Friday Think Piece: Oedipus and Anti-Oedipus

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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7 Responses

  1. Avatar gregiank says:

    Interesting stuff Jason. I read a lot of Freud in grad school. There is so much that can be read into it and so much context that is needed to understand him. He originally believed that the reports of child abuse/ sexual contact between kids and parents was true but then went back on that after peer pressure. His belief about repressed sexuality are more a result of trying to find an alternate explanation for the truth he seems to have found. You are correct about the affect he has had on modern thought, we have never thought about sexuality the same since him. However few people consider him to have much truth now. Freud is, very correctly, criticized for not even being remotely scientific. The people who hold onto his beliefs generally don’t want to see or use psychology as a science. they want a template and authority to validate what they want to believe.Report

    • Avatar Rufus in reply to gregiank says:

      @gregiank, Sure this is true about Freud, but having a wife who works as a therapist, I’ve heard that a lot of what gets called ‘scientific’ psychiatry today is akin to target shooting in pitch darkness. I think he’s still interesting as philosophy.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Rufus says:

        @Rufus, i’ve been in various positions in mental health or social services for 20+ years. Psychiatry has way to much guess work involved in finding the right meds. However there is a lot of psychology that is pretty darn scientific in terms of trying to explain human behavior. And in various different ways has made a lot of progress in explaining human behavior. Frued just doens’t cut it as a scientific explanation for anything.

        maybe its just me and my scientific bent, but when something has been found to have no factual basis, or at the least is only applicable to the culture in which it was born, then i don’t see how it can work as philosophy.

        Actually its also good to remember that as much a “shot in the dark” modern psychiatry is, there are many, many people who have been well and truly saved by modern medications.Report

        • Avatar Rufus in reply to greginak says:

          @greginak, I think this is just an example of our results having varied. I’ve read his corpus and found plenty of useful insights into human experience and behavior in Freud. Would I call them scientific? Nope. But, so what? I can say the same about Proust- plenty of useful insights into human experiences and emotions, and not a lot of science. In fact, most of what I’ve found to be useful insights into the human experience are not what I’d call scientific facts at all.

          It’s not that science hasn’t made great strides in the psychological fields; of course it has. But I don’t know anyone who’d be quicker to get rid of the collected works of Freud than psychologists, and it’s always for this same reason- his ideas are not scientific fact. Okay, fair enough. But I’ve been able to read his works and gain insight into some of the psychological issues in my own life, and that’s been helpful. When any thinker makes an observation about human behavior and I recognize the truth in it by comparing it to examples from my own life, I don’t know if I’d call it “factual” and it might not be testable in a controlled setting- but it’s useful. I’m not sure that very much philosophy holds up as scientific fact really. So, I’m not ready to burn Freud yet, although, no, I’d not shelve him with the science books.

          As for the success rate of modern psychiatry, I know plenty of people who have been saved by it. I’m no Foucaultian on the subject. Again, my wife’s both a therapist and a mental health “consumer”. But she also sees dozens of clients every year, and a good number of them she finds have been misdiagnosed. There certainly is a lot of guesswork in finding the right meds, and I understand that, for many people, when the right meds are found, it saves their life. However, I’m not sure why the answer is now so often assumed to be psychopharmacological when the question is psychological. Most of her clients, she finds, are not suffering from anything organic, but typical situational issues. They all want meds. And they all seem to get meds. But I don’t see why the solution to psychological problems has to be medical, or even scientific for that matter. I know that people in the profession are touchy about the idea that what they do might not be scientific, and I certainly believe it is scientific. I just think it misses a lot in being so strictly scientific.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Rufus says:

            @Rufus, My damn Id must have gotten in the way of acknowledging that Freud certainly was insightful about human behavior. I agree with that you can learn a bit about people from him, although i think he is incredibly bound to his culture.

            I was a therapist for five years. There are plenty of criticisms of therapy and therapists. Many don’t give a hoot about science. If you are lucky they are well meaning, insightful, learned witch doctors. If you aren’t’ lucky then you get rebirthing therapy. Its hard to against the belief that too many people are diagnosed and/or medicated. To much of life has been pathologised.Report

  2. In 1982 I found my inner child – but I still don’t know the identity of the father.Report

  3. Avatar BSK says:

    Didn’t Freud sexually abuse his own daughter? Maybe he was looking for justifications for his own behavior rather than some largely explanation of human behavior. If he can demonstrate his own pathologies to be somehow “natural” or at least part of the process, then he emerges with a clean conscience and a “victim” of his own progress.Report

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