Sunday, August 12, 2012

Freudianism as Pseudoscience

Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci has a podcast on Freudianism as Pseudoscience. They cite Frank Cioffi and others who showed that Freud was not scientific:
Mr. Cioffi’s essay, “Freud and the Idea of a Pseudo-Science,” published in 1970, was rediscovered a decade later by a cadre of thinkers challenging Freud’s theories of the mind. Delighted to have a respected logician on their side, the anti-Freudians cited the essay as one of the historic opening salvos in their war against Freudian orthodoxy. Mr. Cioffi became a sort of cult hero.

He died on Jan. 1 at his home in Canterbury, England, his nephew, Frank Cioffi, said. He was 83.

An Oxford-trained philosopher who taught at the University of Essex, Mr. Cioffi (pronounced ch-AW-fi), claimed no stake in the internecine warfare that divided Freudian analysts after the death of Sigmund Freud in 1939. He said he had simply read Freud’s famous case studies with a logician’s eye and had reached the conclusion that Freud had manipulated his patients and fudged the evidence to suit his ideas.

Mr. Cioffi’s essay on Freud was little noticed mainly because it appeared in a philosophy journal. It was further obscured by the publication that year of Kate Millett’s best seller, “Sexual Politics,” which made the feminist case against Freud (and others) for what she called his “male supremacist bias.”

But historians of science and Freud revisionists consider Mr. Cioffi’s early work to be seminal.
Frank Cioffi said:
Advances in neurology will vindicate the amorphous and figurative speculations of Freud in the same sense in which the major events of the last few centuries vindicate the prophetic powers of Nostradamus.
They point out that Freudians only abandoned their ideas about homosexuality and penis envy because they because politically incorrect, not because of any data or scientific analysis. Furthermore, exposing Freud is not new, as he was exposed as a phony in his lifetime.

At about 32:00, they start to distinguish the origin and testability of ideas. As an example, Pigliucci talks about the origin of relativity being Einstein's thought experiments about riding light waves, and deducing that the speed of light is constant.

This is nonsense. All of the main ideas of relativity were published by Lorentz and Poincare before Einstein, as explained in my book. But no need to take my word for it. Einstein said that he borrowed the constant speed of light from Lorentz.

Einstein is always the example of someone who dreamed up a revolutionary new scientific theory out of pure thought, while ignoring previous theory and experiment. For example, here is a philosopher making the argument:
But Polanyi devotes only a few pages to these matters, for his main proof depends on what he calls “the story of Relativity.” That theory was indeed taken by the positivists to show that through instrumentalist thinking Einstein had freed l9th-century physics from its metaphysical underpinnings, and thereby made the breakthrough to modern science. Polanyi correctly points out that every textbook of physics tried to present the rise of relativity as the necessary response to an experimental situation, namely the supposed null result of the Michelson-Morley experiment searching for an ether drift in l887 -- fully in accord with the sensationist or positivist view of how theories must proceed. (As well, we should add, the easiest pedagogic method of convincing students that they must take seriously what otherwise would be so counter-intuitive.) But, Polanyi declares, “the historical facts are different.”54 He noted that Einstein, in his publication, had not mentioned the Michelson-Morley experiment at all, and concludes from it that this theory was proposed “on the basis of pure speculation, rationally intuited by Einstein before he had ever heard about it.”55
No, the facts are not different. The rise of relativity was indeed the necessary response to an experimental situation. See my book for details. Or see this 1972 Herbert Dingle rebuttal. Einstein did not pay much attention to Michelson-Morley because Lorentz already invented the theory to explain it.

No comments: