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The Freud fray in France

by Ted Welch Sat Sep 25th, 2010 at 08:09:31 AM EST

Update: I've now corrected an error pointed out by a Freud fan from Paris; it is Serge Tisseron, not Tesseron - clearly I was unconsciously injecting testosterone into the fray :-) I have also now included in the main text my comment in which I outlined some of Onfray's main criticisms of Freud.

Recently my favourite French philosopher, Michel Onfray, wrote a very critical book on Freud, "The Twilight of an Idol: The Freudian Plot"  (a reference to Nietzsche's Twilight of the idols, and Onfray adopts Nietzsche's idea that a philosopher's ideas reflect his own life). Such strong criticism  of Freud is a bit of a rarity in France, where Freud is still widely respected - taught in the philosophy BAC, and apparently Freudians dominate about 70% of academic psychiatry departments. Even someone as independent and critical as Onfray had decided not to read an earlier collection of articles critical of Freud - "The Black book of Psychoanalysis" - on the basis of early comments about it. Subsequently one of its authors, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, helped open Onfray's eyes to the less than edifying truth about Freud.

Predictably there were very critical responses from the Freudians, but the level was lamentable (well, if you still respect Freud ...), including that from celeb intello Bernard Henri Lévy:

front-paged by afew



"Members of the still powerful corporation guild of psychoanalysts in France have come out in full force to launch concerted attacks against Michel Onfray. Some members of this corporation have accused this brilliant subversive philosopher to be in cahoots with "neoliberalism" or "savage capitalism" of the era globalization. A preposterous accusation (Onfray is very left-wing).
...
BHL started his attacks against Michel Onfray in the media way before he read even one single sentence of the book. But Onfray counterattacked by brushing aside baseless attacks not grounded in the actual reading of the book and mocked in the media this novel method of "reading" without actually reading--thus refreshing the memory of the literary public about the "botulism" debacle. (BHL fell for a hoax about a supposed philosopher called Botul).

http://alexengwete.blogspot.com/2010/05/philosophy-war-bernard-henri-levy.html

Similarly, Roudinesco, a Freudian and, it seems, a high level academic (!), also had a reading problem, accusing Onfray of only reading Freud in 5 months and including no references or bibliography. As Onfray pointed out, there was a 20 page bibliography and about 50,000 references and he'd made it clear he'd started reading Freud in 1973 and had taught Freud for the BAC for years before reading the latest collected edition of Freud's works, as well as many other related books.

http://www.mediapart.fr/club/edition/les-invites-de-mediapart/article/170410/reponse-de-michel-onfra y-elisabeth-roudinesco

Now Le Monde publishes a critical article by Serge Tisseron, a psychoanalyst.

Tisseron

His arguments are as poor as those of Roudinesco. He says that Onfray doesn't acknowledge that criticism came from within the Freudian movement. However he omits the inconvenient fact (a Freudian slip?) that such criticism was strongly resisted by Freud and his most subservient (and so acceptable) disciples:


"One tip off to the pseudoscientific nature of psychoanalysis is to describe its institutional structure ... As Crews notes, psychoanalysis 'conducted itself less like a scientific-medical enterprise than like a politburo bent upon snuffing out deviationism' (Crews, 1995, p. 110).

Perhaps the first person to notice and be repelled by this aspect of psychoanalysis was the famous Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler. Bleuler briefly flirted with psychoanalysis. But when he left the psychoanalytic movement in 1911, he said to Freud "this `who is not for us is against us,' this `all or nothing,' is necessary for religious communities and useful for political parties. I can therefore understand the principle as such, but for science I consider it harmful." (in Gay 1987, pp. 144-145). The quotation is telling. To become a psychoanalyst was like joining a religious or political movement and not at all like becoming a scientist.

The apex of the authoritarian, anti-scientific institutional structure of psychoanalysis was the Secret Committee of hand-picked loyalists sworn to uphold psychoanalytic orthodoxy, described by Phyllis Grosskurth in The Secret Ring: Freud's Inner Circle and the Politics of Psychoanalysis: By insisting the Committee must be absolutely secret, Freud enshrined the principle of confidentiality.

http://www.ety.com/HRP/fakirs/freud.htm

Jung was expelled for disagreeing with Freud.

Tisseron refers to Ferenczi as an example of the supposed healthy tradition of criticism within Freudianism, however cf.:


"... Regarding Ferenczi, Grosskurth (1991) notes that "(t)he thought of a disagreement with Freud was unbearable ..." (p. 141); "There were occasions when he rebelled against his dependency, but always he returned repentant and submissive" (pp. 54-55).

... Besides Rank, other deviators, Fleiss, Adler, Jung, and Ferenczi, were diagnosed as suffering from a variety of psychiatric disorders and therefore needing further psychoanalysis to bring them back to the true faith."

http://www.ety.com/HRP/fakirs/freud.htm


Tisseron's more recent example is Masson, NOT a good choice for an example of  the openness of the Freudians:


"...There is a long line of such expelled dissenters in the history of psychoanalysis, and the list continues to lengthen with the recent expulsion of Jeffrey Masson.
...
The entire enterprise begins to appear more and more like an authoritarian religious cult than a scientific movement.

http://www.ety.com/HRP/fakirs/freud.htm

The whole article is well worth reading.

Freudians criticise Onfray for supposedly being mistaken AND (fallback position) anyway what he says is nothing new. Oh really ? While this may be true of some academic circles and some psychoanalysts, like Tisseron, the criticisms will seem shocking to people with a general idea of who Freud was and what he did. Freudians prefer to keep quiet about all this information; hence the hostile tone from leading Freudians Like Roudinesco. Onfray does not claim that his main criticisms are original, but, having had his eyes opened by people like Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Onfray decided to write his own settling of accounts with Freud, with typical thoroughness and success.

His criticisms include:

Freud lied about his success with his now famous cases - later research has shown that they were not cured and some were ill for years afterwards.

Sergei Pakejeff ... (the poor "Wolf Man", had) "analysis for six decades, despite Freud's pronouncement of his being "cured"), making him one of the longest-running famous patients in the history of psychoanalysis.

A few years after finishing psychoanalysis with Freud, Pankejeff developed a psychotic delusion. He was observed walking the streets staring at his reflection in a mirror, convinced that some sort of doctor had drilled a hole in his nose. Ruth Mack Brunswick, a Freudian, explained the delusion as displaced castration anxiety.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Pankejeff

Freud was absurdly credulous, taking seriously things like numerology, etc., including his friend Fliess's theory about curing females' menstruation problems by operating on the nose. Fliess bungled the operation on Emma Eckstein, left some gauze in which caused dangerous bleeding - one of the "well-known" things that is strangely absent from Ernest Jones 1,500 page hagiography (Onfray p.343). As Masson says:

"I think Freud at that point had the choice of telling Fliess, 'Look, you have been guilty of improper conduct and I too by sending this woman to you, and we owe her a sincere apology.' Or Freud could say, 'The woman really has done the damage herself. You are not responsible for this, Wilhelm, nor am I. This woman is an hysterical bleeder.' And Freud chose the latter. That is, he blamed the bleeding on Emma Eckstein, not on the operation by Fliess. So, in other words, he felt it so important to protect the reputation of Fliess and his own friendship with Fliess that he was willing to distort a piece of reality."

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1652467.htm

Onfray also points out that Freud was not the great pioneer that he and his disciples claimed, he did not "discover" the unconscious (see "The Unconscious Before Freud." L.L. Whyte) nor was he the first to write about it at length, e.g. Hartmann wrote a "Philosophy of the Unconscious" when Freud was just 12. Freud borrowed from others but concealed his borrowings in order to satisfy his vanity in wanting to be regarded as on a level with Copernicus and Darwin. He then established the group of loyal followers to propagate the myth of the great pioneer and the tradition that analysts must themselves undergo analysis according to the Freudian tenets:

Frank Sulloway (1979b) describes the indoctrination characteristic of training analyses in which any objection by the analysand is viewed as a resistance to be overcome. And even Shelly Orgel (1990), who remains a defender of the psychoanalytic faith, writes of the feelings of many contemporary analysands that their analysts had behaved aggressively toward them, turning them into devoted and passive followers of their highly idealized analyst, a role that was facilitated by the `unquestioned authority' (p. 14) of the analyst.

Jeffrey Masson (1990) provides fascinating insight into psychoanalysis as thought control and aggression. Masson's training analysis involved a completely one-sided relationship in which the analyst had all of the power and in which the trainee was expected to put up with any and all indignities.

http://www.ety.com/HRP/fakirs/freud.htm

He shows that Freud's ideas changed often and are not very coherent and that he destroyed evidence of earlier ideas, which would have undermined his image, including letters from Fliess. He tried to acquire and destroy his letters to Fliess, which Freudians kept secret, but they were made public by Masson.

It's rather disappointing that, while I quite admire the respect for intellectuals in France, it can lead to credulity where a more healthy scepticism would be appropriate. But at least Onfray deserves such respect and I'm happy to see that his book, like his many others, has sold very well. He uses the profits from them to help fund his Universitairé Populaire:

The Université Populaire, which is open to all who cannot access the state university system, and on principle does not accept any money from the State - Onfray uses the profits from his books to help finance it - has had enormous success. Based on Onfray's book La Communauté Philosophique: Manifeste pour l'Université Populaire (2004), the original UP now has imitators in Picardie, Arras, Lyon, Narbonne, and at Mans in Belgium, with five more in preparation."[1] "The national public radio network France Culture annually broadcasts his course of lectures to the Universite Populaire on philosophical themes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Onfray

The spirit of which is reflected in Eurotrib itself, so too does the diversity of his subjects, a strength of Eurotrib, even if it does confuse those expecting a site with an obvious USP :-)

Display:
Insofar as I've been able to understand the history of psychoanalysis, it does seem to have shown the quasi-religious, sectarian spirit Onfray alleges. It's hard to see what relation it bears to science.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 01:24:18 AM EST
I watched the recent movie Shrink the night before seeing this diary. You might enjoy it. The meandering 'Short Cuts' type plot, the over-serendipitous character clashes, and the cop-out ending don't cover up a great performance by Kevin Spacey as the psychologically challenged 'psychologist' to Hollywood's finest.

Scientific justifications for the process of psychoanalysis are hard to find, but if, as I maintain, we human animals are 99% behavioural (even thinking is behavioural), then it could be useful to paradoxically reflect upon one's own behaviours, guided by someone (a psychologist) who has studied them empirically. My own understanding of the therapy process, from the observation and discussion with friends who have experienced it, is that it is a mixture of the rental of a trusted friend and a visit to the barbers - braindressing.

This useful process of self-reflection can be guided more cost-effectively and usefully, imo, by a) cultivating and being cultivated by good friends, and by b) immersing oneself in art and literature of the highest and lowest kind.

A history of Hollywood's treatment of psychology, psychiatry and therapy would be a diary in itself.


You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 03:27:16 AM EST
Therapy became personal development which became corporate, business and professional development - and spawned all kinds of horrors like NLP, and culty little 'live the life you deserve with positive thinking' quacks and charlatans.

It's still quite the industry in the Anglo world.

The effectiveness of Freudian talk therapy has been debunked many times. It seems to be a historical fact that Freud was canonised by the intellectual left - which is hugely ironic, because the one thing you won't find in Freud is an acknowledgement of how capitalism and consumerism can be so incredibly toxic to mental health.

The one useful legacy of Freud was the popularisation of the concept of the unconscious and the fact of irrationality in decision making. While they had an impact on self-identity in the 20th century, they've had no impact at all on social, economic and political identity, which still make the tragically false assumption that collective decision making is rational and conscious.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 08:08:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
and spawned all kinds of horrors like NLP, and culty little 'live the life you deserve with positive thinking' quacks and charlatans.

To me it sounds like you never really looked into NLP. NLP is like water. With water you can torture and kill, however you can also save lifes by giving something to drink. Is water because it can be used for waterboarding bad? It don't anyone would consider that - with NLP it is the same. It is not NLP that is the problem, but how some people use it.

And thank you for calling me a quack and a charlatan - I am starting to become proud to be called these names.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 10:34:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Be water, my friend.



By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 10:51:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NLP is the problem because almost exclusively of all of the hundreds of different therapies and models that are used, it's the only one that has been enthusiastically adopted by corporate culture as a tool for influence and manipulation of employees, competitors and customers.

There is a reason for this - which is the importance of the power-over model of relationship. It doesn't matter if it's power over clients, customers, potential dates - there's a significant sleazy industry in the US which uses NLP tools for 'speed seduction' - or simply over one's own unconscious. Or someone else's.

The model assumes that ego desires can be forced on the world, almost limitlessly. No matter that there are token checks for congruence - in practice it really doesn't question or challenge the validity of those desires, as some other kinds of therapy do.

That's what makes it a horror.

Of course it's possible to use it in a benign way, and some NLP followers I know have said that there are discussions about splitting off the more benign elements into a separate stream.

But the discussions have been happening for at least a decade now, and the split hasn't happened yet. Which is why I'm not optimistic that it ever will.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 12:01:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to inject excessive empiricism into this discussion, but is there any evidence that NLP actually, y'know, works in a way that bears any resemblance to the way its proponents claim it does?

Human nature being what it is, it is likely that having a "system" will increase your confidence in what you say, and it is a well-known human cognitive foible to lend greater credence to confident statements than to qualified statements. The particulars of the "system" you employ may well not matter a whit, as long as you have spent time, effort and money learning it from a perceived authority.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 07:12:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It depends what you mean by 'works'. :)

NLP is based loosely on Ericksonian hypnotherapy, and Milton Erickson had some documented, formidable and near-miraculous skills as a hypnotist.

Grinder and Bandler added some extra layers of ideas which might be fluff or might be useful. The one thing I hear reliably from fans is that one of the things that impresses them is that people with NLP training are often good communicators, and more able to keep audience attention and be informative and entertaining than people without.

That may be true, but it's not an easy thing to measure.

The therapy angle is less obvious. Hypnotherapists - including NLPers - don't usually do all that well on empirical tests of the ability to solve clean, simple problems like weight loss and smoking.

So it's a very difficult thing to test, because first you have to decide what you're testing.

It's obvious that rhetorical and linguistic techniques work in sales, management and politics, because they're used effectively all the time. But they're not necessarily psychological in any formal academic sense, and much broader than NLP on its own.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 07:55:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rhetorical, linguistic and visual techniques are effective with statistically large groups, but less predictably successful with any particular individual - as all actuaries know.
 

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 08:29:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Motivation is a big part of the method, so NLPers must  be satisfied to deal with people that invest heavily themselves. When you are confidently into it, things would become easy. But if your visualization and actual actions have little in common, or you get shy when results are near, you are likely to fail yet another trick ;-]
by das monde on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 11:05:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
NLP is based loosely on Ericksonian hypnotherapy,

No, NLP is not loosely based on Eriksonian Hypnotherapy - though it is a small part of NLP. Another important influence in NLP was Virgina Satir - who had nothing to with Hypnotherapy - she was one of the main influences for the very basic concepts of rapport and anchoring. And there are many other people they observed how they worked and achieve good outcomes.

Also the Eriksonian Hypnotherapy has nothing to do with the hypnosys circus shown on stage.

The interesting thing is, that neither Erikson nore Satir were aware what made them so successful in their forms of therapies. It was Grinder and Bandler who were able to show them how they did.

And that is another aspect. NLP is not something some people do and others don't. NLP is basically the observation and listing of how and what people do in their head/mind to create situations, problems as well as solutions. Everything that NLP describs, we do on a daily basis, however, most of us do it unconsciously and automatically. NLP describes these unconscious processes and makes them conscious. But it is an illusion thinking that only a few people who learned NLP do these things - people who know NLP use and in some cases abuse them consciously. However, even if you know NLP you do not use it 24/7.

Again it is the practitioner that is questionable, if he misuses NLP, not NPL itself. For me it was a great gift in my work - that has allowed me to help many people over the last 20 years and I do not want to miss it. Because what I learned at the university was useless - it was NLP that helped me help people make a change. However, I admit, though I have been able to help many people, I have not been able to help everybody who came to see me, even with NLP. Though the later ones are absolutely in the minority.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 03:34:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oddly, you're completely failing to hear my point about the moral foundation of NLP.

But aside from that, no one is going to agree that Erickson's influence was a 'small part of NLP.' He wrote a preface to one of the key NLP books and the 'Milton Model' is one of the key elements in NLP.

The whole point of NLP was that Grinder and Bandler claimed - with no supporting evidence - that they could exactly duplicate the skills and effectiveness of Satir and Erickson without their years of effort and experience and without their talent.

This is like telling someone that they can become an international concert pianist after a weekend course in piano.

Now - the point here is that this is not exaggeration. This is exactly what the NLP community claims is literally possible.

The NLP people advertise 'accredited' practitioner trainings that take a weekend or a week at most with no outside client practice at all.

You don't need to show evidence of insight or success with actual clients. You don't even need to work with actual clients. You just need to pay your money, turn up, do a bit of NLP on other people on the same course, and you're all set to work as a therapist - as part of a special package deal that includes the same insight and skills that people like Erickson and Satir had.

Why - uniquely of all the therapies - can anyone find themselves NLP master-level sales and business change management courses that work in a similar way?

Why, if I Google 'NLP Training' in the UK, do I get a long list of people trying to sell me business courses and promising to improve my 'performance' as a manager?

I'd suggest that if you're getting results, perhaps it's not the NLP that's the key component.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 06:46:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
Oddly, you're completely failing to hear my point about the moral foundation of NLP.

Maybe because, the moral foundation of NLP as I learned it, is not the same as what you, and I agree some other people, consider the moral foundation of NLP. I learned that one of the basic premises of working with people is to safeguard their integrity and work for their wellbeing. And the teachers I had were very strict on that. Again, the moral use of NLP depents on the integrity of the person using it, not NLP. Again, I agree NLP can be missused - but it is not the techniques that are the problem, but the contents. You can use NLP in a bad way, as well as in a good way - it is the contents not the technique that is the problem.

Milton language did not come up in the basic training - only later on. There is so much more to NLP than Milton language, there is also the meta-model a very important approach to language - which, as I learned it, is considered more basic in NLP than the Milton language.

None of the trainings I did, where one week or less - the shortest was 4 weeks in a row, from 9:00 to almost every evening 22:00, six days a week. So I do not know what you are talking about. Or the approach to NLP has changed since I learned it.

Some of the people I did the training with, were teachers who wanted to improve their teaching skill, some were doctors, some where massage therapist, all wanted to improve their skill in relating and working with people. From the ones I stay in touch with, it seems most got out of the training what they expected. I do agree, that somebody with no experience at all  in working with people, is probably not a good therapist and probably will not survive long in that work.

But I think we better stop here - despite you being one of my favorite commenters here, from whom I have learned alot, I think on this topic I will not agree with you.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 07:34:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I'm reading a huge disagreement here. TBG is arguing, from the outside, that NLP is, more often than not, misused as a means of improving management effectiveness - without reference to the ethics of the business model being pursued.  As such it is wide open to misuse.

You are arguing, from the inside, that whilst NLP can be misused, there is no reason intrinsic to NLP why this should be so, and if it helps some people, what's the problem with using it in an ethical context?

From my brief meeting with you in Paris a couple of years ago, I formed the impression that you were:

  1. Charismatic
  2. Perceptive
  3. Skilled at understanding human interactions
  4. Very probably very ethical and well intentioned.

As such I suspect you would be effective using any number of therapies and probably often use other techniques (whether consciously or unconsciously!).

I don't think TBGs remarks should be taken personally, and like any generalisation, should not be taken as always true.  However the general observation he makes, that NLP has gained a reputation for being a useful part of a manager's tool-kit in the context of power or commercial relationships is probably true, even if it is unfair on those ethical practitioners who use it in a genuinely therapeutic context.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Sep 25th, 2010 at 09:32:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The one useful legacy of Freud was the popularisation of the concept of the unconscious and the fact of irrationality in decision making. While they had an impact on self-identity in the 20th century, they've had no impact at all on social, economic and political identity, which still make the tragically false assumption that collective decision making is rational and conscious.

If they had "no impact at all on social, economic and political identity" they don't sound very "useful".

Maybe you should try not to be SO sweeping - perhaps "no impact at all" is a BIT overstated. Do you really believe that everyone makes the assumption that, for example, political "collective decision making" is really "rational and conscious" ? Even in our own case I think most of us are aware that politics is not entirely rational, but we certainly don't think most others make political decisions in a purely rational and conscious way. Hands up those who think German collective political decision making in the 1930s was "rational and conscious". I don't think we needed Freud to understand that.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 05:55:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If we didn't need psychology to understand it, why are we still using the same models of democracy and decision making today?

There's nothing sweeping about what I wrote - you simply failed to understand the point about the difference between the beginnings of acceptance of the unconscious in art, personal self-image and private relationship, and the absolute lack of same in politics and commerce.

If you want to argue the point, find me a widely used economics textbook that doesn't pretend that people are 'rational actors' and that economic theory isn't about 'rational choices.'

In fact there are a few - a very, very few - attempts to bring an acknowledgement of unconscious motivation to organisational psychology. But they're well outside the mainstream, and they have a vanishingly small influence on today's management training, and an even smaller influence on policy.

If there's any prospect for a revolution, it won't come from guns and bullets, it will come from a sweeping but rigorous debunking of the mythological identification of self interested 'choice' with effective and mature rationality.

Freud failed to start that discussion, never mind end it. But even if he stole most of his ideas, he did get psychology into mainstream public awareness, and that may - eventually - make the next step possible.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 07:47:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]

There's nothing sweeping about what I wrote - you simply failed to understand the point about the difference between the beginnings of acceptance of the unconscious in art, personal self-image and private relationship, and the absolute lack of same in politics and commerce.

Ah, the "ABSOLUTE lack of same in politics and commerce" - nothing sweeping there :-)

First there's clearly an acceptance of the unconscious in "commerce" - in advertising - a field which is applied to politics too.

I'm aware of situation in economics, that's why I focused on the politics in your sweeping claim. Not surprisingly, you choose not to discuss my points about this area, which few people think is a matter of purely conscious, rational choice. Instead you make a general claim about revolution.

You give Freud too much credit; Freud's ideas (often borrowed)  were taken up by powerful groups for their own interests, as you yourself note. But psychology was a growing field anyway, as was the idea of the unconscious:


The view which Rycroft summarizes above (about Freud and the unconscious) not only was not original with Freud, it was a commonplace conviction of British and European philosophers and psychiatrists before Freud was twenty. The vast nineteenth-century literature on the unconscious, and its dynamic role in dreaming, art, and mental illness, is amply documented in Lancelot Whyte's The Unconscious Before Freud, readily available in paperback, and crisply summarized in Whyte's article, "Unconscious," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Eduard von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious, enormously popular in Germany, was published when Freud was twelve.

William James, in his pre-Freudian Principles of Psychology, devotes many pages to arguing against those who, in his opinion, made too sharp a distinction between the conscious and the unconscious ...

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1975/jun/12/not-freuds-discovery/

"Psychology"  (which you now refer to rather than the unconscious) has been in "mainstream public awareness", not solely due to Freud, for decades now, with, according to you, little impact on some of our most important ideas. This is partly due to the specific nature of Freud's approach, with its narrow focus on sexuality and the individual (Jung was kicked out of the Freud club for arguing for a much broader approach) which distracted from the social dimension and was easily appropriated by commercial forces. So, rather than helping free us from what you claim is a very widespread tragically false assumption, Freud's approach helped to prevent any such liberation, which a more general approach might have facilitated.  

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 06:57:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's an acceptance of manipulation in advertising, but not a questioning of internal decision making - which is the point.

The manipulation in advertising is based as much on a 2000 year tradition of rhetorical trickery as it is on psychological awareness. There was a fad in the 50s and 60s for ad design that was explicitly guided by psychological ideas, some of which were Freudian. But that seems to have faded now - or at least been turned in other directions. And it's not based now on any grand model idea of the unconscious, but on a catalogue of empirical 'do this and you can trick people' techniques.  

But you won't find politicians or CEOs pondering if there may be irrational, narcissistic or even self-destructive elements in their decision making. It's simply not part of any mainstream mental model of political theory or management to consider that such a thing might be possible.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 07:43:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ad people were notorious suckers for any new how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people techniques. Perhaps it was the readiness of their employers to fork out for 'courses' (Away weekends with free bars and random coupling)

But I don't see it at all in the 25 - 35 year olds in the Finnish business today.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 08:39:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's reassuring. But we all know that Europe is a saner place than the US. It's still extremely prevalent in the US - especially among people who aren't doing so well in the current version of what passes for an economy.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 06:50:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's an acceptance of manipulation in advertising, but not a questioning of internal decision making - which is the point.

Maybe you should try sticking to the point. I was objecting to the absurdly sweeping nature of your claims, which included "the difference between the beginnings of acceptance of the unconscious in art, personal self-image and private relationship, and the absolute lack of same in politics and commerce."  

I don't have to show that there is continuing use of some "grand model or idea of the unconscious" just that there was "the beginnings of the acceptance of the unconscious" in commerce, as there was in advertising - whatever else it relied on. At the same time I also pointed out that the implied dependence on Freud of such acceptance of the unconscious in art was unjustified (see reference to Whyte's book and 19th c. interest in the unconscious).

Then you just reiterate your views, for the second time ignoring the points made against it in relation to politics. Of course politicians or CEOs tend to think that their OWN decisions are rational and conscious, but this a far cry from showing that in relation to the "unconscious and the fact of irrationality in decision making" - "they've had no impact at all  on social, economic and political identity, which still make the tragically false assumption that collective decision making is rational and conscious". Particularly in the area of politics, we find it very easy to see the unconscious and the irrational at work in our enemies' "collective decision-making" e.g. (again) Hitler and the Nazis:


German defeat at Stalingrad resulted from irrational strategy devised by Adolf Hitler as well as numerous other factors including supply problems and weather.
...
Adolf Hitler, having failed to take Leningrad and Moscow, was determined to conquer the city on the Volga River that bore the name of his nemesis.

http://www.suite101.com/content/stalingrad-19421943-a169754

Back in 1893 Engels wrote:

"Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker. Consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives. ..."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_consciousness

and probably thinks of them as being quite rational.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 05:30:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course politicians or CEOs tend to think that their OWN decisions are rational and conscious,

There's no 'of course' there - it's the centre of the argument.

While some individuals now have a personal understanding that unconscious motivations can be capricious or even self-destructive in personal relationships, this understanding remain resolutely, and even aggressively absent from economic and political decision making.

Hence 'no effect.'

I'm not entirely sure why you're being a bit slow about following this. It's not that difficult to understand.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 06:02:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course if one doesn't agree with you one must be a bit "slow". Given that many politicians clearly understand that other politicians have acted on the basis of unconscious motivations, it obviously occurs to some of them that their own decisions are likely to be influenced in this way. It is also obvious that they would try to avoid this, no bad thing and not entirely impossible, but also that admitting that they have been irrational would hardly be a way of enhancing their reputation. Obviously political theory concentrates on improving rational approaches to decision-making, rather than recommending some years in Freudian analysis - which is not THAT difficult to understand.  

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 05:02:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:

If there's any prospect for a revolution, it won't come from guns and bullets, it will come from a sweeping but rigorous debunking of the mythological identification of self interested 'choice' with effective and mature rationality.

this is the nub of it, i think.

self interested choice that has immediate apparently advantageous 'benefits' can be perceived as rational and mature, even when it isn't, when measured (alas in hindsight).

partly it's the hit-and-miss nature of our human curiosity about our habitat and our efforts to improve it, and the other part is calculating, planning, a mentality that then cannot deviate from blueprint, even if it becomes obvious that the plan was poorly conceived... in fact it becomes a point of pride to deny reality because such a belief system cannot encompass loose, improvisational approaches, demeaning them as unrigorous, 'winging it'.

myopic.

considering how much more of our cognitive abilities we don't know about than we do, it's pretty safe bet to say the unconscious is a big place.

anything we're not conscious about yet, for example irrational impulses like blogging, lol.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 01:30:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This useful process of self-reflection can be guided more cost-effectively and usefully, imo, by a) cultivating and being cultivated by good friends ...

CF:


"In a review of forty-two studies comparing professional therapists with paraprofessional therapists (such as teachers given the job of counseling students), only one study showed that the trained therapists got better results.  Twenty-nine studies showed no difference between the two groups, and the remaining twelve studies showed that the paraprofessionals actually outperformed the professional therapists" (p. 130).

http://www.antipsychiatry.org/br-thdel.htm


A history of Hollywood's treatment of psychology, psychiatry and therapy would be a diary in itself.

Cf:


The special relationship between the American film industry and psychoanalysis began in the 1930s, when many émigré analysts - fleeing the Nazis - settled on the West Coast. Entering analysis became very fashionable among the studio elite, and among the many Hollywood directors who succumbed to Freud's influence was Alfred Hitchcock, whose thrillers were nothing if not psychological. Spellbound is the most explicitly Freudian of Hitchcock's films - and among the technical credits you will find: "Psychiatric adviser, May E.Romm M.D."

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article4873598.ece



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 01:04:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My own understanding of the therapy process, from the observation and discussion with friends who have experienced it, is that it is a mixture of the rental of a trusted friend and a visit to the barbers - braindressing.

There is also the point that unlike your barber, the psychologist is under a legally binding non-disclosure obligation. And unlike your friends, co-workers etc., you can terminate the relationship at any time and revert to the status quo ante without loss of general social life. Oh, and the psychologist is being paid to hear you ramble ;-P

All of these would, all else being equal, tend to increase your willingness and ability to speak your mind.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 06:50:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What exactly were the nature of Onfray's critiques?  Was he taking a similar line to some of the quoted others, that is, criticizing it as a pseudo-scientific cult?  Or was his line of critique different?

I had no idea that in France, orthodox Freudianism was still so popular.  To the best of my understanding, its star has waned in the USA, as has the prestige of psycho-therapy in general. Just judging by what I see referenced most in my own general reading, cognitive therapy seems to be much more popular at the moment.

by Zwackus on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 05:48:19 AM EST
Onfray went looking for philosophical rigour, and found none. Only Freud erecting his personal obsessions into a universal system, validated by his hand-picked adoring acolytes.

In short : so Sigmund wanted to kill Dad and hump Mum. Where is the empirical evidence that this is a universal human characteristic?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 09:22:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Freudians criticise Onfray for supposedly being mistaken AND (fallback position) anyway what he says is nothing new. Oh really ? While this may be true of some academic circles and some psychoanalysts, the criticisms will seem shocking to people with a general idea of who Freud was and what he did. Freudians prefer to keep quiet about all this information; hence the hostile tone from leading Freudians Like Roudinesco. Onfray does not claim that his main criticisms are original, but, having had his eyes opened by people like Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Onfray decided to write his own settling of accounts with Freud, with typical thoroughness and success.

His criticisms include:

Freud lied about his success with his now famous cases - later research has shown that they were not cured and some were ill for years afterwards.

Sergei Pakejeff ... (the poor "Wolf Wan", had) "analysis for six decades, despite Freud's pronouncement of his being "cured"), making him one of the longest-running famous patients in the history of psychoanalysis.

A few years after finishing psychoanalysis with Freud, Pankejeff developed a psychotic delusion. He was observed walking the streets staring at his reflection in a mirror, convinced that some sort of doctor had drilled a hole in his nose. Ruth Mack Brunswick, a Freudian, explained the delusion as displaced castration anxiety.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Pankejeff

Freud was absurdly credulous, taking seriously things like numerology, etc., including his friend Fliess's  theory about curing females' menstruation problems by operating on the nose. Fliess bungled the operation on Emma Eckstein, left some gauze in which caused dangerous bleeding - one of the "well-known" things that is strangely absent from Ernest Jones 1,500 page hagiography (Onfray p.343). As Masson says:


"I think Freud at that point had the choice of telling Fliess, 'Look, you have been guilty of improper conduct and I too by sending this woman to you, and we owe her a sincere apology.' Or Freud could say, 'The woman really has done the damage herself. You are not responsible for this, Wilhelm, nor am I. This woman is an hysterical bleeder.' And Freud chose the latter. That is, he blamed the bleeding on Emma Eckstein, not on the operation by Fliess. So, in other words, he felt it so important to protect the reputation of Fliess and his own friendship with Fliess that he was willing to distort a piece of reality."

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1652467.htm

Onfray also points out that Freud was not the great pioneer that he and his disciples claimed, he did not "discover" the unconscious (see "The Unconscious Before Freud." L.L. Whyte) nor was he the first to write about it at length, e.g. Hartmann wrote a "Philosophy of the Unconscious" when Freud was just 12. Freud borrowed from others but concealed his borrowings in order to satisfy his vanity in wanting to be regarded as on a level with Copernicus and Darwin. He then established the group of loyal followers to propagate the myth of the great pioneer and the tradition that analysts must themselves undergo analysis according to the Freudian tenets:

Frank Sulloway (1979b) describes the indoctrination characteristic of training analyses in which any objection by the analysand is viewed as a resistance to be overcome. And even Shelly Orgel (1990), who remains a defender of the psychoanalytic faith, writes of the feelings of many contemporary analysands that their analysts had behaved aggressively toward them, turning them into devoted and passive followers of their highly idealized analyst, a role that was facilitated by the `unquestioned authority' (p. 14) of the analyst.

Jeffrey Masson (1990) provides fascinating insight into psychoanalysis as thought control and aggression. Masson's training analysis involved a completely one-sided relationship in which the analyst had all of the power and in which the trainee was expected to put up with any and all indignities.

http://www.ety.com/HRP/fakirs/freud.htm

He shows that Freud's ideas changed often and are not very coherent and that he destroyed evidence of earlier ideas, which would have undermined his image, including letters from Fliess. He tried to acquire and destroy his letters to Fliess, which Freudians kept secret, but made public by Masson.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 02:50:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I confess I have read none of his books, but he is the origin of most of what I (believe to) understand about philosophy and philosophers... I am addicted to his Université Populaire lectures as broadcasted by France Culture...

His cruel debunking of Hegel saved me a bit of time. His series on the hedonist philosophers helped me to understand who I am and why it's good. And his hatchet job on Freud... well it freed me from the last vestiges of religion, I think.

[side note : I need to find time in my life for listening to France Culture again. I used to have 2+ hours per day during my commute... now I have 10 mins on a bicycle, which is heaps more virtuous, but paradoxically stultifying]

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 07:53:32 AM EST
I learnt a little of Freud and psychoanalysis on last years social policy course which covered a wide range of different theories that can be applied when looking at personal lives and how social policy is developed.

I find nothing logicial or intuitive in Freud's work and have been unable to really grasp it properly which (call me arrogant) indicates to me that something is fundamentally wrong about his approach.  Apply it to people who need help creating a balance with their mental health and behaviours, I can see how it just fucks people up even more.  I find it very hard to understand how it has dominated for so long.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 03:32:46 PM EST
Freud provided a Quick and Dirty way to explain much, once the patter was learned; it was better than the alternatives at the time; neurophysiology was in its infancy and - cutting a long explanation short - absence of neurological evidence for mental illnesses was taken for evidence of absence; the same was fairly much true for neurological biochemistry, e.g.,neuro-transmitters; worked; experimental psychologists were working with dogs (Pavlov,) pigeons (Skinner,) and rats (everybody) and their finding were little, but not much, better than useless for clinicians; psychologists mistook coherent reasonable verbal argument for empirically valid argument.

And, I hate to say, intellectual dishonesty on and by the Freudians.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 03:53:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's rather disappointing that, while I quite admire the respect for intellectuals in France, it can lead to credulity where a more healthy scepticism would be appropriate.

If the intellectuals had followed the Hume, Logical Positivist, and Quine trajectory rather than gone off the rails with German Idealism and Continental Philosophy you wouldn't have this lack of skepticism.

neener, neener  :-þ

LOL

(For a brief, balanced, exposition of this see "Analytic" and "Continental" Philosophy at the Philosophical Gourmet Report.)


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 04:13:29 PM EST
I had a peak at Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", and got a speculative impression that he is not dead at all, so to speak. What if Nietzsche today is quite a subtle philosophy for elites, especially modern financial and corporate elites? They proved (and least to themselves) that they achieved more and are worthy much more than all those welfare queens, white trash and all other vegetables and suckers. Swift social differentiation (up to gated communities) is quite tangible in Eastern Europe (for example) and is frequently justified by already familiar Randian talks. How far was Nietzsche from that? Hating your relations and country culture is not hard at all, especially with Wall Street's "I am going be so much more rich" mantras. Oh yeah, physical Ubermensch is still a dream (and much of medicine and genetics resources might be working on that). But spiritual Ubermensch can be considered reached by satisfied minds. Or you become an Ubermensch by defining the Mensch down.
by das monde on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 10:59:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that's very true. The elites follow Nietzsche - and Rand, who was his rather bonkers prophet.

The rest are supposed to believe in endless self-improvement because it makes us pliable and easy to lead.

It may or may not be morally superior, spiritual, and all the rest. But it does have the unfortunate side effect of stifling rebellion through introspection and self-blame for (so-called) failure.

Of course it's pathological. But philosophy has never been particularly effective at challenging pathological ideologies.

After various unpleasant and occasionally fatal incidents on the self-help circuit in the last few years, there have been some signs of a movement to question some of the underlying assumptions that seem to drive it, especially in the US.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 12:38:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"I think that's very true. The elites follow Nietzsche"

Oh really - all of them ? Any that do are likely to do so on as brief a "peek" at Nietzsche as Das Monde's.

"- and Rand, who was his rather bonkers prophet."

Though someone who's actually studied what they might have in common concluded:

... Nietzsche and Rand disagree fundamentally on the issues of metaphysics, epistemology, and human nature; those disagreements lead logically to their radical divergences in ethics and politics.

http://www.stephenhicks.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/hicks-egoism-in-nietzsche-and-rand-final.pdf


Cf.:

Rand's "individualism" - if that is what one wants to call her juvenile fantasies about her industrialist heroes - owes as little to Nietzsche as to Smith.  Nietzsche loathed capitalism and capitalists (and the cultural and aesthetic vulgarity he saw as their legacy) and also despised what he called "the selfishness of the sick" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) and the "self-interested cattle and mob" (Will to Power).  What he admired was "severe self-love," the kind "most profoundly necessary for growth" (Ecce Homo).  "Virtue, art, music, dance, reason, spirituality"--all the things "for whose sake it is worthwhile to live on earth" (Beyond Good and Evil)

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2009/11/nietzsche-and-ayn-rand-a-brief-comment.html

Cf.:


The same, almost anarchistic attitude is apparent in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where Nietzsche calls the "state...the coldest of all cold monsters" and remarks, aptly enough, that "the state...whatever it says it lies...Everything about it is false" (Z I:11). "Only where the state ends, there begins the human being who is not superfluous" (Z I:11) Of course, it is only the latter individual that really interests Nietzsche. And who is that individual? The next section (Z I:12) tells us: he is the one who values his "solitude," which is precisely what the "marketplace" of politics violates, with its "showmen and actors of great [sic] things." "Far from the market place and from fame happens all that is great" (Z I:12): in other words, great things (and great people) are to be found far from the realms of politics and economics.

... He is more accurately read, in the end, as a kind of esoteric moralist, i.e., someone who has views about human flourishing, views he wants to communicate at least to a select few.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nietzsche-moral-political



TBG: Of course it's pathological. But philosophy has never been particularly effective at challenging pathological ideologies.

Oh dear, here we go again: "never". Actually the Enlightenment philosophers were rather successful in (at the very least) "challenging" the pathological ideology of the  Catholic Church/aristocracy:

Enlightenment thought culminates historically in the political upheaval of the French Revolution, in which the traditional hierarchical political and social orders (the French monarchy, the privileges of the French nobility, the political power and authority of the Catholic Church) were violently destroyed and replaced by a political and social order informed by the Enlightenment ideals of freedom and equality for all, founded, ostensibly, upon principles of human reason.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/enlightenment/

 

I'd say that was a rather effective challenge and those ideas continue to have wide influence, replacing various pathological ideologies - which is why the Pope and other relics of the past are getting so paranoid.

The Enlightenment spirit flourishes, Michel Onfray is himself an example. In his "Atheist Manifesto" he praises the Enlightenment philosophers for what they did, but says that the more famous ones did not go far enough; while criticising the religious establishment they remained deists and showed:

contempt for a host of alternative philosophical options that effectively constituted a "left-wing" of the Enlightenment, a pole of radicalism that was soon forgotten but which might be usefully invoked today.

Which is what he does in his alternative history of philosophy, and the success of his book "Atheist Manifesto: The case against Christianity, Judaism and Islam" is itself an effective challenge (for one philosopher) to remaining pathological  ideologies.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 05:15:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nietzsche is hard to read, especially in translation, and even harder to understand.  IMO, what one gets 'out of' Nietzsche is what one brings to the reading; what one comes out with is what one went in with.  

In my reading Nietzsche is an exponent of The Free Spirit specifically an Intellectually Free Spirit who is willing, eager, to take their own thoughts as seriously and at the same level as the recognized Greats: Plato, Descartes, Kant, etc.  This is profoundly at variance with the typical German-style scholarship, call it, which painstakingly compares what A Great wrote and then who said what about this and that following what other people have written leaving no time, or energy ... the 'space,' as it were ... to say anything for or about ones self.  

For isn't one's deepest thoughts what one IS?

Nietzsche is superb for freeing the roots of oneself creating the space To Be, intellectually.

However, once getting at the wellsprings of one's cognitive-emotional ontology one can get stuck there, entrapped (and it is a trap) by the blinding light of one's own brilliance.  As Robert Graves put it:

He found a formula for drawing comic rabbits:
This formula for drawing comic rabbits paid.
Till in the end he could not change the tragic habits
This formula for drawing comic rabbits made.

The elites that das monde refers to and the pathological Nietzscheans behind TBG's comment have, in my opinion, found the formula (Nietzsche) for drawing comic rabbits.  And there they sit, unwilling to challenge The Greatest Great of Them All: themselves.  In Nietzsche's terminology, they pass from the burdened camel to the lion roaring in the desert and never move forward to the child - where one becomes the artist of oneself, intellectually and emotionally - which then, slowly, turns into a burdened camel ... and the cycle continues.    

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 12:55:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Randians talk about freedom also, a lot. Their freedom is obviously facile - but they think to know all of it, they could feel quite enlightened.

Nietzsche's work looks more complicated than that, I agree. He might have been more ironic than serious. But if reading him apparently vibes with so many fools (be it unwittingly), who gets his real message? Nietzsche looks like one of those writers that is seldom actually read, but often "knowingly" talked about. Like with Adam Smith (for example), you are told what he wrote often. And even if you don't feel agreeing with him, his wisdom might be around you in many ways. It's like with Darwin's theory of evolution: the majority of Americans say to reject it, but they conform to a refined Social Darwinism faithfully.

by das monde on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 10:01:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's like with Darwin's theory of evolution: the majority of Americans say to reject it, but they conform to a refined Social Darwinism faithfully.  

Ironically, the origin of Creationism in the US can be traced to a reaction to the perceived link between the social Darwinism of the German elites and the horror of WWI. In fact, social Darwinism was antithetical to Christian values and this was used to launch a new attack on Darwinian Evolution at a time when Evolution had already been generally accepted.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 04:13:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What we may perceive as Social Darwinism may be, for its believers, the logical extension of the Calvinist work ethic.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 04:27:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right. But Calvinist rationalizations can go so far that they are indistinguishable from Randian - and perhaps Nietzschean and some other. The far-away overlapping gives occasions for mutual confirmations - and lazy human mind likes confirmations.

If you look at it from the philosophical demand side of "self-made" elites, then Calvinism, Rand, pop-Nietzsche, pop-Darwin all make good justification sense (and utility). You don't have to accept them all publicly and with all implications.

Whatever justification you openly choose as most comprehensive, you can rationalize far beyond actual applications. A few examples of getting rich through hard work will close your eyes to egregiously easy capture of wealth and many hard works unawarded. Is it hard to say, how valuable is investment risk, even if the same risks are awarded like in a lottery or the roulette game? It only gets better if a social system is more tilted towards winner-takes-all games and rewards.

by das monde on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 05:00:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ironically, the origin of Creationism in the US can be traced to a reaction to the perceived link between the social Darwinism of the German elites and the horror of WWI.

That depends on what you mean by "the origin of Creationism in the US."

Creationism has always been around, in greater or lesser strength. Like the Catholic neurosis about homosexuality, it is probably originally one of those religious schisms that got entrenched in the popular consciousness because it coincided with a bitter political conflict and became a proxy for distinguishing one of the sides (the discovery of the theory of evolution is roughly contemporary with the American civil war and with the emergence of what is usually called "modern" culture).

If we are talking about contemporary Creationism, it's even simpler: Contemporary Creationism is around because a handful of extremely wealthy members of the American Taliban paid for it. No Scaife, no Ahmanson, no Rushdooney, and Creationism would today be a fringe sect with no power outside crazy Millenialist cults. (And when I call these people the American Taliban, I'm not kidding. Scaife is a Murdoch en miniature, and only marginally less toxic, while Ahmanson and Rushdooney are - were, in the latter case - unreconstructed theocrats that make the House of Saud look sane by comparison.)

It is true that the whole Social Darwinism shtick is one of the propaganda lines the Creationists use. But it is neither the core of their moral outrage at modern biology, nor of their political project. The central philosophical point of contention is that they are against "materialism." Evolution is just the particular angle of attack chosen - the eventual philosophical objective, as laid out in the Wedge Document, is to roll back the entire Enlightenment project. Politically, it's even simpler: Creationism is a FUD operation run by intellectual prostitutes and useful idiots and funded by robber barons who want to roll back the whole irritating "democracy" fad and restore their rightful place in society as feudal lords.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 07:49:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I agree with this. It would make sense to talk about the historical precedents of creationism, but a movement called as such emerged only in the early 20th century, and then had a continuous history from failed Presidential candidate Bryan and the Scopes Trial through pressure on schoolbooks (which began in earnest after the creationists' victory in the Scopes Trial) and Morris to the 'research institutes' funded by those nasty billionaires. Also, contemporary creationism is not only these 'research institutions', but loads of local churches trying to exert political pressure, in particular via schoolboards, and I fear those would exist without the billionaires (even if the movement would be much more fringe without the fake scientists).

Here is a quote from William Jennings Bryan - Wikipedia

Bryan opposed the theory of evolution for two reasons. First, he believed that what he considered a materialistic account of the descent of man through evolution undermined the Bible. Second, he saw neo-Darwinism or Social Darwinism as a great evil force in the world promoting hatred and conflicts, especially the World War.[28]

In his famous Chautauqua lecture, "The Prince of Peace," Bryan warned the theory of evolution could undermine the foundations of morality. However, he concluded, "While I do not accept the Darwinian theory I shall not quarrel with you about it."

One book Bryan read at this time convinced him that neo-Darwinism (emphasizing the struggle of the races) had undermined morality in Germany.[29] Bryan was heavily influenced by Vernon Kellogg's 1917 book, Headquarters Nights: A Record of Conversations and Experiences at the Headquarters of the German Army in Belgium and France, which asserted (on the basis of a conversation with a reserve officer named Professor von Flussen) that German intellectuals were social Darwinists totally committed to might-makes-right.[30]

Historically, one should also distinguish Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists, even if the Intelligent Design trick brought the two camps together.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 03:47:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the origin of the 'research institutes' themselves, those pre-dated the billionaires, too:

Creationism in the United States: IV. The Aftermath of Epperson v. Arkansas

In 1970, prompted by the California State Board of Education's inclusion of creation and evolution as historical scientific theories, the Creation Science Research Center was formed by Nell Segraves, Kelly Segraves, and Henry Morris. Soon thereafter, Morris' Creation Research Society produced a high school biology textbook titled Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity. That book, which promoted the biblical story of creation and declared that "There is no way to support the doctrine of evolution," was offered to teachers interested in a "balanced treatment" of studies of origins. The use of Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity in public schools was subsequently declared unconstitutional because it violated the separation of church and state (see discussion in Moore 1998d).


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 04:04:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll start taking the Literal Bible Crowd seriously when they turn in their cars for ones whose engines were designed and built according to the inerrant Biblical Pi = 3.

 

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 04:28:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, we had one. My dad prayed for it and that was what he got. It never ran properly. </childhood memory>
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 04:37:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we've all had cars that required divine intervention to get from here to there & back again.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 06:50:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in new ways, that's what I like about him. Of course, he was rather full of himself and of his own cleverness, especially in his later works. But no matter. He's definitely a Useful Thinker.

The tragic thing is that so many people see Nietzche / anyone else as Masters of Thought, i.e. they refuse to learn anything from his demonstration about how to think for themselves, but attempt to follow rules that they imagine the thinker has established.

Freud and Marx suffer (retrospectively) from this too. Though Freud, as a great rule-maker, probably deserves it.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Sep 24th, 2010 at 08:00:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
to empirically-based studies of the efficacy of the therapeutic efficacy of their treatment, then they should be taken seriously. But, not before.

Alas, this is a point upon which they, en masse, refuse, somehow this goes against the deontology of their cult.

Ironically, Freud himself had a much greater respect for the scientific method than the Freudian and their cousins the Lacanian psychoanalysts of our time here in France.

The good news...they're dying off. Perhaps in a generation we will be rid of them.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 at 05:06:56 PM EST
Well Freud just wouldn't have fitted in here

John Mitchinson: Rembrandt, Franklin, Freud, Lovelace And Ford: 11 Things You Didn't Know From The 'Book Of The Dead' (PHOTOS)

he had his first erotic experience when he saw his mother naked on a train, aged two and a half. As a result he developed a lifelong horror of rolling stock: even looking at a railway timetable made him nauseous and he was still a virgin at 30.


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Sep 28th, 2010 at 12:01:09 PM EST


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