Thursday, July 10, 2014

Money Wisdom #290

"Mythology is the ghost of concrete meaning."

Owen Barfield Poetic Diction - A Study in Meaning (1928 [1984]) p.92

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Money Wisdom #289

"[On Ricoeur's reading of Freud] the conscious component of intention (so important to Brentano) is pushed aside for a deeper psychic intention, namely, that which froths forth from the reaches of the unconscious mind. There intention exists as psychic drives or biological forces, and when integrated with the intention of consciousness, the mind becomes unified. Accordingly, intention goes all the way down, and thus Freud created a theory in which multiple layers of intention exhibit themselves for interpretation."

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.47

Money Wisdom #288

Endnote 18 to Chapter One - The Challenge (and Stigma) of Philosophy

"Richard Wollheim described Freud's use of intentionality as a 'philosophical assumption' that Freud retained throughout his work and probably derives from... Brentano... And that assumption is that every mental state or condition can be analyzed into two components: an idea, which gives the mental state its object or what it [sic] directed upon; and its charge or affect, which gives it its measure of strength or efficacy"

Richard Wollheim Sigmund Freud (1981) p. 20-21 emphasis added 
quoted in Albert Tauber Freud - the Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.235

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My review of Albert Tauber's 'Freud - the Reluctant Philosopher'

This review is on amazon here. If it lies on your couch and tells you its secrets then be a sweetie and pop over there and click the like button. 

Tauber exposes the shaky metaphysical underpinnings of psychoanalysis as science but recasts it affirmatively as moral inquiry 

This is a brilliant book.

I learned my Freud from someone who had dedicated most of his academic career to giving psychoanalysis a scientific (genetic) basis. In the end, after twenty five years of trying he gave up and subsequently disavowed himself of his Freudianism. So, the questions Tauber explores in this book go right to the heart of my own understanding of, and relationship with, Freud and psychoanalysis. I was really looking forward to reading it and have not been disappointed.

It's not an easy read. But then, questions of metaphysics and the philosophy of science aren't easy either. Tauber lays things out as clearly as is possible. His writing is assured but gentle. He quietly repeats key points, highlighting their salience without interrupting the rhythm of his narrative or patronizing the reader. He is honest about his own view on Freud's scientific claims without being over-bearing or hostile. The pace and length of the book are also spot on. Tauber uses comprehensive endnotes rather than footnotes thereby avoiding any stalling within the reading experience but without compromising on the background detail of the arguments.

What helps Tauber cut through the knot of philosophical problems is a sharp focus on the notions of reason and freedom. From these two themes, and their inter-relatedness and co-dependency, Tauber constructs a convincing metaphysical argument to which he marries the story of Freud's intellectual history. We are left with the picture of Freud alive in the real world. Someone who on the one hand felt the need to present psychoanalysis as science to ensure rigor, method and authority. But also on the other hand, someone with quiet doubts and uncertainties about his claim to knowledge.

This is no simple biography of Freud's intellectual struggles, though. It does very effectively describe to the reader the intellectual current in which Freud swam. But in maintaining both balance and empathy for his subject, Tauber somehow - paradoxically - manages to ground the metaphysical arguments. He doesn't rely on metaphor or analogy so much, but instead we see the intellectual problems Freud faced and the perspective from which he faced them. The solutions to those problems are subtly suggested through an imagined discourse between Freud and the various philosophical schools.

I've generally found criticism of Freud frustrating, whether that comes from a post-structuralist/post-modern orientation, or from a materialist/positivist orientation. Of course, both ways of viewing reality can work to highlight deficiencies within Freud's thought, but all too often I find that, in developing their arguments, they tend towards an ideological rather a scholarly critique. I think this is in part why I found Tauber's book so appealing. His central thesis - his orientation - is an affirmative one. Tauber recasts psychoanalysis as a form of moral inquiry and so Freud himself, becomes a moral philosopher.

The central reason for my holding of Tauber's book in such high regard though, stems back to those early experiences of my teacher determined, but failing, to give a genetic basis to psychoanalysis. I think both my teacher and Freud held up science as a kind of moral goal; the truth as 'the good'. Whereas the feeling I got from reading Freud, particularly his later works and especially things like his correspondence with Einstein, was of a man concerned primarily with 'the good' who understood how unfaithful truth can be. Tauber references Stuart H Hughes 'Conscious and Society' - there's a few lines in that book that stuck with me and seem prescient to the thrust Tauber's argument. (Hughes quotes Ernest Jones).

"Kindness and integrity he [Freud] regarded as absolutes. In Freud, 'honesty... was more than a simple natural habit. It became an active love of truth and justice... A moral attitude was so deeply implanted as to seem part of his original nature. He never had any doubt about what was the right course of conduct,' and he cited with approval the saying: 'Morality is self-evident.'  (p. 139)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Money Wisdom #287

"...[Freud] created the most influential depiction of human beings offered in the twentieth century, one that has guided contemporary understandings well beyond the couch and past the strictures of his own biological and anthropological commitments. That description depends on rational insight, moral purpose, and ultimately a promissory note of personal redemption."

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.216

Money Wisdom #286

" and narrative are vehicles of knowing or expressing. One might assign them as tools of an interpretive faculty, which confers meaning. From this perspective, meaning cannot directly arise from epistemology or any of its branches, but rather arises from a dynamic synthesis - the moral orientation of the knower who weaves facts into their fabric of signification (Tauber 2001; 2009). Thus the epistemological and ethical components of Freud's theory must be scrutinized separately and then put back together into a moral epistemology (Tauber 2001; 2005; 2009). Psychoanalysis joins these two domains in a complex dialectic, where the standing of knowledge depends on the fixture of values arising from, and responding to, human need. Indeed, psychoanalytic facts become elements in a narrative created by a constellation of subjective interpretations, and in this sense, Freud offered the analysand the opportunity to create his or her own narrative - an autobiography based upon return, recognition, and reconciliation. Thus a rigid separation of facts and values collapses on the analytic couch, for no psychic fact exists independent of its interpretation.

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.213 (My emphasis)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Money Wisdom #285

" Despite the importance of Freud's linking evolutionary thought to psychoanalytical theory, the Lamarckian speculations, namely, the reconstruction of family conflict and its reenactment, have been generally condemned 'never to pass from the realm of the fantastic to the realm of the real' (Parisi 1989, 487). Nevertheless, a psychology lodged in the instinctual domain is hardly radical, and today as testified by the vast literature in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, efforts to trace communal behavior and moral agency to earlier primate behavior is hardly innovative (e.g., Sober and Wilson 1998, Joyce 2007), albeit contested (e.g. Buller 2006). However, describing the biology of complex behaviors is not our subject, for we are concerned with how Freud's commitment to placing the psyche in its archaic biological substrata becomes transformed by a ruling reason. To do so, we contrast Nietzsche's construction that minimizes the role of rationality in understanding agency (rational 'higher' faculties are subordinated to the demands of the 'lower' instincts), which in turn reflects a deep skepticism of reason, and Kantian reason in particular. Indeed these views irreparably separate him from Freud. Below [in Chapter Five - Kant, Nietzsche and Freud] their complex intellectual relationship is summarized around two related issues: on the one hand, Freud afforded an autonomy that Nietzsche denied, and on the other hand, Freud formulated the psyche much as Nietzsche did by adopting an organic perspective and thereby committed himself to a Darwinian biology - a biological science of understanding. In short, whereas Nietzsche celebrate the Will, Freud would endeavor to control it.

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.164

Money Wisdom #284

"The self must reflect upon itself to attain its autonomy: 'Being in a subjective state... does not count as having experience of and so being aware of that state unless I apply a certain determinant concept... and judge that I am in such a state, something I must do and be able to know that I am doing' (Pippin 1989, 19)"

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.151

Money Wisdom #283

"The entire enterprise [of psychoanalysis] rests on reason's autonomy and the capacity to exercise freedom of choice and thereby assume ethical responsibility (Sherman, 1995). Psychoanalysis thus becomes a moral philosophy of investigation underwriting an ethics identity."

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.134