Other Minds

  1. 'Folk Psychology'
  2. Mind: the Gap
  3. Other Cultures
  4. Beyond Folk Psychology
  5. Case Study: Freud and Psychoanalysis

    Two Lectures: Freud's Psychoanalysis

    Teaching Notes 

We started the Theory of Knowledge course by first considering the basic question of what constitutes knowledge, and then looking at the foundations of all knowledge: perception, memory, language, and reasoning. Since then we have been discussing on what grounds we can claim to have knowledge in various fields: natural science, mathematics, religion, morality, social science, history; (and there is one more to come, art.)

However, we also have knowledge outside those 'systems of knowledge' or 'academic' disciplines, and in particular we are able to know, in some sense and up to a certain point, what another person is thinking or feeling, i.e. what is going on in another person's mind. What we shall be asking in this section is what kind of knowledge this is, and what it is based on.

1. 'Folk Psychology'

We all seem to have this ability to understand others to some extent: we often know what someone's intentions are, and what they are afraid of; when they are pleased, and when they are unhappy; and so on. On the basis of this knowledge we can then explain why they behaved the way they did and have certain expectations concerning how they will behave in future. And understanding others in this way does not require us to have taken a psychology course, or to use any explicit theory at all.

There is nothing supernatural about our ability to understand others: we are able to do this by observing their behaviour, and in particular by listening to what they say – although there may of course be many cases where we are wrong, as we may later discover. Even though we are usually not aware of the process by which we come to understand another person, we must have some 'intuition', and this is what is here referred to as 'folk psychology'.

This is not something we do abstractly, like a scientific experiment. It requires that we be able and willing to see things from the other person's point of view, that we make an effort to imagine what we would see, feel and think if we were in their position. And conversely, once we are able to look at other people in this way, we can also take a new attitude to our own feeling and thinking: we have become 'self-aware'.

But our folk psychology does more than help us understand what another person may be thinking and feeling at the moment: we also have general categories to describe the behaviour of others, and their character: thus an action may be kind, or a person may be prejudiced. We then use these descriptions to explain a person's past behaviour, and to form expectations of how they will behave in future. It is presumably for this reason that this 'intuition' has developed: it clearly gives one a great advantage to be able to make some predictions, even if rough and unreliable, of how another person will act on a future occasion.

Note, though, that all knowledge of this kind, even if it is sometimes well-grounded, has a large degree of uncertainty and the deductions we make are often not conclusive: thus, as we all know, insecurity and low self-esteem may either show themselves in humility, or be 'compensated for' by its opposite, (over-)assertiveness.

Exercise 1.1.:
  1. How do you know that someone is happy?
    Why might you be mistaken in your belief that they are, and how would you find out that you were?
  2. What is arrogant behaviour? When do we call someone ''arrogant''?
  3. What different kinds of behaviour might someone show who is afraid?
When we say that we understand some action or some piece of behaviour of a person, we mean that we can explain it, or that we know why they did it, i.e. what their reasons or motives were for doing it.

Exercise 1.2.:
Think of some action of yours, such as coming to the College. Why did you do it, what were your motives? What do we mean by a reason or a motive?
There is a branch of philosophy which deals with questions concerning the mind. Some of these questions are quite abstract, such as: Can I know that other persons actually experience things and have feelings as I do? or: How can a mental state, such as my wanting to raise my arm, give rise to such physical events as nerve impulses which result in my arm being raised?

But Philosophy of Mind also makes more precise certain common notions, such as that of a motive or the reason by which we explain an action. The following passage is by a recent American philosopher, who has made major contributions in this field.

Part of the theory deals with the teleological explanation of action. We wonder why a man raises his arm: an explanation might be that he wanted to attract the attention of a friend. ... the complete explanation ..., or at least a more complete explanation, is that he wanted to attract the attention of his friend and believed that by raising his arm he would attract his friend's attention. Explanation of this familiar kind has some features worth emphasizing. It explains what is relatively apparent – an arm-raising – by appeal to factors that are far more problematical: desires and beliefs. But if we were to ask for the evidence that the explanation is correct, this evidence would in the end consist of more data concerning the sort of event being explained, namely further behaviour which is explained by the postulated beliefs and desires. Adverting to beliefs and desires to explain action is therefore a way of fitting an action into a pattern of behaviour made coherent by the theory. This does not mean, of course, that beliefs are nothing but patterns of behaviour [-- that is what behaviourism would say.] ... A characteristic of teleological explanation not shared by explanation generally is the way in which it appeals to the concept of reason. The belief and the desire that explain an action must be such that anyone who had that belief and desire would have reason to act in that way. ...

The cogency of a teleological explanation rests ... on its ability to discover a coherent pattern in the behaviour of an agent [i.e. the person who acts, not a spy.] Coherence here includes the idea of rationality both in the sense that the action to be explained must be reasonable in the light of the assigned desires and beliefs, but also in the sense that the assigned desires and beliefs must fit with one another.

Donald Davidson, 1974.
Exercise 1.3.:
  1. Why is the explanation in the first paragraph not complete but only ''more complete,'' i.e. what are some other things that must be taken into consideration?
  2. Suppose you see someone take an umbrella as he leaves his house. What are three different reasons which one might ascribe to the person, and which would show this to be a rational action?
  3. What circumstances, or other actions by the agent, might enable you to decide between the reasons you suggested in b.?
  4. When we attribute beliefs and desires to the agent to explain his actions, what assumptions are we making about him?

2. Mind: the Gap

The gap referred to is the gap which we place between objects that do (or can) have a mind, and objects that don't (or cannot) have a mind. As we walk through the world, we divide the objects around us into categories, and some of these categories express to what extent we attribute something like a mind to them. So where do we place that gap?
Exercise 2.1.:
On most people's view, their fellow human beings have a mind while chairs clearly do not. However, there is a range of 'degrees of mental life' with which we can credit different objects.
Try to describe – perhaps with the help of a dictionary – what is meant by the terms on the left, and discuss which of the objects on the right you would ascribe them to:
  1. alive
  2. sentient, capable of feeling things
  3. animate
  4. intelligent
  5. rational
  6. capable of having feelings
  7. capable of holding beliefs
  8. conscious
  1. chairs
  2. computers
  3. trees
  4. mice
  5. your dog or cat
  6. a sleeping person
  7. your friend
There is a tendency to give too much credit where it is not due. This is a way of thinking that goes back to childhood, to what Piaget called ''childhood animism'' (from Lat., anima, vital breath, spririt): believing, for instance, that the table hit you, rather than that you ran into the table; it is also found in some less developed societies: believing, for instance, that natural objects or processes, like a mountain or the rain, can be offended and need to be appeased with sacrifices.
Exercise 2.2.:
The tendency to attribute human characteristics to non-human objects is called ''anthropomorphism'' (from Gk. anthropos, man, human being + morphé, form, shape.) Give examples of ways in which the following kinds of people might be guilty of this:
  1. computer users,
  2. pet-owners,
  3. patriotic (or some other kinds of) politicians, and
  4. religious believers.
Sherry Turkle has argued, in Life on the Screen, 1995, that what we mean by intelligence, and by being alive, has been adjusting to the advances in computer technology, both hard- and software: some of the things that computer programs can now do would not so long ago have been called intelligent, for instance – but our definitions have changed with the times, keeping the line between us and our computers safe.

In our 'defence', it is worth remembering, when people (anthropomorphically) speak of a computer ''beating'' a world champion at chess, that that computer and what it can do are of course only the end-product of many years of work by tens of thousands of the most skilled engineers and programmers – so it is hardly surprising that their combined effort has eventually produced a machine that can win against the best player. Cars can go faster than the fastest runners, too.

It could be said that it is all a matter of definitions, that if someone wants to say that (to take an extreme example:) the electron loves the positive plate, and so it hurries to be united with it, then we cannot argue with them: they simply have a different definition of love.

However, in such debates – and also in many Th.o.K. essays, with titles such as ''Is Mathematics a Language?'' – a useful approach is to begin by setting down very generally what kind of things one would include in a definition, based on the most typical cases, and then to discuss whether, or to what extent, they apply in the particular case, (or whether the definition may need extending.) Equipped with such a definition it may even be possible to perform experiments to determine whether it applies in a particular case, as was done in the research summarised here:

One of the trademarks of being human is an understanding that others also have beliefs, intentions and desires. It has been called mindreading or a ''theory of mind'', and it is what allows people to work together, to manipulate others, and even to deceive each other. The current belief is that the mindreading abilities of humanity's closest relatives, the great apes, are not fundamentally different from those of people; they are simply not as highly developed. But work just presented to a meeting of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, at London Zoo, suggests this belief is wrong.

According to Daniel Povinelli of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, the idea that an ape understands that another ape has any kind of mental life is an illusion. Their behaviour may seem to mimic that of people, but is based on an entirely different understanding of the world – one that does not involve viewing others as psychological agents in their own right. ...

Chimps seem to be able to hoodwink one another, and can follow the gaze of another chimp or human who has been distracted by something interesting. But according to Dr Povinelli, it is possible that in chimps, unlike in humans, those behaviours evolved separately from an ability to read another's thoughts. So it may be that our closest relatives do not share our empathy, but are instead ''mindblind''.

The Economist, December 11th 1999.

Other observations, of behaviour of birds of a certain species, seem to point in the opposite direction; (unfortunately the experiments are not described in sufficent detail to allow a proper evaluation.)

Given the opportunity, scrub jays will attempt to steal food hidden by other members of the species. However, Nathan Emery and Nicola Clayton of Cambridge University have shown that thieving jays were much more careful when it comes to hiding their food when other birds are watching. This seems to be because they know, from their own experience as thieves, that it could be stolen.

The researchers tested this by allowing jays to hide their food, either in private or with another jay watching, and then giving the jays the opportunity to recover their food. Thieving jays remembered that they had been watched burying their food and were more likely to go back later and rebury this hoard in private. The researchers also found that it is the practical experience of being a thief – rather than merely watching others steal – that teaches a jay to hide its food in private. ...

... The research has implications for the "theory of mind" – the ability to read another individual's intentions, beliefs and desires. The ability develops in humans between the ages of two and three. The new findings suggest that jays can also project their own experiences and memories on to others.

The Economist, November 24th 2001.
Exercise 2.3.:
Their superior intelligence is a common theme in tales about members of the crow family, which includes the jays. Still, we must be careful.
  1. In the summary of the research on jays, note any words or uses of words that suggest anthropomorhism.
  2. Can you think of any instincts that might have developed in a thieving species, as the jays are, that would explain the above observations (as far as they are reported in the article)?
[Since I included the above passage in these notes, one of the authors, having found them on the website, kindly supplied me with a copy of the original paper (Nature, 414, 22 November 2001, pp 443f.) The researchers, from Cambridge University, used strictly controlled experiments, but were careful not to attribute a 'theory of mind' to the birds. In an e-mail, Nathan Emery wrote:
If it does represent a case for 'theory of mind' it is likely to be in the form of experience projection (simulation ToM), which has not really been tested in animals. ... we suggest that abilities such as ToM may have appeared a number of different times throughout evolution (convergent evolution), so there is no reason to assume that just because it may have been demonstrated in a bird that it isn't ToM, just that it has evolved in multiple social species with relatively large brains. This would certainly explain the superior intelligence of the corvids (crows, ravens and jays).
Note that the ToM ('theory of mind') talked about here is not our theory of the bird's mind, but one bird's theory of another bird's mind – but the ability to adjust one's behaviour on the basis of such a theory is one of the things we might require for us to be prepared to attribute a mind to the bird.)]

The outcome of other, recent experiments, by researchers at Cambridge university, again including Dr Clayton, suggests that birds may also be able to plan ahead for a future state of mind. The subjects were again scrub-jays, a type of crow.

Hoarding provisions for future use is not unique to humans. Birds, squirrels and monkeys do it. But the ability to think not just about tomorrow, but to realise how tomorrow's feelings might be different from today's was thought to be the preserve of people. ... The Bishof-Köhler hypothesis says that only humans can mentally separate themselves from what they are experiencing, to envisage how they might feel on a future occasion.

To test whether this is so, Dr Clayton and her colleagues ... let the birds eat as much of one food A as they wanted, exploiting a condition called specific satiety – once the brids are full of one food, they show a strong preference for something different. They then offered the birds that same food A and a different one B, to store for later.

Initially the scrub-jays behaved as predicted, choosing to stow away food B, which they had not just eaten. But minutes before allowing the birds to recover their stash [= store], the researchers fed the birds to satiety [= until they were full] with food B, which they had already stored. The birds changed their caching [= storing] preferences on the very next trial. Even after having just had their fill of food A, they still cached it, presumably because they thought it would be their preferred choice later [after having been fed food B again]. ...

The finding matters because the birds seem to plan ahead for what they will want later, even though their choice conflicts with what they want now. ... Without the benefit of experimental subjects who can explain their thinking, however, Dr Clayton and her colleagues will have to develop ever more cunning experiments to infer complex mental processes from simple behaviour.

The Economist, April 28th 2007, p 109 (edited by KA).
(Note that the hoarding mentioned at the beginning is not by itself evidence of "thinking about tomorrow".)

3. Other Cultures

Most of the time the process of understanding another person takes place without our being aware of it, or of how we are doing it: hence the term 'folk-psychology'. It is only when there has been a problem that we come to realise that understanding is an often difficult process, and that we must actually be 'interpreting' the other person's behaviour, not unlike the way we interpret a difficult poem. Examples of such problems are when we find that we have been wrong about a person, that we have 'mis-understood' them or something they did or said; or when we just cannot find a reasonable (in our terms, that is) explanation: such as when we are confronted with the behaviour of an insane person.

Since, as was mentioned above, the process of understanding requires us to put ourselves in the position of the other person, another kind of problem arises when there is just not enough in our experience and thinking that is common. Most obviously this is the case when we don't share a language with the other person, and we have to base our understanding solely on the actions we observe. But even when we do speak the same language (at least closely enough,) understanding may be made difficult, sometimes even impossible, by differences in culture. What do we mean by culture, and how is it related to the society in which people live?

... although these are also terms which we use in everyday language, these are difficult concepts. ... Culture implicates society and society implicates culture, but this hardly makes things easier. I like to follow Tim Ingold and say that "culture is a vehicle for the conduct of social life" (Ingold, 1986,) but for the general reader this may be difficult. As a rough guide one might say that I use the term 'society' to refer to action and behaviour and the patterns thereof also including patterns of interaction and social relationships, while I use the term 'culture' to loosely refer to the ideas that people have about all this. Culture then is about meaning, both in individual instances and in patterns.
Inga-Britt Krause, Therapy Across Culture, 1998, p 7.
The academic subjects in which society and culture are studied are sociology and anthropology. Whereas sociology is concerned with patterns of behaviour, like the way in which people greet one another in a society, anthropology is concerned with what different kinds of behaviour feel like and mean to the members of the society. Anthropology therefore requires what is called 'participant observation'; the anthropologist, in his role as ethnographer, has to involve himself in the life of the people whose culture he is studying. In the process, he will not only gain insights that can become the basis of anthropological theories, he will also not be able to avoid himself being changed to some extent.
All this adds up to a position which is as ambivalent and difficult personally for the anthropologist as it is professionally. My own experiences of fieldwork, particularly during the initial months, embarrassed, perplexed, annoyed, astonished and pleased me. ...

It is because the information conveyed by these routine and extraordinary examples of human events and the impact of them on the ethnographer's body and person during fieldwork that we can consider participant observation as "engaged learning" ... or as "experiencing participation". By the same token we must accept that these activities do not set the ethnographer apart from her informants, that on the contrary they are by definition the processes involved in gaining and maintaining social knowledge generally ... . Again there are parallels here between the relationship between the ethnographer and her informants and the therapist and her clients.

Inga-Britt Krause, op. cit., pp 14f.
Exercise 3.1.:
  1. Give examples of social interactions with the same meaning, like greeting someone, that are expressed in quite different behaviours in different cultures.
  2. Conversely, try to give examples in which what appears to be the same behaviour can have quite different meanings in different cultures.
  3. Try to think of experiences in which some behaviour or action of a person from a different cultural background has "embarrassed, perplexed, annoyed, astonished and pleased" you.
The method of ethnography does of course raise questions about what kind of knowledge it can produce, whether that knowledge can be objective, and what the ethnographer's understanding actually consists of.
This leaves the anthropologist with a conundrum. This is the puzzle of how it can be possible to add to a framework of comparative knowledge about the diversity of human social life, the reference point of which cannot lie in any one inidividual or any one group of individuals [if it is supposed to be objective], by using techniques which rely almost exclusively on intersubjective communication and interaction ... . This position is not of course unique to the anthropologist. It is also shared to some extent by psychoanalysts and psychotherapists of all descriptions insofar as they too lay claim to some sort of objectivity while using techniques that cannot be easily be described as such [i.e. as objective].
Inga-Britt Krause, op. cit., pp 12.
Leaving aside this shared methodological 'conundrum', what kind of understanding does ethnography aim for?
The method to be learnt is ethnography, but an ethnography which studies meaning rather than behaviour and seeks understanding rather than laws of cause and effect. ... In doing this ethnography becomes 'thick description', a notion which Geertz borrowed from Gilbert Ryle.

'Thick description' is a description of what someone is doing in terms of physical movement (Ryle used the example of a wink, i.e. rapidly contracting an eyelid) and 'thick description' is a descritpion of what someone is doing in terms of the meaning and all the possible meanings which could be given to that physical movement in the context in which it took place (i.e. a parody, a twitch, a fake-wink, a wink, a rehearsal). The aim of ethnography is to describe how the physical movement comes to have meaning in these different ways and how this relates to salient cultural themes and structures.

Inga-Britt Krause, op. cit., pp 14f.
Exercise 3.2.:
Consider the behaviour of two people holding hands. In the context of some Western society, discuss possible meanings, relating them "to salient cultural themes and structures", if
  1. the two people are a boy and a girl,
  2. they are a mother and a son,
  3. they are two girls,
  4. they are two men.
How might these meanings be different in some non-Western societies that you may know about or be familiar with?
Let us take up the parallels suggested above between ethnography and psychotherapy. In a previous section, we used the term 'folk-psychology' for the process of gaining inter-personal understanding: when we understand another person's actions and behaviour by attributing reasons and motives to them, we are giving meaning to those actions and that behaviour. Along the same lines, the process of gaining cross-cultural understanding can be thought of as a kind of 'folk-ethnology': in this case too understanding consists of giving meaning to what another person is doing. Both of these processes often require one to be more than an objective, outside observer: and by becoming a participant observer, one becomes involved and lays oneself open to being changed oneself. Cross-cultural understanding goes beyond collecting facts about how people live in the other society: it requires beginning to experience things the way people in that society experience them.

Some brief extensions of these thoughts, based on my personal experiences:

  1. While cross-cultural understanding is not the same as what in some places in the world is called 'international understanding', it seems to me to be the better part of it, perhaps even a requirement.
  2. And not only is it necessary, if one wants to understand and be close to a person from a different cultural background, that one address and understand the differences between one's own and their culture; it is also necessary, if one wants to understand another culture, that one have had a close personal involvement with someone from that culture.

4. Beyond Folk Psychology

While some of the knowledge we have consists of nothing other than descriptions of particular events or facts, most of our knowledge goes rather further than that.

In physics, for instance, we do not only know that a particular apple fell on a particular occasion, we know the law of gravitation. And in mathematics we do not only know that the angles in this triangle add up to 180º, we can prove that in all triangles the angles add up to 180º. Thus, apart from knowing the particular events or facts, which we do by perception – either our own or some else's --, we know explanations which we construct.

When we considered the social sciences and history, we saw that the explanations they tried to give of events could be of different forms: they could either be like those of the natural sciences, where particular events are explained by appeal to general laws; or they could consist of understanding the particular events, by making sense of them in the context of a coherent 'story'.

Now, the latter kind of explanation is in fact based on what we called 'folk psychology' and can be considered an extension of it. Understanding a ritual performed in some 'primitive' tribe consists of knowing why the members of the tribe perform it, i.e. what beliefs and needs of theirs make it a rational action. Understanding the vote by which a party came to power consists of knowing the reasons for which the voters voted as they did.

(One reason that the social sciences are more accessible than the natural sciences, so that a newspaper reader can follow an economics professor's reasoning, is presumably that the social sciences are in this sense extensions of folk psychology. A conclusion that is drawn by some newspaper readers is that therefore their own reasoning is no less valid than that of experts.)

Exercise 3.1.:
What 'folk-psychological' arguments, and what further premisses, underlie the following explanations?

  1. 'Dust Bowl' farmers moved to California, because of the drought.
  2. When there is a threat of war, prices of most shares will tend to drop.
  3. Having been battered as a child, he ended up beating his own children.
  4. Since they belonged to different castes, they did of course not marry.
Apart from 'extending' folk psychology by making it more formal and using its concepts more precisely, as we do in the social sciences, we can 'extend' it in another direction: by allowing explanations of behaviour in terms of beliefs and desires which the person himself is not aware of.

The main school of psychology which uses this approach is psychoanalysis, founded by Sigmund Freud at the turn of the century. The central idea is very simple: that we can explain the apparently irrational behaviour of, for instance, mentally ill people if we attribute to them unconscious beliefs and desires. Thus the symptoms of 'mad' people would be shown to be rational and understandable in the appropriate context. The problem, as far as knowledge is concerned, is of course how we can claim to know that someone has certain thoughts and wishes if they themselves honestly, and usually quite vigorously, deny having them.

Sigmund Freud. 6kB

5. Case Study: Freud and Psychoanalysis

Freud's Life
1856 born in Moravia;
1860 family moves to Vienna;
1873 -81   studying to be a medical doctor;
from this time on numerous publications;
-1885 working at Vienna General hospital, specializing on neuropathology and medical uses of cocaine;
1885 -86 with Charcot in Paris, studying hysteria and learning to use hypnosis; marries Martha Bernays after his return;
1883 -96 continues work on neurology, with his interest shifting to psychopathology;
1888 -96 cooperation with Breuer; trauma theory, and hence the cathartic technique: cure requires re-living the trauma;
giving up on hypnosis, developing his technique of free association instead;
-1895 attempts to formulate psychology in physiological terms;
publication, with Breuer, of Studies on Hysteria;
1897 - self-analysis, recognition of infantile sexuality, the Oedipus complex;
1900 The Interpretation of Dreams: the dynamic view of mental processes in terms of drives;
1901 The Psychopathology of Everyday Life: psycho-analysis applies also to normal mental life;
1906 -14 Jung involved with psychoanalysis, then leaves the movement;
1915 -17 Introductory Lectures (highly recommended, very readable;)
1920 Beyond the Pleasure Principle: not only libido as a basic drive, but also the death instinct;
1923 The Ego and the Id;
first onset of cancer;
1926 - increasingly interested in questions of religion, art, society;
1933 Hitler comes to power; Freud's books publicly burned in Berlin;
1938 German invasion of Austria;
Freud leaves Vienna for London;
1939 death of Sigmund Freud, shortly before the end of World War II;
1983 death of his daughter Anna Freud, who had been at the head of one of the two main 'schools' of psychoanalysis in Britain, (the other one being that of Melanie Klein.)

Whereas for some people Freudian psychoanalysis is so satisfying an account of mental functioning that they are too ready to accept it and perhaps not sufficiently critical, other people are extremely sceptical: the best recommendation to everyone is to read some of the case histories, to see the way the models are applied, and how they help us understand what without them we couldn't understand.

Overview of Approaches to Treatment
Freud developed psychoanalysis in the first place as a method of treatment for mentally ill or disturbed (as opposed to retarded, say, or epileptic) patients, and so it may be helpful to start by viewing it in this context. The approaches in the list below, which certainly is not comprehensive, are distinguished as much by the conception of the individual human being which they embody as by their characteristic methods of treatment.

1.Psychiatry: treatment by medical doctors   classification in terms of symptoms which have PHYSICAL CAUSES.
1.1.Surgery, E.C.T., etc.
1.2.Drug treatment
2.Behaviourist Psychology individuals are viewed statistically, a patient is like a mouse in a labyrinth.
2.1.Testing, by analogy with animals  
2.2.Learning, training, organization
2.3.Behaviour modification inividuals are viewed as persons to be understood individually.
3.1.Carl Rogers: 'client-centered therapy'
3.2.Depth psychology
3.2.1.   Carl Jung: 'analytical psychology' classification in terms of aetiology, (i.e. of mental causes): the patient has (unconscious) REASONS.
3.2.2.Alfred Adler: 'individual psychology'
3.2.3.Sigmund Freud: 'psychoanalysis'

Exercise 5.1.:
Choose one of the above approaches and prepare a brief statement about it, emphasising differences you find from other approaches.
Exercise 5.2.:
Discuss the following questions:
  1. What do we mean when we describe someone as mentally ill?
  2. When would you consider someone in need of treatment?

Is Psychoanalyis Scientific?
An objection to psychoanalysis that has often been raised, notably by Karl Popper in his early writings, is that it is not a scientific discpipline: because of the nature of the evidence it is hard, for instance, to disprove any model or to refute any interpretation categorically. This was not an unfair objection, since Freud himself thought of psychoanalysis as a scientific discipline, and expected his conclusions about the mind to be replaced eventually by testable hypotheses about the brain. At the same time, in his actual working, he took quite a different approach. As Karl Popper later came to agree, knowledge can be empirical (i.e. be based on experience) and a pursuit worthwhile, even if they are not capable of scientific justification.

Another common objection, or at least source of doubt, has been that there are different schools of psychoanalysis, in a way in which there aren't different schools in physics, say. Whereas physists may disagree for a while, they do expect to be able to devise tests that would enable them to decide conclusively between rival hypotheses. The relations between different schools of psychoanalysis, by contrast, sometimes seem more like unresolvable religious feuds. A helpful comparison might be with the study of literature, where it is similarly difficult to decide that one particular interpretation of a poem is the right one, but this does not mean that there are not some interpretations that are better – in the sense of enabling us to understand and enjoy the piece more – than others.

We can phrase this as a point about knowledge:

The answer to the question of what the therapist knows is not 'how the mind works' or 'how experience is structured'. Instead:

''the analyst knows a collection of ways of thinking about how the mind works and about how experience is structured that are likely to be useful in the patient's effort to understand himself and live with a greater sense of freedom and satisfaction in the world in which he finds himself. The state of psychoanalytic knowledge is not anchored in enduring truths or proof, but rather in its use value for making sense of life, deepening relationships with others and expanding and enriching the texture of experience. (Mitchell 1993: 64-5)''

Inga-Britt Krause, op. cit., p 131.
Aspects of Freud's Psychoanalysis
It is impossible, in the space and time available, to give a summary of psychoanalysis, but we can briefly mention different aspects.

  1. It is first of all a theory of the functioning of the human mind. In terms of the distinction between the conscious, the preconscious and the unconscious, apparently irrational behaviour becomes understandable. Rational secondary-process thinking is characteristic of the conscious, but the unconscious functions according to primary-process thinking, as seen in parapraxes, dreams etc. On the (second) topographical model, a person's behaviour and mental processes are understood as the result of the interaction between the three 'agencies' id, ego and superego: the id functions according to the pleasure principle, and the ego according to the reality principle. Psychoanalysis is a dynamic theory, and the id is the original seat of the drives (in German: Triebe,) i.e. of libido, which is the sexual instinct in the widest sense, and the death instinct.
  2. In psychoanalytic therapy, the patient and the analyst together try to understand the patient's unconscious. Symptoms are compromise-formations to deal with unconscious conflicts; once the repressed unconscious wishes, which expressed themselves in the patient's symptoms, have been made conscious, the patient can think about and reject them rationally, and the symptoms will disappear. Derivatives of the patient's unconscious show themselves in his dreams, etc., in his free associations, and in his projections onto the analyst; by the analyst's interpretations of these, the patient begins to understand the parts of himself he didn't. This method of treatment is also the source of the evidence on which the theory is based. On the basis of their mental aetiology, rather than of the symptoms shown, one distinguishes neurosis, psychosis, perversions, and character disorders.
  3. Based on this evidence is a developmental account, according to which infants and children pass through certain phases in their (especially sexual) development, such as the Oedipal phase. Processes such as introjection and projection result in the later dispositions and the adult's sexuality, and later problems are due to regression to the modes of functioning of earlier phases.
  4. Psychoanalysis takes a particular view of man's condition, and can help us to understand 'primitive' societies, the origin of religion, certain social developments, some aspects of art, and so on. As dreams and parapraxes show, it is not applicable only to people with mental problems: basically the same processes are at work in someone we call mentally ill as in someone 'normal'.
  5. It is also a tradition with branches, which have developed on the basis of Freud's ideas, and are complemenatry rather than in conflict. The training to become an analyst requires at least five years and being analysed oneself, and has been criticised for being like an initiation. – Psychoanalysis has sometimes been declared dead, but on the contrary, the approach and many of the insights have been taken up many other fields and incorporated into other methods of therapy.
Exercise 5.3:
In which ways might psychoanalysis be, or fail to be,
  1. a natural science,
  2. like history, or
  3. like literary criticism?
Some Readings
  1. O n   R e p r e s s i o n

    Thus the incompatibility of the wish in question with the patient's ego was the motive for the repression; the subject's ethical and other standards were the repressing forces. An acceptance of the wish or a prolongation of the conflict would have produced a high degree of unpleasure; this unpleasure was avoided by means of repression, which was thus revealed as one of the devices serving to protect the mental personality.

    To take the place of a number of instances, I will relate a single one of my cases, in which the determinants and advantages of repression are sufficiently evident. For my present purpose I shall have once again to abridge the case history and omit some important underlying material. The patient was a girl, [Fn: This is the case of Fräulein Elisabeth von R., the fifth of the case histories fully reported in Studies on Hysteria.] who had lost her beloved father after she had taken a share in nursing him – a situation analogous to that of Breuer's patient. Soon afterwards her elder sister married, and her new brother-in-law aroused in her a peculiar feeling of sympathy which was easily masked under a disguise of family affection. Not long afterwards her sister fell ill and died, in the absence of the patient and her mother. They were summoned in all haste without being given any definite information of the tragic event. When the girl reached the bedside of her dead sister, there came to her for a brief moment an idea that might be expressed in these words: 'Now he is free and can marry me.' We may assume with certainty that this idea, which betrayed to her consciousness the intense love for her brother-in-law of which she had not herself been conscious, was surrendered to repression a moment later, owing to the revolt of her feelings. The girl fell ill with severe hysterical symptoms; and while she was under my treatment it turned out that she had completely forgotten the scene by her sister's bedside and the odious egoistic impulse that had emerged in her. She remembered it during the treatment and reproduced the pathogenic moment with signs of the most violent emotion, and, as a result of the treatment, she became healthy once more.

    Perhaps I may give you a more vivid picture of repression and of its necessary relation to resistance, by a rough analogy derived from our actual situation at the present moment. Let us suppose that in this lecture-room and among this audience, whose exemplary quiet and attentiveness I cannot sufficiently commend, there is nevertheless someone who is causing a disturbance and whose ill-mannered laughter, chattering, and shuffling with his feet are distracting my attention from my task. I have to announce that I cannot proceed with my lecture; and thereupon three or four of you who are strong men stand up and, after a short struggle, put the interrupter outside the door. So now he is 'repressed', and I can continue my lecture. But in order that the interruption shall not be repeated, in case the individual who has been expelled should try to enter the room once more, the gentlemen who have put my will into effect place their chairs up against the door and thus establish a 'resistance' after the repression has been accomplished. If you will now translate the two localities concerned into psychical terms as the 'conscious' and the 'unconscious', you will have before you a fairly good picture of the process of repression.

    Freud, Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, 1910. Pelican, pp. 49f.

  2. O n   P a r a p r a x e s

    PARAPRAXIS   A faulty action due to interference of some unconscious wish, conflict or train of thought. Slips of the tongue and pen are the classic parapraxes. See Freud's The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901,) where he uses parapraxes to demonstrate the existence of unconscious mental processes in the healthy.

    Charles Rycroft, A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, 1968.

    Bungled actions, like other errors, are often used to fulfil wishes which one ought to deny oneself. Here the intention disguises itself as a lucky accident. For instance, as happened to one of my friends, a man may be due, against his will, to go to visit someone near the town where he lives, and then, at a junction where he has to change, may by mistake get into a train that takes him back to where he came from. Or someone on a journey may be anxious to make a stop at an intermediate station but may be forbidden from doing so by other obligations, and he may then overlook or miss some connection so that he is after all obliged to break his journey in the way he wished. Or what happened to one of my patients: I had forbidden him to telephone to the girl he was in love with, and then, when he meant to telephone to me, he asked for the wrong number 'by mistake' or 'while he was thinking of something else' and suddenly found himself connected to the girl's number. A good example of an outright blunder, and one of practical importance, is provided by an observation made by an engineer in his account of what preceded a case of material damage:

    'Some time ago I worked with several students in the laboratory of the technical college on a series of complicated experiments in elasticity, a piece of work which we had undertaken voluntarily but which was beginning to take up more time than we had expected. One day as I returned to the laboratory with my friend F., he remarked how annoying it was to him to lose so much time on that particular day as he had so much else to do at home. I could not help agreeing with him and added half-jokingly, referring to an incident the week before: ''Let us hope that the machine will go wrong again so that we can stop work and go home early.''

    'In arranging the work it happened that F. was given the regulation of the valve of the press; that is to say, he was, by cautiously opening the valve, to let the fluid under pressure flow slowly out of the accumulator into the cylinder of the hydraulic press. The man conducting the experiment stood by the manometer and when the right pressure was reached called out a loud ''Stop!'' At the word of command F. seized the valve and turned it with all his might – to the left! (All valves without exception are closed by being turned to the right.) This caused the full pressure of the accumulator to come suddenly onto the press, a strain for which the connecting-pipes are not designed, so that one of them immediately burst – quite a harmless accident to the machine, but enough to oblige us to suspend work for the day and go home.

    'It is characteristic, by the way, that when we were discussing the affair some time later my friend F. had no recollection whatever of my remark, which I recalled with certainty.'

    This may lead you suspect that it is not always just an innocent chance that turns the hands of your domestic servants into dangerous enemies of your household belongings. And you may also raise the question whether it is always a matter of chance when people injure themselves and risk their own safety. These are notions whose value you may care to test, if occasion arises, by analysing observations of your own.

    Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1916/17.
    P.F.L. 1, pp. 106f.

  3. O n   D r e a m s

    DREAM, DREAMING   Mental activity occurring in sleep; a series of pictures or events imagined during sleep. Psychoanalysis assumes that dreams have psychological meaning which can be arrived at by interpretation. According to Freud's original formulation, dreams have (a) a manifest content, which is the dream as experienced, reported or remembered, and (b) a latent content, which is discovered by interpretation. He also held that the dreamer performs work (the dream-work) in translating the latent into the manifest dream, and that, therefore, dream-interpretation is the reverse of dream-work. According to his wish-fulfilment theory of dreams, the latent content is a wish, which is fulfilled in the dream in hallucinatory form. ...

    Freud's interest in dreams derived from the fact that they are normal processes, with which everyone is familiar, but which none the less exemplify the processes at work in the formation of neurotic symptoms. ...

    According to Freud, the function of dreams is to preserve sleep by representing wishes as fulfilled which would otherwise awaken the dreamer. ...

    Charles Rycroft, op. cit.

    This dream consisted only of two short pictures: His uncle was smoking a cigarette although it was Saturday. – A woman was caressing and fondling him [the dreamer] as though he were her child.

    In regard to the first picture the dreamer (a Jew) remarked that his uncle was a pious man who never had done and never could do anything sinful like that. In regard to the woman in the second picture nothing occurred to him except his mother. These two pictures or thoughts must obviously be seen in connection with each other. But how? – Since he expressly disputed the reality of his uncle's action, it is plausible to insert an 'if': 'If my uncle, that pious man, were to smoke a cigarette on a Saturday, then I might let myself, too, be cuddled by my mother.' This clearly means that cuddling with his mother was something impermissible, like smoking on a Saturday to a pious Jew. You will recall that I told you ... that in the course of the dream-work all the relations between the dream-thoughts drop out; these are resolved into their raw material and it is the task of the interpretation to re-insert the omitted relations.

    Freud, op. cit., p. 221.

    Do you feel bold enough now to venture upon interpretation of a whole dream? Let us make the experiment, to see whether we are well enough equipped for the task. ...

    Very well then. A lady who, though she was still young, had been married for many years had the following dream: She was at the theatre with her husband. One side of the stalls was completely empty. Her husband told her that Elise L. and her fiancé had wanted to go too, but had only been able to get bad seats – three for 1 florin 50 kreuzers – and of course they could not take those. She thought it would not really have done any harm if they had.

    The first thing the dreamer reported to us was that the precipitating cause of the dream was touched on in its manifest content. Her husband had in fact told her that Elise L., who was approximately her contemporary, had just become engaged. The dream was a reaction to this information. We know already that it is easy in the case of many dreams to point to a precipitating cause like this from the previous day, and that the dreamer is often able to trace this for us without any difficulty. The dreamer in the present case put similar information at our disposal for other elements of the manifest dream as well. – Where did the detail come from about one side of the stalls being empty? It was an allusion to a real event of the previous week. She had planned to go to a particular play and had therefore bought her tickets early – so early that she had had to pay a booking fee. When they got to the theatre it turned out that her anxiety was quite uncalled for, since one side of the stalls was almost empty. It would have been early enough if she had bought the tickets on the actual day of the performance. Her husband had kept on teasing her for having been in too much of a hurry. – What was the origin of the 1 florin 50 kreuzers? It arose in quite another connection, which had nothing to do with the former one but also alluded to some information from the previous day. Her sister-in-law had been given a present of 150 florins by her husband and had been in a great hurry – the silly goose – to rush off to the jewellers' and exchange the money for a piece of jewellery. – Where did the 'three' come from? She could think of nothing in connection with that, unless we counted the idea that her newly-engaged friend, Elise L., was only three months her junior, though she herself had been a married woman for nearly ten years. – And the absurd notion of taking three tickets for only two people? She had nothing to say to that, and refused to report any further ideas or information.

    But all the same, she had given us so much material in these few associations that it was possible to guess the latent dream-thoughts from them. We cannot help being struck by the fact that periods of time occur at several points in the information she gave us about the dream, and these provide a common factor between the different parts of the material. She took the theatre tickets too early, bought them over-hurriedly so that she had to pay more than necessary; so too her sister-in-law had been in a hurry to take her money to the jewellers and buy some jewellery with it, as though otherwise she would miss it. If, in addition to the 'too early' and 'in a hurry' which we have stressed, we take into account the precipitating cause of the dream – the news that her friend, though only three months her junior, had nevertheless got an excellent husband – and the criticism of her sister-in-law expressed in the idea that it was absurd of her to be in such a hurry, then we find ourselves presented almost spontaneously with the following construction of the latent dream-thoughts, for which the manifest dream is a severely distorted substitute:

    'Really it was absurd of me to be in such a hurry to get married! I can see from Elise's example that I could have got a husband later too.' (Being in too great a hurry was represented by her own behaviour in buying the tickets and by her sister-in-law's in buying the jewellery. Going to the play appeared as a substitute for getting married.) This would seem to be the main thought. We may perhaps proceed further, though with less certainty, since the analysis ought not to have been without the dreamer's comments at these points: 'And I could have got one a hundred times better with the money!' (150 florins is a hundred times more than 1 florin 50.) If we were to put her dowry in place of the money, it would mean that her husband was bought with her dowry: the jewellery, and the bad tickets as well, would be substitutes for her husband. It would still be more satisfactory if the actual element 'three tickets' had something to do with a husband. But we have not got so far as that in our understanding of the dream. We have only discovered that the dream expresses the low value assigned by her to her own husband and her regret at having married so early.

    ... Let us hasten to single out what we can recognize as established new discoveries.

    In the first place, it is a remarkable thing that the main emphasis in the latent thoughts lies on the element of being in too great a hurry; nothing of the sort is to be found in the manifest dream. ... In the second place, there is an absurd combination in the dream: three for 1 florin 50. We detected in the dream-thoughts the assertion that 'it was absurd (to marry so early)'. Can it be doubted that this thought, 'it was absurd', is represented by the inclusion of an absurd element in the manifest dream? And in the third place, a glance of comparison shows us that the relation between the manifest and the latent elements is no simple one; it is far from being the case that one manifest element always takes the place of one latent one. It is rather that there is a group-relation between the two layers, within which one manifest element can replace several latent ones or one latent element can be replaced by several manifest ones. ...

    Let us go back to the dream we have already interpreted of the three bad theatre-tickets for 1 florin 50 ... . We found that the dream-thoughts related to her anger at having married so early and to her dissatisfaction with her husband. We may be curious to discover how these gloomy thoughts were transformed into the fulfilment of a wish and where any trace of it is to be found in the manifest content of the dream. We already know that the element 'too early, in a hurry' was eliminated from the dream by the censorship. The empty stalls were an allusion to it. The mysterious 'three for 1 florin 50' now becomes more intelligible to us with the help of the symbolism with which we have meanwhile become acquainted. The '3' [Fn: I have not mentioned another plausible interpretation of this '3' in a childless woman, since this analysis brought up no material in support of it.] really means a man [or husband] and the manifest element is easy to translate: buying a husband with her dowry. ('I could have got one ten [Fn: This is presumably a slip for 'a hundred'] times better with my dowry.') 'Marrying' is clearly replaced by 'going to the theatre'. 'Taking the theatre tickets too early' is, indeed, an immediate substitute for 'marrying too early'. This substitution is, however, the work of a wish-fulfilment. Our dreamer was not always so dissatisfied with her early marriage as she was on the day when she received the news of her friend's engagement. She had been proud of it at one time and regarded herself as at an advantage over her friend. Simple-minded girls, after becoming engaged, are reputed often to express their joy that they will soon be able to go to the theatre, to all the plays which have hitherto been prohibited, and will be allowed to see everything. The pleasure in looking, or curiosity, which is revealed in this was no doubt originally a sexual desire to look [scopophilia], directed towards sexual happenings and especially to the girls' parents, and hence it became a powerful motive for urging them to an early marriage. In this way a visit to the theatre became an obvious substitute, by way of allusion, for being married. Thus the dreamer, in her present anger at her early marriage, harked back to the time at which early marriage was the fulfilment of a wish because it satisfied her scopophilia, and, under the lead of this old wishful impulse, she replaced marriage by going to the theatre.

    Freud, op. cit., pp. 153ff, 257f.

  4. O n   N e u r o s i s

    NEUROSIS   Psychogenic disturbance, whose symptoms are the symbolic expression of a mental conflict, which has its roots in the individual's childhood experiences; the symptoms are compromise formations between the wish and the defence. – The concept of neurosis has changed; efforts are made today to use it only for those clinical forms which can be associated with obsessional neurosis, hysteria and phobias. Thus nosology [i.e. the classification of diseases] distinguishes neuroses, psychoses, [in which there is a failure of reality-testing, so that patients are non compos mentis: paranoia and schizophrenia, and manic-depression,] perversions and psychosomatic disturbances, while the nosological status of what are called ''actual'', ''traumatic'' and ''character neuroses'' remains open.

    J. Laplanche, J.-B. Pontalis, Das Vokabular der Psychoanalyse, 1967.

    A nineteen-year-old girl, well developed and gifted, was the only child of parents to whom she was superior in education and intellectual liveliness. As a child she had been wild and high-spirited, and in the course of the last few years had changed, without any visible cause, into a neurotic. She was very irritable, particularly towards her mother, always dissatisfied and depressed and inclined to indecisiveness and doubt; finally she admitted that she was no longer able to walk by herself across squares or along comparatively wide roads. We will not concern ourselves much with her complicated illness ..., but will dwell only on the fact that she also developed a sleep-ceremonial, with which she tormented her parents. In a certain sense it may be said that every normal person has his sleep-ceremonial ... A pathological ceremonial, however, is unyielding and insists on being carried through, even at the cost of great sacrifices; it too is screened by having a rational basis and at a superficial glance seems to diverge from the normal only by a certain exaggerated meticulousness. ... Our present patient put forward as a pretext for her nightly precautions that she needed quiet in order to sleep ... The big clock in her room was stopped, all the other clocks or watches in the room were removed, and her tiny wrist-watch was not allowed even to be inside her bedside table. Flower-pots and vases were collected on the writing table so that they might not fall over at night and break, and disturb her sleep. ... In the case of other stipulations made by the ceremonial the need for quiet was dropped as a basis. ... But the most important stipulation related to the bed itself. The pillow at the top end of the bed must not touch the wooden back of the bedstead. ...

    ... There was always an apprehension that things might not have been done properly. Everything must be checked and repeated, ... and the result was that one or two hours were spent, during which the girl herself could not sleep and would not allow her intimidated parents to sleep either. ...

    Our patient gradually came to learn that it was as symbols of the female genitals that clocks were banished from her equipment at night. ...

    She found out the central meaning of her ceremonial one day when she suddenly understood the meaning of the rule that the pillow must not touch the back of the bedstead. the pillow, she said, had always been a woman to her and the upright wooden back a man. Thus she wanted – by magic, we must interpolate – to keep the man and the woman apart – that is, ... not to allow them to have sexual intercourse.

    Freud, op. cit., pp. 303ff.

    A lady, nearly thirty years of age, who suffered from the most severe obsessional manifestations ... performed (among others) the following remarkable obsessional action many times a day. She ran from her room into another neighbouring one, took up a particular position there beside a table that stood in the middle, rang the bell for her housemaid, sent her on some indifferent errand or let her go without one, and then ran back to her own room. This was certainly not a very distressing symptom, but was nevertheless calculated to excite curiosity. The explanation was reached in the most unequivocal and unobjectionable manner, free from any possible contribution on the doctor's part. I cannot see how I could possibly have formed any suspicion of the sense of this obsessional action or could have offered any suggestion on how it was to be interpreted. Whenever I asked the patient 'Why do you do that? What sense has it?' she answered: 'I don't know.' But one day, after I had succeeded in defeating a major, fundamental doubt of hers, she suddenly knew the answer and told me what it was that was connected with the obsessional action. More than ten years before, she had married a man very much older than herself, and on the wedding-night he was impotent. Many times during the night he had come running from his room to hers to try once more, but every time without success. Next morning he had said angrily: 'I should feel ashamed of the housemaid when she makes the bed,' taken up a bottle of red ink that happened to be in the room and poured its contents over the sheet, but not on the exact place where a stain would have been appropriate. I could not understand at first what this recollection had to do with the obsessional action in question; the only resemblance I could find was in the repeated running from one room into the other, and perhaps also in the entrance of the housemaid. My patient then led me up to the table in the second room and showed me a big stain on the tablecloth. She further explained that she took up her position in relation to the table in such a way that the maid who had been sent for could not help to see the stain. There could no longer be any doubt of the intimate connection between the scene on her wedding-night and her present obsessional action, though all kinds of things remained to be learnt.

    It was clear, for a start, that the patient was identifying herself with her husband; she was playing his part by imitating his running from one room into the other. Further, to carry on the analogy, we must agree that the bed and the sheet were replaced by the table and the tablecloth. This might seem arbitrary, but surely we have not studied dream-symbolism to no purpose. In dreams too we often find a table which has to be interpreted as a bed. Table and bed [Fn: The English phrase is 'bed and board', which is itself a translation of a law-Latin term for marriage.] together stand for marriage, so that the one can easily take the place of the other.

    It already seems proved that the obsessional action had a sense; it appears to have been a representation, a repetition, of the significant scene. But we are not obliged to come to a halt here. If we examine the relation between the two more closely, we shall probably obtain information about something that goes further – about the intention of the obsessional action. Its kernel was obviously the summoning of the housemaid, before whose eyes the patient displayed the stain, in contrast to her husband's remark that he would feel ashamed in front of the maid. Thus he, whose part she was playing, did not feel ashamed in front of the maid; accordingly the stain was in the right place. We see, therefore, that she was not simply repeating the scene, she was continuing and at the same time correcting it; she was putting it right. But by this she was also correcting the other thing, which had been so distressing that night and had made the expedient with the red ink necessary – his impotence. So the obsessional action was saying: 'No, it's not true. He had no need to feel ashamed in front of the housemaid; he was not impotent.' It represented this wish, in the manner of a dream fulfilled in a present-day action; it served the purpose of making her husband superior to his past mishap.

    Everything I could tell you about this woman ... points the way to this interpretation of what was in itself an unintelligible obsessional action. The woman had been living apart from her husband for years and was struggling with an intention to obtain a legal divorce. But there was no question of her being free of him; she was forced to remain faithful to him; she withdrew from the world so as not to be tempted; she exculpated and magnified his nature in her imagination. Indeed, the deepest secret of her illness was that by means of it she protected her husband from malicious gossip, justified her separation from him and enabled him to lead a comfortable separate life. Thus the analysis of a harmless obsessional action led directly to the innermost core of an illness, but at the same time betrayed to us no small part of the secret of obsessional neurosis in general. I am glad to let you dwell a little on this example because it combines conditions which we could not fairly expect in every case. Here the interpretation of the symptom was discovered by the patient herself at a single blow, without any prompting or intervention on the analyst's part; and it resulted from a connection with an event which did not (as is usually the case) belong to a forgotten period of childhood, but which had happened in the patient's adult life and had remained undimmed in memory. All the objections which criticism is normally in the habit of raising against our interpretation of symptoms fall to the ground in this particular case. ...

    And one thing more. Were you not struck by the way in which this unobtrusive obsessional action has led us into the intimacies of the patient's life? A woman cannot have anything much more intimate to tell than the story of her wedding-night. Is it a matter of chance and of no further significance that we have arrived precisely at the intimacies of her sexual life? No doubt it might be the result of the choice I have made on this occasion. Do not let us be too hasty in forming our judgement, and let us turn to my second example, which is of quite a different kind – a sample of a very common species, a sleep ceremonial. [Here follows the case quoted previously.]

    Freud, op. cit., pp. 300ff.

Two Lectures :

1. Introduction

Topic here:
    the basis of psychoanalysis,
rather than:
    the person of its founder, Sigmund Freud, 1856 -1939:
      born in Moravia, then lived in Vienna, finally London;
      trained and worked as a doctor, psychoanalysis only from 1895.
    or related schools:
      some founded by former pupils of Freud's:
      • Carl Gustav Jung's 'analytical psychology',
      • Alfred Adler's 'individual psychology' --
      they tend to be simplified derivatives,
      • with some 'offending' aspects avoided,
        other ideas added arbitrarily/ dogmatically: Jung's mysticism
        or overplayed: Adler's inferiority complex,
      • have shown less subsequent development,
        though they have made limited contributions of their own: Jung's archetypes;
      but not, for instance, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein,
        founders of the two main 'schools' in Britain --
        note that both are women, contrary to the common prejudice that psychoanalysis is a male preserve.
or details of psychoanalytic theory or praxis:
    not a specialized audience,
    (though there should be a chance for a separate session of 'short questions and long answers'.)
In the context of Th.o.K.:
    how do we gain and justify a certain kind of knowledge?
2. The Essential Idea
What Th.o.K. is about:
    if knowledge is 'appropriately justified true belief',
      how do we justify knowledge in different areas,
      i.e. what counts as understanding something?
    For example,
      in science: explaining particular observations in terms of general laws,
      in mathematics: proving theorems from definitions/ axioms,
      in ethics: relating a particular judgement to fundamental moral values, etc.
The problem with other people:
    since we cannot look into another person's mind,
      how do we understand them, what they do and say,
      i.e. how do we know what they are thinking/ feeling?
    We have to start from what we can know, so:
      on the basis of what someone does and says, and of our shared experiences,
        we attribute to them reasons, in terms of beliefs and desires,
        and we attribute meanings to their sentences,
      so as to make the best sense of all that we have observed;
    note that there can be no guarantee that we are right --
      as we all know very well from every-day life.
Usually this is unproblematic and we do it automatically --
      when someone takes an umbrella on a rainy day, we suppose they believe it will rain, etc., and desire not to get wet --
    but sometimes things are less obvious:
      when someone takes an umbrella on a sunny day, they may be mistaken about the weather, or want to take the umbrella as a weapon, or ...:
      so we ask them for their reason;
    thus actions and utterances require 'interpretation',
      like John Donne's ''No man is an island, ...'' which we should not (mis-)understand as just a statement of a trivial fact.
The central idea of psychoanalysis:
    that we can have unconscious reasons for what we do and say --
      relating to instincts that are too basic/ base, or
      resulting from repression of desires unacceptable to our conscious self --
    so that even when asked about directly they will be denied;
      e.g. the forgetting the name of a good friend,
      (though the 'obvious' interpretation may not be valid either;)
    hence psychoanalysis ...
      opposes the traditional 'psychology of nothing other than consciousness',
        although it complements rather than contradicts cognitive developmental accounts (cf. Jean Piaget;)
      leads to a dynamic theory/ model of the mind,
        in terms of (mental) forces: our conscious and unconscious desires;
      and enables us to understand things that we couldn't without it:
        for example insanity, where there are no (apparent) reason or meaning.
    post-hypnotic suggestion:
      shows that things can be in the mind without the person knowing them;
        observe attempts at rationalisation, etc.;
      • e.g. to drop a handkerchief out of the window at 9 the next morning,
      • or (to a smoker:) not to smoke for the next hour;
      in fact, psychoanalysis started with hypnosis: Freud in Paris with Charcot, at the Salpetrière;
      i.e. misreadings, -hearings, slips of the tongue, etc.,
        common to all of us: hence The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, 1901;
      • e.g. KA on (long) coach trips to London: ''To Let'' misread as ''toilet'';
      • or Stekel, an early colleague of Freud's, to a rich patient: ''If, as I hope, you will not leave your bed soon ...'';
      these often strike us as amusing --
        for according to Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, 1905:
        funny = threat of revelation of unconscious processes;
      parapraxes exhibit the working of unconscious processes --
        e.g. two mistakes made by my friend Terry:
      • saying "Dennis" instead of "Morris": became meaningful in relation to the titles (and a theme) of Visconti's film, "Death in Venice" / "Mort à Venice", which we had seen together;
      • remembering the names of all the characters in some novel, except the main character's, with whom he had an affinity – and who was called Thiery;
      distinguish between
        the manifest 'dream content', which appears meaningless, and
        the latent 'dream thoughts', which make sense of the dream;
      (the manifest content also includes the day's residues,
        e.g. tachistoscopic experiments, where objects that have been displayed too briefly to be recognized appear in dreams, often in symbolic form;)
      dreams represent unconscious desires as fulfilled, but in a hidden way
        -- one may need to study a lot of cases to accept this;
      certain mechanisms are used to both represent and hide the meaning:
        condensation, displacement, symbolism, etc.:
      • e.g. King and Queen for father and mother, (as in fairy tales,)
      • and houses with balconies and soft walls for 'big people';
      but each dream is an individual construction --
        so dream books/ dictionaries are not substantial;
      much psychoanalysis starts from dream interpretation, dreams are ''the royal road to the unconscious'':
        The Interpretation of Dreams, 1905, is an early main work of Freud's.
Typical first objections:
    that psychoanalysis is only about the mentally ill:
      but the same processes in 'normal' individuals;
    that it is just about sexuality:
      hunger just less emotionally 'serious', less a matter of relationships/society;
    that children cannot have sexual desires:
      but while infantile sexuality is not like adult sexuality, it is developmentally continuous with it,
      sexual (and other) instincts just undergo sublimation and other 'vicissitudes'.
Recommendation: to read not so much theory, but case histories --
    what convinces is that, again and again, things make sense that wouldn't at all otherwise.

3. Psychoanalysis as Therapy
The 'moral' purpose of psychoanalysis
      (-- hence (partly) my personal interest):
    The true reasons for the symptoms are unconscious,
      -- that is why the patient cannot just decide to stop them;
    a symptom is a complicated formation, put together like a picture-puzzle which the patient does not understand: So the patient cannot take responsibility for that part of his life,
      despite their attempt at rationalizing their behaviour
      (-- just as after a post-hypnotic suggestion.)
Psychoanalysis aims to restore to the patient the responsibility for his behaviour,
    by "making the unconscious conscious",
      (it is not enough to tell the patient about what is on his unconscious mind ...):
      he can then recognize the behaviour as inappropriate to the present.
    However, symptoms are themselves a way of coping,
      -- symptoms involve regression to earlier, more primitive modes of mental functioning: hence the importance of childhood --
      so there will be resistance to the process.
    Psychoanalysis treats the patient as a responsible individual,
      requiring the patient's insight, and cooperation;
      this contrasts with drug treatment, behaviour modification, etc..
The classical criterion that someone needs treatment:
    their own unhappiness, (it is a myth that someone who imagines he is Napoleon is 'happy in his own world':
      a gross symptom requires most of the patient's mental energy to keep up.)
Aspects of technique:
    the classical psychoanalytic setting:
      the analyst sits listening behind the patient, who lies on a couch;
        (in the case of children: play analysis;)
      avoid any outside personal relationship with the patient,
        even concerning payments for sessions;
        the patient projects feelings onto the analyst:
      • patients loving and hating their analysts, inappropriately;
        e.g. Dora wanting to kiss Breuer (-- which is why he passed the case on to Freud;)
      • to recreate unresolved problems in earlier relations,
        which can then be analysed, by patient and analyst;
      • projection is a normal process in relationships:
        e.g. a boss/ teacher = one's father;
      note: all the input should come from the patient;
    the analyst's attitude:
      free-floating attention,
      non-judgemental --
        not: ''What! You dreamt that, you filthy swine?''
      keeping his personal thoughts/ feelings out of it --
        hence training requires years of analysis
        (-- however, also require the 'counter-transference';)
    the analyst provides interpretations:
      he suggests patterns in the products of the patient's unconscious,
        like dreams, memories, the transference relationship, etc. --
        that is how the patient comes to accept the unconscious reasons of his symptoms etc. as his own;
      notes/ uses the patient's reactions --
      • either (calmly:) ''I don't think that is ...''
      • or (defensively:) ''How dare you say ...!''
        (cf. Hamlet: ''The lady doth protest too much, methinks.'')
      enables the patient to express the irrational, non-linguistic contents of his unconscious rationally, in terms of language,
        and hence to think about and deal with them.
Psychoanalysis in praxis:
    'pure' psychoanalysis rare today,
      because of time required, cost;
      much American-style 'psychoanalysis' less serious --
        ''like going to see the priest in the past'';
      but it has become an aspect of many methods of psychotherapy.
    New approaches and methods:
      working with psychotic rather than just with neurotic patients,
      child analysis – using play instead of speech – a major field,
      group analysis, esp. in South America.
4. Psychoanalytic Ideas and Their Status
Strong reactions against it often part of defence by our own unconscious
    -- what would I have to accept (about myself) if it was true?!
    cf. adult denial of childhood sexuality.
    Psychoanalysis is not a science,
        because there are ...
      • no repeatable experiments, only individual cases,
      • no law-like generalizations, only some models,
        e.g. the model of id, ego, superego.
      This is contrary to what Freud himself said he wanted,
        since he was trained as a scientist,
        but not contrary to most of what he himself did.
      For a long time psychoanalysts felt they had to try to be scientific;
        but contrary to Karl Popper's charge – similarly against Darwinism --,
        an activity that is not strictly scientific can still be ...
      • worthwhile:
        after all, patients do improve in psychoanalysis, and
      • empirical:
        psychoanalytic concepts and theories are discarded if they don't work out in practice.
    Rather it is like literary criticism:
      analyst and patient try to make sense of the patient's behaviour and utterances, like one interprets a poem, say;
        when the patient accepts the repressed motives as his own, the symptoms disappear;
      as in criticism, there are different 'schools':
        while one may be more useful than others in a particular case,
        they are not usually contradictory.
    Thus psychoanalysis can only interpret,
        confronting an already given 'text':
      it cannot predict how a child will grow up,
      or make rules for how to bring up children,
        (although some concepts may be useful: there is no perfect environment, but all the child needs is one that is ''good enough'' (Winnicott.))
Aspects of psychoanalytic theory
      (-- which this is not the place to discuss):
    personality structure, models:
      conscious, preconscious and unconscious;
      id, ego, superego;   etc.;
    psychic mechanisms:
      primary and secondary process thinking;
      introjection and projection;
      dream-work mechanisms: condensation, displacement, etc.;
    developmental account:
      phases of sexual development, the Oedipus complex, etc.;
    abnormal psychology:
      aetiology of neuroses and psychoses, and perversions, etc..
The importance of psychoanalysis:
    ... in relation to other methods of treatment:
      it alone can even ask certain questions, e.g.
      • why does this patient have agora- rather than claustrophobia ?
        (-- they are treated the same way by psychiatrists;)
      • what is the essential difference between neurosis and psychosis ?
        (-- other approaches only consider outward behaviour;)
      because it alone is concerned with meaning;
    ... in relation to our view of man, and of man's activities:
      it has had great influence in many different fields of thought, e.g.
      • literary analysis, art criticism, etc.,
      • social anthropology (Claude Lévi-Strauss,) etc.;
      because it is concerned with meaning.

Teaching Notes :

1. 'Folk Psychology'
Exercise 1.3.:
  1. A special, important class of actions are utterances by the agent: not only does the agent have a reason, consisting of a belief and a desire, for making it, but it has content. Thus, we could just ask the person why he took the umbrella.
  2. The 'Principle of Charity': as far as possible we assume the agent to be rational, etc.
Reading :
Richard Appignasesi, Oscar Zarate, Freud for Beginners, 1979.

Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment, 1975.

Sigmund Freud,
Two Short Accounts of Psycho-Analysis, 1910, 1926.
Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1916-17.
(-- rather than books about Freud, which tend to be more more difficult.)

Richard Wollheim, Freud, 1971.

Picture of Freud from: Microsoft Bookshelf 1993.