The Pseudoscience of Freudianism


The Uncertainty of the Poet (1913).  Giorgio de Chirico.

Freudian psychoanalysis is a pseudoscientific interpretation of mental phenomena [Bassin, P et al.  Social Sciences. 4 (10). 1971]. The conceptions of Freud are in essence opposed to scientific analyses in both psychopathology and social life. The result of a long series of modifications Freud’s theories are a characteristic of the bourgeois outlook.

In the process, and over time, Freudianism has been transformed from a clinical hypothesis into an ideological doctrine. Freud believed the underlying cause of neuroses was due to a traumatic emotional experience, a wish or impulse exerting a baneful influence. Freud ascribed a particularly significant role to the aetiology of neurosis to instinctive impulses repressed in early childhood. These repressed impulses are activated and may lead to neurosis with the neurotic outlet for instincts being through sublimation.

Freud later used essentially the same scheme to explain manifestations of social life, including art, religion, culture and the history of peoples, as well as customs and morals. In other words a theory based on vulgar biologism. His explanation of the mechanism of human mental activity came also to underlie his understanding of social development.

In the view of Freud the major cause of mankind’s tragedies, such as social injustice, class exploitation and wars are to be found in the biological basis of human behaviour. As well as in the repression of instinctive impulses, emotions, and desires. On this basis Freud concluded that wars were inevitable and natural because of destructive and aggressive instincts within every living human being.

However, the picture of human nature described by Freud though grim fundamentally invalid. In essence it is a profoundly immoral outlook that claims and legitimises an animal core from which humans cannot escape. Freud’s view is a justification for amorality. Freud’s psychoanalysis posits a theory of man’s helplessness and subordination to primitive instincts. Freudian analysis is a reflection of spiritual bankruptcy, of depravity and barbarity, as well as the wanto violence of contemporary society.

Orthodox Freudianism is thus a grossly biologistic theoretical conception. A re-examination of his basic propositions by Karen Horney, Erich Fromm and Stack Sullivan during the 1940’s to 1960’s led to a re-appraisal and refutation of Freud’s pan-sexualism or his interpretation of eroticism. However these revisionists still retained the kernel of psychoanalysis – or the mystification of the unconscious – in order to restructure Freud’s orthodox system.

Penetration of Freudian notions into science is judged by the extensive psychoanalytical literature. As well as psychoanalytically orientated psychosomatic medicine. The primary reason is because of the acceptance of Freudianism in bourgeois countries. Freudianism incorporates the most characteristic features of bourgeois ideology. It encapsulates that ideology in its approach to consciousness.

These features are (1) its anti-historical stance and its irrationalism;  (2) its treating of social phenomena in a biological  manner; (3) its ignoring of the role of social and historical practice in the formation of human consciousness. These are the epistemological roots of Freudianism.

All of the theories of Freud were influenced profoundly by the idealist philosophies of the 19th and early 20th centuries. All of his constructs rested on a priori fantastic hypotheses, metaphors, and analogies used instead of scientific evidence. The result led to the creation of a multitude of myths.

Freudianism has remained unable to solve the problem of the unconscious. It ignores the fact that human mental processes are biological but that the nature of man is social. In other words man has a biological nature but a social essence.

The social activity of mankind is the dominating factor in the formation of his psyche and individual world outlook. His psychological qualities and abilities are shaped in the family, in the school, and at work. Human activity is systematic and multi-faceted. It is directed towards the  mastery and creative transformation of the sternal world. It is this social and cultural activity that contributes to the development of the individual. This is the real connection with the study of the brain.

Therefore the study of the dynamics of consciousness, or the analysis of unconscious forms of mental activity, are not enough on their own to reveal the laws governing human behaviour.  A general theory of consciousness is required. A theory that acknowledges the reality of unconscious processes. A theory that reveals the specific forms of psychic activity.

A psychic activity that is outside the sphere of awareness but are still necessary mechanisms underlying purposeful human behaviour. This non-conscious brain activity plays an especially important role in man’s cognitive activity. Non-conscious activity appears in consciousness in the form of clear, ready-made and logically consistent images.

Sometimes these images assume the form of sudden insight or intuition. Hence the nourishment of mystical attitudes, religion and irrationalism, including its more philosophical manifestations.

Psychoanalysis reduces the contradictory relationships between consciousness and the unconscious – it reduces it to just one dynamic tendency, to a functional antagonism, in other words the theory of repression. It also reduces the contradiction to the notion of symbolism. The symbolism of dreams, slips of the tongue, and the ‘language of the body’. This for Freudianism is the primary means by which the unconscious can overcome the various taboos that consciousness imposes on it. See the ‘neo-symbolism’ of Desmond Morris.

What is the reactionary appeal of Freudianism?  It is seen in its portrayal of the unconscious as primary. Of the unconscious as ‘standing above’ consciousness and its notion that instincts dominate over reason. It is this notion that opens the way to an apology for social pessimism and the cult of violence. The theme then becomes enshrined in the myth of man’s innate aggressiveness.

In psychoanalytical theory the ‘functional unit’ of the unconscious is the ‘repressed experience’. The initial speciousness of Freud’s theory is the notion of an emotional experience that exists somehow without a subject. This is the Freudian device that offers a mechanical solution to complex psychological problems.


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One response to “The Pseudoscience of Freudianism

  1. Pingback: Morality arises from instincts | SelfAwarePatterns

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