Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Foundations of Psychoanalysis

The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique

Adolf Grünbaum
Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Foundations of Psychoanalysis
    Book Description:

    Offers a systematic analysis of Freud's theories, examines the effectiveness of the retrospective clinical methods used in psychoanalysis, and discusses free association, dreams, and personality.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90732-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Critique of the Hermeneutic Conception of Psychoanalytic Theory and Therapy
    (pp. 1-94)

    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,...

  5. 1. Is Freud’s Theory Empirically Testable?
    (pp. 97-126)

    Hans Eysenck (1963: 220) has maintained that “we can no more test Freudian hypotheses ‘on the couch’ [used by the patient during psychoanalytic treatment] than we can adjudicate between the rival hypotheses of Newton and Einstein by going to sleep under an apple tree.” And, in Eysenck’s view, although clinical data from the couch may be heuristically fruitful by suggesting hypotheses, only suitably designedexperimentalstudies can perform theprobativerole oftests.Against this denial of clinical testability, Clark Glymour (1974: 304) has argued that “the theory Sigmund Freud developed at the turn of the century was strong enough...

  6. 2. Did Freud Vindicate His Method of Clinical Investigation?
    (pp. 127-172)

    I should remind the reader that “clinical data” are here construed as findings coming fromwithinthe psychoanalytic treatment sessions. When I am concerned with contrasting these data from the couch with observational results secured fromoutsidethe psychoanalytic interview, I shall speak of the former as“intraclinical” for emphasis.

    It will be useful to provide some advance perspective on the issues to be treated in the present chapter. Hence I shall now outline those of my theses that will emerge from them and from their ramifications in either the present or later chapters.

    1. Freud gave a cardinal epistemological...

  7. [PART II Introduction]
    (pp. 173-176)

    Freud’s method of free association has been hailed as the master key to unlocking all sorts of repressed ideation (S.E. Editor’s Introduction, 2: xvi-xviii). Its products have been claimed to be uncontaminated excavations of buried mentation precisely because the flow of associations generated when the patient adheres to the governing “fundamental rule” is allegedly “free.” As Freud maintains, it was “confirmed by wide experience” that thecontentsof all the associations that flow in the patient’s mind from a given initial content do stand in aninternal causal connectionto that initial content (S.E. 1923, 18: 238). By avowedly being...

  8. 3. Appraisal of Freud’s Arguments for the Repression Etiology of the Psychoneuroses
    (pp. 177-189)

    The central causal and explanatory significance enjoyed by unconscious ideation in the entire clinical theory rests, I submit, on two cardinal inductive inferences drawn by Breuer and Freud. As we are told in their joint “Preliminary Communication” of 1893 (S.E. 1893, 2: 6-7), they began with an observation made after having administered their cathartic treatment to patients suffering from various symptoms of hysteria. In the course of such treatment, it had turned out that, for each distinct symptomSafflicting such a neurotic, the victim hadrepressedthe memory of a trauma that had closely preceded the onset ofS...

  9. 4. Examination of the Psychoanalytic Theory of Slips—of Memory, the Tongue, Ear, and Pen
    (pp. 190-215)

    One of Freud’s paradigm cases of a slip of the memory will now serve to exhibit the poverty of the empirical credentials of his compromise model of parapraxes. The example involves the forgetting of a pronoun in a Latin quotation. It was discussed preliminarily in the Introduction, Sections 2C and 3B. It is quite inessential for our purposes to pass judgment on the merits of the sensational recent claim of Swales (1982: Sections III-VI) that the memory slip in question was committed by Freud himself, when his sister-in-law was allegedly pregnant by him. Hence I shall take Freud’s text at...

  10. 5. Repressed Infantile Wishes as Instigators of all Dreams: Critical Scrutiny of the Compromise Model of Manifest Dream Content
    (pp. 216-239)

    So far, the criticism I have offered of Freud’s theory of dreams has been largely just a corollary, generatedmutatis mutandisfrom the failure of free associations to validate the psychoanalytic theory of parapraxes. But the psychoanalytic interpretation of dreams calls for some further scrutiny in its own right, if only because Freud regarded it as “the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind[emphasis in original]” (S.E. 1900, 5: 608).

    On the night of July 23/24,1895, Freud (1954, Letter #137: 322) had a dream—the “Irma Injection Dream” (S.E. 1950,1: 340-342)—which was destined...

  11. 6. Appraisal of Freud’s Further Arguments for the Emergence of Unadulterated Repressions Under “Free” Association
    (pp. 240-245)

    Besides attributing such freedom from adulteration to the analysand’s associative output, Freud maintained that there is even some safeguard against the patient’s compliant assent to the analyst’s interpretations: “in general the arousing of resistances is a guarantee against the misleading effects of suggestive influence” (S.E. 1923, 18: 251). But what is Freud’s evidence that the patient’s resistance is actually a guarantee against the regimentation of the analysand’s responses by suggestion from his doctor? It can readily be granted that the patient’s resistance prevents his uncritical,automaticacceptance ofallof the analyst’s interpretations. But, as Freud himself conceded some years...

  12. 7. Remarks on Post-Freudian Defenses of the Fundamental Tenets of Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 246-250)

    Though I have given an epistemic critique of the basic pillars of psychoanalysis, one might ask: why does my critique anachronistically focus on Freud’s reasoning to the exclusion of the modifications and elaborations by those post-Freudians whose doctrines are recognizably psychoanalytic in content rather than only in name? Latter-day psychoanalytic theoreticians that come to mind are the very influential Heinz Kohut, who pioneered the so-called “self-psychology,” and the so-called “object-relations” theorists, who include not only the leading Otto Kernberg but also Harry Guntrip, W. R. D. Fairbairn, Donald Winnicott, and others. Thus, Heinz Kohut’s “self-psychology,” for example, downgrades Freud’s Oedipal,...

  13. 8. Can the Repression Etiology of Psychoneurosis be Tested Retrospectively?
    (pp. 251-266)

    Glymour gives an illuminating reconstruction of Freud’s account of the Rat Man case by means of the logical pincer-and-bootstrap strategy, which Glymour had teased out of that account. I have no reason to gainsay this strategy in general as far as it goes. But I shall now argue that, with or without it, strong reasons militate against the intraclinical testability of the specific etiologic hypothesis at issue in the case of the Rat Man, Paul Lorenz, who suffered from an obsessional fear of rats.

    At the time of the Rat Man case, Freud had postulated that premature sexual activity, such...

  14. 9. The Method of Free Association and the Future Appraisal of Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 269-272)

    Even some recognized analysts have largely conceded that the clinical method of investigation cannot be credited with normally yielding the kinds of veridical insights that analysts have traditionally been wont to claim for it in concert with Freud. Thus, in an avowedly “irreverent” article about the future of analysis, both as a theory and qua therapy, Kurt Eissler (1969: 462) writes:

    As the model of what analysis of a neurosis should be,quaanalysis of the infantile neurosis—the dissolution of which remains the ultimate goal of classical analysis—Freud’s record of the Wolf Man’s analysis has always impressed me...

  15. 10. Critique of Freud’s Final Defense of the Probative Value of Data from the Couch: The Pseudo-Convergence of Clinical Findings
    (pp. 273-278)

    As we saw in chapter 1, section B, Freud explicitly assured the potential falsifiability of his etiology of anxiety neurosis in his 1895 reply to Lowenfeld. To the further detriment of Popper’s mythological exegesis, Freud was no less alert to the need for safeguarding the falsifiability of the analyst’s interpretations and/or reconstructions of the patient’s past. Indeed, this methodological exigency and its implementation is the theme of his very late paper “Constructions in Analysis” (S.E. 1937, 23: 257-269), because it might seem that patientdissentfrom an interpretation could always bediscountedas inspired by neurotic resistance. Hence, it is...

  16. 11. Coda on Exegetical Myth-making in Karl Popper’s Indictment of the Clinical Validation of Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 279-286)

    Popper ignores that the inductivist legacy of Bacon and Mill gives no methodological sanction to the ubiquitous “confirmations” claimed by some of those Freudians and Adlerians whom he had encountered by 1919 (Grünbaum 1977: sec. 2; 1979a: 134). As he describes these partisans, they “saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full ofverificationsof the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it” (Popper 1962: 35). Indeed, Popper claims that, byinductivestandards, both Freud’s and Adler’s psychology “were always confirmed” (p. 35). He then adduces this alleged universal confirmation of these theories,come what may,to indict both them and...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-296)
  18. Name Index
    (pp. 299-302)
  19. Subject Index
    (pp. 303-310)