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Art: Horacio Cardo
Prof. John Farrell
Professor of Literature Claremont McKenna College
Well, Freud when he reads a literary work, he accepts the author's point of view and, and what the author is saying. He accepts the surface meaning of the text, right? So he believes that when we read, we are trying to find out what the author was saying. But then he goes behind that, to say, "What are the hidden meanings?" And you can't do that if you don't know what the text itself means.
So, Freud accepts the language of the text, right? But then he analyzes it, he breaks it down into individual components, and he tries to chase those things back to unconscious sources.
Well one of the great sources of appeal for psychoanalysis has been the sense that readers and interpreters have more power than the author in many ways. That the author is not aware of his unconscious striving's and urges and so on.
But Freud can see through the text, through the surface of the text. Literary critics and other readers can do this, and so they have a certain kind of authority over what people mean all the time, right?
And one of the characteristics of psychoanalysis is that it is a very total way of interpreting the world. So it give you key to understanding just about every that people do. And not just as individuals in everyday life, but in their older cultural practices and so on. So that Freud gave enormous authority to readers and critics. To see through what other people are doing and to find the hidden meanings. Well, I don't believe that - obviously we do all have the power to understand each other, right? We all make observations about each other’s behavior, that perhaps the people themselves couldn't make, right? Because we all have a good degree of self-delusion, we favor ourselves in almost every account that we give, right? We're aware of how we appear to others at all times.
So there's a constant egoistic shading that we perform in everyday life and in our professional activities as well. In art, in all these things.
And so, certainly other people are able to see that and compensate for it. I might be able to understand you better than you understand yourself in some way, or you me. Because I care more about understanding you, let's say. That's my job, to try to understand the person or, it's my personal passion to do that. Or I might have better terms for understanding. I have made it, I have more experience of life or something like that. Those are the kinds of things that allow one person to understand another person in some ways better than they understand themselves. So if Freud is doing something like that, but he has a very systematic form of it, and it's an extremely suspicious form, which always reads other people's behavior in the worst light. It's very systematic in that, in that anything if it's positive, we convert it over into the negative. So Freud takes, he takes the bad things at their face value, but he turns the good things over into their opposite. He sees us as being systematically, almost logically, necessarily deceptive.
One of the interesting things Freud says about himself is that he didn't care about his patients at all, and had no interest in helping anyone. And the reason for that was that he, he diagnosed himself as having no sadism in his personality.
So, for Freud, a person who wants to help other people is trying to cover up unconscious, hostile urges to them, toward them, unconscious desires to hurt them. So Freud noticed that he didn't have those positive surface feelings, and that showed him that he didn't have any desire to harm his patients.
Whereas a doctor who wanted to help his patients will be covering up unconscious hostility. So, the experience of, of love for instance is actually a disguised form of hate. There's so many of Freud's analyses. Is that it, how I explained it? You don't love people. First of all, what is love in Freud's vocabulary? Love is, what he loved, he loved a remark by George Bernard Shaw, "Love is exaggerating a difference between one woman and another."
So, when you love someone, you're engaging in a kind of delusion. And, you know love was for Freud like a kind of, like a form of neurosis. An obsessional neurosis.
But why do we have this? What makes us love someone? Well, our biology according to Freud, just wants us want to have sex, right? That's our fundamental outlet. He thinks that we have a kind of store of psychic bodily energy that has to be expressed, otherwise we suffer, and our fullest satisfaction of that is simply in having sex.
But unfortunately, that requires repression - our daily functioning requires that we not have sex every minute, right? We have to control ourselves. Becoming an adult means learning to repress a good deal, or a redirect at least our energies.
And when we do that, that level of frustration turns into emotions. But the energy that we're going through our ordinary sexual activities, it becomes an emotional tendency to become attached to people. So our love is a sign of frustration. Or it's a result of our frustration, of our turning away from the most primary satisfactions to other things.
I don't think it's true that we have only negative feelings or sexual lust towards other people. I don't see any reason to think that, I don't see any reason to think that all of our positive emotions are inversions of the negative.
And, now Freud developed these theories by talking with a few patients in late nineteen, early twentieth century Vienna. Where he has a very small and evidence based for making these very grand claims about human nature.
And so the evidence that he presents in favor of this is just not, not very strong. I don't think that an adult of the 21st century would go to the kind of results of a few conversations that Freud had with patients a hundred years ago to make a diagnosis about human nature or an explanation of it.
I mean, that's one of the fascinating things about Freud, right? That this person who, really based on a few conversations with some very gifted patients, right? He had a remarkable set of patients, and he believed that he had been able to not just understand human nature, but human history.
With the long background of the development of the human species in bio history, based on these conversations. And psychoanalysis, it's both a, a psychological and historical theory. Very grand, based on a person's, you know, brilliant literary talents - Freud had enormous literary talents, enormous powers of persuasion. But a very small evidence base and a method that just doesn't have any obvious value as a way of interpreting.
Freud's effect on the 20th century is enormous. And no one explanation can, you know, make us understand exactly why that was so much the case. First of all, what he says is very fascinating, right?
Freud's basic doctrine is deeply fascinating. He's telling each person that he or she has decisive events in their past which determined what they are today. And if they have any kinks or problems or difficulties, frustrations, anxieties and so on - that those things are largely explained by events in the past.
Now, Freud also strongly emphasized biological inheritance. But that, people have ignored to that to a very great extent, they tend to think of Freud as telling them that the experiences of childhood made them the kind of person that they are.
And that's a fascinating thing to be told, right? It's a fascinating, it makes you fascinating to yourself. To be told that, "You have a very distinctive character, temperament, personality that has been crucially determined by events which are still in your mind, they're still there somewhere in the back of your mind in your unconscious. And they continue to exert a very decisive effect upon how you feel and talk and think and relate to others in your sexual life, and then every other aspect of life. They enable your talents or disable them, whichever way they happen to be going." That is just a fascinating idea. And it's also a very old idea.
Freud reinvented a figure of culture that many cultures have, right? There are many cultures that have a shaman, a medicine man, priest, a person that can come to you when you have a problem and put you through some time of routine or ritual. Call up all the emotions, all the devils, etc and purge them.
Exorcism is a model here. And that is a figure of culture that was really, repressed you might say in a historical sense in the enlightenment. So, it's very much catholic, a catholic priest is a central image of that figure. But the Protestants got rid of that. Why the Protestants got rid of the priest as an intermediary between you and God.
So in the 19th century, if you're a secular minded person or a mainstream Protestant Christian, then if you're in a depression, there's no one for you to go to, right? There's no special person you can go to see that has some kind of special wisdom of the culture or whatever that can help you.
That can recognize that something is wrong with you, give you that sense that, "Yes, this happens to many people and I know what to do about it." John Stuart Mill, for instance, a great 20th, 19th century logician and philosopher.
He became deeply depressed in his youth and went through a black period - he called it, "A crisis in my mental history." And he finally got back in touch with his emotions by, by reading Wordsworth. The only literary sources for that kind of approach to putting people back in touch with their emotions.
So if Freud came along, and he really reinvented that figure for modern culture. And now there are many versions of it, right? He invented it, he reinvented it as a scientific figure.
He said, "Well I can do this, I can serve this function that ancient therapists of all kinds have served, but I can do it on a scientific basis." And people want that, right? People want that, they are willing to be told there's a reason why they're not happy.
And they're very willing to be told that so an authority figure of some kind can do something to them that will help. And we see this in medical practice of all kinds, right? But we see it also in the treatment of mental illness.
And now, of course not only mental illness that psychoanalysis applies to, it applies to everyone.
We're all neurotic in a sense, once you accept Freud's way of thinking.
Another source of the appeal of psychoanalysis is that it provided a certain background understanding for art. That artists were deeply attracted to.
Now, the unconscious is not a distinctively Freudian notion and it had been very much emphasized since the late 18th century in western culture, the idea of the unconscious.
Well, the unconscious is an ancient notion, and you see it for instance in the Greek philosopher, Plato, right? Plato believed that - like Freud actually - that we see a surface of life, like we see a surface of life, and there's something behind it. Which is the thing that explains it.
For Plato, it's an intellectual reality, there are ideal forms. And we've all been in touch with those forms before birth. And so, our difficulty in life is how can we get back to those things and remember them?
If they are the key to understanding the world, they are a key to truth and health and goodness of every kind. And so that was Freud's, that was Plato's way of thinking. We are an unconscious memory of, of these real forms.
Well, not exactly that word, but that's what he's telling us, that we have a memory, a childhood memory that we learn to get back. So thinking is essentially un-forgetting, and that was the first word that Freud used for the recovery of unconscious memories.
He used Plato's word, Anamnesis, which Freud knew Greek and read Plato in Greek. So, he also thought of learning as un-forgetting, and that's what the therapist does. Plato's idea was that you need a therapist to help you get to those forms.
And the therapist has to, what the therapist has to do is to take your intellectual Eros, your erotic energy and redirect it toward the forms, with the help of a master with whom you have an erotic relationship. That was Plato's doctrine. And that was a Socratic dialogue, right?
Socrates, he makes you fall in love with him by a process of dialogue. But that love was ultimately directed towards the true realities behind the surface of life. So Freud took all that and inverted it, right?
He took over Plato's notion of Eros, they are basic intellectual energy is one with our sexual energy, right? So, the reason I'm able to observe my environment here today is that I've been able to channel enough of my purely sexual energy into my intellectual functioning in order to see people, things, drive a car, whatever. That's a basic thing. Freud borrowed that term, that idea from Plato, Eros.
And but for Freud, it's not a world of truth, which is hidden. It's the world of, of early events, and the fantasy surrounding them. And he is very much like the Socratic master, you have or you have an erotic relationship with him.
It's a dialectic, and it leads you not upward, but downward, toward the hidden realities of, of your past and the human past.
If I were going to be psychoanalyzing Freud, what I'd be doing is simply trying to find the hidden gaps in this conversation, that kind of thing.
What is he trying to hide or where? And that, that's not what I'm doing here. What I'm pointing to is that Freud's is a borrower. He's a synthesizer of many other people's ideas.
That's certainly true, the fact that Freud borrowed doesn't, doesn't mean that he's wrong at all. Most, most great scientists are, are synthesizers, right? They, they have a long apprenticeship where they acquire the knowledge of the field, and then they come up with one new thing or two new things that are special and new.
But, but the question is, "Why is Freud so influential?" And one of the reason's he's so influential is that, he is playing into long existing structures of thought, and giving him a new spin, right?
Plato says, "Intellectual Eros goes up." Freud says, "Intellectual eros belongs down." And the only reason we bring it up is we're frustrated, right? And, and that explains why we're sick, right? Well we're sick because we have to assign to some degree our most primitive biological instincts and we're not satisfying them.
So, we from direction from Freud that explains the modern character, the neurosis of the modern character. Well nobody, in a sense, nobody can say how the 20th century will look different without Freud, because he colors the whole century, right?
But there are many things you wouldn't have without Freud. He made things possible. The notion of the unconscious as a source of power for instance is a very decisive development for art, right? Really encouraged an exploring of the irrational, right?
Which is a major part of 20th century culture.
Another major part of 20th century that Freud enormously enhanced was the critique of ordinary life, of bourgeois life of the well-dressed citizen and his sense of propriety, right?
Freud closed down the whole notion of respectability; because underneath we're all these bestial creatures and our attempts to redirect our bestial energies towards higher things is a substitute and a disguise to a large degree.
So Freud made it possible for people to, to, to be superior to the mainstream bourgeois notion of civilization. And that was just a deeply powerful current that ran through the whole century. And then Freud truly did affect how people think about their personal lives, right?
It refocused people's attention on the family, as a crucial unit, right? Your parents, they so much make up who you are, but that sense was enormously enhanced in the 20th century by Freud. Also a lot of psychoanalytic terms and ideas became trivialized, and became to seem like common sense.
For instance, if you asked somebody what a Freudian slip is, they're very likely to tell you something about how somebody meant to say one word and they said a scandalous word instead.
But of course that was not, everybody knew that already, right? That was not in any way special or new to Freud. What Freud did was to find slips that seemed totally innocent, right?
You simply leave what year you're quoting in a line from a poem and you accidentally leave out one word - Freud thinks there's a reason why. So Freud encourages people to find meaning in everything, hidden, guilty meaning.
One of the great Freudian stories is how he meets a man on a train and the man asks him, while they're there talking, and the man quotes a line of Virgil in Latin. And of course these are people who could quote Virgil in Latin on a train, right?
By Schoolboys of that day… who had a marvelous classical training. And so, the man leaves out one word and Freud diagnoses the fact that the man is, is anxious about his girlfriend having missed her period, right? Freud knows how to play the psychological Sherlock Holmes.
But that's a kind of power game that people in the 20th Century learn to play, and it's great fun. I think in ordinary conversation now, people who are not any kind of psychoanalyst or Freudian, still say what Freud would say about this, before they go on to give some other kind of remark, right? It's a code that's available to everyone, and it wouldn't have been there without Freud.
Well Freud's work contains many statements of many kinds, right? So I certainly wouldn't say that he never said anything that, he never pointed towards anything that wasn't there, or that he never said anything that wasn't true. But
Freud has certain distinctive doctrines, right, that we owe to him.
And they're very eccentric, they're very radical. And, they don't stand up to evaluation. And people, people pay enormous expense. They spend hours a week, you know, five days a week going to therapy and paying an enormous amount of money. And it's not, it's not going to do them any good, right?
I mean, Freud's claims are very important and that's why they're worth denying, right? They're, if Freud had not said anything that was interesting or important, then there'd be no point in spending any effort explaining to people why the evidence isn't there.
But the evidence just isn't there, you can't, you can't convince yourself.
The truth of psychoanalysis, if you, if you want to have it proven to you by what we know, right? It's just the facts on theory, and I have hardly ever met by the way, anyone who in my, in my, in the university environment who uses Freud in their work.
I've hardly met anyone ever who might have been able to say, "Well now, tell me what you think about the critique of psychoanalysis?" That philosophers of science and other areas have put forward over the years, the kinds of problems they've raised with Freud's augmentation, and evidence and so on.
I've hardly met anyone who has looked into it. They simply accept Freud as a very persuasive way of thinking and they're not terribly concerned with whether or not it's --
Well, I mention that he returned the idea of the therapist. He brought us a notion that you can study the mind and actually help patients. In fact, right now seems like us obvious, right?
That I would be someone to trust to help people who have these problems. It would be surprising to people that that figure was not figure was not present, right? In Freud's day, it was more common to say, "Well we study the mind for it's own sake, and we can't really cure anybody."
And Freud himself did not have a very strong attitude about curing. He was more interested in cures as proofs than he was as help to people, right? So he re-launched the switch for the power through science to help people, that was positive.
And of course, if you're a person who wants to understand the world and the mind and history, you know you will engage with Freud. And, so you can learn a lot by the process of trying to figure out why this is important, why it was important, why it's not important as science was, but it's very important as, as history and culture.
And I do think Freud also gave resources to art that they wouldn't have had otherwise. He encouraged certain tendencies in art. Whether you like them or not, I mean it's for - evaluating art is a hard thing to do. But he certainly,
he gave a direction to 20th century art that it wouldn't have had otherwise.
One of the great 20th century art tendencies is surrealism. And it's now everywhere, right? Surrealism was a crazy way of portraying the world in an early 20th century. It was inspired by Freud's notion of the unconscious.
The unconscious is this source of power down there and we're gonna try not to censor ourselves at all. We're gonna just do the automatic things, so that the unconscious can come direct through, directly without interference from the conscious ego, right? That was the program of surrealism. So it got us used to art that defies logic. Defies our everyday sense of logic.
And nowadays if you look at any TV commercial, it's wildly surrealist, right? It's full of magical transformations and disruptions of association. And, you know, flying towels that come off the rack and change your life and things like that, right. This is all, that was an art form that was partly inspired by Freud.
And who can say now whether that's bad or good? Right? It's a blanket aspect of modern life that we've become used to art that, that doesn't take for granted our everyday sense of logic. So if you're a person that believes fleeing from logic is the key to life, Freud helped you out.
Well I've told you there's no reason for him, but I'm a mature adult of the 21st century, to you think in psychoanalytic terms. Because the evidence just isn't there, and now one thing about Freud is he didn't have a consistent body of doctrines. They changed over time, but they, you know - one can say, where are the classic psychoanalytic claims, and are they true?
And a lot of effort has been put into that.
But there's been a lot of attempts to experimentally, to verify psychoanalysis, and it hasn't worked out very well, right?
I mean, are you - it's just there's no reason to think that Freud's - already very counter-intuitive claims are, are persuasive.
So, and I think the reason for the tone of the treatment of Freud, is that, Freud was a heroic figure he heroised himself.
He called himself a conquistador of the mind, right? He identified himself with all the great figures in history - Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon, he was extremely grandiose, right?
And his followers have tended to maintain that heroic image of him, so you know that. And people, as I say people are still counting on Freud's idea's to cure them. There was the whole recovering, recovered memory movement way in the 20th century.
Which people went to jail because people were too credulous about childhood reports, things that happened to them. And that had a Freudian background to it. So, you live your life very differently, and you think very differently if you take Freud seriously as a guide to life and the mind.
And so, I mean there's good reason to be, to be dismissive toward that and to discourage it. Anyway, we need the evidence to believe things, right?
I know there are lots of people in our world now who say everything's science, let's just talk and Freud must be right, he must be right about something, right? I mean how can it be totally wrong if so many people believe it?
Well, most things and most people's theories are actually not really totally wrong. I mean, it's very hard to come up with descriptions of the world that will hold up in the long run, right? And even Newton's science has been readjusted through Einstein.
Einstein will probably be readjusted again, right? And those are good scientists who actually succeeded in explaining something that was very difficult to grasp. Freud just didn't have that quality of method, it's just not there.
For me a conquistador of the mind is someone who succeeds in explaining what the mind is. Now he was a good mind manipulator, right? He was a, I feel myself groping towards words that I don't want to say on television.
But, but he was a person who was able to manipulate people in a literary way and he had brilliant literary skill and in other ways. Psychoanalysis is a form of, of manipulation, right? Like all other therapeutic routines.
They are all forms of manipulation and what makes that permissible is the benefit. But the benefit is supposed to be for the patient, not the analyst, right? And Freud was mostly benefiting himself by his, by his science.
And most scientists have that motive, right? I mean, we can't be naive about science. Anybody who's read the Double Helix and learned about how Watson and Crick went about discovering the structure of DNA.
Anybody that has read that book is gonna know that scientists are not really pure. And the egoistical motives are at the basis of their activity. But there has to be a check on it, like there has to be something more than that.
And I do believe that Freud was a serious scientist by the way, but I think we can now see that his methods and, and the relation between the evidence and the claims just doesn't back up the claims, it's just not there.
Freud is supposed to have said when he came to America, "They don't realize we're bringing them the plague." And if he said that, it's a brilliant remark, and it has a lot of resonance.
And first of all, what it means is American's are young, a young nation, hopeful, energetic, eager, idealistic, self-deluded in all those things, right? And Freud is gonna come and show them that. Because psychoanalysis is a systematic form of disillusionment, right? That's what it is in its essence.
You live your life according to illusions, we are going to disillusion you. So, there's an almost spiteful sense that we're gonna take away your strength and, and show you what you really are.
But then the reference to the plague is fascinating because, of course in the middle ages and in other, many places and times, Jews are thought to bring the plague. They are blamed for a plague, and other natural disasters.
So Freud is sort of saying, "Ok, we're going to make your dreams, your evil dreams among us come true," right?" "We're gonna, we're gonna, we are gonna bring you the plague, and the plague is psychoanalysis itself."
So, it's a brilliantly, it's a gleefully malicious sense of the, the painfulness of undergoing psychoanalysis. And of course Freud did apply his method to culture in a very wide way, right? He didn't know where to find himself to, to diagnosing sick people.
He was more interested in showing the healthy people that they were just as sick as anybody, right? And that he was the strongman who could admit that about himself, whereas they, they couldn't.
But he placed his portrayal of himself as in the line of Copernicus, Darwin, as one of the men who, who gained the deepest blows to human narcissism, in other words the general tendency for human beings to rely on idealizing image of themselves, right?
And what's special about these people is they are able to endure without the ideals. They are able to unmask the ideals, which are only forms for Freud of narcissism. So, that's the heroism of Freud, that's why he’s a conquistador, he can unmask himself.
He's one of the first honest men, that's one con game that modern people play, right? I'm the first honest man who ever came along and told you the truth about what's really going on my head.
That would have been true fifty years earlier, but it certainly was not try in the Vienna of Freud.
For instance, Richard von Krafft-Ebing the famous sexologist, whose work is much more explicit. Why is, you know, I had already done most of his work at that point. So the notion that Freud unmasked Victorian prudery and so on, that is completely untrue. That was something he said about himself, he explained resistance to his ideas by the notion that people don't want to talk about sex. But, it just wasn't true. The idea of repression is one of the things that allows you to talk about it endlessly, right?
You can talk about sex indirectly every day, right? You don't have to say a sexual word, it's constantly there as a kind of reference. But just historically, if you look at Viennese culture and medical culture of that time, it's not Victorian in it's tone, and Freud was not causing any more impression than anybody else by talking about, about sex.
Well one of the fascinating dimensions of Freud is that I, I don't want to say I mentioned - let me start again.
Freud brought back from the past many, many elements of our minds which we had more or less consigned to history.
So Freud reinvigorated the notion of our spiritual healer who can change people's lives by putting them through a certain kind of routine. And so that was a recovery of a very old idea. And in general, Freud's mode was recovery.
He recovered dream interpretation, which is another ancient practice, which had been, you know, discouraged in the enlightenment.
That was part of the scandal of, of psychoanalysis when it arrived. The scientists would publish a book called, "Dream interpreting." Right?
And it sounds like something you'd see in the earlier equivalent of our modern supermarket rack. How to read your dreams, right? That was an ancient genre that has long gone out of style.
Well Freud finds meaning everywhere. He also locates myth in the mind, he may have thought that myths like Oedipus and so on were things that were permanently locked behind by human practice, by magirnity.
But no, a myth is continuing to rule our lives in a sense. And that was a very influential notion from modern art. And, and so Freud tended to see myths, including religious myths as having continuing vitality. But they have continuing vitality as psychological phenomena. They are delusions that continue to work.
If, I think very few people would be able to tell you what Freud thought was the best protection against neurosis. The best protection against neurosis was religion. And modern people are neurotic largely because they've given up the psychological satisfactions of believing that their wishful ideas about the world correspond with the world as it is.
Which is the satisfaction that religion provides you with, right? Religion tells you that you're a spiritual being, you're immortal, you have a father in heaven who takes care of you.
Those things allow you to, to see the world in terms that are fundamentally gratifying for Freud. So, that's what's so hard to give up, to give up. And that's what Freud's idea of repression is really about.
Many people have read Freud as emphasizing sexual repression, and that's one element. Or when you look at his historical scheme, it's the repression of religion that is key.
That's what people can't do for them - they can't accept for themselves. So they're neurosis are individual versions, individualized versions of the great religions. And when you analyze a neurotic person, you find that there's all kinds of meanings and symbols and displacements of symbols and so on. These things are, are very similar to religion.
So, that's one of Freud's great missions in life. To force people to undergo that repression and to redirect their energies away from fantasy into reality. And but it's a very costly one.
Because being modern means accepting the fact that your mind has to be, has to be repressed. It has to be frustrated in order to perceive the world as it is. So basically, the heroism of understanding life is in suppressing your true wishes.
Freud is a very important person for understanding the 20th century. He had great influence and like so many - now you look in the past and find people believed all kinds of things. And we can say who invented them, right?
You know, we have the inventors of Judaism, we have the inventors of Christianity, we have the inventors of Islam. We have various scientific people that came up with ideas. People who invented philosophy, right?
We now no longer think in the terms that the great Greek philosopher's think for the most part, right? We, we - especially the early ones. Like, the world is water, right? That was a theory that got people thinking about, you know, the material world as a thing, as a separate thing from the Gods. That was an important step. And now, it doesn't seem like great science.
Freud, the thing that makes Freud a fascinating subject in a way is that, he was a throwback to a lower level standard of science. But his science was done at a lower level than the contemporaries.
But his literary genius made it persuasive, and his willingness to unite literary and scientific interests. That made him very powerful, so it gave an impetus to many elements of 20th century culture.
But if you want to understand the mind, just don't go to Freud. If you want to understand culture, go to Freud, you need to. If you want to understand the mind, stay at home. Stay home and read something else.
Well, what you're saying is Freud's influential. He was, he was a popular writer of his ideas, that's true. And he popularized a way of thinking. That way of thinking is incorrect, so you can then go on to say, "Well it was better than this or it was worse than that."
If Freud were, 100 years from now, how are we going to talk about Freud? That's an interesting question, right? 100 years ago, from now, how are we going to talk about Freud? He is going to disappear into history as a very important person for determining the character of 20th century culture.
But he's not any longer going to be someone we have to argue about as to his value, because the truths aren't there. So I mean, that's just, that's all there is to it.
There's no reason to believe those things, right? We don't know that they're incorrect for sure. But there's no reason to believe them. So I mean there's no better reason to believe them then - another theory that I might come up with in my armchair.
And in fact, my armchair theory might be better because, at least it hasn't had decades of scientists running experiments to disprove it or prove it, and finding it lacking. So I might be better off from my armchair than Freud is at this point.
Why is it correct to say that Freud was incorrect, even though he influenced so many people? Well, influence is not the same as being right. People can, you know - we can all think of Stalin, Hitler and all kinds of other people that had enormous influence.
And, you know, Freud's influence is not of that kind, but we can very easily separate our sense of their importance from our evaluation of them, right?
And Freud has - our since of Freud's importance is very large. Our evaluation of his, the truth of his theories is very low. But that wasn't true of most of the people that listened to him.
When we're evaluating Freud, there are a number of different questions we could ask. One is, "Was his doctrine correct?" The answer to that is no. "Was his doctrine valuable, in the sense that it advanced the thought process?"
Well, it was mixed, obviously and encouraged people to go in certain directions. It pushed the whole idea of therapy, which is still a somewhat questionable enterprise, right?
We're still wondering if the various kinds of therapy that have been produced are, are worth the trouble and the expense they cost. But probably on the whole the answer is that they are. And so, Freud gave emphasis to that.
The problem of evaluating the long term effect of doctrines, apart from their truth is always a very difficult thing. But we can point to the fact that Freud's ideas lasted much too long.
They lasted beyond where people should have been credulous about them. So, they are, they did some harm, right? People that wanted help got, "Freud said." And then the recovered memory thing also produced abuses.
So, in general if you have the idea that your whole life was determined by events from your childhood, that alters the character of your life. And it alters your attitude towards so many things.
And the depth of Freud's influence is a reason for being very critical of his influence, right? It gives you a very jaded disillusioned view of the world. Freud's mission was disillusionment.
Let's think for instance about his analysis of the smile of the Mona Lisa. The famous moment in his book on Leonardo. Well Freud's mission was disillusionment, unmasking, satire was his favorite genre. Most of his favorite writers were satirists. And satire and psychoanalysis, humor and psychoanalysis, have a very similar quality. Which is that you take something that takes itself seriously and you show the hidden underside. You show that the ideal thing or the dignified thing at least masks hidden indignities.
So it's a humorous perspective. It's a form of humor that takes itself very seriously. Well you can see this in, in Freud's reading and his literary habits.
For instance he read, he learned Spanish as an adolescent, just to read Cervantes, the greatest of all satiric authors. And that was deeply inherent to his world view to be satirical about things. And it's natural why he would have a satirical attitude towards Catholicism.
He's growing up as a liberal, Jewish scientist in imperial catholic Vienna, so it's very natural for him to have irony towards Christian politics in the wider sense. So you can see this in his analysis of the meaning of the Mona Lisa smile.
And by the way, the Mona Lisa smile is a famous object of analysis, right? People have, over the centuries tried to figure out what she's smiling about, what does that smile mean?
So Freud took a shot at this, and for him, the smile of the Mona Lisa was a memory of Leonardo's own childhood, and the special pleasure he took at the mother's breast. Which a a decisive thing for him, and that achieved his whole life.
Because he had that special pleasure with his mother very early in childhood, without the presence of a father, which was a decisive element, Leonardo gained enormous strength as an inquirer, and as an interpreter of the world, as an inquirer. But he became homosexual as well. Because Freud saw a connection between narcissism and homosexuality. So the smile of the Mona Lisa is, it's beautiful because it reminds him of that early pleasure that Leonardo had.
It's rueful, because Leonardo's homosexuality, turned out to be entirely supplemented into art. So for Freud, he never had sex. And that's the sadness of her smile. But more immediately, it's a fantasy of fellatio. It's a fantasy of oral sex. And then Freud says, "And of course the smile was copied by all the other artists, so whenever you see a renaissance Madonna, or an aristocratic lady smiling in a painting, that's the meaning of that smile.
It's about Leonardo and his peasant mother. So it's about a socially and it's about men having oral sex. So, if you see Freud, you'll never see a renaissance painting again in the same way, once you've seen it through Freud's eyes.
What his emphasis on in literature, his importance for literature is enormous.
Freud's one good book, his one book that's now worth reading about, to understand the subject. And that is his least read book, of course. Jokes and their relation to the unconscious.
Because in that book he makes a nice argument that the value of jokes is based upon both their cleverness, the cleverness with which they are able to combine not normally combined ideas in a surprising way, and the anima, they express.
So there's the, what you might call the hydraulic or emotional component, and then the intellectual component combined in the joke. That's a very good analysis. And you don't need the whole theory of the unconscious to use that.
So, Freud makes a lot of common sense observations, right? He's a shrewd observer of ordinary behavior. But he always turns it around in something even more disillusioned than it would suggest.
Well one of the interesting, Freud went back to many old ideas, where he rejuvenated the idea of the unconscious and the idea of myth as present in our minds and it's continuing power. Another one of the things that he brought back was the notion of a philosophical academy.
The place to, to - the way to pursue knowledge was not on kind of on the open market of scientific exchange, but rather having a closed guild of investigators who worked together and who are specially committed to Freud.
And as Freud's disciples started to gradually question some of his doctrines, he had a long famous sequence of what he called, defections or heresies. People who didn't agree with him about important things - Adler, Young, Rank. He broke with all of them eventually, but there was a sense that you couldn't, you couldn't question Freud's key ideas and still be part of his group. And that's not how science normally operates.
And it contributed to the heroizations of Freud. In the sense, I think some of the, the, the sharp edge of criticism towards later psychoanalysts, has to with the fact that it insulated itself from genuine intellectual criticism, from it's very beginnings almost.
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