Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Freudian and Post-Freudian Psychology: A Bibliography

“It is philosophers who have the task of exploring what matters to us most—what is freedom? What is it genuinely for us to be happy? What is worth valuing and why?—but it is psychoanalysis that teaches us how we regularly get in the way of our own freedom, systematically make ourselves unhappy and use values for covert and malign purposes. Philosophy cannot live up to its task unless it takes these psychoanalytic challenges seriously.”—Jonathan Lear

“[Psychoanalysis] offers us an inclusive vision, model, or paradigm of human nature. One advantage of this model is that it acknowledges the importance of the mind’s connections both with the body (as do neurophysiology and biology) and with specific social milieus (as do the social sciences). As Freud first pointed out, a person’s behavior is influenced not only by his or her psycho-sexual development tracked through its various vicissitudes by psychoanalysis, but also by the various chemical-hormonal happenings occurring within his or her body. Behavior is also influenced significantly by the social institutions within which the individual develops from early childhood to adulthood and to which he remains vulnerable at every stage of life. Psychoanalysis’s portrait of human nature thus encourages interdisciplinary bridge building among the several disciplines concerned with the study of human nature and behavior, including several of the humanities that deal with unconscious meanings, like literary criticism and aesthetics, at the same time that it challenges most traditional views of human nature with its findings regarding unavowed impulses and processes, the persistence of infantile patterns in adult life, and unacknowledged defensive strategies.”—Ernest Wallwork 

“The parts of Freud’s writings that suggest some level of causal determination in fact coexist with his explicit view that one of the chief goals of psychoanalysis is to increase the patient’s ‘freedom’ (Freiheit), ‘autonomy’ (Selbstandigkeit), and ‘initiative’ (Initiative). Thus the aim of psychoanalysis is to ‘free’ (befrein) the patient from intrapsychic ‘chains’ (die Fesseln), which normally increases the patient’s ‘self-control’ (Selbstbeherrschung) and gives ‘the patient’s ego freedom to decide one way or the other’ between conflicting motives. For Freud, it is the mark of a relatively healthy ego to be able to deliberate and exercise self-control and willpower in choosing and pursuing goals. [….] Freud’s claim that the developed ego is guided by qualitative hedonism helps to bring out just how in his late writings ‘the programme of the pleasure principle’ is compatible with non-egoistic, and hence, moral behavior. This compatibility is largely a consequence of the fact that happiness as Freud uses the term for the goal of life is a different kind of end then the quantitative one of maximizing a single kind of agreeable feeling. ‘Happiness’ in life is an ‘inclusive end’ rather than a single ‘dominant end.’ That is to say, the activities through which it is sought are not means in an instrumental or neutral sense, but parts of a whole. To pursue happiness as an inclusive goal through such activities as artistic creativity, intellectual work, sensuality, love, and aesthetic appreciation is to enjoy each of these activities as contributing something qualitatively unique to a life plan. Insofar as these activities are means, it is in the sense of being constitutive of the comprehensive end of happiness in life as a whole. It is only through such activities that genuine happiness in the sense of ‘positive fulfillment’ is possible. [....] Freud does not construe narrowly, then, the happiness at which the ego aims as always involving a self-interested goal. To the contrary, persons are observed to find pleasure in a whole range of activities, including fulfilling the needs of others, and even in moral conscientiousness. For there is ‘satisfaction’ to be obtained in acting benevolently in accordance with one’s ‘ego ideal’ and ‘a feeling of triumph when something in the ego coincides with the ego ideal.’”—Ernest Wallwork
*                                   *                                   *                                   
Introduction & Apologia 

A New York Times piece by Patricia Cohen, Freud is Widely Taught in the Universities, Except in the Psychology Department, summarizes a recent study in The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association:

“Psychoanalysis and its ideas about the unconscious mind have spread to every nook and cranny of the culture from Salinger to ‘South Park,’ from Fellini to foreign policy. Yet if you want to learn about psychoanalysis at the nation's top universities, one of the last places to look may be the psychology department. A new report by the American Psychoanalytic Association has found that while psychoanalysis—or what purports to be psychoanalysis—is alive and well in literature, film, history and just about every other subject in the humanities, psychology departments and textbooks treat it as ‘desiccated and dead,’ a historical artifact instead of ‘an ongoing movement and a living, evolving process.’” 

One reason that looms large in accounting for this state of affairs is the extent to which academic psychology in this country conceives itself as a “scientific” enterprise. And inasmuch as this putative psychological science is linked to an experimental and clinical science of health care, it fancies itself grounded in “empirical rigor and testing,” beholden, that is, to what falls under the allegedly rigorous rubric of “evidence-based medicine” (EBM). This conception strives to place psychology on par with other natural sciences and further explains the recent overweening infatuation with neuroscience and the extravagant claims often made on behalf of evolutionary psychology.[1] An ancillary reason involves sceptical disenchantment with the so-called folk theory of mind or folk psychology from not a few quarters in the philosophy of mind (e.g., eliminative materialism).[2] This is not to insinuate that this folk theory is immune to philosophical revision or extension, but only that any plausible psychological model has compelling reasons for assuming at least some of the key premises that animate this model. Nor is this to imply that psychology can or should ignore science, rather, it may be the case that psychology, insofar as it deals with (a narrative sense of) “the self” and with the nature of mental life, may be better construed as a “science of subjectivity,” wherein science is best understood in an analogical or metaphorical sense, or used simply to refer to a systematic and thus coherent system of inquiry and knowledge (cf. the ‘Islamic sciences’) rather than simply or solely as an objectivist and naturalistic—and frequently positivist—endeavor. Freudian psychology in general and psychoanalysis in particular resist the post-positivist (hence scientistic) “penchant for quantities” and the “fetish for measurement” that infect the natural and social sciences, symptomatic evidence for which is seen in the inordinate fondness for and explanatory and normative privilege accorded to, game theory, cost-benefit calculations, and Bayesian probability estimates (its paradigm of statistical inference serving as the epitome of empirical argument), for example (in saying this, I am not being dismissive of such tools). In other words, and in the end, Freudian psychology shares with Pragmatism broadly conceived what Hilary Putnam calls the “revolt against formalism:” “This revolt against formalism is not a denial of the utility of formal models in certain contexts; but it manifests itself in a sustained critique of the idea that formal models, in particular, systems of symbolic logic, rule books of inductive logic, formalizations of scientific theories, etc.—describe a condition to which rational thought can or should aspire.” In this case, a condition to which our psychology can or should aspire. To paraphrase and quote again from Putnam, our conceptions of rationality cast a net far wider than all that can be scientized, logicized, mathematized, in short, formalized: “The horror of what cannot be methodized is nothing but method fetishism.”

“Freud bashing” remains commonplace in the culture wars, although not usually in the vociferous tone that prevailed a few years back. Even today, one finds precious few articulate defenders of this or that aspect of Freudian psychology from within psychology proper. A handful of courageous philosophers, however, have engaged in sympathetic and sophisticated critiques of the Freudian oeuvre, among them: Ilham Dilman, Richard Wollheim, Donald Levy, Jonathan Lear, Sebastian Gardner, John Cottingham, Marcia Cavell, J. David Velleman, and Ernest Wallwork. Their work is essential to a judicious assessment of what is living and dead in Freudian psychology. In support of that endeavor, I’ve assembled this particular installment in the Directed Reading series: Freudian and Post-Freudian Psychology: A Selected Bibliography of Secondary Literature. What follows is more or less an apologia (in the classical sense) and is intended to entice you, dear reader, into a sustained study (and thereby appreciation) of Freudian and Post-Freudian psychology. 

Freudian psychology resists classification as a conventional natural science and is instead perhaps best defined as an emergent “science of subjectivity” (a new science, if you will), even if Freud, at least in the beginning of psychoanalysis, had dreams of it conforming to a model of the science of his day. The principal phenomena and phenomenology of psychology, be they consciousness, the unconscious, memory, the emotions, or the mind itself, are clearly not amenable to scientific reduction (in the naturalist sense), hence the futility or silliness of attempts to “scientize” psychoanalysis or subject it to the strictures of a putatively “naturalized” experimental psychology incapable of comprehending the meaning of a “science of subjectivity.” While the precise criteria for therapeutic achievement or “success” may vary and could rightly be deemed elusive, such success as thought to exist is only one kind of evidence in the generation and confirmation of psychoanalysis’s etiological hypotheses. 

In brief, and thus minimally speaking, psychoanalytic theory provides us with 

a) a theory of irrationality (not identical to existing from other forms of irrationality, psychologically based or otherwise) that involves both propositional and non-propositional mental states or primary and secondary process thinking;[3]  
b) a philosophically sophisticated psychology, a metapsychology, and a therapeutic model of psychology;
c) a method of scientific investigation as a “science of subjectivity” (at once intra-clinical and extra-clinical, psychoanalysis being the ‘first great theory and practice of personal life’), psychoanalytic explanation involving both causal relations and relations of meaning, with the analysis of symbolism depending upon their mutual inextricability (we might plausibly imagine a ‘grammar, semantics, pragmatics’ of psychoanalysis);
d) a dyadic model of therapeutic treatment involving the analyst and analysand;
e) a triune psyche consisting of the id, ego, and super-ego as a subset of “the person;”
f) the postulation of a notion of repression as a mechanism that explains the inaccessibility of mental states sans the imputation of intention;
g) and related to repression, sophisticated concepts of suppression, wish-fulfillment, phantasy, and sublimation implicating “unconscious” as well as sub-conscious and conscious states of awareness;
h) the building blocks for models of self-deception and states of denial;
i) the postulation of somewhat opaque and elusive psychological dynamics such as introjection, identification, and projection, as well as more routine or common psychological processes of remembering, repeating, free-association, working-through, and play (or playing);[4] and
j) specific and explicit value commitments, including a commitment to the ideal of truth, which treat in both philosophical and psychological terms, the questions, possibility, and normative importance of moral autonomy, (retrospective and prospective) self-responsibility, happiness or contentment (in the sense of eudaimonia), existential freedom, rationality, and the notion of “worthwhile” life in general.[5] 
The therapeutic model of psychoanalytic psychology entails, like most therapeutic relationships, a relation of unequal power involving scientific and therapeutic authority derived from professional training and clinical discoveries, as well as the corresponding knowledge provided by its psychological theory, hypotheses, and methods. The analyst/analysand relationship likewise involves an asymmetry of needs and desires. Reality has been described as “mediated” to the patient by the analyst as a form of “erotic” communication, bringing into conjunction and play both the “pleasure” and “reality” principles. These facts become conspicuous with the onset of transference, as the analyst becomes the embodied site of an “auxiliary” ego or super-ego as an idiosyncratic world comes into view, soon followed by counter-transference: psychological dynamics which place the analyst in a “privileged” position as historian, teacher, and healer (through transference, resistance, and interpretation), although there remains a risk that the analyst and analysand will enter into a “narcissistic” collaboration. The therapeutic setting relies on forms of linguistic, symbolic, and bodily communication that assume the presence of various levels of conscious and subconscious mental states that respond to processes of empathy, self-observation, and (clinical) judgment. The clinical setting becomes a safe and trusting space for “play” which, in turn, is capable of transporting the participants into another “world”/reality, one with its own constraints. This fragile yet safe space for play and spontaneity permits the emergence of a genuinely shared reality betwixt and between the individual lifeworlds and worldviews of the analyst and the analysand.[6]
Psychotherapy demands the mastery of a therapeutic craft or art by the analyst and the acquisition of sundry emotional and practical-cognitive skills on the part of the analysand. One—if not the—overarching goal of the therapeutic process is to account for and overcome the analysand’s lack of self-knowledge while providing the psychological space for at least a rudimentary commitment to the process of individuation.[7] The knowledge of other minds, which presumes a model of folk psychology, permits and encourages experiential sensitivity (‘concentrated listening’) that is simultaneously personalized and contextualized—built up over the course of a long and profound acquaintance with a particular person and his social and cultural surroundings (both large and small), and informed, meaning the psychoanalyst will draw upon an  extensive conceptual vocabulary and clinical training to make sense of what the analysand has been motivated to say, as well as making inferences with regard to what has not been said (motivated or otherwise). Narratives, be they fragmented or manifestly coherent, involving memory (with varying degrees of veracity) and notions of personal and collective identity, will often be prominent in the clinical setting, although the analyst must remain cognizant of the difference between actual lives and the stories told about those lives. Psychoanalytic psychology has shared conceptual and disciplinary boundaries with medicine and psychiatry, academic psychology, biology, the neurosciences, sociology, anthropology, and the humanities, especially art, literature  (e.g., narrative and hermeneutics) and philosophy (in particular, philosophy of mind: consciousness/subconscious(ness)/the unconscious, the emotions, personal identity, and moral psychology, but also ethics, epistemology, and even metaphysics).[8] With regard to ethics and moral psychology, questions of egoism, psychological and ethical hedonism, moral conscientiousness, wishful thinking, weakness of will, self-deception, and denial may be prominent. With regard to moral psychology, the emotions, rather than drives, are now often at the center of its theory of motivation, and motivations are recognized as typically mixed and “overdetermined,” as the traditional conceptual cluster of terms that define Freudian metapsychology (instincts and drive theory) are often challenged, revised, or even rejected.[9]  

[1] Relevant background reading in support of my claims here would draw upon arguments gleaned from (at least) the following (some of these authors, however, might expression irritation upon finding their work used in defense of Freudian psychology or psychoanalysis):
  • Bennett, M.R. and P.M.S. Hacker. Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.
  • Bennett, Maxwell, Daniel Dennett, Peter Hacker, John Searle, and Daniel Robinson. Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind and Language. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
  • Bruner, Jerome. Acts of Meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.
  • Descombes, Vincent (Stephen Adam Schwartz, tr.). The Mind’s Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.
  • Gillett, Grant. The Mind and Its Discontents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2009.
  • Gillett, Grant. Subjectivity and Being Somebody: Human Identity and Neuroethics. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2008.
  • Horst, Steven. Beyond Reduction: Philosophy of Mind and Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Hutto, Daniel D. The Presence of Mind. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1999.
  • Hutto, Daniel D. Beyond Physicalism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2000.
  • Hutto, Daniel D. Folk Psychological Narratives: The Sociocultural Basis of Understanding. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.
  • Kagan, Jerome. The Human Spark: The Science of Human Development. New York: Basic Books, 2013.
  • Pardo, Michael S. and Dennis Patterson, “Minds, Brains, and Norms” (July 10, 2009). University of Alabama Public Law Research Paper. Available:
  • Pardo, Michael S. and Dennis Patterson, “Philosophical Foundations of Law and Neuroscience” (February 6, 2009). University of Illinois Law Review, 2010. University of Alabama Public Law Research Paper No. 1338763. Available:
  • Robinson, Daniel N. Consciousness and Mental Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
  • Rose, Hilary and Steven Rose. Genes, Cells and Brains: The Promethean Promises of the New Biology. London: Verso, 2012.
  • Sorell, Tom. Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation with Science. London: Routledge, 1991.
  • Tallis, Raymond. The Explicit Animal: A Defence of Human Consciousness. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999 ed.
  • Tallis, Raymond. Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. Durham, England: Acumen, 2011.
  • Travis, Charles. Unshadowed Thought: Representation in Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
[2] Cf. Marcia Cavell: “I think it is true that Freudian interpretation depends generally on the everyday reason-explanation model—sometimes called ‘folk psychology’—which it then expands in various ways, and that precisely this is one of its strengths.”
[3] Jonathan Lear elaborates: “Psychoanalysis tends to move simultaneously in two directions. On the one hand, it tries to discover a hidden irrationality in the thought, speech and action which presents itself as rational. On the other hand, it tries to find rationality hidden within the irrational. There among the flotsam of dreams, physical symptoms, slips of the tongue, psychoanalysis discovers that mind is active.”
[4] Cf. Lear: “In the analytic situation there tends to be an inverse correlation between remembering and repeating. In the analytic situation, ‘the patient does not remember anything of what he has forgotten and repressed, but acts it out. He reproduces it not as a memory but as an action; he repeats it, without, of course, knowing that he is repeating it.’ So, for instance, the analysand does not remember that he used to be defiant towards his parents, but he acts defiantly now toward the analyst.”
[5] Cf. the late Eugene Victor Wolfenstein: “In theory and practice Freud offers us only amelioration of and consolation for the pain of being human—only the chance to be ordinarily unhappy.”
[6] Cf. Lear: “The psychoanalytic situation is structured to offer an existential Sabbath: a benign environment that does not produce too much anxiety....”
[7] Again, in the words of Lear, “Freudian method has a Socratic quality to it: through a particular type of ‘cross-examination,’ the patient’s own beliefs about his past and his emotional life are elicited, and eventually ‘refuted’—in the sense that he is shown to have an inadequate conscious understanding of who he is, what has happened to him and how he feels about it.” Moreover, “[f]ar from seeking to return a disturbed individual to a preexisting order, as the shaman, healer, or priest did, [Freud] formulated the analytic project as a personal and provisional hermeneutic of self-discovery, one that a psychoanalyst could facilitate but not control. In this way, he gave expression to possibilities of individuality, authenticity, and freedom that had only recently emerged, and opened the way to a new understanding of social life.”
[8] As Joseph Schwartz says, “To those who regard the world of human feeling as inherently unreliable, who distrust the novel and poetry as a source of human knowledge, the claims of psychoanalysis will always be unsatisfactory.”
[9] Ernest Wallwork reminds us that “...Freud expressed great caution with respect to his entire metapsychological enterprise. He repeatedly described the metapsychology as ‘tentative,’ ‘speculative,’ and ‘hypothetical,’ and even went so far as to call it a ‘phantasy,’ a ‘myth,’ a product of wish fulfillment on the part of its creator.”


Post a Comment

<< Home