Sunday, November 20, 2011

Freud Among the Philosophers

This is the latest in a series of fairly brief posts dealing in one way or another with Freudian Psychoanalysis. Earlier posts are 1. here, 2. here, 3. here, 4. here, 5. here, 6, here, 7. here, 8. here, 9. here, and 10. here.

I’ve just finished reading, once again, Donald Levy’s Freud Among the Philosophers: The Psychoanalytic Unconscious and Its Philosophical Critics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996). The following is a brief (evaluative) abstract:

Although Wittgenstein (pictured above) wrote comparatively little about Freudian psychoanalysis, his complex critical comments have been enormously influential. Donald Levy does a wonderful job of examining Wittgenstein’s assumptions and arguments, exposing his rather uncharitable understanding of psychoanalytic interpretation and the fundamental flaws of his critique (Freud thought to have succumbed to an untenable ‘reductionism’). In addition, he ably defends core Freudian ideas against less gifted philosophers: Alasdair MacIntyre, Karl Popper, and Frank Ciofi, for example. The second half of the book thoroughly exposes the glaring and not-so-obvious weaknesses of Adolf Grünbaum’s (pictured below) positivistically (with regard to the philosophy of science) inspired critique, based as it is on a rather niggardly conception of science (including a ‘false dichotomy’ between intra- and extra-clinical evidence) and an implausible rendering of Freud’s views on more or less axiomatic psychoanalytic propositions (in this case, Freud’s methods are not sufficiently ‘reductionist’). Of course Grünbaum’s argument has been dispatched with some force by others: David Sachs, Paul Robinson, and Sebastian Gardner come first to mind, but I think Levy’s analysis can justly lay claim to being the most definitive of the bunch.

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