FREUD AND THE POST-FREUDIANS

J.A.C. Brown

Pelican, London, 1964


Ancient as this book may seem to be, it makes points that still shed light after all this time, perhaps because of the lack of progress in the fields discussed. A couple of remarks about Jung seem worth repeating:

"The present writer may as well admit that he comes into the Freudian category, and gets much the same information from reading Jung as might be obtained from reading the scriptures of the Hindus, Taoists, or Confucianists; although well aware that many wise and true things are being said, he feels that they could have been said just as well without involving us in the psychological theories upon which they are supposedly based."

On the same page is an interesting reference to Jung's own brand of relativism:

"The doctrine of 'psychological truth' or ''psychological reality' causes Jung to infer that because a belief is invested with great emotional significance it must therefore in some sense be true. For example in Psychology and Religion he writes: 'In itself any scientific theory, no matter how subtle, has, I think, less value from the standpoint of psychological truth than the religious dogma, for the simple reason that a theory is necessarily highly abstract and exclusively rational, whereas the dogma expresses an irrational entity through the image.' (p.43)

This slipperiness with the notion of truth is compounded by arbitrary ways of relating ideas. Brown quotes a contemporary, Dr Gardner Murphy, on Jung:

"Jung's method - it is no more than a friendly exaggeration to say this - is to argue that because A is somewhat like B and B can, under certain circumstances, share something with C, and C has been known on occasion to have been suspected of being related to D, the conclusion in full-fledged logical form is A = D. As the language of science, this is meaningless." (p.45)

The issue of how the therapist may shape the interpretations and understandings of the patient is examined thus:

"Jung's system of psychotherapy is based on the concept of bringing the patient into contact with the healing collective unconscious largely through the interpretation of dreams and thereby causing him to see is own problems more clearly. In carrying out the process of free-association the analyst as well as the patient produces associations, since analysis is believed to be a cooperative procedure in which the patient cannot progress beyond the point the analyst has himself reached. As the analyst has already begun with a preconceived theory of a collective unconscious it is hardly to be wondered at that 'Jungian' material is produced. Although other systems wittingly or unwittingly indoctrinate the patient, none does so to quite such an extent as Jung's. Jung also believes that a religious outlook is necessary to the individual and encourages its development." (p.50)

Returning to the notion of the collective unconscious, Brown reminds us that Freud shared the belief in this with Jung, but made no direct use of it. Referring to the "very formidable scientific difficulties" of either version of this belief, he writes:

"Both views... necessitate an acceptance of acquired characters which is almost universally rejected by biologists in any form and totally rejected in the original one - even Ernest Jones [Freud's biographer and supporter] pointed out that Freud's 'biological contributions were marred by adherence to a peculiarly simplistic form of the long-abandoned Lamarckian views on heredity'. But the greater absurdity lies in supposing that any theory of evolution, no matter what its mechanism, could be used to explain the inheritance of memory traces of the experience of former generations." (p.109)

Brown also objects to the excesses of symbolism:

"Why, for example, should Rank and others insist that bowls and containers represent the enveloping womb when there is no other conceivable means of containing[?]... This demonstrates a peculiar trait of the analytic schools which has not endeared them to scientists in general: the habit of carrying on their investigations and making their statements in a scientific vacuum beyond which they do not come into conflict with other views but simply continue as if they did not exist." (p.111)

Concerning medical efficacy and biological fact, Brown sums up a familiar problem:

"Generally speaking, physicians make poor scientists because a scientist must be a good theoretician, a physician a good practitioner and empiricist, and the fact that an explanation or method works in practice has not the slightest bearing on its scientific truth." (p.192)

In respect of Jung and science, Brown seems rather too lenient, given the aforementioned "very formidable scientific difficulties" of Jung's central notion, saying that psychologists have largely ignored Jung, because,

"whatever Jung's intentions, his theories are not expressed scientifically nor are they subject to scientific proof or disproof." (p.202)

Readers will also find chapters on Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, Harry Stack Sullivan and others.



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Paul Taylor 2002