Crews's dismissive critique of psychoanalysis by underscoring the difference between arguing that there is no solid evidence for psychoanalysis versus arguing that psychoanalysis is worthless. Grünbaum has always emphasized the heuristic value of psychoanalysis and finds empirical plausibility in Freud's theory of defense.

Before commenting on Eagle's response to Crews, I want to point to the ambiguity and vagueness of the term "evidence." There is an important difference between (1) claiming there is sufficient evidence to justify the scientific community in accepting a theory versus (2) claiming there is sufficient evidence to justify continued research into the claims of that theory. Crews, Grünbaum, and others may be justified in denying the existence of evidence type (1). It has never been shown that evidence of type (2) is lacking. Part of the problem is that there is no precise and objective definition of the term "evidence." Consequently, Crews's denial that evidence exists for any of psychoanalysis rests on a weak premise. Allegre (The Behavior of the Earth 1988 Harvard U. Press) in his history of Wegener's theory of Continental Drift describes the way the two Atlantic coastlines fit together as "evidence" for Wegener's theory, but many years passed before new evidence appeared sufficient to persuade the scientific community to accept his hypothesis.

However, most would agree that Crews is correct in claiming that no evidence satisfying standard scientific criteria exists for Freudian beliefs. The eminent analysts Wallerstein and Edelson agree with him on this and only argue that the possibility for obtaining such evidence from the clinical situation exists. There is one weakness in Wallerstein's claim that I have not seen previously noted. He argues (1986) for the possibility of testing psychoanalysis on the basis of the Menninger long-term study on psychoanalytic psychotherapy described in his 42 Lives (1986 Guilford Press). However, the "testing" is based on "predictions" about the patients made by clinicians. This notion of prediction confuses the "guesses" clinicians can always make about the future clinical course with "logical deductions from the theory" which are required for testing in the scientific sense. Psychoanalytic theory is not yet formulated with sufficient precision to make such deductions possible. But let us turn to Eagle's response in the NYRB (4/21/94) to Crews.

Eagle says, "In presenting his indictment of psychoanalysis as a pseudoscience, Crews appears to assume that psychoanalytic theory belongs to the psychoanalytic establishment and that its parochial practices are decisive for determining the status of the theory. But psychoanalytic theory belongs to the intellectual and scientific community and, as I will show, has had a significant heuristic impact on that community. He also assumes--and is able to do so because broadsides substitute for careful argumentation--that psychoanalysis is a monolithic entity. It is not. It consists of a somewhat heterogeneous body of propositions, formulations, assumptions and hypotheses, some of which are foundational assumptions, some of which are indeed relatively immune to refutation, and some of which are eminently testable. . . . A critical consideration in assessing the status of any theory is its heuristic value in generating research and further theory-building. This issue, far more important than any of the other matters taken up in his essay, Crews totally ignores. Let me provide merely one example: During the last number of years, an exciting an important body of research on 'repressive style' and its correlates has appeared in scientific psychology journals and books (e.g. Singer ed. Repression and Dissociation 1990 U. Chicago Press) " I will not quote all of Eagle, and interested readers should turn to the original.

What I will try to show is that Crews's answer to Eagle is "evasive" (one of Grünbaum's favorite terms in responding to his critics). Crews begins with the statement that Eagle's letter "rests on a manifestly untenable premise. This is that 'heuristic value,' or stimulation to further insight, ought to be weighed more heavily than intrinsic plausibility in the scrutinizing of propositions about the mind." Eagle does say that the issue of "heuristic value" is "more important than any of the other matters taken up in [Crews's] essay," but it is illogical and implausible to infer that Eagle is claiming that heuristic value is more important than confirmation or that Eagle's point on heuristic value is a "quixotic means of safeguarding his favorite notions." A more plausible interpretation of Eagle is that the lack of standard scientific evidence for psychoanalysis has been much discussed whereas its heuristic value has been relatively neglected.

Later Crews says, "One may doubt whether the alleged conceptual breakthrough of 'repressive style' is adequate recompense for all the inconvenience, anguish, and confusion wrought by Freud's theory of repression." Following the same line of reasoning one might wonder if scientific knowledge of the atom is "adequate recompense" for all the social-political problems resulting from the atomic bomb, but this line of reasoning rarely if ever appears in scientific deliberations.

Crews then says, "Eagle well knows, but now chooses to forget, the identifying of an authentic 'style' does not thereby validate any given explanation of how that style gets developmentally formed," but he cites nothing in Eagle's writing to justify the inference that Eagle has "forgotten" or believes this.

Crews says, "Finally, Eagle is mistaken in saying that I overlook the heterogeneity of psychoanalytic propositions. They are so heterogeneous, I have argued, as to constitute a self-condemning jumble of dubious and incompatible claims. I am concerned to explore the laxity of method that makes such chaos inevitable." This statement hints at a possible logical error. "Incompatible claims" are "self-condemning" only in the sense that both cannot be true. Perhaps Crews means "self-condemning" in some other sense. It is true that logical inconsistency is a grave flaw in an allegedly complete and valid theory, but Eagle is quite explicit in denying any such view of psychoanalysis. Crews's response is "evasive" in the sense of misinterpreting Eagle in ways I would not expect a reader of his intelligence and sensitivity to do and by turning the focus to Freud's alleged failings as a scientist. A less evasive answer would have dealt with the examples Eagle cited from Singer's "Repression and Dissociation."

Eric Gillett, M.D.

 


human-nature.com
© Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

US -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.com logo

UK -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.co.uk logo

 | Human Nature | The Human Nature Daily Review | Psychiatry Research Online |