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Thinking about Freud

November 22, 2010

Almost a month since I last wrote here.  I’ve been reading a little about Freud lately, as part of a doctoral seminar. I’ve purchased the professor’s latest book:  Freud and Education and am working my way through it. I found this quote from another source very good for my understanding:

It is a mistake to believe that a science consists in nothing but conclusively proved propositions, and it is unjust to demand that it should. It is a demand only made by those who feel a craving for authority in some form and a need to replace the religious catechism by something else, even if it be a scientific one. Science in its catechism has but few apodictic precepts; it consists mainly of statements which it has developed to varying degrees of probability. The capacity to be content with these approximations to certainty and the ability to carry on constructive work despite the lack of final confirmation are actually a mark of the scientific habit of mind. — Freud

So authority is a big issue, according to Freud. If he is right, that may help explain some of my never-ending issues with authority – I don’t like it. I seem to constantly rebel or wish to rebel against those people and systems that would place me in a box, in their system, in their values, under their authority. I have little faith, it seems, in authority systems, wondering whose self-interest they serve, and whether in fact their service is commensurate with my self-interests. I suppose this makes me somewhat of a non-conformist, do you think? 

What if one did not need to seek an authority in everything; what if one were able to overcome this seemingly human need to find authorship in the universe?  What would become of humans, and their thinking at that point? As Freud suggests, this ability to overcome authority and operate without certainty is the mark of a scientific mind, and I can’t help but wonder where this mind will take us?  It seems that time, our experiential cognizance of its passing, our experiential cognizance of a past, present and future, presses us to look for authority, through our causal reasoning faculty. If we were able to suspend time, to disavow its passing, to suggest the unsuggestable, somewhat akin to Freud suggesting the unconscious as controller, then what would we find?

http://books.google.ca/books?id=Sfz0l6WSqFgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Introductory+lectures+on+psychoanalysis&source=bl&ots=xPcSf8Q4zd&sig=J_6PP-OZl13eBIj89kcjsS8e3zc&hl=en&ei=teRaTfnvCIGBlAeI0tiZDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCEQ6AEwAQ#v=snippet&q=scientific%20habit%20of%20mind&f=false

See Page 62

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5 Comments
  1. Hi Ken,
    Here is my response to your post http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/plenk2010-on-authority-and-power-in-networks/
    From my religious point of view as a Catholic, the only absolute authority that’s worthwhile to explore and conform to fully is our Creator – God and Jesus. Human is by nature an authority seeking Homo Sapiens, and so may not deserve our “adoration” after all!
    John

  2. deadvocate permalink

    Hi John, thank you for your comment. I think I understand the religious viewpoint, and I find it very interesting that the nature of a Human is to seek authority. In some ways, it is almost as if the Human is afraid of its freedom, and must seek confirmation of its ‘goodness’ and ‘choices’ from a higher source (which often can be another Human as well). Perhaps Freud is right in that the ‘pleasure principle’ guides the Human to reside in the love of another authority, and guides the Human away from the loss of love that is perceived to exist when the authority disapproves (or is thought to disapprove) of the Human’s actions.

    On another issue, although I imagine that there are religious scientists, Freud’s words above seem to suggest that some Humans view science as an attempt to cast off the religious search for authority in favour of the scientific search for authority. From belief to empiricism, yet still a search. But Freud does not agree with the approach, if I understand him correctly. His approach seems consistent with chaos, complexity and uncertainty as to both outcome and origin (authority). He seems to be saying that the habit of the scientific mind is the ability to seek knowledge in the face of uncertainty as to authority. It appears that Freud would suspend belief, suspend authority, suspend scientific positivism in order to make observations and develop models for approximate understandings and knowledge.

  3. Hi Ken,
    “Some Humans view science as an attempt to cast off the religious search for authority in favour of the scientific search for authority.” Yes, I could see many scientists who are atheists and don’t believe in God (Stephen Hawkins, etc.) and they would try to prove the non-existence of God through scientific experiments, with a “scientific” seeking the truth mindset. That could be both interesting, but difficult to “prove” as I think as human, we do have limits in our intellectual talents and wisdom. This means that such way of pursuing of true knowledge and wisdom would unlikely be achieved. One of the wisest Chinese Philosopher motto was: “We all have limited life, but know that there is unlimited boundary (referring to lots of things, not just information or knowledge, in accordance to my interpretation). To follow the unlimited with the limited minds (knowledge), it’s like going for “death”. For those who kept on chasing such knowledge, death even”. So, why? To me, my interpretation is that one can’t just “think of knowledge” without considering the context, the complexity of life and chaos that often arise due to the interaction of the agents, and the ever changing ecology. Would my conclusion be similar to yours? “suspend belief, suspend authority, suspend scientific positivism in order to make observations and develop models for approximate understandings and knowledge.” May be with my religious belief as Catholic, I would be be doubtful in my God, but could be doubtful in any absolute “truth” claimed, be it based on Science, as I would like to see evidence, in a long run.
    John

  4. Hi Ken,
    Sorry for the typo
    May be with my religious belief as Catholic, I would not be doubtful in my God, but could be doubtful in any absolute “truth” claimed, be it based on Science, as I would like to see evidence, in a long run.
    John

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