Working on my Freud chapter right now. Today this means going over my notes and putting what I think I will need in my outline. Doing so, I’m struck once again by Freud’s argumentation. Its bad. Particularly his proofs. They don’t really cut the mustard, especially with his relentless valorization and self-aggrandizement of psychoanalysis as a science.  They’re more a sickly mayo– bombastic, fat headed and so sure of themselves.

Take his metapsychological paper, The Unconscious. Here Freud spends the first section of the paper answering his critics and justifying the concept of the unconscious. At least, that’s what Freud seems to think he has done. The problem is that the three proofs Freud argues don’t justify a concept of the unconscious.

Lets take the first proof, the gaps hypothesis. First Freud sets up the problem something is lacking if we interpret every mental act as conscious; ‘conscious acts remain disconnected and unintelligible if we insist upon claiming that every mental act occurs in us must necessarily be experienced by us through consciousness.” So his solution is that we “fall into a demonstratable connection if we interpolate between them the  unconscious acts we have inferred.” But, this all rests on assumptions not the proofs Freud also assumes; 1) just cuz something is lacking doesn’t mean there is one general concept that exists and functions in the manner Freud assumes that can explain it 2) just because we interpolate something to explain acts doesn’t mean what we have infered has been proven, it only makes it a logical possibility.

Does Freud provide substance to this logical possibility in his second proof? well he thinks he does. Hes living proof cuz Psychoanalysis works. In other words, because the psychoanalytic method is based on the theory of the unconscious, and the psychoanalytic method works, the unconscious must exist. Even if we ignore the question about whether the psychoanalytic method really does work- or at least whether it did work for doc Freud who supposedly never cured his patients- we still have the crucial point that things can be fixed without a proper theory of how they work. So, no proof there.

Freud’s third proof is trickier. He uses a rhetorical slight of hand. By insisting that any any given moment most of our memories, ideas, etc. are latent and therefore unconscious, the concept of the unconscious is justified. But what Freud calls the unconscious here is different then the psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious. The fact that im not constantly conscious of the fact I like blueberries with my museli is different then the oedipus complex.

So there you have it. Freud’s proofs of the unconscious. Not scientific, or logically convincing, but interesting. Although they would be a lot more interesting if they weren’t written by Freud.

This must have been done. Animism in Totem and Taboo as fetishism. Not Freudian fetishism, but Marxian, or Freudo-Marxian fetishism. ( Suddenly aware of how indicative this thought is of my standing as an academic in training where thoughts are not only valued by their merit but are given extra value if they haven’t been thought before. If such a thing is possible is it desirable? fodder for another post).

First. one of Freud’s several definitions of animism is the ‘living character of what appear to be inanimate objects’ (this essentially is one of traditional meaning of the fetish according my computer dictionary which says a fetish can either be an object with magical powers or alive ) Of course Freud being Freud, doesn’t address this or make a distinction between animism as traditional fetishism and sexual fetish as abnormal perversion etc.

2 Freud describes animism as the most complete weltanschung. Obvious parallels here with capitalist totality.

3 the Practical aspect of animism is described as ‘including body of instructions how to obtain mastery over men, beasts and things or over their spirits.78 Capital, of course is described as this seemingly magical fetishzed world that has mastery over men. we are our own gravediggers day after day But the appearance is otherwise  an enchanted, perverted, topsy-turvy world, in which Monsieur le Capital and Madame la Terre do their ghost-walking as social characters and at the same time directly as things.

4 According to Freud, animism is ‘ the first weltangschung. But It would go beyond our present purpose to show how much of it still persists in modern life, either as the debased form of superstition or as the living basis of our speech our beliefs our philosophy.

Its tempting to say here, in the confluence of Marxian fetishism and Freudian animism, is where the Dialectic of Enlightenment steps in.

Rather sketchy, I know, but more to come.


‘it seems likely that what are known as materialistic views of history sin in under estimating this factor. (the super egos conforming influence passed down through generations) They brush it aside with the remarks that human ideologies are nothing other then the product and superstructure of their economic conditions. That is true, but very probably not the whole truth. Mankind never lives entirely in the present. The past, the tradition of the race and of the people live on in the ideology of the super-ego, and yields only slowly to the influence of the present and to new changes and so long as it operates thru the super ego it plays a powerful role in human life indie of economic conditions.” (New Introductory Lectures)

But, of course, Freud did not have an extensive knowledge of Marx

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content – here the content goes beyond the phrase. (The 18th Brumaire)

They seem to complement each other well.