There are a few interesting observations in this book review even if you’re not particularly interested in Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. Clinical psychology has largely though not completely moved on from Freud. Even in his lifetime he had formulated and rejected the seduction theory, where by all adulthood hysteria and obsessional neurosis were the result of various sexual thoughts and events. Like seeing one of your parents nude. Icky but generally not sufficient cause for major psychological damage. Freud or his persona persist if for no other reason that he appeals to our imaginations. Whether he had anything of real value to add to the understanding of the human mind and its treatment for personality disorders will probably be debated for the foreseeable future. There is little doubt that he stirred up thoughts about the hidden nature of what it is to be human. That is, perhaps after money, the number one topic of conservation. Who are we and why. Some people would say relationships – family and otherwise – that would be part of who we are. The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis
A feature of both disputations is that the same issues are tirelessly replayed, generation after generation. The battle lines of the Freud wars were drawn early in the twentieth century, with Karl Popper formulating his argument, sometime around 1919, that psychoanalytical interpretations cannot be scientific because they cannot be falsified; he later attacked psychoanalysis in these same terms in The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945) and Conjectures and Refutations (1963).
Popper may have been correct in the sense that if psychoanalysis is a medical treatment for the mind, unlike surgery or drug therapy it cannot be objectively measured and the results duplicated in order to check the validity of the claims. Still not everything that is true is falsifiable. Personalities are real – their composition is arguable. They are not falsifiable. Beauty is a measure of something and we can discuss it all day, but there is no way to objectively tests the measure of beauty. There are a couple major theories on how to arrive at what is a good book or beautiful painting. All of them interesting but none of them give an ultimate answer is the way the quadratic formula or the theory of gravity does. If a book is good that is another way of saying that it is beautiful. But it is also another way of saying that it contains a well articulated universal truth. Richard Rorty was an American philosopher who noted the difficulty at arriving at an answer as to what is good and true. In his view, “the idea that the world decides which descriptions are true can no longer be given a clear sense”. This fog of clarity was the result of individuals each having their own interpretive frameworks. If you grew up poor in New England, but were bright and worked hard you finished a liberal arts degree at a community college. You can not likely to have the same world view – certainly not in every detail – compared to someone from an upper-milddle-class home who went to Stanford. If those two people bring their best literary analysis to the table the best or even the most one could expect is “a circular justification of our practices, a justification which makes one feature of our culture look good by citing still another”. The citing could be in the vein of Hemingway loved Huckleberry Fin, with some other references, thus Huck was a great American classic. The counter might concede that in its day Huck was ground breaking literature, but the language, humor and concerns are somewhat antiquated, while a better book than most, overrated as a classic. Rorty does not come to a nice neat conclusion, but resigns us to reluctant acceptance of an imaginative and critical life with beliefs laced heavily with “irony”. To have a commitment to perusing truth, but with a “commitment with a sense of the contingency of their own commitment”. The you might be right, but I probably am righter school of final judgment. I don’t have a study to fall back on. My impression is that most people, a slight majority in western culture, are not comfortable with that kind of ambiguity. There is some value in Rorty’s ambiguity – and not of the everyone is right variety, a terrible injustice to his very subtle thinking. An ironic point of view ( not a smirking pov) towards the esthetic values you think you have found may allow you to proceed to engage in productive conversation with others about the comparative worth of different evaluations while also recognizing that no standard for judging these exists outside the conflict of interpretations. If these are to be productive undertaking at no time is the conjunctive – your essay, photograph or whatever, sucks, is allowed. It might suck, but learning how to pad with some plausible reasons might mean the difference between have your criticism considered or being rejected outright. Rorty is considered too easy-going by some, in addition to other criticisms. Friedrich Nietzsche’s preferred something more decisive – the kind of interpretive style ( hermeneutics) that sought to stripe away what he thought was pretense wrapped up in cultural values and institutions by exposing how they preserved power relations. Nietzsche thought that certain moral codes stifled “vitality”. They were a way in which dominant groups in society stifled greatness – frequently he saw the new as great. In their dominance over esthetic standards these dominant groups preserved the bad or weak. Sounds just like the Nietzsche everyone knows by reputation if not by reading. To be continued….
In case you missed it and before the SCOTUS might gut it, on the second anniversary of health care reform or Obamacare, all the benefits millions of Americans are reaping without even realizing it – Benefits of health care reform haven’t been fully recognized. While not a perfect bill, there are going to be a lot of pissed off people once these benefits disappear.
Some clever satire – A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney
Fig. 2: A Feynman diagram of an encounter between a Romney and an anti-Romney. The resulting collision annihilates both, leaving behind a single electron and a $20 bill.
Very straight forward criticism. I have blogged much of this ground in bits and pieces over the years – The Horrors of an Ayn Rand’s Libertarian World: Why We Must Fight for America’s Soul. One to save for those arguments with your conservative and libertarian friends.
Ellis looks as though he was influenced by William Eggleston. One of the unintentionally sad things about a couple of the photographs is they could have been taken any place in the south or mid-west. The same chain stores, the same mini-marts – the corporate homogenized America is losing its regional distinctions.
JoJo Effect The Beat Goes On. I can see you dancing, shaking those imaginary maracas. There’s no shame in that.