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Chapter Five: Aim

Moran, Frances Karnac Books ePub

It is my argument that although Freud wanted to produce a theory that had scientific status, his works are most profitably read as having the structure of a theory of practice. From beginning to end, he had a practical aim in mind and our endeavour is to follow the changes he made in his aim, as his theoretical postula-tions traversed different lines of thought over numerous decades.

Freud aimed to bring about a change in the psychical world of his patients: “I have been engaged for many years (with a therapeutic aim in view) in unravelling certain psychopathologi-cal structures—hysterical phobias, obsessional ideas, and so on” (1900a, p. 100). His initial focus was the neuroses and he wanted to ‘cure’ his patients of the pain they brought to his attention. His aim was cure in the sense of what was expected of a medical practitioner in his time—practical results were constantly in mind. When he did consider the psychoses he likewise had therapeutic results in view. “The neuroses were the first subject of analysis, and for a long time they were the only one. … It would seem, however, that the analytic study of the psychoses is impracticable owing to its lack of therapeutic results (1925d (1924), p. 60).

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Chapter Four

Moran, Frances Karnac Books ePub

Freud is renowned for his theory of human sexuality. It is precisely the direction of this set of propositions that has brought upon his work great opprobrium, if not outright dismissal. Yet in this demanding chapter I hope to make clear why so much of Freud's thought is taken up with the idea of sexuality as being integral to, and determining of, the human being.

As a practitioner in the field of nervous illnesses, Freud inherited the nosology that prevailed around about 1895, and, in addition, the accepted view of the aetiology of mental problems. Generally speaking the latter was held to be heredity. Freud had no sooner involved himself with cases of hysteria than he recognized the need to read-dress the aetiological question of the neuroses. He knew that he needed to explain the cause of the presenting problem if he were to be in the position to treat it with any sense of authority. The fulcrum of diagnosis, aetiology, and mechanism of splitting, provided Freud with a direction for his investigation. While he accepted the role of heredity, he also acknowledged the then suggested link between sexuality and the neuroses:

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Chapter One: Much ado about science

Moran, Frances Karnac Books ePub

Modern science has us enthralled. We believe in its perceived promise. It provides a pathway of hope towards a better future. Today the individual can partake of the benefits science offers in an immediate and personal manner: do I have a pacemaker? do I engage in IVF? are there any alternatives?—these choices touch each close to hand as never before. Furthermore, we have come to think scientifically in our everyday life, accepting scientific criteria as those of authentic value. Today, only that which is evidence-based and quantifiable is accepted as real. And, given the state of current medical technology, why would we consider it to be otherwise? As avid consumers in the marketplace we believe we benefit from medication, procedures, implants, and transplants all of a quality that was unimaginable not so very long ago. With the mapping of the human genome at our fingertips, we hope for more and better medical science and more control over life and death. We have confidence in the notion of unabated progress and are unwilling to take into account more sobering findings such as that, contrary to earlier understandings, ‘junk’ DNA is in fact of vital importance— a matter of huge consequence in the field of genetics where so much is at stake. Regardless, we of the 21st century have unmitigated trust that science will allow humankind to survive.

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Chapter Six: Technique

Moran, Frances Karnac Books ePub

Psychoanalytic technique, within the context of a theory of practice, cannot be a list of rules of thumb for the treatment of neurotic patients. Rather, it can be understood only within the context of the recursively interdependent components of which it forms but one aspect. Technique is the outcome or practical result of a thorough understanding of the premises and goal; it provides the link between the two. It is for this reason, I propose, that there is relatively little work on the topic of technique as such.

First, I will outline how changes in Freud's technique to be found over the years can be accounted for in the light of changes in his theoretical premises. Thus we will be in a position to appreciate the interdependence of the components of his theory of practice for psychoanalysis. What we will discover is that as the theoretical premises become more enriched, complex, and abstract, Freud's optimism in regard to his therapeutic aim waned. Here, with reference to his aim, I argue that while his ultimate aim remained the same, his growing realization of the scope of his task brought Freud to appreciate the limits of his life's work.

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Chapter Seven: Subject to exclusion

Moran, Frances Karnac Books ePub

In the preceding chapters of this book we have seen how Freud wanted to be and considered himself to be a scientist. From his point of view, it is true, psychoanalysis is unquestionably part of the scientific enterprise. “Psycho-analysis is a part of the mental science of psychology” (1940b (1938), p. 282), he reminds us in his posthumously published elementary lessons in psychoanalysis. Be that as it may, what these first chapters of The Paradoxical Legacy of Sigmund Freud make clear is that Freud was about something different from science. He was involved in something that at the time, he was unable to recognize for himself. His life's work, as transmitted in the Standard Edition, reads as a thorough, energetically and constantly worked psychoanalytic theory of practice. As such, it gains unqualified and lasting value in its own right.

This, however, does not mean that we accept without question all that Freud taught throughout his lengthy career. Not at all. Freud was limited by the then available knowledge base and by the conceptual tools within his grasp as he tackled each problem. We may well see the same issues quite differently now.

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