Friday, 5 February 2010

Final questions

A couple of months ago, I got an email from my oldest friend (or rather, the friend I've known longest - since grammar school days). He questioned what I'd got out of the course. Not that he was being sceptical, just quizzical.

He wrote: 'You've been immersed in it for two years, so do you shake yourself and move on, or find some of it has stuck?' In particular, he asked me about Freud: 'What you think about the old boy now?'

Obviously, I'd already had similar thoughts but his email went on to pose more questions with his usual acute directness. I always intended to have a go at answering them but I . . . wanted to get my dissertation out of the way first. Well, writing about my dissertation.

Now it's time to go back and come up with some answers - a kind of personal audit of the course.

So what I'm going to do is pose a series of questions from myself (and my ancient friend) and have a go at answering them, one per blog. Perhaps the actual questions will change as I go along but this is the kind of thing I'll be asking myself . . .

* Why did you do the course in the first place? Or rather, how do you now view what you said about your reasons at the time?

* Did you get out of it what you hoped to get out of it? Did your original wishes still add up in the light of how it panned out? In particular, in the light of the fact that the course was, after all, about the darkness and obliqueness of human desires - and the limits of self-knowledge.

* What did you learn about yourself (and others)? From the actual material of the course? From the doing of a course?

* So, Freud: what do I now think about the old boy? Do his thoughts and writings still have anything to offer? Or is it just a load of old Viennese whirl?

* And Lacan? What did I find when I looked in his mirror? And at the picture he kept in a cupboard.

* Will I now become a therapist? A lot of people ask me that one. Even more assume it as a fact.

* What did I really like about it? What didn't I like? Best memories? Worst memories? Etc etc?

A little time-wasting fun?

How about a little men's fashionwear? Or perhaps some guitar music?

Next up That first final question: why did I do it in the first place and was I being honest with myself?


Lo Jardinier said...

Look forward to it all. And thanks for the fun:'Trousers that move with you' - great. When I move, I'm always leaving mine behind.
And I see I've been playing the guitar the wrong way up.
Where would I be without your lifestyle tips?

Peter Silverton said...

crimplene and moustaches — a time it's hard to see revived but you never know, i guess . . . in fact, i don't really remember anyone looking like that/dressing like that at the time — maybe i moved in the wrong circles — i found the guitarist's expressions as intriguing as her technique — boredom, irritation, superciliousness, pride, resignation, they all flicker across her face — i suspect the cheque never even made it to the post

Rea said...

Peter, as promised, my view of psychoanalysis - it's not original by any means :

***Warning - rant ahead !***

In the past, scientific enquiry consisted of raising an hypothesis and then trying to establish its validity through experimentation and observation - the more evidence was accumulated, the more valid it was considered to be. This was called induction.

Of course, the problem with induction is that for some theories, every observation conviniently prove its validity - even conflicting ones ! See astrology as a good example of this.

Along came Karl Popper and raised the point that the empirical falsifiability of a theory should be a principle tenant of scientific enquiry, meaning, there must be an observation which could prove that it's false, at least for a certain scope. For example, relativity does not apply for the quantum world theory, and therefore its limits can be determined, and ultimately can be replaced by a better theory which accounts for a larger scope and more types of phenomena. This in fact makes it a good theory, since we know that at least for this limited scope, it actually describes, explains, predicts and even allows us to control things to an extent, and we can be confident that it does, for a specific scope.

This essentially means that in scientific enquiry we accept the fact the we are dealing with epistomological truth, not ontological - we can't actually figure it all out, and never will while in this universe and within this finite existence.

Psychoanalysis speaks in terms which cannot be quantified, measured, detected, etc., and therefore cannot be considered a scientific theory of any sorts. It cannot be falsified; if I was raised a certain way, which means I should behave in a certain way, but I'm in fact not acting this way, then I'm repressing it; if it's not repression, then it's sublimation; etc. There's an explanation for every outcome, and so it can never be refuted under any observation.

This is NOT to say that psychanalysis does not make valuable insights into the human psyche. However, as a theory which attempts to describe human behaviour, let alone explain, predict, or even help to control it, it cannot make a claim to be scietifically valid in any way.

Rant over...

Rea said...

Last point - there are quite a few valid hypotheses in cognitive psychology, social psychology, behaviourism, etc. which explain things in their own limited scope.

It is true, as you said, that no other psychological theory explains everything that psychoanlysis does. But my point is that psychoanalysis doesn't actually explain anything, only itself.