August 19, 2017

"By identifying sexual desire as a universal drive with endlessly idiosyncratic objects determined by individual experiences and memories..."

"... Freud, more than anyone, not only made it possible to see female desire as a force no less powerful or valid than male desire; he made all the variants of sexual proclivity dance along a shared erotic continuum. In doing so, Freud articulated basic conceptual premises that reduced the sway of experts who attributed diverse sexual urges to hereditary degeneration or criminal pathology. His work has allowed many people to feel less isolated and freakish in their deepest cravings and fears...."

From a NYT book review of "FREUD/The Making of an Illusion." The book is by Frederick Crews, who is extremely hostile to Freud. The review is by George Prochnik, who sees value in Freud, despite all of the bad science and self-deception belabored by Crews.
Crews has been debunking Freud’s scientific pretensions for decades now; and it seems fair to ask what keeps driving him back to stab the corpse again. 
The Oedipus complex?
Now that we’ve effectively expelled Freud from the therapeutic clinic, have we become less neurotic? With that baneful “illusion” gone, and with all our psychopharmaceuticals and empirically grounded cognitive therapy techniques firmly in place, can we assert that we’ve advanced toward some more rational state of mental health than that enjoyed by our forebears in the heyday of analysis? Indeed, with a commander in chief who often seems to act entirely out of the depths of a dark unconscious, we might all do better to read more, not less, of Freud.
Ooh! Trump keeps popping up everywhere. It's like sex in Freud. It/he is everywhere. I'm going to read Freud just because I'd like some reading material where I know Trump won't show up.

Just kidding. What I really mean is that there's some reason we seem to need a big, dominating, larger-that-life male figure to loom over us and mess with our mind.

Prochnik says Trump seems to act entirely out of the depths of a dark unconscious, but maybe the feelings we project onto Trump are arising entirely out of the depths of our dark unconscious.

61 comments:

n.n said...

Projections from the twilight fringe.

glenn said...

Trump, the destroyer of rice bowls. He just has to go. Mine might be next.

Ralph L said...

Not the fringe, unfortunately.

Freud's clinical work was with neurotic women, so of course he changed all that. Amazing he kept his own sanity and didn't go postal.

Roger Sweeny said...

Crews has been debunking Freud’s scientific pretensions for decades now; and it seems fair to ask what keeps driving him back to stab the corpse again.

For the same reason that people keep making books and movies about Nazism: to keep it from coming back.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

The Clinton-CNN-McAuliffe-Podesta-Colbert higher consciousness floats above us, in light and blessed glory where the kingdom of heaven joins with silver waterfalls and free condoms.

Mountain Maven said...

He writes the books, perhaps, because he knows one thing and people keep paying him to write about it.

mccullough said...

Trump is the new Godwin rule. Another fool who can't help himself by bringing Trump up. Trump is quite the real estate tycoon by taking up the space in so many people's heads.

n.n said...

First, transgender. Then, trans-social.

rhhardin said...

He might be thinking of the Peter Principle, which wasn't Freud.

Henry said...

Sounds like George Prochnik is the one with the Oedipus complex.

How about instead of reading Freud, we read Sophocles?

William said...

It sounds like an interesting book. Freud may have been wrong about quite a lot of things, but his impact on our culture has been huge and, imho, more beneficial than otherwise......,Like Marx, a lot of what Freud said was plausible. A lot of people ended up chasing their own tails in analysis for years, but that's not the same as dying in the gulag. Marilyn Monroe is the only person I can offhand think of who died from psychoanalysis....... The mere fact that it offered a rational explanation was to some extent comforting. He found the logical in psychological, and made the darkness of our drives a tad more comprehensible.

mockturtle said...

Some of Freud's patients reported that their fathers came into their rooms at night when they were young and fondled them. Freud attributed these reports to sexual fantasy, the parallel to the Oedipus complex. These acts probably really happened and I doubt that very many females have sexual fantasies about their fathers.

Michael K said...

" his impact on our culture has been huge and, imho, more beneficial than otherwise."

Not if you were the mother of a schizophrenic son.

Marilyn Monroe's psychiatrist's son was a classmate in medical school. He said she would call his father threatening suicide all the time.

The last night she called him again and he said to go back to sleep.

n.n said...

Progressive social liberalism made possible by trans-human resumption of abortion rites. Never again... and again and again.

William said...

I think that was the most pernicious part of Freud's teachings. Schizophrenia and homosexuality are not the result of bad parenting. One of his followers said that autism was caused by "icebox" mothers. All of this added another layer of grief and guilt to parents' lives. If you wish to tear down the statue of Freud, there is sufficient cause. However, there is also a plus side to his legacy. Sex lends itself to fetishes and superstitions. He liberated us from some of them.......Legacies: I think you can fairly argue that there was more to Robert E. Lee than his support for slavery and more to Martin Luther than his antisemitism. Some of Freud's legacy is worthy of respect.

Sebastian said...

"it seems fair to ask what keeps driving him back to stab the corpse again" Because fools like the reviewer keep asserting that the corpse is a living presence worthy of respect. Goes for a lot of prog delusions.

MikeD said...

I'll take Althouse's final paragraph for $500 Alex!

Kevin said...

In doing so, Freud articulated basic conceptual premises that reduced the sway of experts who attributed diverse sexual urges to hereditary degeneration or criminal pathology.

Thus leaving hereditary degradation and criminal pathology free to enter the political realm driven by the same so-called "experts".

Kevin said...

What I really mean is that there's some reason we seem to need a big, dominating, larger-that-life male figure to loom over us and mess with our mind.

Perhaps a nation increasingly raised by single moms was destined to become a nation with daddy issues?

rcocean said...

The real question isn't why is Crew "belaboring" his anti-freudism (is any liberal elite concerned about "belaboring" anti-racism?)- its why does anyone take Freud seriously?

People forget that the liberal elite were pushing Freud as the latest/greatest thing in "Science" in the 30s/40s/50s/60s. A big class marker was your belief in Freudianism. Only the "rubes" and "boobs" didn't believe. John Huston even made a movie about him.

I was exposed to Freudian psychology in College in the early 80s.

He was presented to me, as one of the 3 greatest thinkers of the Modern era (along with marx and darwin). It struck me as a bunch of BS, so I went to the college library and tried to find an anti-Freud book. The college library literally had over 100 books on Freud (not even counting the ones on Jung) - & only ONE of them rejected Freud.

But where is Freud now? Who discusses the Liberal elite and their passion for Marx and Freud? No one. Down the memory hole.

chuck said...

> Indeed, with a commander in chief who often seems to act entirely out of the depths of a dark unconscious

Exhibit A in why Freud's work was worthless: it reflected the nuttiness of the therapist.

OK, not all Freud's work was worthless. His suggestion to use cocaine as a topical anesthetic was a good one.

Michael K said...

The college library literally had over 100 books on Freud (not even counting the ones on Jung) - & only ONE of them rejected Freud.

I spent a summer with a psychiatrist who had sat on Freud's knee as a child. His father was a lay analyst (He had been a Baptist minister) and went to Vienna to train. Freud hated Americans but took him on. The father then returned to Kansas and practice at or near Menninger. The psychiatrist was qualified as an analyst before medical school.

He told me some stories of trying to use analysis of psychotics as a student. Every summer, the state hospital psychiatrists would leave for vacation and these students would come in to replace them. It was sort of what I was doing.

He quickly decided analysis was BS and his methods were later written up in a book by one of his UCLA residents.

The book was "Reality Therapy" and had quite a vogue in LA schools before the unions took over.

Yancey Ward said...

Of course Trump comes into it- I mean, who doesn't expect that today?

gg6 said...

"... maybe the feelings we project onto Trump are arising entirely out of the depths of our dark unconscious."
Amen! I say. And I wouldn't place much stock in any of the "deepest cravings and fears" of either Crews, Prochnuk or the NYT.
As some have said, and I buy-in, Freud only stood on the shoulders of Shakespeare. I don't think even the NYT can ever Newspeak Will out of existence - although other forces just might some day, it would sadly seem.
In any event, all this talk of the 'dark unconscious' brings to my mind Carl Jung, more than Freud - who seemed to make that the center of his lifework.
PS not to mention Dylan: "It ain't dark yet, but it's getting' there."

sunsong said...

Interesting topic and truly, what do I know?;-) Freud is considered a giant in the study of psychology. I think the study of the mind and of mindfulness are fascinating...consciousness...what is that all about? In Freud's time a lot of motivation was subconscious, but it didn't last long after his death. Now motivations are much more conscious, though you can run across folks who are pretty damn unconscious right here ;-)

Who are the liberal elite? The politico's? the press? academia? all the above? I like Bernie. He is elite? I am still somewhat relieved now that Hillary is not President. But I imagined this is what Trump would be like, sadly....so it's a paradox :-)

Michael K said...

chuck has a sort of Trump Tourette Syndrome.

He can't help it.

Tourette's syndrome is a problem with the nervous system that causes people to make sudden movements or sounds, called tics, that they can't control.

Yancey Ward said...

I imagine Progressives everywhere mumbling to themselves, "Why, oh why didn't I think of the Staypuff Marshmellow Man?"

Yancey Ward said...

That is a different "chuck".

Fernandinande said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandinande said...

Google ngram shows that "Freud" and "Freudian" are about as popular - or are they 'common'? - as they've ever been (except for a weird spike in 1953).

Anonymous said...

What I really mean is that there's some reason we seem to need a big, dominating, larger-that-life male figure to loom over us and mess with our mind.

With the latest hysterics over C-ville and Trump's comments I began to think of all this as a sadomasochistic freak show

Donald "Dungeon Master" Trump comes out, whips one of his "slaves" who is tied to a wall and the slave yells - "I will never submit to you dungeon master" followed by more whipping.

Donald the Dungeon master leaves. The slave on the wall can't stop obsessing over him, emotionally overwhelmed by his/her thoughts the slave wants another whipping. Followed by the whipping and then - "I will never submit to you old dungeon master".

Sorry of the visual but that's how it looks to me.

From the beginning the rage against Trump was CLEARLY laced with oedipal conflict, esp Stephen Colbert's.

But now it has become so emotionally perverse that it seems like the Trumpphobics really need this emotional interaction - tension, pain, release - and Trump is giving it to him/her.

The Dungeon Wall is not the Wall I as a Trump voter voted for.

chuck said...

> chuck has a sort of Trump Tourette Syndrome.

Do you mean me, or Chuck. Because I'm beginning to think, "doctor heal thyself."

James K said...

I suspect the NYT has a bonus system that rewards its writers every time they bring up Trump derisively. No doubt it's good for 'likes' and clicks among those who have any inclination to look there.

Like Marx, a lot of what Freud said was plausible.

I would have said "Unlike Marx," who was completely full of crap even at the time. Freud was an brilliant innovator who got most things wrong, but gets some credit for opening up a field of study and staking out positions. Whether that field has really progressed, other than refuting most of his ideas, is unclear to me.

Michael K said...

OMG! Two chucks ?
Have we run out of nom de blogs ?

Luke Lea said...

Freud was a major literary talent wedded to an unquenchable cultural ambition to shine, to be a condottieri (his term) and the truth be damned if it got in his way. He wasn't lacking in chutzpah.

I find it remarkable that in European intellectual circles in the first half of the 20th century Marx, Freud, and Einstein were considered the three major figures. Only one of them is still standing, and even Einstein no longer towers above figures like Darwin or the founders of quantum mechanics -- Heisenberg and Dirac especially -- which physicists now consider to be an even more revolutionary intellectual achievement than special and general relativity.

chuck said...

Michael, I've been here for years, Chuck is a newcomer. This has been pointed out to you before and should be easy to understand and deal with. I've been using "chuck" on blogger since 2004 and am not inclined to change it. If you think the two names are for the same person, I think you would be hard put to argue that I think like a lawyer, or even that I play golf.

Dr Weevil said...

Haven't any of you heard of Crews before? I'm surprised.

1. His previous work on Freud, particularly Analysis Terminable, is devastating. As I recall (it's been a few years), he proves that Freud was an intellectual fraud who never cured anyone, whose ideas were stolen or wrong or (most often) both.

2. If he's still attacking Freud, it's because Freud's reputation is like a zombie: it's dead and should be buried and forgotten, but somehow still shambling around stinking up the place and damaging people's lives.

3. Way back in 1963 (he must be 80 years old by now), Crews wrote one of the funniest books ever written: The Pooh Perplex. It's a satirical 'case-book' for a freshman literature course on Winnie-the-Pooh, with chapters by a Marxist ("A Bourgeois Writer's Proletarian Fables"), a Christian ("O Felix Culpa! The Sacramental Meaning of Winnie-the-Pooh"), an F. R. Leavis clone ("Another Book to Cross Off Your List"), several different brands of lit-critter (e.g. "Paradoxical Persona: The Hierarchy of Heroism in Winnie-the-Pooh", "The Style of Pooh: Sources, Analogues, and Influences"), and, of course, a Freudian ("A. A. Milne's Honey-Balloon-Pit-Gun-Tail-Bathtubcomplex", badly-translated from the German). The sequel, "Postmodern Pooh" (2001), is also hilarious, but start with the original.

rcocean said...

"Freud was a major literary talent wedded to an unquenchable cultural ambition to shine, to be a condottieri (his term) and the truth be damned if it got in his way. He wasn't lacking in chutzpah."

Yeah, that's why he won the Nobel prize for LITERATURE. BTW, the Brits always thought of Freud as a Kraut bullshit artist and never took him seriously. Its only the USA that's worshiped him.

My own opinion, is that after his "cocaine is the new wonder drug" meme failed, he searched around and figured out two things. 1) people want to have sex, and 2) a lot of people have emotional/mental problems.

So he filled that market niche by coming up with a lot of Bullshit theory. And BTW, to make it even more successful, Freudian Psychoanalysis allows a significant number of Psychoanalysts a chance to make a comfortable living without actually having to cure anyone -while feeling "good" about it.

n.n said...

I imagine Progressives everywhere mumbling to themselves, "Why, oh why didn't I think of the Staypuff Marshmellow Man?"

It's because they are smoking emanations from Puff the hallucinating dragon.

Ralph L said...

There are also two very different Unknowns.

Robert Cook said...

"I find it remarkable that in European intellectual circles in the first half of the 20th century Marx, Freud, and Einstein were considered the three major figures. Only one of them is still standing, and even Einstein no longer towers above figures like Darwin or the founders of quantum mechanics -- Heisenberg and Dirac especially -- which physicists now consider to be an even more revolutionary intellectual achievement than special and general relativity."


Could the founders of quantum mechanics have developed their theory if Einstein had not first published his groundbreaking work?

Kevin said...

chuck has a sort of Trump Tourette Syndrome.

Capital Chuck (big Chuck?) did for quite some time. Capital Chuck (big Chuck?) has been much better of late.

Whatever the cause, and for however long it lasts, I think we all should acknowledge that fact. Change is difficult for anyone, and anyone who seriously tries deserves our highest respect in the attempt.

Robert Cook said...

"There are also two very different Unknowns."

Aren't you overlooking all the unknown Unknowns?

tcrosse said...

There can be unknown numbers of Unknowns, both known and unknown.

viator said...

Trump is the nemesis of fantasy.

chuck said...

which physicists now consider to be an even more revolutionary intellectual achievement than special and general relativity.

I agree that quantum mechanics was a bigger revolution in the foundations, but the implications of General Relativity are still fertile ground and combining it quantum mechanics is the cutting edge of current physics. Einstein had an amazing ability to reach into a complicated subject and pick out the essential bit that made it all clear. Apart from his more widely known work, he made contributions to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, recognized the importance of Bose's work (Bose statistics), formulated the a b explanation of the emission and absorption of light, and other things. He was the major physics power for at least 20 years. I don't think many would think to rank him below Heisenberg and Dirac even if the work of the latter was a more fundamental change in the foundations of physics. They stood on the shoulders of a giant.

Michael K said...

Freudian Psychoanalysis allows a significant number of Psychoanalysts a chance to make a comfortable living without actually having to cure anyone -while feeling "good" about it.

A classmate of mine and a friend lives on the beach in Malibu and sees his patients at home.

I'm sure he takes about 50% of his $5 million home off as an office deduction.

Michael K said...

"Michael, I've been here for years, Chuck is a newcomer. "

Sorry, I saw the quote, assuming that's what it was, in a comment of yours.

Unless there is also another chuck.

tim in vermont said...

Obama used to show up everywhere too. You might be reading a novel and some orgasmic impulse would lead the writer to summon the shade of the master con-artist

Unknown said...

Ironically, Freud invented the term projection.

Feste said...

Truth as orgasmic pleasure is the culmination, not the ending, of shared explorations.

Objectifying Present Mirth (my wife) for the sake of shared pleasures reinforces to me that there is no objectivity in a mere private orgasm, qua orgasm, because shared truth is connected to sensuous, full-bodied, moving, - and complex - living bodies.

We didn’t need Freud, only each other. so to teach ourselves.

So many beds to which Freud was never invited.

Michael said...

"Prochnik says Trump seems to act entirely out of the depths of a dark unconscious, but maybe the feelings we project onto Trump are arising entirely out of the depths of our dark unconscious." You think?! This seems exactly right.

Also: female desire was not viewed as strong and valid before Freud? Perhaps by people with no exposure to Greek mythology, history (Catherine the Great?), or literature. Or in the world-view of those who graduated from college in the last 20 years...

Feste said...

“ ... female desire was not viewed as strong and valid before Freud? Perhaps by people with no exposure to Greek mythology, history (Catherine the Great?) ...”

Illiterate Tantric Buddhists and many Freud-illiterate populations of propagating Chinese women equally knew about female desire and its many tendrilled and not allornothingly-pleasures long before both Freud and later Kristeva (still pretty hot).

Jay Elink said...

Could the founders of quantum mechanics have developed their theory if Einstein had not first published his groundbreaking work?

*******************************

Fer crissake: Einstein's realm is in the very large, while QM is in the infinitesimally small.

Just because he could not reconcile himself to QM does not mean the latter overthrew him in any sense whatsoever.

If anyone can offer a counter to that statement, citing facts, I'd love to see it.

hombre said...

"Just kidding. What I really mean is that there's some reason we seem to need a big, dominating, larger-that-life male figure to loom over us and mess with our mind."

Taking a little editorial license, Bill Whittle says: "White [male] privilege is not having somebody else to blame."

"A big, dominating, larger-than-life male" would seem to suffice as blameworthy. There is no reason to believe that a book reviewer for the NYT would feel or understand the privilege.

Henry said...

I added the dog avatar about a year ago just in case another Henry shows up.

Anonymous said...

But Freud wasn't a scientist. He just made s**t up.

"Now that we’ve effectively expelled Freud from the therapeutic clinic, have we become less neurotic?" That isn't the test. The test is, have we become more neurotic? If not, Freud was a fraud.

Guildofcannonballs said...

And the bleak shall inherit the mirth, ...

David said...

Imagine how different the world might have been if Hitler had been a really good artist?

Nice thought, isn't it?

Then consider whether it would have made any difference if Hitler had become a successful artist. Would that have changed conditions in Germany. How much was German Fascism a product of Hitler's evil genius, and how much was it due to the cultural, economic, religious, political, moral and psychological conditions in Germany?

It could have been worse. A man with Hitler's goals but not his political, intellectual and psychological quirks and weaknesses. A man who could have allowed his armies to defeat the Russians, avoid a two front war, lead a German push for nuclear weapons.

The Hitler shorthand is full of mental traps. That couldpersist for 1000 years.

rhhardin said...

Freud was a careful reasoner, careful enough so that Derrida got a lot out of analyzing the forces working on him.

Paul Snively said...

William: Legacies: I think you can fairly argue that there was more to Robert E. Lee than his support for slavery and more to Martin Luther than his antisemitism.

Anyone who suggests there isn't more to Martin Luther than his antisemitism doesn't know a damed thing about Martin Luther.

Quantum mechanics more groundbreaking than relativity: only because of the cult of personality around it and its obvious incompleteness. Quantum mechanics assumes a fixed spacetime background—the fixed spacetime background our best-attested physical theory, Einstein's general relativity, did away with. So the search for a theory of quantum gravity goes on—so desperately that "physics" has gone so far as to set aside its insistence on unique theories and even falsifiability in its pursuit.

I'd say Einstein was laughing from beyond the grave, but I'm reasonably confident he'd be saddened, not amused.