Science Fiction Project - Free Culture
Analog - All editorials - John Wood Campbell
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THE LAWS OF THINGS
There is one area where Science and Religion become rather completely confused. Now basically, a Religion has to do with the non-material side of Man's being; it is rooted in Faith - belief rather than objective evidence - and deals almost entirely with Man's emotional and moral structure. Its truths are revealed by Prophets after introspection and revelations from God (or Gods).
There's one area where Science becomes almost inextricably entangled in Religion - that area of Science that seeks to deal with Man's non-material self, with his emotions and morality rather than his physical self. Psychology is the study of the Psyche, or Spirit, or Soul.
I don't like to attack any man's religion - but when a should-be science acts on Faith in the Revelations of a Prophet without reevaluation...
I suggest that the Great Prophet Freud needs some reevaluation at a considerably deeper level than the minuscule modifications that are currently acceptable among psychotherapists.
Consider this: Dr. Freud did his early investigations, on which his great theories of the universal underlying drives in all Mankind are based, among (1) largely Jewish people in (2) Vienna, (3) during the most extremely prudish period of Western culture. That is, among a cultural enclave in the midst of a mid-European city, during the midst of a very unusually prudish cultural period.
From this he derived as the Great Basic of all Mankind's motivations, Sex, and as the central conflict of all people, the Oedipus complex.
Now it happens that in the traditional Jewish culture, the mother is a powerfully dominant figure in the home - in effect, the Jewish culture is matriarchic. And the period in which Freud's patients were oriented was known as the Victorian Period, because of the tremendous influence that Britain's great Queen exerted over the entire world of her time.
I cannot help wondering what great universal motivations Freud would have found if he had studied patients among an equally restricted group of the Polynesians of Tahiti, say. There, there are almost no sexual inhibitions.
Freud didn't discover that a motivation other than Sex existed until about 1918 - when he discovered the Death Wish (he'd begun getting patients who'd been through that form of hell known as War - men to whom Sex was a less immediate problem than staying alive).
The old question "Which leg of a three-legged stool is the most important?" has a practical answer. "The one that's missing".
From the cultural peculiarities of the "Gay '90s" Freud discovered the "missing leg" of Sex, and decided that that was the One Fundamental Motivation of All Mankind Everywhere.
Wonder what he'd have discovered as the Universal Motivation of Mankind if he'd done his studies entirely among the Dobu Islanders? Their culture holds that paranoid efforts to murder your neighbors by black magic - "Every man a wizard!" - is the normal way of life. They are poor, unfortunate individuals who have become insane and actually trust other people! These would, of course, have been Freud's abnormal neurotic patients there.
It seems, at first glance, that Freud's insistence on Sex in the ultra-prudish period of the 1890s-1900s showed great intellectual courage, to so fly in the face of his culture.
That's somewhat open to question. Did he, actually, attack the beliefs of his period? Or did he, rather, support them? That is, remember that the prudes of the time held that Sex was the Source of All Evil and Awful things. And what Freud appeared to them to be saying was that Sex was the cause of insanity and neurosis - wherefore the most violent prudes could happily chortle "See! See! We told you Sex was Evil! Now you know we were right! The great Dr. Freud has proven that it's nasty Sex that causes insanity, just as we said all along!".
Be that as it may, doing his research on a cultural enclave, in a Central European city, during an exceptionally prudish period, he (surprise! surprise!) found that Sex was the Universal Underlying Motivation. Not until the terrors of World War I drastically altered the cultural orientation around him did he discover any other motivation!
As of 1890-1900, modern cultural anthropology was barely beginning to get rolling. The use of statistical methods in analysis in the living sciences had not yet been accepted (Gregor Mendel had been completely rejected for trying to use mathematical methods - statistics - in biology only a short while before, and his analytical method hadn't yet been fully accepted).
Of course computer technology, logic circuit equations, and concepts of negative feedback loops were still a half-century in the future.
The immense dominance of European culture over all others in the world of 1890 made a central European "know" that "lesser breeds without the law" had weird customs, but that those weren't really human - weren't really relevant to the Universal Laws of Human Psyches.
Another aspect of Freud's theories that were very acceptable in that period was that the motivational systems Freud discovered were unique to human beings; that animals didn't have those characteristics (and that, of course, is appropriate to the Science of the Psyche, because everyone knows that only Men have Souls).
Then there are immense areas of both experimental-physiological and intellectual-analysis that have been opened up since Freud did his work - which have not been integrated with Freudian concepts, nor used to check the validity of the Freudian ideas.
Information Theory didn't exist in the 1890s. No one had, then, studied the micro-structure of the nerve-message pathways in the nervous system. The nature and limitations of Logic and logical analysis weren't understood (Goedel's Proof that showed that Logic could not solve all problems hadn't been developed).
And, finally, as of 1900, of course, Freud's theories hadn't been tried out in practice on actual neurotic patients all over the world for half a century.
There are, in Freudian Beliefs, things like "Oral Eroticism". Since all motivation must be either Sex or Death Wish, and Sex, of course, dominates, any observed behavioral phenomena must be "eroticism" of some sort. Freud observed that people like to put things in their mouths, to suck thumbs, soda straws, cigars, cigarettes, candies, et cetera, and to show acute interest in their mouths. Since Sex and only Sex underlies motivation, this is, obviously and inescapably - unless you escape Freud - Oral Eroticism.
Of course, Freud wasn't aware of the violent psychic disturbances that result from sensory deprivation. The experiments hadn't been made at that time. Put a man in an environment where he can neither hear, see, feel, smell, touch, or taste anything - and within hours he begins to have hallucinations, becomes aware that his mental processes are disintegrating into uncontrollable unreality and madness. Sensory mechanisms need sensory inputs of some sort to fulfill their functions - and to stabilize the normal reality-checking motivation that real human minds actually have.
Now the mouth happens to be one of Man's primary sensory organs - and a very complex one indeed. It's the primary center of taste - and is, in addition, an acutely sensitive tactile organ, surpassing in that respect even the sensitivity of the fingers.
It is, also, the one and only Input to the Organism for solid or liquid substances. Small children frequently experiment with solid-substance inputs into the ears or nose, but usually learn quickly and painfully that those are not input stations.
But since Freud had no knowledge of Information Theory, or sensory deprivation experiments, and had the Great Revelation that all men everywhere always had Sex as the One Motivation, naturally it had to be Oral Eroticism.
Another one of Freud's Great Revelations was that there existed a Subconscious Mind, and it was conflicts between the Subconscious Mind and the Conscious Mind that led to neurotic compulsions.
Kant, some while earlier, had used the term "Categorical Imperative" instead of "compulsive or repressive"; the essential process was recognized in either case. For Kant, this "categorical imperative" was caused "by means of a function".
And Kepler, in stating the laws of planetary motion had recognized that there was gravity and inertia; Newton's great advance was to give precise mathematically defined expression to the Functions by means of which the planetary motions were imperatively determined.
Freud repeated Kant's observations in somewhat different wording - but without the sort of increased precision that Newton added to Kepler's realizations.
For some five thousand years of record preceding Freud, too, there had been recognition of the ka, psyche, spirit, geist, soul or whatever the local time-and-place term might be as a part of Man that was immaterial, analogous to the mind, but was not the same thing as mind.
Freud gave it a new name, but there was little change in the realization that this psyche was able to exert powerful and, at times, compulsive force over the mind of man.
Freud's greatest - and real - contribution probably was the specific, solid statement that the subconscious compulsions were genuinely compulsions; that an individual could not resist them - that it wasn't "unwillingness'' or "stubbornness" or "weakness" that caused an individual to yield to the compulsions. That the psychotic paranoid who murdered a dozen neighbors due to his compulsions was no more able to resist that internally-generated pressure, than a martyr was able to choose not to be martyred by renouncing his beliefs.
The Ego, the Id, and the Super-Ego might also be named with somewhat older terms as the Mind (Ego) and the Conscience (Super-Ego) while the Id is perhaps a confusion of two other factors - the ancient instinctive wisdom of the race, and the third-factor effect of the interaction of Mind - which is logical and present-time based - and Conscience - which is acculturation, and neither logical nor present-time based.
Actually, of course, large parts of Conscience-acculturation agree one hundred per cent with large areas of the ancient racial instincts. In such areas, naturally, the culture claims that it, and it alone is the source of those Great Good Ideas. Where acculturation and racial wisdom disagree, naturally the culture insists that that is nothing but evil old instincts which must be suppressed".
When conscience-acculturation demands the logically impossible, or irrational, naturally there's a conflict between it and Mind (but acculturation will never acknowledge that it is wrong!).
However, we're dealing here, quite obviously, with the area of Morality - which Religion has always claimed for its own. And, of course, with most intense emotional areas - which have, from the findings of anthropologists, been the province of the witchdoctor-priest for at least two hundred thousand years.
Whether you say you are working with a man's Super-Ego or say you're treating his Soul is a distinction of verbal noises - unless you can define the difference in clear, functional terms. And if you claim that psychoanalysis is a Scientific Approach, rather than a priestly-witch-doctor method, that claim, too, needs some specific, functional definition.
It does appear though, that a "Scientific Approach" stemming from the revelations provided by one man, who derived his great basic realization of the Universal Motivation of All Mankind by studying a cultural enclave, in a central European city during an exceptionally prudish era, needs considerable reevaluation.
I can't help wondering what great revelations of fundamental human emotional structure would have come from Freud if he'd grown up among, and worked with, Dobu Islander patients. Sex being uninhibited among the Dobu Islanders, it wouldn't have appeared as the critical "missing leg"; whether he'd have called their culture of mutual murder motivation a death-wish culture or a security-seeking culture I can't decide. But on observing that men like to use their mouths - Kipling had made that observation before Freud! - a Dobu Island Freud would certainly not have spoken of "Oral Eroticism". "Oral Morbidity" possibly, or perhaps "Oral Security-seeking".
Naturally, I'm ever so much wiser than Freud on these things; hindsight is sooooo much more perceptive than foresight. Any high-school kid today is wiser than Aristotle, too. I've got a slightly unfair advantage consisting of two generations of worldwide efforts by anthropologists, archeologists and historians, plus the immense amount of work done by cyberneticists, Information Theory analysts, the space-scientists working on sensory deprivation - and the statistics of what's actually happened with patients treated with psychoanalysis during the last half-century.
My objections are not to Freud; he was a genuinely sincere and highly important philosopher of the mind.
My objections are to the Freudians - who have the same half-century advantages I have, and haven't adequately used them. Freud didn't know about Information Theory and sensory deprivation effects; he didn't have the data of a half-century of cultural anthropology to use in studying out the true, universal-to-Man-kind motivations.
The modern Freudians do have that data.
Why don't they use it - when they also have the data from their own statistics that the recovery rate among psychoanalytical patients is not significantly different from the recovery rate among untreated patients?
Statistics on the recovery rate among patients treated by which doctors are somewhat hard to come by, of course. But the reports from cultural anthropologists indicate that perhaps the witch doctors have significantly better therapy techniques.
The greatest improvement in psychotherapy since records have been kept seems to have come about since the adoption of a physiological approach, thanks to learning from the Hindu herb doctors that tranquilizer substances exist.
It is, of course, improper to attack a man's religion; with the witch doctors, we would be dealing with the native religion.
I hope I have not, in this discussion, attacked anyone's religious faith.