Five Minute Phobia Cure

Dennis Hardin

Recommended Posts

I'm sure that Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Rollo May, Erich Fromm, Albert Ellis, Nathaniel Branden, (fill-in the psychologist of your choice), thought that they had written great books "proving" their views on human nature. I'm equally sure that many of them were surprised that their peers did not come around to their thinking. They all had included "case studies" (if you will, "testimonials") of their clients to back-up their views.

This is a misrepresentation of Nathaniel Branden. I have no real idea about those other fellows. If he has offered any proof it was only from deductive reasoning and anybody can do that. Positing how people are and should be and all of the imagined that sort of thing isn't claiming proof. It might be wrong and it might be arrogance, but it's not proof. Proof and empiricism don't mix. Adducing evidence is not proof. A theory cannot be proven, only demonstrated to be true until contradicted. Then it is modified or simply discarded.


That's why I had "proving" in quotes. Let's say that Freud, Adler, Nathaniel Branden, et al, wrote books that they thought were accurately describing the nature of (some or all) human psychology. I don't believe that they deliberately "made it all up" as an exercise in fantasy (as it has been reported that L. Ron Hubbard admitted to fellow science fiction writers that he did). When Freud described the "Oedipus Complex," when Adler described the "inferiority complex," when Branden described "social metaphysics," they thought that they were describing an essential component of human behavior. They thought that their theories were "true," if not "proven" empirically.

As for your comment that a theory cannot be proven, I think you are referring here to Karl Popper's "falsification" theory, a view criticized by some Objectivists, although it strikes me as describing an essential component of scientific methodology.

Edited by Jerry Biggers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

I wonder what could falsify the notion that the earth revolves around the sun. It seems to me nonsense that we can have only "probabilistic" or not-yet-falsified knowledge of the world. If one counterexample torpedoes a theory about the world, Popper's been punctured plenty.

I suppose we must differentiate between tests or research into small-bore psychological attributes for potentials and the nature of human psychology. This passage I just ran across, from an article by Myron Magnet in City Journal, seems apropos:

"The social scientists have a mantra: 'The plural of anecdote is not data.' I think they are mistaken. An accumulation of accurate stories about how the human world works, stories that provide an account wrapped in an interpretation, adds up to knowledge, better knowledge than we can get elsewhere. Data are meaningless until we can articulate a story that makes sense out of them, and literature makes sense out of the data of human experience.

"Can anyone think that there is more understanding to be gained about the human heart from Freud than from Shakespeare—that the studies of Dora or the Wolf Man approach anywhere near to the profundity of understanding embodied in Macbeth or Lear, with their unflinching elucidation of man’s (and woman’s) capacity for evil? Can anyone think that the studies of Margaret Mead or Alfred Kinsey tell us anything nearly as true as Ovid or Turgenev? Does the sociobiology of E. O. Wilson or Richard Dawkins tell us any more than we learn from Homer or Virgil?"

Whether we think Branden, say, is right or wrong about social metaphysics would depend most importantly not on "studies" but our own study of ourselves and others. Is what he describes real? I'm not saying that lab work or accumulation of states is necessarily irrelevant (depending on what the work is, how it's interpreted, what it claims). But why would we discount the less formal but still close and thoughtful study of persons by a Branden or a Dostoevsky, or even Peter Parker's Aunt May (the Aunt May of Spider-mans I and II, not III)?

Edited by Starbuckle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now