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Freud Scientist and or Humanist

Freud: Scientist and / or Humanist

My aim in this paper is to use historical analysis as a way of reflecting on the deepest philosophical assumptions of psychoanalysis. In preparing it, I have been very influenced by its venue, reflecting what I hope is an interest in the study of life, human nature and society. I have a certain sense of occasion about the growth of interest in the history of the human sciences. In fact it is a quarter of a century since I embarked on a doctoral dissertation in this area. It was, I don't mind saying, lonely work, and I cannot sufficiently convey my pleasure that there now appears to be a real interest in this country in humanistic scholarship about the history of the disciplines which seek to understand our humanity. I wish it well and I will do all I can to help it on its way.

When I became a professional historian of psychology, it was considered sufficiently noteworthy that the main entrepreneur in the field, Robert I. Watson, dubbed me the 'first person ever to receive a doctorate in the history of psychology in the Anglo-Saxon world'. (I have never known if that was true or not, but it felt nice at the time.) I have moved on more than once, but I have remained preoccupied with human nature, the constraints on it, what can be hoped for and perhaps achieved, in a variety of guises: researching, teaching, supervising, editing, agitating a bit, making films about it, writing and publishing.

I came to Britain to look into the issues lying conceptually beneath and historically behind Freud's metapsychology, in particular his first book On Aphasia (1891), and the philosophical assumptions conceptual confusions underlying psychoanalytic metapsychology. The doctoral dissertation I did was on the history of cerebral localization from the first empirical work, that of Gall and phrenology, to the first experimental work of Fritsch and Hitzig and of David Ferrier. Note that I make no mention of Freud whatsoever. The reason is that I was strongly advised by my doctoral supervisor not to go into psychoanalysis at all and by my department head not to mention any interest in the history of medical or psychiatric topics. The first because psychoanalysis wasn't psychology, and the second because medicine wasn't knowledge. Psychoanalysts were charlatans and medics were plumbers, I was told.

Neither was respectable, nor was taking up an...

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