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< Back to question What do we know about Sigmund Freud's theories? Show more Show less

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), commonly referred to as "the father of psychoanalysis" was an Austrian neurologist and is generally recognized as one of the most influential and authoritative thinkers of the twentieth century. He remains a well-recognised figure and he and his ideas are still frequently referenced in pop culture. Freud has been influential in two related but distinct ways. He simultaneously developed a theory of the human mind and human behaviour, as well as clinical techniques for attempting to help neurotics. He popularised the ideas of the unconscious, defense mechanisms, Freudian slips and dream symbolism, while also making a long-lasting impact on fields as diverse as literature, film, Marxist and feminist theories, literary criticism, philosophy and psychology.

All that we can know is that they are now irrelevant Show more Show less

Most of Freud's beliefs have been disproved or superseded.
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Freud’s beliefs do not apply to modern-day psychology

Amongst the psychologists of today, Freud’s work is dismissed as both incorrect and damaging. His treatments only worsened clients’ conditions and marginalized certain populations, particularly women.
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The Argument

Freud has, for the most part, fallen completely out of favour in academia. In 1996, Psychological Science reached the conclusion that “[T]here is literally nothing to be said, scientifically or therapeutically, to the advantage of the entire Freudian system or any of its component dogmas." A 2006 article in Newsweek magazine that called him "history's most debunked doctor” said that “many of his ideas were mindboggingly, catastrophically wrong.”[1] Another author said that “no other notable figure in history was so fantastically wrong about nearly every important thing he had to say.”[2] In 1975, the Nobel Prize-winning medical biologist Peter Medawar called psychoanalytic theory “the most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century.”[3] Psychoanalysis has a low cure rate and the realization that depression and anxiety can be regulated by medication made a mode of therapy whose treatment times reached into the hundreds of billable hours seem, at a minimum, inefficient, and, at worst, a scam.[4] Most of his psychological theories have been disproved and by 1980, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders had removed almost every trace of Freudianism. Every one of his claims has been dismissed and could be debunked one by one. For example, there is no evidence that boys lust after their mothers and hate their fathers. He was totally, utterly wrong about gender. And his notion of “penis envy” is now both laughable and tragic.[1] His theories have even proved damaging - and even dangerous - to certain segments of the population, especially women.[1] Famously, Freud supposedly cured the “Wolf Man,” Sergius Pankejeff, but in fact he was consigned to psychoanalysis for an additional 60 years. Not surprisingly, Pankejeff considered Freud’s effect on his life a “catastrophe.”[2]

Counter arguments

One response to the assault on psychoanalysis is that even if Freud mostly made it up, and even if he was a poor therapist himself, psychoanalysis does work for some patients. But then, so does placebo.[5] He was influential in changing the way society thought about and dealt with mental illness in a positive direction. Compared with his contemporaries, Freud was indeed a compassionate, forward-thinking physician. Alternative treatments were barbaric.

Premises

[P1] Psychoanalysis has been debunked. [P2] Freud's beliefs are completely irrelevant.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Psychoanalysis is not completely debunked - it works for some people.

References

  1. https://io9.gizmodo.com/why-freud-still-matters-when-he-was-wrong-about-almost-1055800815
  2. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2004-feb-18-oe-dufresne18-story.html
  3. https://www.famousscientists.org/sigmund-freud/
  4. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/08/28/why-freud-survives
  5. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-psychology/chapter/psychodynamic-perspectives-on-personality/

This page was last edited on Friday, 5 Jun 2020 at 14:13 UTC