Home » Culture, Science » Haeckel, Mach, and Freud – some interesting connections

Haeckel, Mach, and Freud – some interesting connections

The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis

You’ve heard the talking point that ID theorists think Darwin will go the way of Marx and Freud, right?

You know, “Darwin, Marx, n’ Freud”?

Well, here’s yer Freud fix then: In “Dangerous Minds” (Literary Review , March 2012), John Gray reviews The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen & Sonu Shamdasani:

His pivotal claim that much of the life of the mind goes on unconsciously can be found in Schopenhauer and in the writings of the evolutionary biologist Ernst Haeckel, among others. In this regard Freud was not unlike his contemporary Wittgenstein, who also deployed ideas from Schopenhauer and other writers widely read in fin-de-siècle Vienna. It is less clear that using ideas in this way amounts to any kind of intellectual sin. Many of the ideas in question were in the air at the time, entering into the thinking of every educated person. The authors dismiss Freud’s claims to originality, describing them as a legend of the ‘immaculate conception’ of psychoanalysis. Yet what matters is not whether Freud’s ideas were original, but whether he made something new and worthwhile from notions that were common intellectual property at the time.

It is also true that psychoanalysis never became the science Freud wanted it to be. As Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani note, Freud’s thinking was partly shaped by the physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, one of the principal minds behind what would later be called logical positivism, which held that the rigorous application of empirically grounded scientific method is the only means of acquiring knowledge.

What Freud didn’t have was something equivalent to the Darwin lobby, demanding that the courts enforce teaching his theories.

Not sure why we don’t bash Freud much around here, unless it’s because both he and Marx are now largely past infestations of thought. So giving Darwin the heave-ho! from science is a current project. Not to worry, the “evolutionary psychology” grunge-bucket will quietly get emptied when Darwin is gone.

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One Response to Haeckel, Mach, and Freud – some interesting connections

  1. 1

    “Not sure why we don’t bash Freud much around here . . .” For me, it’s the same reason I don’t bash the practitioners of phrenology. Yeah, the phrenologists did a lot of harm in their day, but nowadays we have relegated them to the category of “silly things educated people used to believe.” “Mud to mind” Darwinism on the other hand remains in the category of “silly things educated people currently believe.”

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