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PURETICS...

PURETICS...


Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Exploration Of Psych---Travelling Into Past

Few of history's famous neurotics and melancholics—Newton, Lincoln, Whitman, and my personal American favorite Meriwether Lewis—were as forthright about their suffering and its physical manifestations as was Luther. And the consequences of this have been much handwringing—now mostly discredited—about just what did happen behind the carefully choreographed public performances of these notables. Actually, that's a bit of a misstatement. The reality is, for the past twenty or so years, there's been very little handwringing of this sort. The inner life of historical figures—very different from their private lives, which, qua Alexander Hamilton or Bill Clinton, are usually quite public—has generated little interest. And much of the reason for this, it seems, is entwined with the fate of what must be among the history profession's most troubled methodological adventures: the application of psychoanalytic techniques to the psyches of the long dead. The collapse of "psychohistory" and "psychobiography" appears to have been nearly total. Even the much assailed cliometrics—the interpretation of historical data through mathematical modeling—escaped the fate of history's Freudian step-child, the latter almost entirely relegated to the dust heap of discredited pseudo sciences.

There are many reasons for the demise of psychohistory. Among the earliest problems was its failure to convince the liberal establishment that it was something other than an Orwellian tool for mind games: "You don't want to be psychoanalyzed? Well, perhaps we should look at that . . . " The circularity of psychoanalytic logic is best described by Freud himself who said that lacking the self-knowledge derived from analysis, his critics could not possibly evaluate the therapeutic and scientific integrity of psychoanalytic methods. This logic, not surprisingly, struck Freud's critics as enormously self-serving and disingenuous. In his fire-breathing 1980 Shrinking History, the historian David E. Stannard condemned Freud's modern disciples for perpetuating the "fatuous" claim that "psychoanalytic theory is so subtle, so complex, and so sophisticated that none of the tools of evaluation yet devised by the best of human minds is capable of testing it. This, like the other common ad hominem complaint that critics of psychoanalysis are only displaying their neuroses, is a reply worthy of a mystic or an intellectual charlatan."

Or, for another more emblematic burst of venom, we might turn to Vladimir Nabokov, who in a characteristic anti-Freudian passage said of the "Viennese Quack" who started it all,

I think he's crude, I think he's medieval, and I don't want an elderly gentleman from Vienna with an umbrella inflicting his dreams upon me. I don't have the dreams that he discusses in his books. I don't see umbrellas in my dreams. Or balloons.

History would judge Freud, and it would judge him and his theories harshly. "Our grandsons no doubt will regard today's psychoanalysts with the same amused contempt we do astrology and phrenology."
So, pronounced Nabokov in 1964.
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Posted by Ajay :: 2:20 PM :: 0 comments

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