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The Pre-Psychoanalytic Writings of Sigmund Freud

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The traditional dating of the origin of psychoanalysis to 1900, when Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, ignores the massive body of work he produced well before this date. Covering fields as diverse as neurology, physiology, philosophy, and pharmacology, this wealth of unjustly neglected material was to have a profound influence upon the development of psychoanalytic theory and technique.This fascinating study of the hidden roots of psychoanalysis features contributions from an international panel of authorities on Freud's early writings, and highlights the unparalleled originality of his pre-analytic work. Seeking to restore the openness that originally existed between psychoanalysis and the other sciences, these papers consider Freud's outstanding scientific achievements within neurology and his achievements as a psychologist. Freud's early fascination with cocaine and his substantial monograph on the coca plant are reconsidered in the light of research that places the episode in its historical context. The influence of philosophical writings upon Freud's thought is demonstrated careful consideration of the origins of Freudian concepts in the works of Aristotle, Brentano and John Stuart Mill. Finally, Freud's abandoned masterpiece, the Project for a Scientific Psychology, is seen in the light of striking concordances between clinical work, linguistics and mathematics.This vital new reading of Freud's pre-analytic proposes both to introduce psychoanalysis to a research-driven, interdisciplinary means of solving problems, and to open up the possibility of a methodological shift in the sciences.'Whether the science of our new century will have incorporated Freud's message, or whether psychoanalysis will have been abandoned altogether, will depend upon the success of interdisciplinary initiatives such as this one.'- Gertrudis Van de Vikver and Filip Geerardyn, from their Introduction

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Introduction: The Roots of Psychoanalysis Recovered?


Certrudis van de Vijver and Filip Geerardyn

This book was conceived in the wake of an international congress on Sigmund Freud’s pre-analytic writings, which was held in May 1995 at the University of Ghent.1 The congress attracted scholars from a vast variety of disciplines and schools. Their enthusiastic reactions, both during and after the conference, bore witness to the fact that this meeting was both important and unique.

The exploration of Freud’s so-called ‘pre-analytic’ writings during the congress extended way beyond examination of purely historical data. The aim of this book, then, is to keep alive that spirit of research and co-operation. Firstly, we intend to transgress the rigid barriers erected between different disciplines, schools of thought and paradigms. Instead, we shall examine problems and possible solutions suggested by Freud’s pre-analytic writings with an emphasis upon the respective benefits and inevitable losses that each approach yields, rather than concerning ourselves unduly with the polemics and presumptions of these approaches. Secondly, we aim at a cross-fertilisation of concepts and methods, by encouraging them to proliferate in entirely new fields. As Deleuze would have it, it is a matter of territo-rialising, de-territorialising and re-territorialising (Deleuze & Guattari 1991).


An Introduction to the Neuroscientific Works of Sigmund Freud


Mark Solms

I am at the moment busy editing Freud’s complete neuroscientific works for simultaneous publication in English and German, in four volumes. This is a very large body of work. Over a period of twenty-three years, between 1877 and 1900, Freud published more than two hundred neuroscientific titles, including forty original articles and six substantial monographs. However, a collected edition of these works—many of which are now very difficult to obtain, even in the original German—has never before been compiled. Only ten of these works have ever appeared in English translation, and even fewer in the other major languages. Most of them are not even listed in the Standard Edition bibliography of Freud’s writings.1

When one considers the enormous impact of Freud’s work on twentieth century science and culture, and the enduring fascination with his life and ideas, it is truly remarkable to discover that so large a portion of his scientific writings remains untranslated and inaccessible.


Freud's Theory on Aphasia Revisited: Epistemological and Clinical Implications


Filip Geerardyn

Psychoanalysis should be the science of language inhabited by the subject.

- Jacques Lacan (1981: 243)

I would like to open this chapter with a basic question: why study those writings which Freud himself categorised as ‘pre-analytical’? What is the purpose of revisiting the pre-analytic Freud? Is it simply for the sake of challenging Freud’s authority—a kind of hysterical reaction? After all, he chose not to publish his ‘A Project for a Scientific Psychology’ (1950), and prevented his monograph On Aphasia: A Crticial Study (1953) from being included in his Collected Writings.

On the other hand, is the re-visitation of the pre-analytic works merely a means of reducing the origins of psychoanalytic theory, and therefore psychoanalysis itself, to the conceptual frames of which Freud made use—for instance, biology, neurology and neuro-anato-my?1

In his book The Invention of Memory, A New View of the Brain, Israel Rosenfield states that, whether we realise it ourselves or not, remembering involves the re-organisation of the past:


Freud's Merit as a Psychiatrist


Hubert Van Hoorde

An ancient argument regularly re-surfaces, with an almost discouraging insistence. It serves to remind the analyst—as if a reminder were needed—that misunderstanding or misrecognition (meconnaissance) carefully cultivates its points of support.1

The argument in question is that Freud was not much of a psychiatrist, and it was due to a lack of intellectual scope that he was impelled to invent psychoanalysis. The critics who support this point of view gloss over the extent of Freud’s psychiatric knowledge, alleging that he possessed only a perfunctory understanding of the theories of his time, and that he displayed only a mediocre talent in his practice.

Unfortunately, one cannot contemptuously disregard these arguments, nor simply neutralise them with an opposite assertion. This would merely fall into the trap of opposing a puerile ‘oh yes he was a good psychiatrist’ to an equally simplistic ‘oh no he wasn’t, at all!’

I shall begin by examining two books by Ernst Verbeek, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Ghent University. These works undertake a detailed biographical analysis of Freud, and a reinterpretation of Freud’s dreams.


The Place of Cocaine in the Work of Freud


Rik Loose

This is the malady in them all for which law must find a phar-macon. Now it is a sound old adage that it is hard to fight against two enemies at once—even when they are enemies from opposite quarters. We see the truth of this in medicine and elsewhere. (Plato, Laws, 919b)

There is no such a thing as a harmless remedy. The pharmakon can never be simply beneficial. (Derrida 1972: 69-198)

In An Autobiographical Study Freud describes his involvement with the drug cocaine as a ‘side interest, though it was a deep one…’ (Freud 1925b: 14). In the short passage he dedicates to this period of his life, he refers only to the missed opportunity of discovering cocaine as a local anaesthetic. Freud seems to marginalise this aspect of his work, as— indeed—have many others. When it is not marginalised by others, it is often used as a way of denigrating his work. It has been argued, for instance, that Freud was addicted to cocaine, and that the founding texts of psychoanalysis were a result of grandiose delusions induced by the drug.1 On occasion, serious studies of this period in Freud’s work have been undertaken.2 These studies insist on the importance of a return to, and a thorough exploration of, this aspect of Freud’s work. Their aim is to reassess the problematic relationship which has existed between psychoanalysis and addiction from its very beginning. A return to the cocaine episode would be fruitful if we acquired something new from it—if not new answers then, at least, some new questions regarding the way in which the problem of the addictions can be situated within psychoanalysis.


Freud's Studies on Cocaine


Albrecht Hirschmiiller

Freud scholarship has evaluated Freud’s studies on cocaine in very different ways. Some biographers consider them brilliant and still of relevance to the subject, and celebrate Freud as ‘one of the founders of modern psychopharmacology’ (Byck 1974: xvii). Some see in Freud’s self-experiments with cocaine the roots of his introspective capabilities, and thus emphasise their importance in connection with Freud’s self-analysis and theory of dreams.1 Others stress how Freud failed to recognise the importance of cocaine’s local anaesthetic effects, which might have made him world famous. Some have taken the fact that Freud did not himself become addicted to cocaine as evidence of his ego strength (Eissler 1964: 196). Others have claimed that by unreservedly recommending the use of cocaine, Freud was well on the way to becoming a threat to the public.

More recently, however, the cocaine papers have been used to suggest that Freud was not straightforward in the way he presented his findings. They have been used as evidence that Freud tricked his readers, and that his discoveries were ‘invented’ rather than based on empirical research. In this chapter, then, I propose to reconstruct carefully the historical context of the cocaine papers, in order that we might arrive at a more objective re-evaluation of their significance.


In the Beginning of Psychoanalysis There Was Euphoria


Why such a provocative title?

Perhaps one might expect something more along the lines of ‘in the beginning there was hysteria’, or ‘the symptom’, or ‘discontent within our civilisation’. As this paper is a reading of Freud’s involvement with cocaine, one might suspect that the ‘euphoria’ refers to the effect produced by the drug. But given the devastation caused by abuse of drugs such as cocaine, perhaps this ‘euphoria’ appears a little suspicious…

Indeed, situating the ‘beginning’ of psychoanalysis in what is commonly called Freud’s ‘cocaine episode’ perhaps appears equally dubious. After all, commentators seem to agree that this phase was a ‘lateral interest’, an ‘allotrion’,1 a sort of hobby which Freud soon cast aside in order to concentrate on more serious matters—such as hypnosis, the cathartic method and, eventually, psychoanalysis itself. So even if one were led to believe that the cocaine episode was important, raising it to the status of the ‘beginning’ of psychoanalysis might be regarded as an extravagance, characteristic of commentators who are obsessed with origins. Incessantly these commentators search for the sources of the Nile of psychoanalysis. At one moment these sources will be the genius of Freud himself, at another the risk he took in occupying himself with hysterical patients whom medicine was unable to treat, or—at yet another moment—his auto-analysis, or one of many other kinds of explanation.


Franz Brentano, Freud's Philosophical Mentor


Aviva Cohen

During his time at the University of Vienna, Freud attended a series of lectures by the philosopher Franz Brentano. In this paper, I will argue that Brentano’s philosophy influenced Freud’s work to a significant degree. I shall focus upon Brentano’s early text, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, in particular the account of ‘judgement’ he develops in this work.

Brentano asserted that every mental act has, within it, an object, although there are different ways in which thoughts may be directed towards their ‘immanent’ object. This, his ‘intentionality thesis’, marks the difference between mental phenomena and physical phenomena. Brentano claims that we are immediately certain of the ‘reality’ of an ‘inner perception’, and that our knowledge of ‘external’ truths is—in contrast—by means of secondary mechanisms.

I will argue that Freud uses Brentanian principles in his discussion of the distinction between ideas and ‘reality’ in his ‘A Project for a Scientific Psychology’, and in several of his metapsychological papers. Also, I will suggest that it was Brentano’s theory of judgement which eventually enabled Freud to repudiate his ‘seduction theory’, which dealt with the question of external ‘reality’ and the ‘truth’ attributable to an object of thought. We encounter some of these issues expressed in a more mature form in Freud’s 1925 essay ‘On Negation’, where his discussion of affirmation and denial is—I maintain—drawn directly from Brentano’s early theory of judgement and his intentionality thesis in general.


On Freud's Encounter With Brentano


Franz Kaltenbeck

In 1870, the University of Vienna was a breeding-ground for ideas which could change a person’s life. Indeed, it was far more than a place for simple teaching and learning. The contingencies which determine scientific progress were compounded by chance encounters. Orthodoxy was in jeopardy. A fundamental change of discourse was unfolding.

It is perhaps more helpful to view the Freud-Brentano relationship as an encounter, rather than viewing it in terms of influence or as a debt—even though we have only Freud’s account on which to base our interpretation. An ‘encounter’ might be defined as an event which guards against idealism. Indeed, the encounter between Freud and Brentano was not wholly benign; one cannot avoid noticing the sense of trauma which hovers over Freud’s account of the visits he paid to his professor of philosophy.

In this chapter I shall examine the circumstances surrounding these visits, in order to shed some light on the concepts of ‘God’ and ‘the cause’. Brentano tended to fuse these notions together. Freud, on the other hand, would eventually separate them.


John Stuart Mill Translated by Sigmund Freud


Michael Molnar

Because this chapter is concerned with influences and associations of ideas, and because this is notoriously imprecise territory, I want to start begin with a specific date: 6 May, 1856. This date has a peculiar significance for Freud’s pre-analytic work; it was the day on which the famous Scottish philosopher Sir William Hamilton died.

There are only two books by J.S. Mill in Freud’s library in London. One is the volume of Freud’s translations of Mill undertaken for Theodor Gomperz, the editor of Mill’s works in German. I shall return to that later. The other is Mill’s An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy. Now, although Freud did not literally translate this book, in a metaphorical sense certain ideas found in it were to be ‘translated’ into Freud’s idiom.

Mill’s book on Hamilton was published in 1865, but Freud’s copy is the sixth edition, published in 1889. Freud used it as part of his background reading for On Aphasia, where he cites it, together with Mill’s System of Logic, in part VI, referring especially to the chapter ‘Of the Things denoted by Names’ in Mill’s System of Logic (Freud 1992: 122). In the aphasia study Freud is at that point discussing the idea that the word acquires meaning by being linked to an object-presentation, and this object-presentation borrows its verisimilitude only from an assumed chain of associations. These ideas of object- and word- presentation, first presented in On Aphasia, are to recur in ‘The Unconscious’ as the traits differentiating conscious from unconscious mental activity. Hence this philosophical (or linguistic) notion is of vital significance.


Freud, Hysteria, and Psychiatry as the Impossible Profession


Aisling Campbell

In ‘Analysis Terminable and Interminable’, Freud speaks of the professions of analysis, government and teaching as the ‘impossible professions’ (Freud 1937: 248). Psychiatry is a science which, like analysis, is directly concerned with the human subject, but which has moved away from a concern with the particular of the subject to become a science of the general, of classification and criteria. The result is a master discourse which embodies an impossibility. As such, psychiatry has become the epitome of the impossible profession and its practitioners, not surprisingly, feel pessimistic about its future.

It is hysteria which poses the greatest problem for psychiatry. Given the question of trauma with which psychiatry concerns itself, we must ask ‘how can psychiatry address the hysterical subject?’ This question implies that psychiatrists must seek to know about the history of the subject. In this case it seems appropriate to look to the history of the Freudian relation with hysteria.


Psychic Determination in Neurosis: On the Role of


Katrien Libbrecht

In Lecture 18 of the Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, ‘Fixation to Traumas—The Unconscious’, Freud writes:

these symptoms [of obsessional neurosis] offer the plainest indication of there being a special region of the mind, shut off from the rest. They lead, by a path that cannot be missed, to a conviction of the existence of the unconscious in the mind; and that is precisely why clinical psychiatry, which is acquainted only with a psychology of consciousness, can deal with these symptoms in no other way than by declaring them to be signs of a special sort of degeneracy. (Freud 1916-17: 278)

I have chosen this passage because it shows that, in 1915, Freud argued that the hypothesis of the unconscious counters the psychiatric notion of degeneracy and supersedes its explanatory value. Put more concretely, Freud demonstrates that the existence of the unconscious and of unconscious psychic processes make it possible to explain psychically and elucidate so-called consciously inexplicable symptoms. In this sense, the hypothesis of the unconscious, which implies a psychic explanation and determination of neurotic symptoms, renders redundant the notion of degeneracy, which involves a constitutional and hereditary determination of neurotic symptoms. Hence, we could say that Freud’s notion of the unconscious implies that neurotic symptoms, and more generally neurosis as such, can—indeed, must—be explained without calling upon some constitutional, non-psychic element. Thus, we could conclude that the notion of the unconscious implies the idea of psychic causality.




Christfried Togel

The first case presented by Freud in Studies on Hysteria is that of Emmy von N. He wrote:

On May 1,1889,1 took on the case of a lady of about forty years of age, whose symptoms and personality interested me so greatly that I devoted a large part of my time to her and determined to do all I could for her recovery. (Breuer & Freud 1895: 48)

In 1960 the evident importance of this case in the early history of psychoanalysis led Kurt Eissler, of the Sigmund Freud Archives in New York, to ask Ola Andersson from Stockholm to undertake further research about Emmy von N. and, hopefully, to discover her identity.1

Having spent a lot of time on research, and having travelled for some weeks in Switzerland and Austria, Andersson presented Eissler with some quite impressive results. He was able to inform him of the real name of Emmy von N., and to provide other biographical details.

In 1965, at the International Psychoanalytic Congress in Amsterdam, Andersson read a paper in which he presented some of his findings, but without revealing the identity of Freud’s patient (Andersson, 1979). It was not until the 1970s that two articles identifying Emmy von N. were published: one by Karl Schib, a historian from Schaffhausen, the home town of Emmy’s husband (Schib, 1970); and another by Henri Ellenberger, the great historian of psychiatry (Ellenberger, 1977). Since then there have been no developments.


Freud's Neural Unconscious


David L. Smith

In this paper I will examine aspects of the evolution of Freud’s philosophy of mind. In particular, I will investigate his views on the ‘mind-body problem’ and the concept of unconscious mental events.

Notions of ‘the unconscious’ were widespread in the second half of the nineteenth century (Ellenberger 1970; Whyte 1978). It is less frequently noted that these concepts were far from homogeneous. Several distinct ideas of the unconscious were advocated by philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists during that period. In order to understand these notions, and Freud’s relationship to them, it is essential to grasp the fact that they were, on the whole, nested within a dualistic philosophical framework.

Descartes formalised a sophisticated interactionist theory of the mind-body relationship in the seventeenth century. According to this theory, the immaterial mind interacts with the material body through the medium of the pineal gland. The main difficulty of this thesis became apparent almost immediately. How can a material substance interact with an immaterial substance? At what common point can they meet? The theory of psycho-physical parallelism arose as a response to this problem. According to this view, mental and physical events did not interact at all; they were merely co-ordinated with one another. In order to make this ‘pre-established harmony’ plausible, many felt it necessary to invoke God as its architect.


The Topology of 'A Project for a Scientific Psychology'


Nathalie Charraud

As Lacan pointed out on several occasions, Saussure’s linguistic theory would have perfected Freud’s theory of the unconscious, by complementing it with a theory of the signifier. In advancing the notion that the unconscious is structured like a language, Lacan was only making explicit what Freud himself had said.

What interests me in this is that these—let us say—linguistic foundations of the definition of the unconscious were already present in the ‘A Project for a Scientific Psychology’ (Freud 1950). In effect, Freud’s ‘quantities of energy’ play a considerable role, when moving from one neuron to another, because these movements materialise associations between neurons which carry the inscription, or writing, of a representation.1

As far as I could judge from the French translation, the term representation [idea] only appears in the text in very precise contexts, when the clinical issues raised by the dream or the hysterical or obsessional symptom are under discussion. It is mainly in the second section of the ‘Project’—entitled ‘Psychopathology’—that the term ‘representation’ becomes useful. Indeed, it is indispensable for an explanation of hysterical phenomena: elements become pathogenic in cases of ‘excessively intense ideas’, when the charge becomes too strong. The term does not appear until the end of the first section, where Freud examines the dream of Irma’s injection (Freud 1950: 341-2), to which he returns in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). Oddly enough, the third section of the ‘Project’, which is concerned with normal processes of thought, departs once again from the notion of representation.


The Symptom as Metaphor: Freud's 'Project'


Rivka Warshaivsky

Scientifically, I am in a bad way; namely, caught up in ‘The Psychology for Neurologists’, which regularly consumes me totally until, actually overworked, I must break off. I have never before experienced such a high degree of preoccupation. (Masson 1985: letter from Freud to Fliess, 27th April, 1895)

…a man like me cannot live without a hobbyhorse, without a consuming passion, without—in Schiller’s words—a tyrant. I have found one. In its service I know no limits. It is psychology… I am tormented by two aims: to examine what shape the theory of mental functioning takes if one introduces quantitative considerations, a sort of economics of nerve forces, and, second, to peel off from psychopathology a gain for normal psychology. (Masson 1985: letter dated 25th May, 1895)

Reporting on it now would be like sending a six-month foetus of a girl to a ball. (Masson 1985: letter dated 12th June, 1895)

I hope it is not ‘dream gold’. (Masson 1985: letter dated 6th August, 1895)

…new difficulties… I threw the whole thing aside and am persuading myself that I am not in the least bit interested in it. It makes me quite uncomfortable to think that I am supposed to tell you about it. (Masson 1985: letter dated 16th August, 1895)


A Reading of an Ethics of Psychoanalysis from Freud's


Helen Sheehan

Rilke asked in his letters, ‘how is it possible to live when the fundamental of things, our life, is so incomprehensible,—when we are always inadequate in love, wavering in our determination and impotent in the face of death—how is it possible to exist?’ (Rilke 1988: 264).

He continues: ‘I have not managed to conquer my amazement at the fact that for thousands of years humanity has been concerning itself with life and death (not to speak of God) yet even today (and for how much longer?) stands in front of these primary—these immediate tasks (strictly speaking the only ones we have—for what else can we do?) So helplessly, so pitiably caught between terror and evasion like the veriest beginners. Is it not incredible? My amazement over this fact when I give way to it drives me into the greatest confusion and then into a sort of horror; but behind the horror there is something else; something so immediate and yet transcending all immediacy, something so intense that I cannot decide with my feeling whether it be like fire or ice’ (Rilke 1988: 264).


On the Origins of Psychic Structure: a Case-Study Revisited on the Basis of Freud's 'Project'


Gertrudis Van De Vijver

One of the most striking points in Freud’s approach to psychic phenomena, is that he conceives of them—basically—in materialist, dynamic and structural terms. Psychic phenomena are taken to be of a material nature, and are apprehended on the basis of specific, concrete mechanisms. The dynamic aspect refers to the fact that matter can only be shaped by a particular history. The structuralist aspect refers to the more or less fixed results of this particular history: the particular pathways which were formed, which continue to be formed throughout a lifetime, and which determine subsequent behaviour.

Various authors in this volume have stressed that the basic elements of this materialist, structuralist and dynamic approach were already present in Freud’s pre-analytical writings.1 Some go so far as to state that, in his later works, and in his metapsychological texts in particular, this dynamic, evolutionary approach shifts towards a purely structuralist approach, and comes close to what is described as ‘psychological reductionism’. This means that psychic phenomena and functioning are reduced or restricted purely to representational functionings.


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