The Scope of Psychoanalysis, 1921-1961: Selected Papers

By Franz Alexander | Go to book overview

Psychoanalysis Revised
1940

The human setting of the development of ideas

Progress in every science is based on two processes: discovery of new facts and the gradual improvement of the conceptual mastery of these facts. The second of these processes involves the critical evaluation of current views, establishing what they accomplish and where they fail and need modification. In the natural sciences this continuous discarding of older views and replacing them with new constructions which are better adapted to the observations is considered a natural course of development. It is seldom connected with violent emotional attacks or with the foundation of inimical schools competing with and disparaging each other. The revision of theory in physics is mainly a question of intellectual argument, an unemotional evaluation of factual evidence. The more removed a discipline is from its observational basis the greater opportunity there is for emotions to enter into scientific discussion. In the nineteenth century almost all German philosophers were fighting each other, the idealists viciously attacking the materialists and the positivists trying to discredit the followers of all other schools. Every professor of philosophy felt that he had the ultimate and unique key to the sanctuary of truth. Also in young and less developed fields of science emotional issues are of great influence. Thus, in the social sciences and in psychology the admixture of such emotional impurities mars the rational evolution of ideas. The strictly intellectual process, the consistent and gradual adaption of theoretical constructions to the ever-growing observational material makes the study of the history of physics, however, a thrilling experience well-nigh aesthetic in nature.

Naturally, every fundamentally new scientific discovery is apt to arouse emotional rejection both among experts and laymen. Every science consists of the continuous struggle of objective knowledge against wishful thinking. Since the world is not as we want it to be, every new recognition of a factual situation arouses emotional

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