Thursday, July 17, 2008

Darwin, Freud and Morons

*** This Post Bumped Up From Previous Comments ***
Olivia Judson, Evolutionary Biologist and resident hottie contributor on the NY Times website recently wrote a piece calling for the retirement of the word "Darwinism". Judson feels evolutionary biology as a discipline has advanced and changed so much since Darwin's time that although he's a giant in the field and casts a shadow over everything, perhaps it's time to think about evolution without mentioning his name.
I commented on the article and said I thought it could be worse: I believed the progenitor of her field (Darwin) has largely had his theories proved correct while the progenitor of psychology (Freud) has had many of his theories proved wrong. Sigmund Freud created pyschology and psychoanalysis and for that, he should be celebrated (and indeed he is). Until Freud, nobody thought about the underlying motivations behind a person's actions. But Freud took a mis-step by believing all human behavior was the robotic byproduct of sexual urges. He then shoehorned many of the results of his psychoanalysis into that theory. Freud believed virtue was an illusion (everything we do, we do to impress others for the hope of sex), curing psychological problems an impossibility and happiness nearly unattainable. But Freud's name hangs over psychology as much as Darwin's hangs over evolutionary biology.
So what did my comment earn me? Mostly a bunch of angry replies and threatening emails that people were going to find me and shove a stapler up my nose. Well not really, I'm kidding... they mostly just called me a moron and left the stapler part out, but that doesn't mean I wasn't offended. The term 'moron' may be an accurate assessment of my intellectual capacity, but it doesn't mean I like hearing it, dammit!
I've read some Freud, but by no means consider myself an expert on the man or his work; hence the "Renaissance Man" name of my blog. I know enough about everything to sustain an argument, but not enough to offer new insight or an expert opinion and rarely do I feel the need to be correct. A quick perusal of my blog should prove that: I'm willing to fire off under-educated opinions about everything from Romantic Poetry to Investment Banking's correlation to Book Publishing, to the reasons why white people hate Michael Vick (yes I just linked to my own blog).
All this being said, however, I am willing to listen to other people's arguments (even when they call me a moron) because if I'm wrong (and there IS a 0.001% chance of that in this case), then I'd like to be corrected. Why? Because once I'm right I can spew opinionated commentary from a 'correct' position, and as everybody knows, intellectual bullying is waaaay more fun when you actually know what you're talking about.
So enlighten me, if you want, Freudian truthers. Why wasn't the man a total idiot?


Magic Jordan said...

I'm not going to do your homework for you. Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and his Interpretation of Dreams are excellent places to start. I wish you the best.

Also, Wilhelm Wundt is the father of psychology, not Freud.

Sprizouse said...

I've actually read "Three Essays" before, but not "Dreams". Civilization and its Discontents is probably the one I feel is most misdirected and obviously innacurate, while the entire middle section of "Essays" with its thoughts on infantile sexuality hasn't been readily accepted by modern psychology.

Being a business student we obviously get a lot of Maslow (Human Resource profs stress that managers need to understand the Heirarchy of Needs), but in any case, I'm still not seeing much of a defense of Freud here. Maslow could be considered the father of positive psychology and Seligman across the way from me over at Penn has continued that work.

I think both men's theories are much closer and more accurate to what's really going on in our heads than most of what Freud was talking about.

Magic Jordan said...

As far as clinical practice goes, with the exception of the United States, where behavioral and positive psychology reign supreme, Freudian psychoanalysis is alive and well, especially in France and Brazil with Lacanian psychoanalysis (Jacques Lacan brought about a "return to Freud" during the latter half of the last century). In the case of theory, whether we're talking about literature, philosophy, queer and gender studies, politics, sociology, etc., Freud (as read by Lacan) is seeing much playing time among Leftist intellectuals (cf. Slavoj Zizek, for instance).

So, if we confine ourselves to clinical practice in the United States, Freud is considered passé and irrelevant, but he's doing quite well elsewhere.

Sprizouse said...

See Jordan... that's what I'm looking for. A well reasoned argument against me! LOVE IT!!!

Why couldn't you have done that the first time? As a US resident most of my life (and a non-psychology expert), how am I to know these things if people don't tell me?

Queer and gender studies and the ideas of 'perversions' are areas I believe Freud still stands as the master. Why so much love in the states for Positive Psychology, but not elsewhere? Can you answer me that?

Magic Jordan said...

I would guess that positive psychology's flagging popularity outside the U.S. is based on the fact that positive psychology is easily partnered with both conservative politics and liberal economic policy, things which have little appeal to many intellectuals outside of the U.S.

As you said, you are studying positive psychology in business school...

A Paperback Writer said...

"everything we do, we do to impress others for the hope of sex"

Well, I'm no Freud expert, but I can assure you that this statement is very true in a junior high school setting.

As I recall, you have a birthday this weekend. May you wake up 20 years younger, as you wished on my blog.

TerriRainer said...

I just wanted to say first, thanks for the laugh!

Secondly, why would a man who was a self-proclaimed cocaine user, still be taken seriously by so many today?

:) Terri

Anonymous said...

Freud's thinking and darwins are negative but true. "positive psychology" is a superficial idea that covers up the idea that people are animals deep inside. Freud wasn't an idiot because he could think outside the box, outside of social concerns. Freud did make the mistake of being too negative and nowadays positive psychology is the "answer" to Freud's negative (but superior) thinking.