Book Summaries Psychology

Chapter 4: The Background of Dynamic Psychiatry (The Discovery of the Unconscious)

The background of dynamic psychiatry can be traced to two centuries back. The 1800’s was a time that is difficult for us to imagine. People were much tougher, since they had no access to the luxuries and comforts of today. Sedatives and narcotics were almost unheard of and public hygiene was at a primitive stage. Even the wealthy lived in a way that few people would consider comfortable today.

In 1771, a French navigator traveled around the world, and published stories of his exciting adventures. He described the natural happiness and complete sexual freedom that he encountered in the natives of Tahiti. Diderot commented on this work, and said, that civilized man is the “prey of internal strife” between the “natural man” and the “moral and artificial man.” No matter who prevails in this conflict, civilized man remains forever an unhappy creature – an idea that would be adopted by Nietzsche and Freud.

There were three classes that existed during this time period. In France, where Mesmer became popular, the aristocracy owned mansions in the country side and in the city, and they were close to the court. They spent money freely on gambling and entertainment and saw this as a virtue, but the nobility also experienced a crisis, they saw no satisfactory outlet for their ambitions and need for activity.

They were despised by the Bourgeoise who saw thrift and hard work as the primary virtues. The proletariat had their own subculture and their own medical and literary knowledge, but their lot was a hard one, especially considering that life was difficult for all.

The nobility’s reaction to dissidents was either to cling desperately to their privileges and try to enforce them, or to turn to philanthropic work. Others found new outlets such as colonial enterprises or scientific research, but these endeavours would be considered amateurish today.

The bourgeoise, part of the commoners, were on the rise and became numerous and powerful.

Mesmer’s (hypnotizer) victory of Gassner (exorcist) during this time period represented the victory of the Enlightenment over the Baroque, science over technology, and the aristocracy over the clergy. Mesmer made his money by charging noblemen very high fees.

The Economic Background: The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution took place in England between 1760 and 1830. New machines increased productivity without the need for more manpower. Traditional crafts slowly disappeared, and new economic life arose, built around profit.

The world was transformed into a large market. New factories were created, that drove the peasants to the countryside, leading to social problems and the rise of socialism. At the same time, a rapid increase in Europe’s population was followed by mass emigration to North America and other countries. All over the world, the “frontier” was open to the white man, who came as a settler, or as a colonist or trader, exploiting countries and their people.

The Cultural Background: The Enlightenment

The history of the West is that of a few great cultural movements: The Renaissance, Baroque, Enlightenment, Romanticism. Each had thir own philosophy, literature, art, and science, and a style of life – which all culminated in the formation of the ideal type of man.

And each movement had roots in one country before spreading to the rest of Europe: the Renaissance and Baroque in Italy, the Enlightenment in France, and Romanticism in Germany.

The Enlightenment has been defined by Toelltch as “the spiritual movement which led to the secularization of thought and State.” There is also Kant’s definition.

Enlightenment is the leaving behind by man of his self-caused minority. Minority is the impossibility of using one’s own reason without the guidance of another. That minority is self-caused when it is due not to the lack of reasoning power but to the lack of decision and courage to make use of it without the guidance of another. Sapere aude! Have the courage to make use of your own reason! is thus the motto of the Enlightenment

The ideal man belonged to the aristocracy or the bourgeoisie, and his life was ruled by reason and social considerations. In France, he was represented by the sociable figure (honnete homme). And in England, he was public-minded and interested in economic problems.

The philosophy of the Enlightenment was practical and optimistic – it insisted that science must be applied for the benefit of mankind. Another feature was a deep concern for and faith in education.

In science, there was no authority. Analysis was applied in mathematics and in the study of the mind, politics, and society. Psychology tried to understand the basic elements of the mind: sensations and associations, and then to reconstruct, by the synthesis, the full fabric of the mind. Men like Rousseau tried to imagine the evolution of society, starting with different individuals who assimilated and agreed on a “social contract.”

Until then science was possible thanks to the work of isolated scientists who corresponded with each other. The Enlightenment created a network of scientific societies, which published the findings of their activities.

The Enlightenment’s enormous impact on medicine is generally little
known. It inaugurated pediatrics, orthopedics, public hygiene, and prophylaxy, among others, with its campaign for inoculation against smallpox. It influenced psychiatry in many ways, beginning with its laicization.

Magnetism was a creation of the enlightenment. Romanticism would interpret it differently. In fact, Romanticism and the Enlightenment were antagonists throughout the history of dynamic psychiatry. Janet’s teaching can be traced to Enlightenment teachings, while Freud and Jung can be identified as thinkers of Romanticism.

The Cultural Background: Romanticism

Romanticism originated in Germany and was at its highest point between 1800 and 1830 and then declined but spread over other parts in Europe. Its impact had lasting effects on European cultural life in the 19th century. In the strictest sense, Romanticism applied to a few groups of philosophers, poets, and artists, but in its largest sense, it described a vast movement that was a general outlook on life.

Romanticism was a cultural reaction to the Enlightenment. Whereas the former advocated the values of reason and society, the latter was defined by the cult of the irrational and gave much importance to the individual.

Brunschwig correlated the rise of Romanticism to the changes in demography in Germany at the end of the 18th century. The urban population of Germany increased enormously, and a new generation of young bourgeoisie and intellectuals were without jobs. They faced a bleak present, and adopted an irrational outlook – they turned to the remote past or remote future, and expected miracles to occur in religion, medicine, occupation, love, and everyday life.

Romanticism contained some essential features. The first was a deep feeling for nature, unlike the Enlightenment – which was interested in man. Romanticism looked upon nature with deep reverence and empathy, and wished to discover man’s true relationship with nature.

The second was a wish to see what was behind the visible nature, to understand the manifestations of the unconscious: dreams, mental illness, genius, and parapsychology.

Third was the feeling for becoming. The Enlightenment believed in eternal reason and its manifestation in progress, but Romanticism held that all beings came from seminal principles, which could be found in individuals, languages, and societies. Human life was not merely a long period of maturity that came after a shorter period of immaturity, but a “spontaneous process of unfolding, a series of metamorphoses” (what Jung would later call individuation).

Romanticism cared about specific nations, not just with society and general. And, it placed a large importance on the individual.

Romantic philosophy may seem strange to us, since it is so different from experimental science, but the concepts of Romanticism are very much embedded in the new dynamic psychiatry. Jung’s teachings about psychology are unintelligible if they are not connected to Schelling.

Schelling’s ideas of myths influenced modern dynamic psychiatry, including his view of mental illness as a nonspecific reaction of the living substance. Freud’s mental life was dominated by polarities (dualism of instincts, subject-object, pleasure-unpleasure, active-passive). Freud’s proclivity to dualistic ideas was a Romantic way of thinking. The roots of “archetype”, the murder of the primordial father, and “the Oedipal Complex”, the anima and animus, are all ideas influenced by Romanticism.

The New Doctrines: Darwin and Marx

After 1950, Romanticism and the Enlightenment began losing importance, although the latter could be credited for the emancipation of serfs in Russia and the U.S. These philosophies were replaced by the philosophy of the Industrial Revolution which emphasized free market capitalism, and this was congruent to Darwinian thought. Whereas Marxism provided the basis for the socialist parties that grew from the struggle of the proletariat.

The ancestor of man was as different to primitive savages today, as those savages are from civilized man. Darwin tried to give a biological explanation of the evolution of our ancestor towards the present human. He said that society was born out of the parental instinct, and the instinct of mutual help between animals of the same species. Language developed from cries of help. Morals came from these instincts and then reinforced by man’s sensitivity to social opinion and then by reason and habit.  

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But in the Descent of Man, Darwin moves away from the struggle of existing, and gives importance to the role of sexual selection – that stronger men choose more attractive females, and these females prefer stronger males, the result being that these men would birth more offspring.  

It is said that he was the first to spell out the theory of evolution, but this line of thought preceded Darwin. And Darwin proposed the theory of the struggle as a hypothesis. Today it is assumed that he proved it, thus the idea of the struggle for existence has always been a hypothesis. The Hobbesian “war of everyone against everyone” was thought to be a universal law that was discovered by Darwin, by Darwin’s most enthusiastic followers.

It is true that Darwin’s theory of evolution was widely accepted, but there are still doubts with regards to the true role played by the struggle for existence, and its effect on evolution – whether chance variations can result in new species (not only new races), and to the existence of most missing links.

Darwin’s theory, had it remained in its original field, would not have gained so much fame. Its principles were extended to other sciences. Psychologists assumed that instincts and mental faculties have roots in natural selection, and that the evolution of human societies were reconstructed in similar ways. No branch of science was free from this kind of speculation.

Darwin was careful not to enter into the realm of philosophy, but his supporters thought that a philosophical system could be deduced from his ideas – especially the idea of evolution and progress.

The most important development of Dawinism was Social Darwinism, the universal application of “struggle for life,” “survival of the fittest,” and “elimination of the unfit” to the problems and realities of every society.

Militarists used this to argue for war. The pseudo-Darwinian philosophy persuaded the European elite of the biological necessity of war, and this contributed to the precipitation of World War. Hitler and many other politicians proclaimed the same Darwinian principles.

In short, as stated by Kropotkin. “There is no infamy in civilized society, or in the relations of the Whites toward the so-called lower races, or of the strong toward the weak which would not have found its excuse in this formula.”

Alfred Adler reversed the principle of the “elimination of the unfit” in a systematic way. He showed that organic inferiorities were the impetus for biological compensation. This principle was a basic tenant of his psychological system. Inferiority, far from being a cause of failure, would be the best stimulate for victory and social struggle.

Freud’s theory of the instincts is connected to Darwin’s ideas. Freud started by only considering the libido and later assumed the existence of a separate aggressive and destructive instinct, while Darwin followed the opposite path.

Paul Ree explained that the moral conscience issued from a legalized Dawinian struggle for life. Man has no right which he cannot defend. If someone wanted someone else’s property, he could challenge the owner to a duel. The refusal to engage on the part of the owner, or his death in the duel, would result in the reallocation of the property.

Eventually, the law stopped tolerating this custom, and the frustrated acquisitive and aggressive drive of man became the root of remorse (conscience). This idea was developed by Nietzsche in Genealogy of Morals, which lay the foundation for Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents.  

KARL MARX (1818~1883)

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Darwinism was a system of hypothesis to support the Theory of Evolution was transformed by Darwin’s followers into Social Darwinism , that gave a scientific rationalization to ruthless competition that powered the industrial, political, commercial, and military world during the end of the 19th century. Marxism was the opposite of Social Darwinism, it was a philosophical system from the beginning, and soon also became an economic theory, philosophy of history, political doctrine, and way of life. Karl Marx collaborated with his friend Friedrich Engels to create it.

Marxism and Darwinism share the idea of the progress of man, but their ideas diverge with regards to the nature of this process. Darwinism credits progress to the mechanical and deterministic result of biological phenomena, Marxism ascribes it a “dialectical” process which must be supplemented with man’s effort.

Marxism’s main philosophical source was Hegel, directly and through some of his disciples. Hegel’s philosophy gave Marx the “dialectic method” – a way of analyzing seemingly contradictory concepts, and for discovering the common principle that would unite them in a higher synthesis, moving from a series of ideas to the absolute. Hegel used his method to create a powerful system of philosophical idealism, but Marx applied it to a mathematical philosophy.

Marx borrowed from Hegel another idea, that of “alienation,” that man is estranged form himself. “Alienation” means that man has externalized a part of himself, which he then sees as an external truth. Some of Hegel’s followers argued that man is alienated from himself because he created a God in his own image, projecting the best of his spirit outside of himself and adoring it as if it were a superior being. By ending this alienation, man would reconstruct the synthesis of his own being.

Marx modified this idea. Not only are religion and abstract philosophies forms of alienation, but there also exists social, political, and economic alienation. To Marx, man is alienated from himself because of class divisions, thus a classless socialist society would eliminate alienation and all of its consequences.

Marx said that up until then, philosophy had tried to explain the world, but the true problem was in changing it. His philosophy is inseparable from action (revolutionary action).

Like Hegel, Marx thought that humans went through a dialectical process of evolution, but he saw the process differently. Marx’s philosophy of history is based on the idea that history can be interpreted as class struggle, and the latter can be understood by the notion of an “ideological superstructure superimposed upon a social substructure.”

The discovery of means of production changed the social structure – the division of classes and their relationships to each other. The ruling classes oppress the inferior ones and impose organizations and political systems. But the ruling class also creates an ideology, which includes morals, philosophy, and religion – the ideology is a reflection of the social structure and a way to oppress the inferior classes, through the judiciary and other forms of government.

Therefore, one practical rule of Marxist analysis is: “Behind that which people say. behind that which they think of themselves, to discover what they are by analyzing what they do.” 166 The work of Marx contains many analyses of what he calls “mystifications,” that is those processes by which people deceive both themselves and the others to their own advantage

Marx thought that war was a way for the ruling class to “mystify” or deceive the lower classes, because the former wants to divert an impending revolution.

As described in Communist Manifesto (1848), Marx and Engel did not think it was possible to shift power in a peaceful way.

In dynamic psychiatry, Adler’s relationship to Marx is obvious, he was a supporter of socialism. In fact, he saw neurosis as a reflection of social relationships as internalized by the individual.

Marx and Freud are curiously similar. Both had rabbis among their ancestors, they belonged to a Jewish family circle that came under the influence of the Enlightenment, and the work of each theory is inextricably linked to practice. They both saw religion as an “illusion.”

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"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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