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Penrose, L.S. (1953). Psycho-Analysis and Experimental Science. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 34S(Supplement):74-82.

(1953). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34S(Supplement):74-82

Psycho-Analysis and Experimental Science

L. S. Penrose

1. Scientific Background of Psycho-analysis

If we examine the circumstances which led to the formation of the psycho-analytical movement, as they were recounted by Freud (1935), and compare these with the events preceding great new developments in other branches of knowledge, we find some rather illuminating facts. Freud's own interest in science dates from his hearing, at the age of seventeen, Goethe's essay on Nature read aloud at a popular lecture. Medicine was for him no end in itself but a means to investigate Nature in a spirit of passionate adventure. Before this, he had dreamed of becoming a lawyer and possibly a politician. Freud freely confesses, in his autobiography, that he found some parts of science much more easy to master than others; it was not to the mathematical sciences but to the biological sciences and, in particular, to physiology that he was attracted. Although Freud attained great eminence in the fields of neuropathology and neurohistology, these special branches of medicine did not seem to satisfy him and, after mastering them, he was filled with the desire, which was common to many men at that time in scientific history, to establish how the whole organism—body and mind—worked. In the studies on Hysteria and the Interpretation of Dreams, Freud set out to justify theory by constructing mechanical models of the mental processes. The models were dynamic in the sense that they dealt with the interaction of psycho-physical forces which ultimately determined behaviour and were part of the material world.

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