I've just finished reading Mark Edmundson's
The Death Of Sigmund Freud (Fascism, Psychoanalysis and the Rise of
Fundamentalism). If ever I
mention Freud, people say, "Freud? Hasn't he been shown to be wrong?". Over the
years I've read this and that by Freud or about him and he was a great
wellspring of intelligent, original ideas. He was fearless in his thinking,
and didn't recoil from publishing ideas that were shocking to society. The
reader does have to pick out the ones that are actually true though. I say that
I've read about Freud, but as Edmundson says about Hitler, 'he read a great
deal, but it's not at all clear that he understood much of what he read'.
That said, here is my view of the three most important things I think Freud
was right about: the unconscious mind, the cause of neurosis, the cure for neurosis.
Taking those in turn, the unconscious was central to Freud's ideas, and is now
well established by modern science. In a nutshell, the unconscious mind works away beneath one's awareness, but
can determine much of one's behaviour.
Freud thought that neurosis was caused by a breakdown in communication between
the conscious and unconscious mind. Certain events, ideas, feelings etc are
'repressed', that is they are trapped in the unconscious, and the conscious mind
lacks access to them. Being cut off from parts of oneself was held by Freud to
be the cause of neurosis. Is it true that this is the cause of neurosis? I
think the scientific evidence leaves this question open. For myself, I am
The final idea of Freud is that communication between the conscious and unconscious can be restored, and repressed thoughts, feelings etc. can be processed and become accessible again to the conscious mind. The route to doing this is the
'talking cure'. A therapist can provide a space for non-judgemental listening,
where the client tries to be as uninhibited as possible about what they are
saying and gradually hitherto unconscious material rises to the surface.
Dreams are also thought to be a way in which the unconscious mind communicates.
So does the talking cure work? Again, this is controversial. I'm inclined to
think it is beneficial.
My website and blog were hosted by Google, which tracks people on an industrial
scale. So I've now moved to GitHub Pages using
a site that's statically generated using
Pelican. GitHub Pages have better privacy
than Google, but the deeper point is that a static site stored in a git …
For some time I've been concerned about Google, Facebook etc. I'm writing this to try and pin down what my concerns are and what (if anything) I should do about it. So here are some thoughts in no particular order (a 'brain dump' in the vernacular):
Bill asked, 'On average, how many flips of a coin do I have to do to get 7 heads in a row?'. I thought this would be really easy, but I had to think about it for ages. I think it means, how many flips to get 50% probability of …