Thursday, August 24, 2017

was Freud ok?

(this is in part a reply to @onemorebrown aka Richard Brown....)

in my earlier posts i brought up Freud as the historical villain in our field. a couple of my friends in philosophy raised the question: was Freud really that bad? we still talk about him after all.

likewise, some of my colleagues in clinical psy / psychiatry would also say, wrong as he was sometimes, science often involves making mistakes. but he inspired a generation, invented new concepts that we still use, how bad was that?

to be fair, sometimes i wonder about this too: like Freud, William James also mostly had no data. they both wrote with remarkable eloquence, and are at times equally glib. we all know that James is a hero. what happened to Freud?

we can talk about the cocaine habit and all the sexual fantasies. but i don't think those are the real problems.

i think the problem is, in science, it matters what consequences you bring to your field.

Freud's own name will be remembered for a long time. so in a sense, by the standard of philosophy, he will be one of the Greats.

but he did more damage than good for the rest of us.

in philosophy perhaps it isn't so clear what negative impact is, to the extent you change the course of thinking in some meaningful and interesting ways, you leave your mark. in science, funding & resources matter. by losing respect from our neighbors, we lose jobs, and in turn, fewer experiments can be done. it limits progress. it is clear what damage means, and it is not a good thing to be remembered for.

i think it is a problem that the field of consciousness often attracts highly respected senior scholars who have passed the stage of having to worry about such mortal concerns as money and job security.

but please, don't try to be Freud. if you want to be Freud, go do cosmology or something. this field is not for you you. we don't want you here. please go away.

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