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Cavell, M. (1994). Philosophy. Psychoanal Q., 63:600-601.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Philosophy

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:600-601


Marcia Cavell

Several books of a philosophical nature that are of potential interest to psychoanalysts have appeared recently. Most obvious is The Cambridge Companion to Freud, edited by Jerome Neu (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). All the authors in this anthology write from a position somewhere within the Freudian camp, defending Freud against common or misguided attacks, or showing the relevance of his views to work in contemporary philosophical psychology. For example: responding to a common claim that Freud has been left behind by contemporary cognitive science, Clark Glymour argues that on the contrary this science is more or less what one would expect to find if Freud had had a computer. Space allows me to mention only a few others of the Companion's consistently useful articles: Gerald Izenberg's overview of Freud's seduction theory; Richard Wollheim's summation of Freud's writings on art; Jerome Neu's discussion of Freud's ideas on perversion; and David Sachs's review of Adolf Grünbaum's The Foundations of Psychoanalysis.

In Madness and Modernism (New York: Basic Books, 1992), Louis A. Sass explores some striking similarities between the experience of schizophrenics and the world as envisioned in the works of such peculiarly modern figures as Kafka, Beckett, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida. Sass rejects the psychoanalytic view that roots schizophrenia in an early developmental period, prior to separation-individuation and to fully rational thought, and argues that, on the contrary, schizophrenic symptoms are best understood as a result of heightened self-awareness and a hyperactive reason turning in upon itself. Sass pursues this thesis in The Paradoxes of Delusion: Wittgenstein, Schreber, and the Schizophrenic Mind (Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press, 1994). In this later work Sass sets Schreber's Memoirs in the context of a discussion of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, whom Sass sees as having diagnosed simultaneously the ills of philosophy and schizophrenia: an attempt, one might say, to transcend the world which loses the self in the process; and equally, a preoccupation with the self which un-reels the world. I might note that in the case of schizophrenia it is not clear whether Sass means his analysis as a description of the symptoms or as an account of their cause.

Jonathan Lear persuasively argues in Love and Its Place in Nature (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990) that Freud's revolution contains three related elements, the significance of which we are only beginning to understand: a science of subjectivity according to which knowing what it is like to be any particular person is a part of what an objective study of persons must attempt to understand; the discovery of an archaic form of mental functioning; and the positing of love as a basic force in nature; but Freud misunderstood his own ideas in trying to accommodate them to a scientistic model. Lear brings to his discussion a quasi-Aristotelian view of both knowledge and the self as things in the process of realization. Consistent with this view, his readings of Freud are not an attempt to say in other words what Freud

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had in mind, but to say for Freud what Freud would have said, seeing what he did, if he had not been in the grip of certain mistaken pictures.

A similar concern animates on my own book, The Psychoanalytic Mind: From Freud to Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993). Proceeding from an in-depth inquiry into the concepts of meaning and mind that are so central to both psychoanalysis and contemporary Anglo-American philosophy, I discern a number of convictions of a basically philosophic nature that are deeply embedded in the way psychoanalysts think about the mind and that may be cramping their own vision. This inquiry leads me into reflections on the explanation of action, the psychoanalytic narrative, infant thought, the nature of emotions, irrationality, and the genealogy of values.

The subject of irrationality is the explicit focus of Sebastian Gardner's Irrationality and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993). Gardner explores the ways in which psychoanalysis both borrows from and extends everyday explanations of thought and actions, for example, with the concepts of fantasy and unconscious wish; and he develops, as I do also, the idea of the divided mind. The last third of his book is a subtle interpretation and defense of many of Melanie Klein's ideas.

I end not with a book but an article (perhaps not in my purview, but in whose purview it belongs is not clear) too interesting to fall through the cracks between disciplines. On the surface, Frederick Crews's "The Unknown Freud" (The New York Review of Books, November 18, 1993) is an attack on Freud's personal and scientific probity, an attack amounting to claims of egregious malpractice and out-and-out fakery. But it is psychoanalytic theory itself, or rather the grounds Freud brought forward for it, that are the primary object of Crews's polemic. He reiterates one of the main charges in Grünbaum's The Foundations of Psychoanalysis, namely, that Freud repeatedly smuggled into his clinical "data" the very theses he was attempting to establish. To take a key example, according to the "official" version of Freud's famous change of mind about the seduction hypothesis, Freud sturdily acknowledged that his thesis about the source of neurosis in real infantile seduction was incorrect, and, taking the theoretical turn from which psychoanalysis was born, accredited the seductions to his patient's fantasies. But, according to Crews—and some of the books he is reviewing—the "data" that supported this idea were again and again Freud's own unsupported and uncorroborated constructions. Occasionally, Freud acknowledged as much, only later, as in the Wolf Man case, to refer to his constructions as "data" elicited by the analysis. Freud needed the idea of infantile fantasy to buttress his claims for the importance of infantile sexuality, and was willing, Crews very nearly implies, to use any means available.

Crews's piece is so intemperate as to invite dismissal out of hand (an invitation accepted by several respondents in the "Letters to the Editor" section of a subsequent issue of The New York Review). The obvious answer to Crews—and it is not unjust—is that whatever the vices of Freud the man, they should not blind us to the virtues of his theory, which in any case has come a long way in the meantime. But Crews is addressing issues that psychoanalysis has not left behind: the nature of the psychoanalytic dialogue, constructions and reconstructions in analysis, and just what kind of "science" psychoanalysis is.

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Article Citation [Who Cited This?]

Cavell, M. (1994). Philosophy. Psychoanal. Q., 63:600-601

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