This important book also happens to be a fine companion piece to the articles by Flanagan (abstracted above) and Glymour (abstracted below). Kitcher begins by remarking that, increasingly, researchers hold that progress in understanding
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human cognition will come only from an interdisciplinary approach that draws on psychology, neurophysiology, computer science, linguistics, and anthropology. Since Freud's own methods were interdisciplinary, Kitcher takes Freud's work as a good case study in what an interdisciplinary science should and should not do.
At crucial points in the formation of his theory, Freud drew for support on a hypothesis from a neighboring field. For example, his theses about the importance of sexuality assume the concepts of instinct and neuronal action from biology and neurology; his structural theory needs faculty psychology; his ideas about primary process mentation and the universality of the oedipus complex lean on Lamarck and the biological assumption that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Though all these borrowed ideas were credible in the early years of Freud's theorizing, they became gradually less so, until by the end of his life virtually all had been abandoned by the specialists in the respective fields. Kitcher's point is that though such borrowing is essential to an interdisciplinary approach, the borrower must be alert to developments in the field from which he/she is borrowing, and must be ready to revise his or her theories when necessary. Freud heeded neither of these cautions and, regarding Lamarck, even explicitly refused to accept the damaging evidence.
Kitcher presents a devastating critique, all the more so for its measured tone; her aim is not to damn psychoanalysis but to learn from its failures. The book strengthens my own suspicion that psychoanalytic theory as it is still being taught is out of date, and that there is an ever-widening gap between clinical practice and the “science” which is assumed by many psychoanalysts to support the practice.
Cavell, M. (1998). Freud's Dream: A Complete Interdisciplinary Science of Mind. Patricia Kitcher.. Psychoanal. Q., 67(3):529-530