The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique

The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique

The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique

The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique

Synopsis

This study is a philosophical critique of the foundations of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis. As such, it also takes cognizance of his claim that psychoanalysis has the credentials of a natural science. It shows that the reasoning on which Freud rested the major hypotheses of his edifice was fundamentally flawed, even if the probity of the clinical observations he adduced were not in question. Moreover, far from deserving to be taken at face value, clinical data from the psychoanalytic treatment setting are themselves epistemically quite suspect.

Excerpt

The study before you is a philosophical critique of the foundations of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. As such, it must also take cognizance of his claim that psychoanalysis has the credentials of a natural science. But before examining the cardinal arguments put forward by him, I need to expose a widespread exegetical myth.

It is precisely that myth, the contrived reading, which has served as the point of departure for convicting Freud of “scientistic self-misunderstanding.” This demonstrably ill-founded charge was leveled by the philosophers Jürgen Habermas and Paul Ricoeur, champions of the socalled “hermeneutic” version of psychoanalytic theory and therapy. Indeed, their rendition has gained widespread acceptance in various quarters as now being at the cutting edge of the field, if not de rigueur. But besides resting on a mythic exegesis of Freud’s writings, the theses of these hermeneuticians are based on profound misunderstandings of the very content and methods of the natural sciences.

Hence, it will be useful that I address, at the outset, not only the fabrication of the textual legend but also the multiple ontological and epistemic blunders inherent in the currently fashionable hermeneutic construal of psychoanalysis. The more so since Habermas has deemed precisely this reading of the Freudian corpus to be potentially prototypic for the other sciences of man (Habermas 1971, chapter 10). Thus, my critical scrutiny in the present Introduction may well have considerable import for hermeneutic philosophy, well beyond psychoanalysis proper.

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