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Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a set of axioms encompassing all of mathematics would never succeed, he revolutionized the world of mathematics, logic, and philosophy.
Raymond Smullyan was born in 1919 in Far Rockaway, New York. He earned his B.S. at the University of Chicago in 1955 and his Ph. D. at Princeton University in 1959. Smullyan has had a remarkably diverse sequence of careers—mathematician, magician, concert pianist, internationally known writer, having authored twenty-six books on a wide variety of subjects, six of which are academic, one of them being “Gödel's Theorems.” His famous puzzle books are special, in that they are designed to introduce the general reader to deep results in mathematical logic.

Q: You are a trained logician having earned degrees from the University of Chicago and from Princeton University where you studied under, among others, Rudolf Carnap and Alonzo Church, respectively. On top of this, you’ve been a Professor of philosophy for many years at various colleges and universities. How did you go from writing highly technical treatises on logic to writing popular books on mathematical and logical puzzles? A: I wanted to make puzzle books designed to enable the general reader to understand deep mathematical results in mathematical logic—particularly results related to Gödel’s famous Incompleteness Theorem, which is that in any mathematical system that contains at least elementary arithmetic, there must always be a sentence that though true is not provable in the system. Gödel proved this by showing how to construct a sentence that asserted its own non-provability in the system. Q: You’ve written extensively on Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems—some highly technical papers and several popular books. How would you suggest a novice approach Gödel’s work? A: A novice who would like to have some idea of Gödel’s proof might try my book The Lady or the Tiger, or Forever Undecided, both of which introduce some of the basic ideas. I am writing a more comprehensive account for the novice, which is tentatively titled A Logical Journey. Q: You’ve also written puzzles around Gödel’s proof, making his ideas more accessible to a layman. Can you give us an example? A: To illustrate the essential idea behind Gödel’s proof, consider a system (S) that proves various English sentences and proves only true ones. What sentence must be such that it has to be true but not provable in the system? Well, one such sentence is: This Sentence is not provable in system (S). If the sentence were false, then contrary to what it says, it WOULD be provable in the system, which contradicts the given fact that the system proves only true sentences, and, therefore, the sentence cannot be false. Thus the sentence must be true, and so what it says really is the case—namely that it is not provable in the system. Thus, the sentence is true but not provable in the system. Alternatively, consider a country in which every inhabitant is either always truthful or always lies. A certain logician whose proofs are always correct, visited this country, and an inhabitant made a statement to him from which it follows that he must be truthful, but the logician can never prove that he is. What statement could that be? Well, one such statement is: “You can never prove that I am truthful.” I leave it to you to show that the inhabitant must be truthful, but the logician can never prove that he is. Q: Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems are what, in W.V. Quine’s words, “sealed his immortality.” But Gödel also made two other important discoveries. What were they? A: Two other important results of Gödel are his Completeness Theorem—that all valid sentences of first-order logic are provable in any of the standard axiom systems—and his proof that the Continuum Hypotheses (that there exists no set intermediate in size between the set of positive integers and the set of points on the line) cannot be disproved from any of the known systems of set theory. Q: Have the techniques that went into formulating Gödel’s proof of incompletability have any other use elsewhere? A: Gödel’s discoveries have very important applications to computer science and to the mathematical field known as recursion theory, which deals with operations that can be performed by purely mechanical devices. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Kurt Gödel Kurt Gödel[/caption] Q: Your teacher, Alonzo Church, extended the work of Gödel on the foundations of mathematics in a direction that bears on modern philosophy and computer science. Can you briefly explain how? A: Contrary to the opinions of many philosophers, I do not believe that Gödel’s discoveries have any applications to philosophy whatsoever. It is enough that they are of extreme importance to mathematics and computer science. Q: Alan Turing, the English mathematician, independently proposed a more direct but equivalent definition of computability in the form of a theoretical computing device known as a Turing machine. What exactly was his approach? A: It is not possible in a short space to give an adequate account of the work of Alan Turing. Suffice it to say that he invented the concept of a machine—a so-called "Universal Turing Machine"—that can do what any purely mechanical device can never do. He then showed that there was a problem (known as the halting problem) that even this great machine could not possibly solve. Q: You’ve argued that Tarski’s Undefinability Theorem deserves much of the attention garnered by Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. Why? A: Tarski showed that truth in elementary arithmetic is not definable in elementary arithmetic, whereas Gödel showed that provability in the system of axiomatic elementary arithmetic IS definable in elementary arithmetic, and therefore provability and truth do not coincide, which means that some true sentence is not provable in the system. This yields an alternative and particularly elegant proof of Gödel’s theorem. Q: How does Löb’s theorem, formulated by mathematical logician Martin Hugo Löb, relate to Gödel’s? A: The sentence that Gödel constructed is one that asserts its own non-provability, and that sentence must be true but not provable (in the axiom system under consideration). The logician Leon Henkin then constructed a sentence that asserted that it WAS provable, and this sentence is either both true and provable or neither true nor provable, but is it provable or not? This remained an unsolved problem for many years until it was finally solved affirmatively (the sentence IS provable) by a theorem of Martin Löb, which also generalized Gödel’s great Second Incompleteness Theorem, which is that for each of the systems under consideration, the system cannot prove its own consistency! Löb’s theorem also opened up a whole new field of modal logic known as the logic of provability. Q: What are you currently working on in the world of logic? A: These days I work on topics connected with self-reference, which of course ties in with Gödel’s work and with computer science, as well as on my combined popular and academic book A Logical Journey. I am also very much involved with musical activity, and my piano playing and videos I made can be heard and seen on the internet—Raymond Smullyan. Further Comments: The work of Gödel, Tarski, Löb, Church, Post, Kleene, Turing, and many others all point to the fact that (in the prophetic words of Post, mathematics is and must remain creative. In other words, mathematics cannot be fully mechanized; ingenuity is always required. Or, in the delightfully witty words of Paul Rosenbloom, “Man can never eliminate the necessity of using his own intelligence, regardless of how cleverly he tries.”
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Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a se...

Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a set of axioms encompassing all of mathematics would never succeed, he revolutionized the world of mathematics, logic, and philosophy. John Randolph Lucas is a former Fellow and Tutor of Merton College, Oxford and remains an emeritus member of the University Faculty of Philosophy. He is a Fellow of the British Academy. Although best known for his paper "Minds, Machines and Gödel", where he argues that an automaton cannot represent a human mathematician, Lucas has written widely on a diverse range of topics. His main area of research has focused on the philosophy of mathematics, especially the implications of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, the philosophy of mind, free will and determinism, the philosophy of science with special reference to special relativity, causality, political philosophy, ethics and business ethics, and the philosophy of religion. He is the author of Reason and RealityA Treatise on Time & SpaceSpacetime and Electromagnetism and On Justice.
Simply Charly: When did you first become acquainted with Kurt Gödel and his Incompleteness Theorems? And what was it about his work that impressed you? John Lucas: I first heard mention of a strange piece of work that coded things with prime numbers in June 1948, talking to a tutor about switching from Mathematics to "Greats" (Philosophy and Ancient History). I probably was trying to explain a thought that had come to me earlier at school when I had been listening to an essay by one of my contemporaries, who was putting forward an extremely materialistic world-view. I countered that if such a view was true, there was no room for truth or rational conviction: he could not hope to persuade me that it was true; if I came to believe it, it would only be because he had successfully manipulated my nervous system, not because it was true, and I had been rationally convinced by his arguments. While I was reading philosophy as an undergraduate, I made considerable use of this type of argument, using it to refute the Verification Principle, Marxism, and Freudianism. But I found great difficulty in formulating it in a water-tight way. There were great difficulties in securing self-reference. Russell’s Theory of Types stood in the way of most of my efforts. Gödel, however, had managed to circumvent the difficulties. So when my Junior Research Fellowship at Merton was coming to an end, I decided to go to Princeton, and really master it. SC: How would you explain Gödel’s Theorems to a layman? JL: I tried my best in a talk I gave to undergraduates in King’s College, London, which I put on the web as "A Simple Exposition of Gödel’s Theorem." SC: You’re best known for your paper "Minds, Machines and Gödel," which was published in 1961 in the journal Philosophy. In it, you argue, with the help of Gödel’s proof, that a mechanist or computationalist view of the mind is untenable. Can you briefly explain the gist of your argument? JL: It is a version of the Turing test, a dialogue between a mind and a purported mechanist representation of it. The principles on which the mechanist representation works are subject to Gödel’s Theorem, and so there is a Gödelian sentence that is true, but cannot be proved to be true by the machine from the principles on which it was constructed. The mind, however, informed of the principles on which the machine was constructed, can work out that this is its Gödelian sentence, and see that it is true. Thus there is something the mind can do, and the machine cannot do, and so the machine is not an adequate representation of the mind. SC: How did you come to apply a purely mathematical proof like Gödel’s theorem to the problem of minds and machines? JL: Because I needed my argument to be incontrovertible. Many others had thought of the argument that the materialist is somehow cutting off the branch on which he is sitting when he argues for materialism (I list some of them in an appendix in my book, The Freedom of the Will, Oxford, 1970); but their arguments, though cogent, could not get a grip on a hard-nosed skeptic. I needed to start from where the skeptic stood, and use arguments he could not deny on pain of self-contradiction. Gödel’s Theorem enabled me to do it. SC: "Minds, Machines and Gödel" was attacked on many fronts over the ensuing years by various critics—many of whom weren’t in accord with where your argument supposedly failed, if at all. How has your argument held up since it was first presented? JL: I am not the best judge, being partial to my own case. It seems to me that the Artificial Intelligence people have largely conceded that a Turing machine cannot be an adequate representation of the mind, but claim that this is a narrow victory, because they are dreaming up artificial intelligences that are not Turing machines. SC: In Gödel, Escher, Bach, Richard Hofstadter cites your paper as one of the driving forces behind many of the ideas developed in his book. However, from the path you paved, he diverges. Can you briefly explain what his view is? JL: I find it difficult. He seems to be giving my sort of argument but then draws back from the conclusion to which he was tending. I suspect he has not fully understood the import of the Church-Kleene theorem and thinks that because there is no algorithm for naming transfinite numbers, a mind would be stumped to name one. But a mind is not confined to algorithmic procedures. SC: Did you ever consider using Turing’s argument instead of Gödel’s in developing your views in "Minds, Machines and Gödel"? JL: Yes, but only to reject it. The great virtue of Gödel’s theorem (and Tarski’s) is that it invokes the concept of truth, which was crucial in my original schoolboy thoughts and is prominent in mental activities. SC: In more recent times, mathematician Roger Penrose has taken up the same problem you covered in your original paper in his book The Emperor’s New Mind and more recently, "Shadows of the Mind." Are you familiar with his version? If so, how does his differ from yours? JL: Yes. I reviewed The Emperor’s New Mind in the Oxford Magazine. I discuss Penrose’s version in "Turn Over the Page" as well as Gödel’s own one. (I was quite unaware that Gödel had had similar thoughts when I was developing my argument. I wish I had been able to discuss them with him when I was in Princeton in 1957-8.) SC: Since Gödel first presented his Incompleteness Theorems over 75 years ago, the mathematical community has proceeded unabated as if his findings were never announced. Why? JL: Not so. 1. Hilbert’s program was abandoned. 2. Robinson was able to use non-standard numbers (whose existence is a corollary of Gödel’s theorem) to re-establish infinitesimals as respectable members of the mathematical ontology. 3. Mathematical logic is now a vigorous part of mathematics. SC: What other philosophical lessons may we draw from Gödel’s work? JL: It vindicates a widespread belief in the creative power of reason. Aristotle distinguishes reason generally, meta logou, from algorithmic reason, reason-in-accordance-with-the-correct-rule, kata ton orthon logon. But the distinction is difficult to draw and has been denied by many who have assumed that for something to be reasonable it must be in accordance with some rule. Gödel shows that however many rules of inference we formulate, there will still be some valid inferences not covered by them. I see this as supporting a philosophy of "more-than-ism" rather than the "nothing-but-ery" of the reductionists.

Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a se...

Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a set of axioms encompassing all of mathematics would never succeed, he revolutionized the world of mathematics, logic, and philosophy.
Janna Levin is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. Her scientific research concerns the Early Universe, Chaos, and Black Holes. Her second book—a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines—won the PEN/Bingham Fellowship for Writers that "honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work...represents distinguished literary achievement...”

Simply Charly: Can you begin by telling us what the difference is between Gödel's first and second Incompleteness Theorems? Janna Levin: It's a subtle thing, actually, that what Gödel did, when he devised his Incompleteness Theorems, was he really showed that there were some truths that could never be formally proven within the context of arithmetic. And it was a very formal notion: it means to start with axioms, take the transformation rules to come up with theorems, and the idea of proof was very tied to that very specific kind of mechanistic idea. And he was able to show that there were some facts about numbers, really arithmetic—nothing could seem somehow more elementary or natural than arithmetic and mathematics—that could not be proven within the context of these axiomatic systems. Now, what he really, really did, subtly, in the first theorem, was show that you can’t simultaneously prove something as complete and consistent; “complete” meaning that all facts could be proven. You could either show that it was consistent and incomplete, or complete and inconsistent. And by “inconsistent,” you mean something really bad, like, that two contradictory statements could simultaneously be proven. That’s much more serious, in a way than incompleteness, which just says that there are some facts that are true or false, but can’t be reached by this kind of approach in mathematics. His second theorem was to show that the consistency of mathematics itself was one of those undecidable statements; that you could never prove that arithmetic was consistent. That was really shocking to people. But he believed it was consistent, because he really believed in the sanctity of mathematics, that it wasn’t ever going to be the case that something was simultaneously true and false; that it was going to be consistent, but it wasn’t something that ever could be proven to be the case. So to clarify, his second theorem is really the statement that the consistency of mathematics cannot actually be proven, or the consistency, more specifically, of arithmetic, is one of the undecidable statements in arithmetic. SC: David Hilbert believed that eventually all mathematical things could be or would be defined. Gödel’s theorem disproves that. Are there any other commonly held beliefs or theories that the Incompleteness Theorem puts into doubt? JL: It’s interesting. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem has a kind of far-reaching, philosophical implication that’s very strange. One of the strangest things about Gödel’s construction is that he built, effectively, a mathematical sentence that amounted to the claim that this statement is unprovable. So the statement is making a claim about itself. He translates that completely into numbers. He codes it, in a sense, like you would do a binary code now, he did a kind of prime number code so that it became a relationship among numbers. The claim that this statement is unprovable becomes a claim about prime numbers being factorized in certain ways, and so it really becomes a totally arithmetic statement. In that way, he was able to put it back into arithmetic and show that, in fact, it could never be proven in the context of arithmetic. However, its claims about itself can’t be proven. There’s this little glitch—it’s not a glitch—but this little subtlety that I seem to be able to recognize intuitively that it’s a true claim. It has somehow made a true claim about itself, but it’s not a claim I can prove, by starting with axioms, going through transformation rules, and combining theorems. And so, something strange has been separated in notions of truth and provability, and intuitive notions. And I think that one of the far-reaching implications is about how the mind works: what does it mean to try to model the mind as a mathematical system? When we step outside of our mathematical system, we move in hierarchies of systems, we look outside of mathematics and see a truth that we can’t prove. That’s really amazing and subtle, and it was one of the most curious aspects, once people got over the shock, of the blow to Hilbert’s program. I think it was one of the most curious aspects of his theorem. So, when people think about designing in artificial intelligence, for instance, it calls into question the idea I could simply program an intelligence by setting up axioms and transformation laws, because that system can’t recognize the truth of a claim that I can recognize by stepping outside of that axiomatic system. So it has to be, somehow, more hierarchical and more complex than I can code. And there’s been a lot of work about complexity of codes and complexity of theorems that’s been very largely inspired by that first discovery of Gödel’s. So I think it’s going to keep reaching into the future when we talk about things like designing an artificial intelligence, and that will go on, long into the future. SC: What were Gödel’s peer's reactions when the discovery was announced? It would have doomed to failure the efforts of all the world’s greatest mathematicians, so tell us about their reaction. JL: It’s interesting. There wasn’t much reaction, at all. I think it was such a subtle thing that he had done, that people did not immediately recognize the significance, the implications. And he, in fact, went to a conference in Hilbert’s hometown and spoke about this at this conference. And when they summarized the big results of the conference, he wasn’t even mentioned.I just don’t think people fully grasped what he had just said. One person who did was Von Neumann, an absolutely brilliant mathematician who was located at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. And that really changed the direction of Gödel’s life, because he ran up to Gödel, after his lecture, and was very engaged in trying to clarify what had just happened. He understood the significance of this accomplishment before, I think, anyone else. And so, he brought Gödel to the Institute for Advanced Study, where he eventually emigrated and spent the rest of his life. But it took twenty years for the most significant mathematician since Aristotle to get a proper status at his own institution. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Kurt Gödel Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel[/caption] SC: What are the implications of this discovery on the field of, let’s say, mathematics and logic? JL: It’s interesting that, I would say, certain things like physics, which are based on mathematics and logic, still seem kind of unaffected. It’s actually something that I’m interested in—what can incompleteness say about the program for finding a Theory of Everything in physics? If there can’t be a Theory of Everything in mathematics, can there be one in physics? And it’s possible that there could, but it seems like we haven’t fully understood the implications of his ideas for physics. In mathematics, a lot of sub-branches are complete. It’s not an issue. Nobody would come along and would say, “This problem’s been really hard to solve. Maybe it’s undecidable.” You would really have to prove undecidability based on very strict criteria before you would ever abandon the program to find a mathematical theorem or proof. So, basically, mathematics goes on, kind of unaffected. It’s consistent, so we believe, and then we can’t prove it. Although in some sub-branches you can prove consistency of completeness, but that means it’s still a sound theory, or it’s still a sound way of approaching, understanding the world, and so, we’re never going to have a result that’s contradictory. We’re never going to come into a true paradox, because Gödel’s theorem isn’t really a paradox. But we might occasionally encounter undecidable propositions. And so, it’s possible that as a mathematician approaches certain problems, certain very, very unusual problems that are highly self-referential and have certain strange characteristics, that self-referential aspect is absolutely key—then you might get into a Gödelian type of tangle. But basically, mathematics proceeds, and the attempt to formalize mathematics can proceed in a modified form. And it’s still incredibly powerful and a miracle that we can understand the world this way. It’s really quite a miracle. We mine our own mind, and that’s how we uncover these seemingly external truths. Gödel only believed in the mind part. He wasn’t so sure about the external reality part, and he often said things like—I think I even saw it on the Simply Gödel website—that “I don’t believe in natural science.” And I think what he meant by that is he just wasn’t sure about external reality. He was really doubtful of it, which is so strange. But he really believed that mathematical concepts existed, they were real, and that the mind migrated to this pure, platonic reality, and migrated over reincarnations. He really believed in the transmigration of the soul. So he was pretty out there. SC: To what other areas, outside of mathematics and logic, such as physics, theology, or philosophy, did Gödel contribute? JL: He most directly, himself, personally contributed to physics. Obviously, his ideas had big implications that inspired other people to carry on, in probably all fields like theology, philosophy, physics, metaphysics, artificial intelligence, computer science—to everything he really was very influential. But he, himself, contributed to physics in a very interesting way, and it was kind of a similar idea to throwing a wrench in the works a bit. He became very close to Einstein when he was at the Institute. And Einstein once said, “I only go to the Institute for the pleasure of Gödel’s company.” I think people have probably heard that quote before. In fact, he was such a recluse, Einstein might have been one of the only people he was speaking to, for months at a time, on these walks. And he became interested in Einstein’s ideas about the relativity of space and time. Einstein’s theory of a curved space-time is a theory that you and I, traveling at different speeds or in a curved space-time, or somebody near a black hole, or somebody else, might measure, literally, the passage of time differently. We might age differently from each other. I won’t notice a difference. But you might look at me, near a black hole, and think, I’m aging very slowly, like thirty years have elapsed for you and only one year has elapsed for me. So there’s this very strange but very real relativity of space and time in Einstein’s theory. So what Gödel did, he was able to construct a very unusual space-time, one which was rotating, which is not what our universe is doing, but just a hypothetical—imagine a universe, which is rotating in some specific way—and he was able to show that he could find specific observers in that world who could travel back in time. And this was really wild. Einstein did not want to accept this, either. Again, here comes Gödel, saying, actually, you can, in some very unusual circumstances, time travel. And so, there was a lot of battling about it, that maybe you could never build that space-time. And since then, there’s been a handful of space-times we can construct, where we can move back in time, where you can find a handful of observers who can move back in time. If you can move back in time, does that mean that the laws of physics are going to become absurd? So it becomes a kind of subtle and crazy business. SC: Did he not also come up with some ontological arguments on the existence of God? JL: I think many times in Gödel’s life, he was interested in spiritual things. One was the transmigration of the soul, one was this kind of platonic reality, the existence of this pure, mathematical reality. And another was proving the existence of God. And he did struggle with trying to write these proofs of the existence of God. I don’t think he ever got to a stage where he was particularly impressed with the outcome, and it seems that he had often kind of abandoned it. But later in his life, he did come back to it. And one of the things that bothered him so much—not just about the existence of God, but also about free will and the spirit and the soul—was this idea that he inspired that thought could kind of be mechanized, in a certain way. This is something that Alan Turing, the great British codebreaker who cracked the German Enigma code in World War II—it’s something that Alan Turing really brought forward. He said, “Actually, I can mechanize this whole process of thinking about mathematics,” and he was totally inspired by Gödel. He was using Gödel coding and was very influenced by his results. And he basically invents the idea of the computer in the process. I build a machine. The machine mechanistically goes through certain operations, given certain input. And it performs mathematical operations. It thinks. And Turing really believed he was going to build a machine that could think as well as a human being. And a lot of Gödel’s ideas get wrapped up in this. Now, Gödel could not argue with the correctness of Turing’s formalism and his mathematical proofs, but he was very disturbed by the idea that the human mind could be reduced to this mechanistic approach, even though he, himself, had sort of influenced this idea. And I think a lot of the trying to prove the existence of God was wrapped up in trying to reject Turing’s claim that we were reducible to machines. Turing went further, because he said, “Not only can I build a machine that thinks we are machines that think. That’s all we are, we are machines that think. We are made out of biological matter, but we are basically machines that follow this mechanistic process and think.” And he abandoned the idea of the soul, does the opposite. He was a religious kind of adolescent, who becomes a kind of materialist, in the sense of being a naturalist, while Gödel really rails against it. SC: Is anyone today working to further or bring a new dimension to Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem? JL: Gregory Chaitin is a great mathematician, incredibly clever guy, who just did, I think, beautiful things with Gödel’s and Turing’s ideas, and modernized it completely. And so there are probably people like Gregory Chaitin, out there, who are going to suddenly break through with some lovely new way of thinking about it. What Gregory Chaitin really did is, he started thinking about real numbers versus the kinds of numbers that we use every day. And what that means is—this is something that Turing also showed, inspired by Gödel—that there are an infinite number of numbers, about which we can know, essentially, nothing. They have an infinitely long sequence of digits and it’s a toss of the coin what those digits are, and every statement about them is sort of undecidable and unprovable, in the way that Gödel originally conceived. And Chaitin formalized these ideas in terms of computer science thinking and in terms of notions of complexity. And that was just brilliant. I think that that’s very advantageous, in a modern way of thinking about it. So for instance, I’ve been interested in this guy, Seth Lloyd at MIT, who’s been thinking about the universe as a computer, and thinking about the universe as processing, in its mechanistic way, that both Gödel and Turing thought about, of facts about the world. And so, you start to apply Chaitin’s thinking to that, to the universe as a computer system, where the laws of physics are like the software, the code, in some sense. And you can combine Gödel’s and Turing’s and Chaitin’s idea all in one. So I’m sure there are people out there doing these weird, little things, trying to figure things out. Connect it to quantum mechanics. But I don’t know of a global program. SC: Take a few moments, if you would, and tell us about Gödel’s life, specifically, the very, very tragic end to his life. JL: I had known about Gödel’s work for a long time. It’s just one of the things you know, that there are these incompleteness theorems. You go to graduate school in physics or mathematics, it’s just something that you learn. It was many, many years before I heard about how he died. I was having lunch with a friend, who tells me that he starved himself to death. And I just, I could not even believe the description of the story. He was so afraid of being poisoned, because he was really quite paranoid, that he refused to eat food, to the point of starving himself to death. It was like he had these two struggling desires; one to live and one to die. It was like he was simultaneously a hypochondriac and suicidal. And somehow he balanced his tension for seventy-some years. But he eventually died of self-starvation. It’s just shocking. And I became very interested in his life. Just who is this person? I think there’s something that moves me about physics and mathematics, which has to do with the objectivity, which has to do with the fact that it doesn’t matter who discovers something; it’s just true or not true. If it hadn’t been Gödel, it would have been somebody else. At the same time, there’s a harshness to that, which I just don’t think is honest. I think that it’s still a human endeavor. And it was Gödel, it was Einstein, it was Turing. And I think that we do long to know about those stories: those narratives are part of what we value and part of what we try to understand. And I became very interested in his personal story. He was a really unusual, extreme, totally extreme person. I think people want to imagine all mathematicians are like this, but this was an absolutely off scale, extreme person. He was a hypochondriac, constantly—even in mid-summer,-in layers of wool and clothes and coats. He didn’t talk to people for days. He would call the person in the office next to him, rather than look them in the eye, and speak to them, face-to-face. And yet, he was kind of charming. There was something sophisticated about him, and funny, and kind of charming, and he was liked. He had nervous breakdowns, probably several. It’s unclear how to document them, because he would often commit himself to these—I guess we would call them sanatoria, but they might have been health spa retreats, basically to recoup mentally and sometimes they were outright breakdowns, where doctors were saying that his mental condition was perilous. He left Princeton several times by boat to go back to Europe in a state of total hysteria and despair. And his wife, who was several years his senior, would kind of nurse him back to sanity and health because he was continually dropping to anorexic weights: 65 pounds, 85 pounds. I think when he died he was 65 pounds. And she would literally—she was kind of a more working class. People accused her of being a washerwoman in an unkind context. They were a little bit elitist towards her. And she would nurse him back to health. She would cook for him heavy, German fare and kind of spoon-feed him, literally morsel by morsel, until his weight was back up and he was more stable. Without her, it’s clear he would not have survived for as long as he did. But when he did die, it was because she had taken so ill that she couldn’t care for him. And she died shortly after. But when Adele was too ill to care for him, he was lost. And so, I think he’s a fascinating person, precisely because of the contrast. The great stories are the stories about the tragic hero, the hero in the sense of what makes them great is also their downfall. That is the combination that I think is so gripping—that it was his mental strength that made him extraordinary and that’s why we’re still talking about him today. And yet, that kind of intense devotion to logic also led him astray, led him away from reality, unable to brush some of the fuzzy things under the rug that we do every day about reality and what’s true and what’s not true. He just couldn’t. He couldn’t let go. And I wouldn’t say that it led him to be insane, exactly, because he still wasn’t illogical. It was a kind of consistent logic to the end. He wasn’t seeing purple elephants flying around the sky. It was consistent in its own strange way, and yet it just constantly led him in these two directions of living and dying, living and dying, until I just think it was all lost. SC: So, what prompted you to write a book about Turing and Gödel, and especially to write it as a novel? JL: I knew I wanted to write a fictionalized account. I tried not to. I tried to write non-fiction. I think there are some great books that describe the theorems, like Nagel and Newman’s book, which is not as well-known. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful approach to the ideas. And there are books on their biographies. I just couldn’t write this non-fiction book. It was missing everything. I think what I loved about the idea of writing fiction was the idea that you could structure the entire book on their theorems, in a sense. That there was a self-referential character, the way Gödel’s theorems were self-referential. That it toyed with the idea of what we could know to be true, and the limits of what we could ever know, both about mathematics and about their lives. That somehow all these things were based on the ancient Liar’s Paradox, and in the book the narrator is a self-professed liar, who’s trying, yet, to get to the truth. And all of those ideas I just thought were so much more complex, and that in fiction, and with overwhelming hyperbolic language, I could do more to create an impact of that idea, in the sense of that, the feeling that hits you in your solar plexus of what that means to know something’s true, but can’t prove it to be true. And to only be able to approach truth, and yet for it to be your obsession. But I could do that better in fiction than I could in non-fiction. And it was just really about a freedom of language and structure that I could have done it. And so, while it was my initial hope to write fiction, I tried not to. And I eventually realized that it was the only way the book could actually be written.

Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a se...

Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a set of axioms encompassing all of mathematics would never succeed, he revolutionized the world of mathematics, logic, and philosophy.
An Irishman, James R. Meyer, worked first as a veterinarian and, later, as an engineer. He became interested in what he sees as discrepancies in Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem and set out to investigate the flaws. His novel, The Shackles of Conviction, questions Gödel's widely accepted theorem.

Simply Charly: What prompted you to write a novel on Kurt Gödel and his Incompleteness Theorem? James R. Meyer: The idea of a novel began when I was working on Gödel's theorem when I was reading a lot, not just about the theorem, but articles about Gödel's life as well. I started to become intrigued when these articles portrayed Gödel as a stereotypical cold and impassive logician—because while he was working towards his famous theorem, he also managed to have two affairs with married women, one of whom he eventually married. So it seemed to me that there was more to Gödel than the conventional “cold fish” image. And the more I read, the more the facts about Gödel's life just didn't add up. One day the thought came to me—what if Gödel had suspected that there was something wrong with his proof of his famous theorem? And suddenly, everything clicked into place. Instead of a cardboard cutout character, I now saw Gödel as a genuinely human character, with human failings, human worries, and subjected both to the triumphs and disappointments of life. I saw a man trapped in a situation from which he could envisage no escape, a situation that made him ever more eccentric and which would eventually drive him to the brink of insanity. From that moment on, I knew I had to put this idea into words. And when I had discovered the real truth about Gödel's theorem, I couldn't resist the opportunity of putting my ideas about Kurt Gödel's life and his theorem together in a novel. SC: In your novel, The Shackles of Conviction, you make a compelling claim that Gödel's theorem is wrong despite its widespread acceptance by the mathematical and philosophical community. How did you arrive at this conclusion? JM: I first came across Gödel's proof of his theorem about twenty years ago when I was reading a popular book on curious mathematical ideas. From the description of the theorem as it was given in the book, I felt that there had to be something wrong—either with Gödel's theorem or the book's description of it. I started to study Gödel's actual proof, but I had to put it aside because it was taking up too much of my time. Then, about three years ago, quite by chance, I came across another book about Gödel's theorem, and I was hooked again, and this time I started to study it in depth. It didn't take me long to discover that Gödel's proof threw up logical contradictions. But it took me a lot longer to work out completely what was going on and to understand fully how these contradictions were coming from a fundamental flaw in Gödel's proof. Knowing what I know now when I look back, I find it hard to believe that it took me so long. But then I am consoled by the fact that if hundreds of logicians and mathematicians weren't able to see the flaw for seventy-five years, then it was always going to be difficult. SC: Your novel seems to be partly autobiographical as it mimics what you have demonstrated in real life, which is, that there is a fundamental flaw in Gödel's theorem. Would you say this is true? JM: Oh no, the novel isn't in any way autobiographical, although I'm sure that I've instilled something of myself into the main character of the book—or perhaps that should be how I would like people to imagine what sort of character I am! And, of course, the main character in the book is spurred on by the promise of an enormous sum of money as a reward—unfortunately, this wasn't the case for me! SC: Why did you choose the vehicle of fiction to tell this story than as a work of non-fiction? JM: There were several reasons. The main reason was that once I had the ideas about Kurt Gödel's life that would show him as a real human character, I knew I wanted to write a novel about it. That fitted in well with my discoveries about Gödel's theorem. There were other reasons, of course. I hoped that I could reach a wider audience in this way that I could ever hope to do with a non-fictional account. And it was always going to be a battle trying to get any paper published when it flies in the face of conventional mathematical wisdom. Before I had worked out exactly where the flaw was in Gödel's proof, I had already submitted a paper to several journals where I showed how Gödel's proof led to logical contradictions. These were all rejected on the basis that “lots of people have looked at Gödel's proof and found nothing wrong with it—therefore there is nothing wrong with it.” So I knew at that stage that trying to get a paper on the flaw published in a journal could take years, maybe decades, maybe never. I hope that the book shows that its creation was prompted not by a fleeting whimsy, but that this book has something important to say. I hope it can show people how to understand really how Gödel's proof works (or doesn't), without the need for any complicated mathematics. And maybe for some of those people, they will have the thrill of experiencing that special moment where you get a sudden flash of insight, and you say, “Oh my God, I see it now!” If I succeed in doing that, then the effort involved in writing the book will have been worthwhile. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Kurt Gödel Kurt Gödel[/caption] SC: On your website, you've published a paper that purports to show a comprehensive demonstration of the flaw in Gödel's proof of his Incompleteness Theorem. Has anyone challenged your claim? JM: Oh yes, lots of people have challenged it. But no one has come up with any logical reason for why what I have to say about Gödel's proof is wrong. I don't blame anyone for the knee-jerk reaction when they first hear of my paper and my book. There are a lot of cranks and crackpots out there who regularly claim that they have found an error in some area of mathematics, so it's not surprising that the first reaction is one of skepticism when Gödel's proof has been accepted as correct for seventy-five years. What I do get annoyed about is when people, logicians, and mathematicians included, are completely illogical in their responses to my discovery of a flaw in Gödel's proof. Some people take it upon themselves to show that my demonstration of a flaw in Gödel's proof is wrong, believing that it will be easy to find where I have “gone wrong.” And then, when they find that there is nothing wrong with it, they resort to some other tactic. For example, they may say that they know of another incompleteness proof, and say that they'll accept that Gödel's proof is wrong if I can find a flaw in that one—which is absurd, since if they won't accept my discovery of a flaw in Gödel's proof, they aren't likely to accept my demonstration of a flaw in any other proof. Or they say that my argument must be wrong because Gödel's proof is obviously correct—since if no one has found a flaw in it in seventy-five years, then there can't be a flaw in it! None of these responses show any appreciation that the only sure way to refute a logical argument is to show an error in it. Instead of pointing out an error in my argument, they simply resort to arguments that sidestep the real issue. One professor who is highly respected in the areas of logic, the foundations of mathematics, and computer science wrote:
“I did download your paper and have to say that you describe your arguments clearly, so that for those (essentially all logicians) who hold the validity of Gödel's argument, one could relatively easily point at a misunderstanding in your writing (as I believe there must be).”
He didn't point out any error in my paper, but he passed on my paper to a colleague who also could not find any error in my paper and who eventually conceded that: “Perhaps Gödel made a mistake in his proof. I don't know. I have not read his original (translated) proof in careful detail. I'm not here to defend Gödel's original proof … Even if Gödel's proof has an error in it, it would only be of historical interest.” That's just one example (by the way, the flaw in Gödel's proof isn't some sort of minor problem that can be overcome by rewriting a few lines of the proof. It's a fundamental flaw that can't be ignored and from which we can learn so much). So while one logician says it must be relatively easy to point at the alleged “misunderstanding” in my paper, no one has actually been able to do so. If I'm getting those sort to responses from people who are purportedly experts knowledgeable about Gödel's theorem, it's not surprising that it will take a while to overcome the resistance to the idea that there can be any problem with Gödel's proof. SC: If what you say is true of Gödel's proof, then why isn't it more widely known? After all, your paper would seem to pull the rug from under what has been regarded as the predominant pillar of thinking for the past 75 years. It would be catastrophic, don't you think? JM: I think you have to remember that the circle of mathematicians and logicians that are professionally employed and who work in detail on these areas is extremely small, and as such, it is a community in which a wrong move can spell disaster for a future career. And since the ones at the top have got where they are by adhering to the common core of acceptance, anyone who tries to go against the current will have a very hard time doing so. This isn't anything new. Battles to be recognized as the bearer of the most logical argument in areas of mathematics and logic have been going on like this for well over two hundred years. SC: Are any renegade mathematicians/logicians disputing the theorem of incompleteness, and if so, on what grounds? JM: The exact opposite is the case. No one disputes Gödel's theorem, but people insist that it has no philosophical impact, no bearing on how math should actually be done, and does not change the traditional formalist mathematical stance believing in static black-and-white absolute truth attained through logic and the axiomatic method. So now, in a reversal of fortune, it requires daring to claim that incompleteness is significant. (I myself am such a renegade.) So although there are many logicians of repute who are well aware of my demonstration of the flaw in Gödel's theorem, no one wants to be the first to admit it publicly. And although they privately believe that there is something wrong with Gödel's proof, they are too scared to damage their reputations by stepping out of line. They are scared that perhaps they have missed something and that maybe I am wrong, although they cannot see how that might be the case. It's a big problem. I know will take time. The problem is that, because Gödel's proof has been accepted as completely correct, proofs that are different but somewhat similar have been subject to little scrutiny and criticism. They have been accepted because they appear to fall in line with conventional thinking. And that has reinforced the viewpoint that Gödel's proof must be correct. I just wonder how long logicians will continue to insist that it must be easy to refute my argument at the same time as not doing so. Isn't it going to become more and more embarrassing as time passes? Eventually, people are going to have to accept what logic dictates, and that Gödel's proof is just the same as all other proofs. And that means that it gives a result that depends completely on all the assumptions and rules that are used to generate it. And if some of those assumptions and rules are not logically acceptable, then you cannot accept the result of the proof. Gödel's proof includes steps that have been accepted because they appear to be intuitively correct, but those intuitive assumptions turn out to be incorrect. And in a way that is very ironic, because so many philosophers have claimed that Gödel's result shows that intuition is in some way superior to formal reasoning—but Gödel's result is actually a result of faulty intuition. And will it be catastrophic? No, of course not. How could it ever be a catastrophe to discover something that pushes our understanding forward? That can't be a catastrophe, it is a learning experience. And in the case of Gödel's theorem, it shows that there is a fundamental error in the way that we think about certain things, and learning that can only be beneficial—it is an opportunity to learn how we can prevent similar errors in reasoning in the future. So rather than being catastrophic, I think the discovery will be of great benefit. People will be forced to rethink many deeply held convictions, and in many cases, these convictions will be found wanting. That can only be a good thing. (I myself am such a renegade.) When I started to work on Gödel's proof, I suspected that if I found the flaw in the proof, I would have learned something very important. And that has indeed been the case. The flaw in Gödel's proof teaches us fundamental things about logic and language that will be of great benefit to logic and mathematics. So it's not the fact that Gödel's proof has a flaw in it that is so important, but knowing how that flaw operates because that shows us how we can avoid similar problems in the future. SC: What exactly is Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem? JM: Before you can understand what Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem is, you have to have some idea of what a formal mathematical system is. And basically, a formal mathematical system consists of three things. First, there is a fully defined language, so that the alphabet of the language is fully determined, and there are definite rules that decide what are valid statements in that alphabet and what aren't. Secondly, there is a collection of fundamental statements in the language that aren't proven, but they are taken to be the fundamentally “true” statements of the language. These are called the axioms of the system. And thirdly, there are proof rules—rules that decide how a statement can be proven from one or more other statements in the language. So, once you have such a system, you have the basis for making a complete proof in that language. And what Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says is that it doesn't matter which formal mathematical language system you use, you can always come up with an actual statement about numbers in that formal language which cannot be proven to be true by that formal system, and nor can it be proven to be false (hence the name “incomplete”). That in itself may not sound particularly significant, nor very interesting. But it is not the claim of incompleteness in itself that makes Gödel's proof so interesting. The really intriguing thing about Gödel's proof is that it also purportedly “proves” that this actual statement about numbers is actually true. And it is this that has fascinated so many people, including myself—because Gödel's proof is itself expressed in a language, and it relies on certain assumptions. And if that language and those assumptions can prove this actual statement about numbers to be actually true, I have to ask, what is it about that language system that makes it capable of such things, when no fully defined mathematical language could do so? And when you come down to it, this is what demonstrates the paradoxical nature of Gödel's result—that for any formal system there is a formula which is unproven by the formal system but is provable by the language of Gödel's proof. And if Gödel's proof was actually correct, wouldn't that indicate that Gödel's proof could never be stated in a formal language? But on the other hand, if Gödel's proof is a logically coherent argument from given first principles, then, ultimately, should it not be possible to translate this logical argument into a precisely defined formal language? What I find so amazing is that logicians who have studied Gödel's proof seem to be content to set this question aside. They are content to sit back and simply say that Gödel's proof proves that formal languages can never prove all “true statements.” But when they do that they are saying in effect that ordinary language must be somehow superior to any formal language, since it can prove a statement of the formal system that the formal system cannot. Surely, I ask myself, any logician would want to understand why this is the case. SC: Can you summarize the essence of your argument that Gödel's proof contains a flaw? JM: Well, this follows on from the last question. The flaw arises from the very fact that Gödel's proof isn't expressed with the same strict precision of a fully defined mathematical language. The astonishing thing is that at the crucial point in Gödel's proof, the point where the flaw occurs, Gödel simply doesn't bother to give a fully detailed proof. All he does is suggest a rough outline of how you might do a detailed proof. Gödel justifies this by saying that this part of the proof doesn't need a detailed proof, that it's all intuitively obvious. But it's a fundamental principle in mathematics and logic that you can't replace a logical argument by intuition. Otherwise, there would be no need for any mathematical proof at all. Intuition is fine as the basis for the idea for a proof, but that intuition has to be backed up by a logical argument. And sometimes intuition is wrong—there have been several other cases in mathematics where this has been the case. And that is why the crucial part of Gödel's proof where he simply relies on intuition has to be looked at very carefully. If you go through Gödel's outline for a proof, you can indeed build a detailed proof that superficially appears to be completely logical, and which gives the same result as Gödel's intuitive outline. But if you examine it carefully, you see that it involves a confusion of language. Gödel's proof at the crucial point actually involves not two, but three separate languages. One is the language of the formal system, the second is another language that involves number relationships, and the third language is the language that talks about these two other languages. The error that Gödel makes is that he confuses the second language and the language that talks about that language. His intuitive outline refers to a statement that is actually a statement in that second mathematical number language, but Gödel makes the error of assuming that is a statement in the language that talks about that second language. And that's what is intrinsically wrong with Gödel's proof. It's not something that arises from the way that I have filled in the details of the proof. It means that the result that Gödel got hasn't arisen from any aspect of the formal system. It comes from the ambiguities inherent to the language that Gödel uses for his proof. By the way, I now have on my website a simplified explanation of Gödel's proof and the flaw in it that I have written to be easy to follow, but which includes the essentials of the proof. SC: What are the implications of your discovery? How do you think it will affect mathematics going forward? JM: I think it will eventually be accepted, more so perhaps by the incoming generation of mathematicians and logicians, rather than those who are inflexible in their fixed beliefs. In my mind, I see two possible scenarios, and I don't know which will prevail in the short term. On the one hand, I see the possibility of an exciting new future for mathematics, one that is firmly based on reason and logic and in which many beliefs of the past—those that have no basis in reason—are finally shrugged off as we move into a mathematical land free of such myths. You know, when I look at the whole field of scientific knowledge, I find it somewhat ironic that the area of mathematics and logic should be among the last of the scientific subjects to finally free themselves of myths, even though that area should be the most rigorous of all scientific subjects. The failure of logicians to see that Gödel's proof had to be wrong might be seen as an embarrassing failure. How could such a thing happen? Isn't it worrying that the crowd has followed blindly the decree that Gödel's proof must be correct? That must stimulate self-examination within the cozy world of mathematics and logic, one which may be uncomfortable for those who feel quite settled in that world. But it will have to come, and the result will be a better environment for new students to work in, a new environment in which everything must be subjected to rigorous logic, where nothing is taken for granted. And that is how it should be. The other possibility I see is that mathematicians will bury their heads in the sand and ignore any possibilities that their deeply cherished beliefs might be wrong. Currently, I see a problem because new ideas that do not conform to the accepted norm are rejected. There are so many submissions to journals that those who try to review such papers cannot possibly check every such submission in depth. The result is that papers that conform to the accepted norm are published, while those that do not are rejected—not because the reviewer can find anything wrong with the logical argument of the submission, but on the basis that “Your paper cannot be correct because it contradicts [ here you fill in some commonly accepted result].” The problem is that once a paper is published in a journal, that effectively makes it “correct.” It is rare for a published paper to be later found to be wrong. And that means that the reviewers who look at papers and who have to judge them are under great pressure not to make a mistake. They don’t dare to let through a paper that will later be found to be wrong. And the big problem is that this has become so ingrained that even short, simple submissions that can be easily examined are rejected on that basis. The end effect is that the journals will not publish anything that contradicts the status quo. And this may continue to be the case for some time. But I think eventually the cracks will become so big that they can no longer be ignored, even by those who push their heads in the sand as deeply as possible. SC: Mathematician Gregory Chaitin has said that "Gödel's incompleteness theorem is a reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity) of David Hilbert's traditional formalist view that math is based on logical reasoning and the axiomatic method." Do you think this still holds true after your discovery? JM: It was always the case, and it still is, that mathematics is considered to be something that is based on logical reasoning. I think my discovery will finally show the absurdity of the approach of Chaitin and similar people when they say that you can use informal, intuitive language that isn't fully defined to “prove” that a fully defined formal language is somehow “not as good” as this informal, intuitive language. Chaitin and others like him revel in producing paradoxes, and insist that such things are a fundamental part of all mathematics. They're not. They are indications that there is something wrong with the system of mathematics you are using. It does not mean that every mathematical system is in some way inherently paradoxical. SC: Some mathematicians feel that Gödel's theorem hasn't really affected how math should actually be done, and does not change the traditional formalist mathematical stance believing in static black-and-white absolute truth attained through logic and the axiomatic method. Do you think this is true? JM: That's pretty much the way I think of it—except that I think if the mathematical system that you use is to be able to say anything about the real world, then the axioms of that system have to be seen as actually applying to the real world (the axioms being the statements of the system that are the fundamental “true” statements of the system). There is a viewpoint is that modern mathematics is divided into two quite distinct sides, where one side is devoted to practical mathematics, such as mathematics for engineering, computing, physics, and so on, and another side which is not interested in whether their mathematics is based on reality, and which creates proofs that say nothing about the real world we live in. The problem is that in practice, there is no clear distinction between the two sides, so that we now have professors in computer science who, contrary to what you might expect, are deeply immersed in working with mathematical systems whose fundamental axioms are not based on any experience of the real world. The problem is that they don't make their students aware of this distinction. SC: What are you currently working on? JM: It's not easy finding the time to do all that I would like to do. I have to carry on with a life that has some semblance of normality. At the moment, when I do get the time, I am working a number of areas in the foundations of logic and mathematics. Some of them follow directly from my findings of how the flaw in Gödel's proof operates. I'm trying to bring them all together, and hopefully, I will eventually manage to get it all organized into a book on faulty reasoning in areas of logic and mathematics, which I think will be quite a revelation. I wish I could devote more time to the foundations of mathematics and logic. But unless some far-sighted benefactor is willing to sponsor me, what I can do is limited. But I will keep at it and get there in the end. Resources Kurt Gödel - On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems (English translation by Martin Hirzel) James R. Meyer - The Fundamental Flaw in Gödel's Proof of his Incompleteness Theorem

Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a se...

In any non-trivial axiomatic system," stated Austrian mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel (1906–1978), “there are true theorems which cannot be proven.” This finding forms the basis of Gödel's groundbreaking Incompleteness Theorem, demonstrating that the establishment of a set of axioms encompassing all of mathematics would never succeed. When it was first made public in 1931, the theorem revolutionized the field of mathematics and logic, disproving the prevailing belief that mathematics could be explained with the correct set of axioms.
Gregory Chaitin is at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York. He is the discoverer of the celebrated Omega number and has devoted his life to developing a complexity-based view of incompleteness. He calls this subject "algorithmic information theory," and has published eleven books and numerous papers, some of which may be found on his website.

Simply Charly: What is the difference between Gödel’s first and second incompleteness theorem?

Gregory Chaitin: Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem shows that no axiomatic theory can prove all mathematical truths while Godel’s second incompleteness theorem shows that a specific mathematical result is unprovable. A famous mathematician of the time, David Hilbert, had asked for a proof that an important axiomatic theory was consistent, and Gödel showed that such a proof could not be carried out within the axiomatic theory itself, and presumably could therefore not be established in a convincing way outside of the theory either.

At the time, Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem had the greatest impact because Hilbert had argued that a proof of consistency was an extremely important part of his so-called “formalist” program.

In my opinion, however, the second incompleteness theorem is now only of historical interest since Hilbert, and his formalist project are fading into history. What is still extremely shocking is Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem, since here we have logic and mathematics showing that logic and mathematics have serious limitations, surprisingly enough.

SC: David Hilbert believed that eventually all mathematical things would be defined. Gödel’s Theorem disproves that. Are there any other commonly held beliefs/theories that the incompleteness theorem puts into doubt?

GC: Incompleteness shows that mathematics, logic, and axiomatic reasoning do not furnish us with absolute truth. It shows that the truth is not totally black or white, not even in pure math, not even in the domain of pure reason. This is very difficult emotionally for mathematicians to accept.

SC: What were his peers’ reactions when Gödel’s discovery, dooming to failure the efforts of the world’s greatest mathematicians, was announced?

GC: The initial reaction was surprise and dismay, and a feeling that Godel had pulled the rug out from under mathematics. But human beings have wonderful psychological defense mechanisms. The crisis has passed, and the mathematical community now has forgotten about incompleteness. They continue to work as before and believe in absolute truth, logic, and the axiomatic method. They dismiss incompleteness as a theoretical possibility but having no impact in practice on the everyday work of mathematicians. They do not think incompleteness applies to “real” mathematics, but only in extremely artificial circumstances.

SC: Within the context of how mathematics was perceived at the time, what was the impact of Gödel’s work on other mathematicians of his era, and on science and philosophy in general?

GC: At that time, it seemed to destroy the conventional notion of what math is all about. It left the foundations of math in total disarray. Now, as I said, incompleteness is actually ignored, and everything proceeds as if Gödel had never existed. However, my own very controversial and very much a minority view, is that incompleteness shows that math and physics are not that different, that neither gives absolute truth. Following Imre Lakatos, I refer to this as a “quasi-empirical” view of mathematics.

SC: What are the implications of this discovery in the field of mathematics and logic?

GC: Gödel’s own belief was that in spite of his incompleteness theorem, there is, in fact, no limit to what mathematicians can achieve by using their intuition and creativity, instead of depending only on logic and the axiomatic method. He believed that any important mathematical question could eventually be settled, if necessary by adding new fundamental principles to math, that is, new axioms or postulates. This implies, however, that the concept of mathematical truth becomes something dynamic that evolves, that changes with time, as opposed to the traditional view that mathematical truth is static and eternal. Though this seemed like an obvious consequence of his work to Gödel himself, these ideas of Gödel’s about the meaning and the implications of his work were not accepted by the mathematical community. Still now, more than 75 years after Gödel published his incompleteness theorem, it remains controversial. My own view is that Godel uses logic to refute logic, and that Gödel’s incompleteness theorem is a reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity) of Hilbert’s traditional formalist view that math is based on logical reasoning and the axiomatic method.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Kurt Gödel Kurt Gödel[/caption]

SC: To what other areas outside of mathematics and logic (physics, theology, philosophy) did Gödel contribute?

GC: Gödel used Einstein’s theory of general relativity to construct a rotating universe in which the future and the past form a loop, arguing that this showed that time was an illusion. For more on this, see the book by Palle Yourgrau (listed below). In theology, Gödel gave a logical proof of the existence of God. There is a book in Italian presenting Gödel’s proof and discussing it (see the list of books below). Godel also did a considerable amount of work on philosophy, which is unfortunately generally ignored since it goes against the current zeitgeist, against the current spirit of the time. He is closest to the rationalist philosophy of the 17th-century philosopher and mathematician Leibniz. Gödel, the philosopher, is discussed in two excellent books, one in English by Rebecca Goldstein, and one in French by Pierre Cassou-Nogues (see below).

SC: Are any renegade mathematicians/logicians disputing the theorem of incompleteness, and if so, on what grounds?

GC: The exact opposite is the case. No one disputes Gödel’s theorem, but people insist that it has no philosophical impact, no bearing on how math should actually be done, and does not change the traditional formalist mathematical stance believing in static black-and-white absolute truth attained through logic and the axiomatic method. So now, in a reversal of fortune, it requires daring to claim that incompleteness is significant. (I am such a renegade.)

SC: Is anyone today working to further or bring a new dimension to the incompleteness theorem?

GC: The first such work was done by Alan Turing and Emil Post already in the 1930s and 1940s, who brought the computer into the discussion and showed that incompleteness was a corollary, an immediate consequence, of a much more fundamental difficulty, the existence of mathematical questions whose answers are uncomputable (and therefore also unprovable).

And a few people are still trying to digest Gödel. Two recent examples are given in books by Byers and by Bailey, et al. (see below). Byers argues about the important role of intuition, ambiguity, and paradox in mathematical creativity, and against formalism, logic, and the axiomatic method, which he claims to have a stultifying effect. Bailey et al. champion experimental math in which conjectures based on computer experiments are used to supplement traditional mathematical reasoning. In other words, they propose that sometimes it pays to treat math as an experimental science rather than as a traditional deductive discipline.

SC: Since the 19th century, mathematicians have been trying to construct a set of axioms that would include all of mathematics. Gödel proved that they would never succeed. Have we gained any knowledge/insight since then that could eventually lead mathematicians to construct such a set of axioms?

GC: Well, we know that such a set of axioms could never be complete. In other words, for math to progress, it would have to evolve, adding new concepts and new fundamental principles (axioms or postulates). In practice, however, most contemporary mathematicians seem to think that ZFC, the formal axiomatic version of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory using first-order logic, is adequate for all existing mathematics. ZFC is currently fashionable even though Godel’s incompleteness theorem applies to it just as much as to the axiomatic theory that Hilbert was interested in.

SC: By all accounts, Gödel and Albert Einstein were close friends, and they had many discussions during the walks they took together to and from the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. Do we know what they talked about, and also what each thought of the other’s work?

GC: Gödel and Einstein were respectively a mathematician and a physicist, but they shared an interest in philosophy and fundamental ideas, as well as a belief that the universe can be rationally comprehended. Neither believed in quantum randomness or contingent truths. Einstein late in life used to say that he no longer had much interest in his own work but went to the Institute mostly for the privilege of talking with Gödel.

SC: How does your own work relate to Gödel’s and what projects are you working on now?

GC: My work attempts to go further in the direction pioneered by Turing and Post. They deduce incompleteness from uncomputability, I deduce incompleteness by using arguments involving information, complexity, and randomness. In a nutshell, I argue that the world of pure math is infinitely complex, but any math theory only has finite complexity, hence incompleteness. And the best example of infinite complexity in pure math that I have been able to come up with are the bits in the base-two numerical value of the halting probability Omega, which shows that some math facts are true for no reason, they are true by accident. (For more on this, please see my two books cited below.)

Books for more information (all cited above) In English:

Rebecca Goldstein, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel. Palle Yourgrau, A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein. David Bailey et al., Experimental Mathematics in Action. William Byers, How Mathematicians Think. Gregory Chaitin, Meta Math!: The Quest for Omega. Gregory Chaitin, Thinking about Gödel and Turing: Essays on Complexity, 1970-2007.

In French:

Pierre Cassou-Nogues, Les demons de Gödel: Logique et folie (Gödel’s Demons: Logic and Madness).

In Italian:

Kurt Gödel, La prova matematica dell’esistenza di Dio (The mathematical proof of the existence of God) (edited and commented on by Gabriele Lolli and Piergiorgio Odifreddi).

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In any non-trivial axiomatic system,” stated Austrian mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel (1906–1978), “there are true theorems which cannot be proven.” This finding forms the basis o...

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (1856–1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, who was allegedly the first to offer a comprehensive explanation of how human behavior is determined by the conscious and unconscious forces, is regarded as the founder of psychoanalysis.
Along with the “talk therapy” that remains the staple of psychiatric treatment to this day, Freud popularized, among other notions, such concepts as the psychosexual stages of development; Oedipus complex; transference; dream symbolism; Ego, Id and Super-Ego; and the one that has become part of colloquial English more than any other psychiatric term—the Freudian slip.
An award-winning essayist, literary critic, book reviewer, commentator, and author, Frederick Crews is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent book is Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays (2006).

Simply Charly: In 1993, you wrote an extremely critical review, entitled "The Unknown Freud," in the pages of the New York Review of Books that ignited tremendous debate over the merits of Sigmund Freud's scientific standing. How did a literary critic like yourself get mixed up in this business of Freud-bashing? Frederick Crews: I must begin with a mild rebuke. “Freud-bashing” is the label automatically applied by Freudians to any criticism of Freud that seems to jeopardize the standing of their idol. Use of this cliché in most hands (not yours) partakes of the bad habit, cultivated by Freud himself, of changing the topic from the merits or demerits of his doctrine to the alleged psychological instability of his vicious critics. To cure yourself of ever using the term again, you might read my chapter, “Confessions of a Freud Basher,” in The Memory Wars: Freud’s Legacy in Dispute, 1995. And now to address your question: I was a Freudian critic of literature in the later 1960s. By 1970, however, I had developed too many reservations about the cogency of psychoanalytic theory to continue in that vein. A decade later I was prompted, by a wave of ingenuous Freudian enthusiasm in university humanities departments, to go public with a fundamental critique. Several further articles about the self-validating character of psychoanalytic discourse preceded the 1993 essay, which began as a simple book review but became a general argument about Freud’s empty pretensions, both theoretical and therapeutic. SC: More recently, just when everyone thought the controversy over Freud had dissipated, you reignited the debate in the very same pages that ignited the first debate in a two-part review on Freud's controversial use (or abuse) of cocaine. What brought you back into the ring? FC: First, I must stipulate that there has been a lively tradition of revisionist work on Freud dating back to 1970. The key names from that period are Henri F. Ellenberger, Frank Cioffi, and Paul Roazen, the last of whom never meant to demean psychoanalysis. But Roazen’s biographical researches had the effect of undermining what Ellenberger called “the psychoanalytic legend”—the fable of Freud’s single-handed discovery of the unconscious. Subsequent writings by Frank J. Sulloway, Adolf Grünbaum, Peter J. Swales, and Malcolm Macmillan, among others, advanced that process of disenchantment in different ways. I mention these milestones because it isn’t true I’ve started or even “reignited” anything in Freud studies, as they are apprehended by learned scholars. My work has been largely a running commentary, with explicit acknowledgment, on primary research done by others. It’s true, however, that the New York Review reaches a broad base of educated readers, many of whom were well disposed toward psychoanalysis without knowing much about it. Yes, I do seem to have affected that audience. Nevertheless, I don’t count myself among the historians and philosophers who have taught us why we should be wary of Freud’s claims. The New York Review recently asked me to review a book about Freud, the surgeon William Halsted, and cocaine, a drug that both had used in abundance for many years. I could hardly refuse, because I’ve been at work on a book-length examination of the pre-psychoanalytic Freud, and I could see that the work chosen for review was characterized by erroneous claims, ingratitude to key studies dating back to the early 1980s, and reiterated idealization of Freud as a great psychological pioneer. The book I reviewed does correctly allege that Freud’s use of cocaine was far more extensive than most people have realized. Because the author has swallowed “the psychoanalytic legend” whole, however, he feels obliged to maintain that Freud’s drug consumption exercised no effect on his scientific efforts. My review pointed out the resultant confusions and contradictions in the book, and I defended the thesis (proposed by Elizabeth Thornton in a much-derided but important work of 1983) that cocaine was of decisive importance in Freud’s intellectual development. SC: In the spring of 1884, Freud began experimenting with cocaine by consuming copious amounts of it and recording the drug’s physiological and psychological effects. Several months later, in June of that same year, he published a monograph on its various effects and uses. What was the upshot of this paper? And what was it about cocaine that so attracted Freud? FC: Freud’s official biographer Ernest Jones, whose privately expressed opinion was that the founder of psychoanalysis had taken more cocaine than was good for him, did openly state that the primary appeal of cocaine for Freud was erotic. In brief, it made him feel like a man. That was one reason he remained undissuaded by his several misadventures with the drug and by the storm of criticism that came his way when its addictive properties, which he had blithely dismissed, were widely recognized. As late as 1887, Freud was still publicly proclaiming that cocaine was harmless unless injected; and now he was denying flatly that he had recommended that procedure. But he had indeed done so; the published record is clear. Was he lying outright in 1887, or was his cocaine consumption warping his memory as well as his judgment? Questions like this are worth pursuing in depth, but it hasn’t been done. Freud’s 1884 essay “On Coca,” dashed off shortly after cocaine had first been brought to his notice, was a presumptuous document—not just a potted historical review from the Incas onward, but also a confident recommendation of various medical uses of the supposedly innocuous drug. The subjective, confessional, and overconfident manner of the article, at variance with all of Freud’s prior scientific papers, suggested that he was writing in a somewhat intoxicated state. This essay contained the first of several boasts that Freud had carried out (or, in some versions, merely witnessed) Europe’s first instance of successful morphine withdrawal via cocaine. But the treatment in question had already failed by the time Freud published his essay, and he had personally witnessed the patient’s collapse. SC: Freud’s evangelism and grandiose claims for cocaine led to tragic consequences for his friend and colleague Ernst Fleischl von Marxow. Can you describe the circumstances of Fleischl’s untimely death? FC: The brilliant physiologist and polymath Fleischl was Freud’s teacher in medical school and then his most admired friend. A mishap during an autopsy had left him with an infection that necessitated the amputation of a thumb and the subsequent onset of neuromas that produced incessant, unbearable pain. In those circumstances, Fleischl became a morphine addict, continuing to produce outstanding scientific work but contemplating suicide because he had no means of curing his addiction. When Freud read about the use of cocaine to help in morphine withdrawal, he immediately decided to apply this cure to Fleischl. He didn’t consider that the journal in which he had learned of such wondrous treatments was a house organ of the Parke, Davis pharmaceutical firm, drumming up sales for cocaine. Nor did he ask himself how Fleischl was supposed to manage his chronic pain without morphine. (Cocaine produces temporary euphoria, not lasting analgesia.) Freud’s letters to his fiancée show that his rush to cure Fleischl was largely motivated by his own desperate ambition to become sufficiently famous and prosperous to get married. Within days, Fleischl had been placed on a regimen of gradually replacing morphine with cocaine. In fact, however, he couldn’t do without the morphine; he very nearly died; and the net outcome was that he became a double addict. From May 1884 to June 1885, Freud watched his friend fall to pieces until at last, the insomniac Fleischl experienced delirium tremens, including hallucinations of insects crawling through his skin. Yet Freud, who was taking cocaine himself all this time and even lending some of it to Fleischl, never tried to arrest this second addiction. His mentor Josef Breuer did so with some success in June 1885; but later evidence suggests that Fleischl went back on cocaine as well as morphine, and eventually added the addictive drug chloral hydrate as well. He died in agony in 1891, having ceased to do meaningful scientific work when his double addiction took hold. Freud’s remorse over Fleischl’s suffering and death haunted his dreams, but even when he alluded to his guilt in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), he continued to misstate the extent of his responsibility. The whole episode constituted medical malpractice of the most egregious kind; but it was far from unique in a career that featured a great number of misdiagnoses and false claims of cure. Freud was an incompetent physician who had never wanted to be a practicing doctor in the first place. In addition, he was an unscrupulous habitual liar who would say anything that might advance his fortunes or get him out of a jam. SC: Did Fleischl’s death do anything to dampen Freud’s enthusiastic use of the drug? FC: As you see, Fleischl lived until 1891. We do know, from Freud’s 1885-86 letters to his fiancée, that he remained proud of his public association with cocaine after Fleischl’s June 1885 collapse; and the same letters show us that Freud repeatedly took cocaine to calm his social anxiety during a fellowship stay in Paris. Not coincidentally, that was when he first started having hallucinations involving “thought transference,” a paranormal phenomenon that he later declared to be a reality. Interestingly, Freud in Paris occasionally tells Martha Bernays that he is writing under the influence of cocaine; and when he says so, the voluble letters sometimes indulge in flights of megalomaniacal ambition, with fantasies of glorious victory or martyrdom. That is the mood that would eventually, in the mid-1890s, issue in psychoanalysis—a theory that was meant to revolutionize the world, establish Freud as having bested his (imaginary) enemies, and crown him as the peer of Copernicus and Darwin. The linkage of those fantasies with cocaine verges on the obvious. In the 1890s, Freud was taking cocaine by a more intoxicating means than before: painting his nostrils with the drug instead of consuming oral solutions of it. Thus the cocaine that got inhaled now bypassed the mitigating effect of his digestive system and went straight to his brain. “I need a lot of cocaine,” he wrote to his cocaine-using friend Wilhelm Fliess in 1895. That was the year of Studies on Hysteria, the book (jointly written with Breuer) that announced the psychoanalytic revelation—which, however, was still being continuously altered as Freud struggled with, and sought to disguise, his consistent therapeutic failure. SC: The case of Emma Eckstein became another embarrassing episode in Freud’s career. Did Freud's cocaine use play any part in it? FC: The Eckstein case was all about cocaine. Fliess’s favorite diagnosis, the “nasal reflex neurosis,” rested on the idea that the nose and the genitals are intimately associated and that problems with the latter, such as irregular menstrual periods, can be fixed by applying cocaine to the patient’s nose. Freud, who was literally in love with Fliess, and who was following Fliess’s medical advice by taking cocaine for his own headaches, stomachaches, heart palpitations, and nasal infections (!), subscribed to Fliess’s theory and applied it to his patients, one of whom was Emma Eckstein. Fliess believed that if applications of cocaine to the nose failed to halt a patient’s symptoms, he or she would have to submit to cauterization of the nose or, if that too failed, to outright surgical removal of a nasal bone. Freud accordingly called Fliess in from Berlin to Vienna to perform this last-resort operation on poor Eckstein. The procedure was horribly botched, leaving the now disfigured Eckstein hovering near death for months. The most interesting aspect of the case, however, is to be found in Freud’s letters to Fliess during the same period. This seems to have been the time of maximum cocaine use on Freud’s part. The letters waver between acknowledging Fliess’s responsibility and denying it, but they finally come down on the “psychoanalytic” side. Eckstein, Freud wrote, isn’t bleeding because you, Fliess, left a half meter of rotting iodoform gauze in the remains of her nasal cavity; no, she is bleeding as a means of attracting my own sympathy and love. Here was the very birth of psychoanalysis as a theory of mind over matter. As Thornton showed in 1983, this form of diagnosis, far from being a great innovation, was a reversion to the psychosomatic medical superstition of antiquity and the Middle Ages. SC: When and why did Freud stop using cocaine? FC: There are two likely dates, 1896 and 1899. The only evidence for the former is that in 1896 Freud wrote to Fliess that he was putting aside the “cocaine brush” for good. That letter, however, has to be read in the context of the death and funeral of Jacob Freud—an event that profoundly affected his son and that briefly turned him away from Fliess and toward the family memories (or “memories”) that would inform psychoanalytic theory. Subsequent letters clearly show that Freud soon returned to his infatuation with Fliess and continued to do his bidding--and Fliess’s main bidding was the medicinal application of cocaine. In 1899, Freud was continually tippling wine at a rate that alarmed his wife, who was now counting the empty bottles. That uncharacteristic behavior on Freud’s part can be interpreted as an attempted replacement of cocaine by alcohol. If he had truly rid himself of cocaine in 1896, it is unlikely that he would still have depended on a substitute drug in 1899. I therefore tentatively favor the latter date. But if this guess is correct, it means that Freud’s “masterpiece,” The Interpretation of Dreams, was written under the influence of cocaine. That hypothesis makes sense in a number of ways, such as the text’s outsized ambition, its self-contradictions, and its failure to deal earnestly with objections and rival possibilities for the meaning and function of dreams. SC: You’ve written that Freud’s cocaine use can be plausibly associated with his “tendency to draw premature conclusions, to engage in salesmanship for untested panaceas, to disregard the welfare of patients, and to cover his tracks when forced to retreat.” If you’re correct in your assertions, then these are pretty damning allegations of scientific malfeasance. What evidence do you adduce to support such statements? FC: The evidence is diffused through the entire vast record. If your question is meant personally and seriously, I recommend that you begin reading the revisionist literature, including recent contributions by Allen Esterson, Han Israëls, Robert Wilcocks, Jacques Bénesteau, and Michel Onfray. The picture that emerges from their studies is now largely conceded by scholars who, for their own reasons, remain sympathetic to the Freudian worldview. Thus the burden of proof has now shifted: How can a man with Freud's intellectual peculiarities and ethical limitations, and with a complete incapacity to devise cogent experiments or address objectively based criticisms, ever have made basic discoveries about the mind? The short answer is that he never did so. Psychoanalytic theory in his hands was self-promotion and bluffing. And it is very likely that his cocaine use played a major role in driving him to put aside the scientific standards he had learned from world-class mentors and to create a system of thought that was insulated from empirical review. Ultimately, the most important effect of cocaine on Freud was to encourage him to trust his errant intuitions instead of subjecting them to rigorous skepticism. SC: Why do you suppose that Freud's entangled episode with cocaine hasn't been more widely known or even addressed? FC: Psychoanalysis has been not just a theory and a practice but an activist movement, focused primarily on its own propagation and on the defeat of its detractors and apostates. The history of that movement has been one long cover-up of Freud’s actual deeds. Its two major instruments have been censorship and lies. Don’t take my word for it. Instead, read an extremely important new book, The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis, by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani. There you will find chapter and verse for the sordid record, including Freud’s retreat from accountability and the strenuous efforts of his followers, after World War II, to sequester key evidence from the public. SC: The late biologist Sir Peter B. Medawar famously stated that “psychoanalytic theory is the most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century. . . .” Do you agree? Why? FC: Medawar was exactly right. Read Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani, and you yourself will be obliged to agree.

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (1856–1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurol...

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, who was allegedly the first to offer a comprehensive explanation of how human behavior is determined by the conscious and unconscious forces, is regarded as the founder of psychoanalysis.

Along with the “talk therapy” that remains the staple of psychiatric treatment to this day, Freud popularized, among other notions, such concepts as the psychosexual stages of development; Oedipus complex; transference; dream symbolism; Ego, Id and Super-Ego; and the one that has become part of colloquial English more than any other psychiatric term – the Freudian slip.

Dr. Allan Schore is on the clinical faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and at the UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development. He is author of three seminal volumes, Affect Regulation and the Origin of the SelfAffect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self and Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self, as well as numerous articles and chapters.

Q: In a posthumously published work entitled Project for a Scientific Psychology, Freud tried to relate his psychological theory to neuroanatomy and physiology but abandoned the project altogether. Can you tell us why he chose not to develop this line of inquiry? A: In the summer of 1895, Sigmund Freud became obsessed with the idea of writing an article in which he would directly link the operations of the brain and the functions of the mind. This goal seemed to be within reach, as Freud, in the previous two decades, had worked as a practicing neurologist. During this period, he had published over 100 scientific works. These contributions, during the seminal "golden age" of neurology, culminated in 1891 in his volume On Aphasia. His ideas about this condition and the brain systems involved in language are still cited in today’s neurological literature. From 1893 to 1895, Freud transitioned from the brain to mind in his work with Breuer. In the spring of 1895, he had completed the final chapter on psychotherapy for Studies on Hysteria. It was in this very time period that Freud thought it was in his capacities to integrate his extensive knowledge of brain anatomy and physiology with his current experiences in psychology and psychopathology in order "to furnish a psychology which shall be a natural science." He referred to this ongoing work as "Psychology for Neurologists." Initially, Freud was confident and even elated that a solution was at hand. Breuer observed that Freud’s intellect during this time was "soaring at its highest.’’ By October, he finished the work in two notebooks totaling 100 pages. This short essay set forth, for the first time, many elemental constructs that would serve as the foundation, the bedrock of psychoanalytic theory. In this remarkable document, Freud introduced the concepts of primary and secondary processes; the principles of pleasure-unpleasure, constancy, and reality testing; the concepts of cathexis and identification; the theories of psychical regression and hallucination; the systems of perception, memory, unconscious and preconscious psychic activity; and the wish-fulfillment theory of dreams. It also contained the seeds of Freud’s developmental theory and a neurophysiological model of affect generation. To construct a systematic model of the functioning of the human mind in terms of its underlying neurobiological mechanisms, Freud had to deduce the existence of certain brain mechanisms that were not yet discovered. For example, he described the essential function of "contact barriers," yet Sherrington introduced the term "synapse" only two years after the "Project" was finished! And he referred to the critical activity of "secretory neurons" in the brainstem, yet the biogenic amines of the reticular core of the brain were not discovered until well into the 20th century. Within one month after finishing the Project, Freud’s enthusiasm totally collapsed, and he repudiated the work, and never wanted to see it again. After Freud’s death, it was finally published in 1950 under a title devised by Strachey, "Project for a Scientific Psychology." It is now thought that the ideas generated in this work, many of which were incorporated into the seventh chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams, represent the source pool from which he later developed the major concepts of his psychoanalytic model. And yet, according to Sulloway, Freud "never abandoned the assumption that psychoanalysis would someday come to terms with the neuro-physiological side of mental activity." Q: Along with Mark Solms, you’ve been credited with breathing new life into Freud’s theories with your research in the area of neuro-psychoanalysis. Can you tell us what neuro-psychoanalysis is and how are you bridging the gap between Freud’s subjective view of the mind and your objective analysis of the brain? A: In a 1997 article in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, I suggested that the time was right for a rapprochement between psychoanalysis and neuroscience. This rapprochement has allowed for the emergence of modern neuro-psychoanalysis and has returned to the seminal questions introduced in the Project that lie at the core of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis has been called the science of unconscious processes. Neuro-psychoanalysis is thus the branch of neuroscience that deals with the relationship between the mind, especially the unconscious mind, and the nervous systems. Notice I say the "nervous systems" and not "the brain," because the neuronal systems that rapidly process bodily-based information at levels beneath conscious awareness are located in both the central nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. During the 1990’s, one hundred years after the Project and the centennial of the birth of psychoanalysis, neuro-psychoanalysis experienced an intense revitalization. In 1994, I published Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self, exploring the neurobiological underpinnings of developmental and clinical psychoanalysis. In parallel, throughout this "decade of the brain," the investigative tools of neuroscience were greatly expanded—advances in neuro-imaging technologies greatly enhanced the study of brain/mind/body functions. And developmental psychology and emotion research were now producing experimental data research that were directly relevant to psychoanalysis. In 1997, Solms applied a neuro-psychoanalytic perspective to the problem of consciousness. Contemporary neuro-psychoanalysis is thus currently focusing on the essential problems that were defined at the dawn of psychoanalysis, including affect, motivation, attention, and consciousness. Furthermore, developmental neuro-psychoanalysis, the study of the early structural development of the human unconscious mind, is now inquiring into how object-relational experiences, embedded in the affective transactions of the mother-infant attachment relationship, are registered in the deep unconscious, and how they influence the development of the systems that dynamically process unconscious information for the rest of the lifespan. Knowledge of these developmental events offers us a chance to understand more deeply not just the contents of the dynamic unconscious, but its origin, structure, and dynamics. Other ongoing themes of my own work include the role of the right brain as the neurobiological substratum of Freud’s dynamic unconscious; the enduring effects of early relational trauma on the development of the right brain intrapsychic structure and the etiology of psycho-pathogenesis; the elaboration of psycho-neurobiological models of defensive projective identification and dissociation; the neuro-psychoanalysis of inter-subjective processes within the therapeutic alliance; and the mechanism of right brain-to-right brain affective transactions in transference-countertransference communications. These trends indicate that current knowledge in neuro-psychoanalysis must impact not only theoretical but also clinical psychoanalysis. The rapid advances in neuro-psychoanalysis suggest that we now know enough about subjectivity and psychic structure that any theory can no longer only address psychological functions. Rather, it must be psycho-neurobiological, consonant with what neuroscience is now informing us about internal structure as it exists in nature. As in its beginnings, neuro-psychoanalysis, which currently serves as a critical two-way interdisciplinary link to the other sciences, can potentially enrich both neurology, the study of the brain, and psychoanalysis, the study of the unconscious subjective mind.
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Q: Wouldn’t the very notion of bridging these two seemingly unrelated aspects commit you to a form of dualism? A: Initially, some clinicians who had a less than positive idea about the role of science in psychoanalysis were afraid that biological reductionism would not do justice to a deeper understanding of the complexity of the subjective mind. But my neuro-psychoanalytic studies have specifically focused on the brain/mind/body circuits involved in subjective functions. These subjective bodily-based processes are necessary for survival, and occur at speeds that are too fast for conscious reflection. A purely phenomenological approach is thus inadequate to assess what has been termed moment-to-moment "process," as opposed to verbal "content." Recent scientific models are now calling for a move from a reductionistic to a multilevel integrative analysis of any particular psychological phenomenon. Current theoretical models of development stress the need for studying this process simultaneously along several interrelated dimensions ranging from the biological through the social levels. This has led to the strong current trend towards interdisciplinary research. And neuroscientists now hold that only integration and not reduction can succeed in elucidating multidisciplinary problems. According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, the term "dualism" has two meanings. First, it refers to a theory that mind and matter exist as separate entities. Over the last 10 years, the limitation of this conception has been demonstrated both experimentally and clinically. Indeed in order to overcome the long-standing Cartesian split between mind and body within psychiatry and psychology, it was necessary to offer an experimentally testable, clinically heuristic model that could bridge biology and psychology. This integrated bio-psychosocial model is generating more effective diagnostic and treatment models of trauma and psychosomatic disorders, disturbances of both mind and body. The second meaning of dualism is a theory or system of thought which recognizes two independent principles. My work and others support the idea that "the brain" is actually a dual system of right and left hemispheres. A large body of research shows that right brain differs from the left in macrostructure, ultrastructure, physiology, neurochemistry, and behavior. These two cortical-subcortical systems process external and internal information in different ways. Each creates a coherent, utterly different and often incompatible version of the world, with competing priorities and values. I’ve offered a large body of data indicating what Freud called the conscious mind is located in the left, while the unconscious mind is in the right hemisphere. Neuroscience now demonstrates that the right hemisphere is dominant for subjective functions and self-integration. Q: Mark Solms has stated that Freud’s view of the inner workings of the mind, with all its faults, is still "the most highly articulated methodological and theoretical approach that we have...from a subjective point of view..." Do you agree and why? A: Absolutely. Over the last two decades, science has for the first time seriously explored an essential component of subjectivity, bodily-based emotional processes (hence, the current "emotional revolution"). But it has also rediscovered Freud’s unconscious. Neuroscience is now generating a large number of investigations into "implicit" non-conscious processes, including unconscious emotions. For over a century psychoanalysis has been documenting close up observations of this subjective realm. In a recent article in a conventional psychological journal, Perspectives in Psychological Science, the Yale psychologists Bargh and Morsella (2008) conclude, "Freud’s model of the unconscious as the primary guiding influence over everyday life, even today, is more specific and detailed than any to be found in contemporary cognitive or social psychology." Q: What, if any, neurophysiological states and processes subserve the unconscious states and processes, which are central to psychoanalytical theory? A: Over the last two decades, I’ve cited a large body of experimental studies and clinical observations, which indicate that the right brain ("the right mind") is the biological substrate of Freud’s unconscious. These studies shift Freud’s idea of the unconscious from the domain of repressed content to adaptive rapid non-conscious processes that occur beneath levels of awareness. They also describe a relational unconscious, whereby one unconscious communicates with another unconscious. The maturation of the early developing right brain occurs during the last trimester of pregnancy through the second year, and this maturation is dependent upon the nonverbal, implicit emotional attachment a child experiences with her mother. Over the course of the lifespan, the right hemisphere, the "emotional" or "social brain" is dominant for the following adaptive capacities: attachment functions; primary process cognition; recognition/expression of facial expressions; regulation of central and autonomic arousal; processing/storage of implicit/procedural memory; processing novelty, threat, and unexpected stimuli; regulation of the human stress response and cortisol release; sustained attention and impulse control; reception, expression, and communication of positive and negative affects and pain; and the control of vital functions supporting survival enabling an organism to cope actively and passively with stress. In addition, recent studies show that the right and not left brain is centrally involved in certain higher functions that are expressed in psychotherapy: inter-subjective processes, self-awareness, empathy, identification with others, self-related cognition, own body perception, autobiographical memories, humor, and implicit morality. Indeed, McGilchrist asserts that "The right hemisphere…has the most sophisticated and extensive, and quite possibly most lately evolved, representation in the prefrontal cortex, the most highly evolved part of the brain." Q: Have any theoretical psychologists produced better, or at least improved, working models, of some facets of Freud’s theory with which to explain the inner workings of the unconscious mind? A: Over his lifetime Freud continually updated his clinical and theoretical models. After his death, there was a tendency by some to imprint his models into stone. Indeed, most educated readers and even scientists equate psychoanalysis with Freud’s work in the first quarter of the last century. And yet, certain essential problems were left unsolved by Freud, and relegated to the realm of meta-psychology. His incomplete model of early development, his inability to adequately conceptualize the complexities of affect, his overlooking of the central role of the body in mental life, and his repudiation of real-life trauma, were all subsequently addressed by psychoanalytic theorists and researchers in the second half of the last century. Towards that end, Ferenczi and Anna Freud made early contributions to psychoanalytic conceptions of trauma. More complex theories of early development were offered by Spitz, Winnicott, Bowlby, and Erikson, and direct observational developmental studies were done by Mahler and Stern. This interest in early development is now being actively pursued in the research of Beebe, Tronick, and Fonagy. With respect to the clinical theory, the mechanism of unconscious communication was addressed by Klein, object relations theory was expanded by Fairbairn and Kernberg, the central role of empathy was articulated by Kohut, and the nature of the inter-subjective processes within the working alliance were elucidated by Sullivan and relational psychoanalysts such as Mitchell. There is currently a resurgence in Jung’s work, which is consonant with ongoing models that integrate mind and body. Interestingly, every early pioneer offered speculations about "internal psychic structure." Modern neuro-psychoanalysis is acting as an important force for integrating the various subspecialties of the field. In my work, I have discussed the concepts of not only Freud but also Klein, Bowlby, Kohut, Winnicott and Mahler in terms of contemporary neuroscience. Q: You’ve been described by one writer as the "American Bowlby" after John Bowlby, the British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, noted for his interest in child development and for his pioneering work in attachment theory. Can you tell us how your work relates to his? A: John Bowlby’s seminal work on attachment integrated psychoanalysis with behavioral biology. Bowlby presented his model in such a way that both a heuristic theoretical perspective and a testable experimental methodology could be created to observe, measure, and evaluate certain very specific mechanisms by which the early social environment interacts with the maturing organism in order to shape developmental processes. Bowlby argued that the collaborative knowledge bases of a spectrum of sciences would yield the most powerful models of both the nature of the fundamental processes that mediate the infant’s first attachment to another human being, and the essential psychobiological mechanisms by which these processes indelibly influence the development of the organism at later points of the life cycle. Over the last 40 years, attachment theory, an outgrowth of Freud’s psychoanalysis and Darwin’s biology, has expanded tremendously, and now offers the most comprehensive theory of early development available to science. In three seminal volumes, Bowlby described how the attachment bond is mediated by bodily-based nonverbal, affective communication between infant and caregiver. He even speculated about the brain mechanisms involved in attachment, what he termed a biological control system that is centrally involved in instinctive behavior. And he hinted at the neurobiological operations of this control system—its functions must be associated with the organism’s "state of arousal" that results from the critical operations of the reticular formation, and with "the appraisal of organismic states and situations of the midbrain nuclei and limbic system." He even offered a speculation about its anatomical location - the prefrontal lobes. Furthermore, this control system, he says, is "open in some degree to influence by the environment in which development occurs." In my 1994 book and in subsequent writings, I have identified the attachment control system specifically in the orbital (ventromedial) prefrontal cortex and its subcortical connections in the early maturing right hemisphere. My work thus returns to a bio-psychosocial perspective that ties together the biological and psychological realms. Integrating developmental psychological and neuroscience data, I have suggested that the emotional transactions embedded in rapid, non-conscious nonverbal attachment communications facilitate the experience-dependent maturation of the right hemisphere. My studies also identify Bowlby’s internal working models of attachment as strategies of affect regulation imprinted in right brain’s implicit procedural memory. More recently I’ve expanded Bowlby’s theorizing on the role of attachment disturbances in psycho-pathogenesis by offering models of the psycho-neurobiological mechanisms by which early relational trauma (abuse and neglect) alters the developmental trajectory of the right brain over the lifespan, and provides a predisposition for a number of psychiatric psychopathologies and personality disorders. And I’ve written about the central role of attachment dynamics in the psychotherapeutic patient-therapist relationship. Q: You’ve drawn much insight from disparate fields such as biology, psychology, neuroscience, etc. How have these disciplines impinged on your work? Can you cite some specific examples? A: My early training in clinical psychology and neuropsychology, my lifelong career as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, my studies in various biological sciences, my interest in early development, and explorations of my own subjectivity, have all been sources of my theories. Over the course of my writings, I’ve focused on the central role of affect and affect regulation. This emphasis on non-conscious emotional processes in the development of the self has resulted in an interest in adaptive and maladaptive right brain/mind/body processes, and, in turn, on the integration of the psychological, biological, and psychiatric disciplines. Being on the editorial board and/or a reviewer of 35 scientific and clinical journals has allowed me to incorporate and impact the ongoing data from a variety of different disciplines. And it has acted as a vehicle to influence the direction of research, as well as to formulate more complex clinical models. Over the course of my career, I continue to offer theoretical models of normal and abnormal development. But I’m now also actively engaged in fMRI research on development, and evoked response studies of borderline personality disorder. My interdisciplinary perspective has allowed me to not only expose scientists to complex clinical phenomena, but also to bring the rapid advances in various sciences to clinicians. This bio-psychosocial perspective attempts to bridge biological psychiatry and psychodynamic psychiatry, in, for example, applying current physiological and neuro-chemical data from stress research to clinical models of the treatment of relational trauma. In updated models of defenses, I’ve suggested a shift in emphasis away from repression to early forming dissociation, an accompaniment to all forms of relational trauma. Incorporating data on the role of the right brain ("right mind") in implicit nonverbal communication, I’ve suggested that psychotherapy is not so much the talking cure as the affect communicating cure. My ideas on attachment have been incorporated into programs of early interventions directed towards optimizing ongoing brain development. And my integration of attachment theory into behavioral biology is expressed in my work on trauma in wild elephants. Q: What are some of the biggest challenges facing your field of inquiry today? A: In 2009, I was invited to present a plenary address to the American Psychological Association, "The paradigm shift: the right brain and the relational unconscious." In the 1960s and 70s, psychology was dominated by a behavioral model. This transformed into a cognitive model in the 80s and 90s. At present, we are in an era where affect and psychobiological processes are taking center stage. My colleague in affective neuroscience, Jaak Panksepp, has argued, "The cognitive revolution, like radical neuro-behaviorism, intentionally sought to put emotions out of sight and out of mind. Now cognitive science must re-learn that ancient emotional systems have a power that is quite independent of neocortical cognitive processes." Richard Ryan, the editor of the journal Motivation and Emotion, points out, "After three decades of the dominance of cognitive approaches, motivational and emotional processes have roared back into the limelight." The clash between conscious cognition and unconscious affect is playing out in contrasts and tensions between cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy. A recent review article in the American Psychologist by Shedler (2009) demonstrates "Effect sizes for psychodynamic therapy are as large as those reported for other therapies that have been actively promoted as ’"empirically supported’" and ’evidence based.’" Indeed, research indicates the superiority of psychoanalytic treatment in maintaining therapeutic gains and improvements after treatment. Shedler concludes, "Blanket assertions that psychodynamic approaches lack scientific support are no longer defensible." The bias against the centrality of unconscious processes in human behavior is the same today as it was in Freud’s time. Similar to this bias is the devaluation of emotional processes and the right hemisphere. Over the last two decades, I’ve argued that the right and not left hemisphere is dominant in the human experience. Supporting this and countering the current overvaluation of the verbal, conscious, and analytical left brain, McGilchrist (2009) concludes, "The left hemisphere is detail oriented, prefers mechanisms to living things, and is biased to self-interest, The right has greater breadth, flexibility, and generosity. The left is the emissary of the right, which is its master. The emissary, however, is willful, believes itself superior, and sometimes betrays the master, bringing harm to the both." This warning is especially important for our current cultural milieu, which overvalues conscious verbal and behavioral processes in research, mental health training programs, and education. Neuro-psychoanalysis and the other sciences are currently making remarkable advances in our understanding of this right-lateralized "social," "emotional" brain-mind-body system. We now need to devote our financial, political, and cultural resources towards pragmatically applying this essential knowledge in order to improve the human condition. References Bargh, J.A., & Morsella, E. (2008). The unconscious mind. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 73-79. Freud, S. (1895). Project for a scientific psychology. Standard Edition 1, 295-397. ------------ (1900). The interpretation of dreams. Standard Edition 4/5. McGilchrist, I. (2010). The master and his emissary. The divided brain and the making of the western world. Yale University Press, New Haven. Ryan, R. (2007). Motivation and emotion: A new look and approach for two reemerging fields. Motivation and Emotion, 31, 1-3. Bradshaw, G., & Schore, A.N. (2007). How elephants are opening doors: developmental neuroethology, attachment and social context. Ethology, 113, 426-436. Schore, A.N. (1994). Affect regulation and the origin of the self. Mahweh NJ: Erlbaum. ------------(1997). A century after Freud’s Project: Is a rapprochement between psychoanalysis and neurobiology at hand? Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45, 841-867. ------------(2000). Attachment and the regulation of the right brain: a fundamental mechanism of traumatic attachment and the psychopathogenesis of posttraumatic stress disorder. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36, 9-30. ------------(2002). Attachment and the regulation of the right brain. Attachment and Human Development, 2, 23-47. ------------(2003a). Affect regulation and the repair of the self. New York: W.W. Norton. ------------(2003b). Affect dysregulation and disorders of the self. New York: W.W. Norton. ------------(2005). Attachment, affect regulation and the developing right brain: linking developmental neuroscience to pediatrics. Pediatrics in Review, 26, 204-217. ------------(2009). Relational trauma and the developing right brain. An interface of psychoanalytic self psychology and neuroscience. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1159, 189-203. Shedler, J. (2010). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 65, 98-109.

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian ...

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (1856–1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, who was allegedly the first to offer a comprehensive explanation of how human behavior is determined by the conscious and unconscious forces, is regarded as the founder of psychoanalysis.
Along with the “talk therapy” that remains the staple of psychiatric treatment to this day, Freud popularized, among other notions, such concepts as the psychosexual stages of development; Oedipus complex; transference; dream symbolism; Ego, Id and Super-Ego; and the one that has become part of colloquial English more than any other psychiatric term—the Freudian slip.
Adolf Grünbaum is the Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy of Science, Primary Research Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Research Professor of Psychiatry, and Chairman of the Center for Philosophy of Science, all at the University of Pittsburgh. His 12 books include Philosophical Problems of Space and Time, Modern Science and Zeno’s Paradoxes, and The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique. He has contributed some 400 articles to anthologies and to philosophical and scientific periodicals.

Simply Charly: Your book The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique has been at the center of much debate over the philosophical standing of psychoanalysis since its publication in 1984. Can you briefly explain its main bone of contention? Adolf Grünbaum: Freud and his followers rely primarily on the productions of patients in analytic treatment as evidence for their theoretical edifice. And psychoanalytic theory is replete with causal hypotheses purporting to explain normal and abnormal human conduct. But their clinical evidence does not provide cogent observational support for these core hypotheses, thus leaving their support remarkably weak. This is the skeptical upshot of my Foundations book. SC: You attack Freud on many fronts in your book, but you aren’t willing to discard Freud’s theories into the dustbin of history as a pseudo-science, as others have. Why the ambivalence? AG: The demarcation between science and pseudo-science is notoriously vague and fuzzy. Thus, in the essay “The Demise of the Demarcation Problem,” Larry Laudan wrote: “From Plato to Popper, philosophers have sought to identify those epistemic features which mark off science from other sorts of belief and activity. Nonetheless, it seems pretty clear that philosophy has largely failed to deliver the relevant goods” (p. 111 in R.S. Cohen & L. Laudan (eds.) Physics, Philosophy, and Psychoanalysis: Essays in Honor of Adolf Grünbaum, vol. 76 of Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Boston, 1983). For just such reasons, I have refrained from using the label “pseudo-science” to render my doubts concerning the Freudian corpus. SC: You have said that you were first drawn to the work of Freud by your “systematic critical scrutiny of Karl Popper’s very influential philosophy of science...” Can you briefly tell us how one led to the other? AG: Popper elevated the falsifiability of a hypothesis to being the necessary and sufficient condition of its scientific status. But that criterion is much too broad because it licenses ludicrous propositions like “The moon is made of green cheese” to qualify as “scientific” by being falsifiable. Moreover, Popper erroneously indicted Freudian psychoanalytic theory as unfalsifiable, although it is demonstrably falsifiable. SC: You argue that no evidence can be adduced to support Freud’s doctrines from just the clinical data that are produced from the couch during the “psychoanalytic hour” because they are so hopelessly “contaminated” (by the power of suggestion, for example). So what, if any, data can be adduced to support Freud’s doctrines? AG: Certainly, proponents of psychoanalysis have hoped for experimental and other extra-clinical evidence in support of their theory. But the actual findings in that area have been rather sparse. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud[/caption] SC: Philosopher Thomas Nagel and others have asserted that psychoanalytic claims should not be judged as scientific claims? Rather, they are extensions of our ordinary understanding of the mind, our commonsense, or folk psychology. Do you find any merit in this view? AG: I do not think that psychoanalytic claims can be made credible, as Thomas Nagel maintains, qua “extensions” of everyday, commonsense psychology. That is shown by the fact that ordinary people often find explanations based on forbidden unconscious motivations so implausible. SC: Philosopher Frank Cioffi has taken you to task over your criteria for assessing Freud’s theories, stating in his own interview that “the testability of a theory cannot serve as a demonstration that it is not pseudo-scientific. If it could, then sun-sign astrology which is for many the paradigm of a pseudoscience—and which Popper proffers as an example of a pseudoscience—would have to be denied that status for it certainly is open to empirical assessment and has even been declared falsified.” How do you respond to this? AG: In dealing with my views, Cioffi erects straw men for easy demolition. Unlike Popper, I never claimed that falsifiability is sufficient for scientificity because I was all too aware that the assertion “the moon is made of green cheese,” though patently falsifiable, is not part of the body of science. To my mind, the pertinent question is whether psychoanalytic theory is well supported by pertinent empirical evidence, NOT whether it qualifies as a “science.” Intellectual respectability is purchased, I think, by the availability of cogent supporting evidence, NOT by an (unsuccessful) attempt at demarcation. SC: When Freud posits the notion of “The Unconscious,” what is he referring to? T.R. Miles has argued that the term “The Unconscious” doesn’t refer to anything at all. What it refers to is, in principle, unobservable. Therefore, the term should be eliminated. Do you agree? AG: As in a venerable tradition going back to Plato’s dialogue The Meno, well narrated in Henri Ellenberger’s classic 1970 book The Discovery of the Unconscious, Freud regards unconscious mentation as a major feature of the human mind. T. R. Miles is gravely mistaken: The elementary particles of the physicist are theoretically hypothesized entities, and so are the unconscious processes of the psychologist. None are directly observable objects. And the noun “The Unconscious” is postulated to be a systemic compartment of the human mind. SC: Philosopher Colin McGinn has argued, like Sartre before him, that Freud’s notion of repression rests on a contradiction and, therefore, is incoherent. He states: “...repression is precisely what is supposed to give rise to the unconscious. There is no Freudian unconscious without repression, but repression entails consciousness, so the concept is contradictory.” (Freud Under Analysis, The New York Review of Books, Volume 46, Number 17 - November 4, 1999). Do you agree? AG: Those who claim a contradiction in the notion of coexisting Unconscious and Conscious Systems have not demonstrated any inconsistency. A clear explanation of that coexistence, understandable to undergraduates, is given in Raymond E. Fancher’s textbook Psychoanalytic Psychology under the rubric of "Freud’s Final Model of the Mind" (ch.7) SC: Some critics have argued that your reading of Freud is excessively narrow in that you overestimate Freud’s reliance on cures to guarantee his ideas when he derived much from nonclinical phenomena such as dreams, slips, jokes, fairy tales, and works of art. Freud’s faith in his ideas, they argue, never wavered even when cures failed to materialize. What is your response? AG: These critics oddly overlook that, in my books on psychoanalysis, major attention is devoted to Freud’s dream theory, to his ideas on the causation of mental disorders, and to his theory of psychosexual development as well as to his psychology of religion. My treatment of psychoanalysis reflects my awareness of Freud’s 1927 dictum “I only want to feel assured that the therapy will not destroy the science.”

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (1856–1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurol...

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (May 6, 1856–September 23, 1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, who was allegedly the first to offer a comprehensive explanation of how human behavior is determined by the conscious and unconscious forces, is regarded as the founder of psychoanalysis.
Along with the “talk therapy” that remains the staple of psychiatric treatment to this day, Freud popularized, among other notions, such concepts as the psychosexual stages of development; Oedipus complex; transference; dream symbolism; Ego, Id, and Super-Ego; and the one that has become part of the colloquial English more than any other psychiatric term—the Freudian slip.
Allen Esterson was Lecturer in mathematics and physics at Southwark College, London, until his retirement in 1994. He is the author of Seductive Mirage: An Exploration of the Work of Sigmund Freud(1993), and has published articles on Freud in History of the Human SciencesHistory of PsychiatryHistory of Psychology, and The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. He is also the author of two major entries in The Freud EncyclopediaTheory, Therapy, and Culture (2002) and of the Freud entry in The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (2007).

Simply Charly: You’ve written a fair amount on Freud’s seduction theory. Can you briefly describe what it is? Allen Esterson: Well, there are actually two versions. One is the traditional version, based on Freud’s later accounts of an episode from his early psychoanalytic career. It says that as a result of numerous reports from his female patients that they had been sexually abused by their father in childhood, Freud postulated that hysterical symptoms in adulthood were caused by childhood sexual abuse. However, the original 1896 seduction theory papers show that Freud postulated that the precondition for hysteria was an unconscious memory of sexual excitation in infancy. (As Peter Swales has pointed out, the theory should be more accurately described as the "sexual molestation theory.") In addition, Freud also postulated that for cases of obsessional neurosis, as well as repressed memories of passive infantile sexual experiences, there would have to have been repressed memories of active sexual experiences around the age of eight (for example, the boy in question had supposedly sexually molested a younger sister). SC: Jeffrey Masson’s book "The Assault on Truth" argued that Freud intentionally suppressed evidence that his patients were victims of sexual abuse. Yet, you issued a correction to his account by stating that "Masson’s version of events is erroneous." How so? AE: To fully understand the situation one must go back a few years before Masson’s book was published in 1984. During the 1970s, some feminists in the United States became involved with the issue of the sexual abuse of female children. Dismayed by the then current psychoanalytic view that many such allegations made by adult women in therapy were fantasies, one or two academic feminists traced the origins of this view to Freud’s later accounts of the seduction theory episode:
"In the period in which the main interest was directed to discovering infantile traumas, almost all my women patients told me that they had been seduced by their father. I was driven to recognize in the end that these reports were untrue and so came to understand that hysterical symptoms are derived from fantasies and not from real occurrences." (Freud, 1933)
Using quotations from Freud’s 1896 seduction theory papers that appeared to support their argument, and showing little understanding of Freud’s clinical techniques at that time, some feminist authors now asserted that the female patients in question had indeed been sexually abused by their father, and that Freud had retreated from his clinical claims because he was unable to face up to the notion that fathers sometimes abused their daughters. Following up an independent interest in childhood sexual abuse, Jeffrey Masson, in his capacity as Projects Director of the Freud Archives, also became convinced that Freud’s original claims in 1896 were true, and held that the reason for Freud’s repudiation of the seduction theory was his failure of courage in the face of opposition to his contentions from his medical colleagues. In fact, a correction to Masson’s account had already been articulated in a then little-known article by Frank Cioffi ("Was Freud a Liar?") published a decade earlier. There were no reports of childhood sexual abuse from the patients in question; rather, Freud used his newly-developed technique of analytic interpretation to "reconstruct" supposed infantile experiences which he had convinced himself were deeply buried in his patients’ unconscious minds, and used a coercive clinical procedure to try to induce them to "reproduce" the purported "sexual scenes": "Before they come for analysis the patients know nothing about these scenes... Only the strongest compulsion of the treatment can induce them to embark on a reproduction of them," Freud wrote in 1896. Moreover, "they have no feeling of remembering the scenes" and assured Freud "emphatically of their unbelief." Explaining his analytic methodology, Freud stated: "It is exactly like putting together a child’s picture puzzle; after many attempts, we become absolutely convinced which piece belongs in the empty gap..." Among the numerous erroneous elements in Masson’s account of the episode are the following: He did not register that Freud’s retrospective accounts of the episode changed each time he reported it (in accord with his current theoretical requirements), thereby failing to recognize that the final account (the traditional story quoted above) was suspect, and that, more generally, Freud’s accounts of his early psychoanalytic experiences were highly unreliable, something that Henri Ellenberger (1970) and Frank Sulloway (1979) had already amply demonstrated. Additionally, he failed to grasp the nature of Freud’s clinical procedures at that time, though they were expressed clearly enough in Studies on Hysteria (1895), as well as in "The Aetiology of Hysteria" (1896). He credulously treated Freud’s imaginative analytic reconstructions (based largely on the symbolic interpretation of symptoms) of patients’ supposed infantile events as authentic reports of what the patients had told him; credulously accepted anything that Freud wrote about the reception to his theory, disregarding the highly subjective, not to say self-serving, nature of the words in question, thereby treating Freud’s distorted views as if they constituted accurate history. Further, he provided a grossly misleading account of the contemporary reactions to Freud’s "Aetiology of Hysteria" paper; proposed a motivation for Freud’s repudiation of his theory that is demonstrably erroneous; gave an erroneous account of the prehistory of the seduction theory, thereby disregarding the fact that, prior to Freud’s announcement of the theory in a letter to Wilhelm Fliess in October 1895, he had not reported a single case of sexual abuse in infancy, yet only four months later he completed the first seduction theory papers in which he claimed that he had uncovered repressed memories of sexual abuse in infancy for every single one of his current patients. Moreover, he failed to note that in the "Aetiology" paper one-third of the patients were men, that the supposed culprits covered a wide range of categories, and that fathers were not mentioned among these; and failed to record Freud’s highly improbable claim that for all six obsessional patients he had not only uncovered repressed memories of passive sexual abuse in infancy, but also repressed memories of active sexual abuse incidents around the age of eight, conveniently in full accord with his theory. In short, Masson’s account was tendentiously selective and misleading, most notably in his quotations from the "Aetiology" paper which he reported in such a way as to provide a very plausible story for those readers (almost everyone at the time) who were unaware of the true nature of Freud’s clinical claims. I should add that in his Afterword to the 2003 edition of The Assault on Truth Masson purports to answer his non-psychoanalytic critics. However, he fails to address many of the challenges to his thesis (as expounded above), and those he does consider are often expressed in his own terms rather than in those of his more knowledgeable critics, enabling him to come up with a plausible-sounding response. It would take an essay to detail the fallacies in Masson’s defence of his thesis, but it is worth noting that he writes that "Freud had a theory about incest," thereby demonstrating that he hasn’t even grasped what the seduction theory was about: he has failed to register that the identity of the putative abuser was of no consequence, that an essential part of the theory (and the 1896 clinical claims) was that the patients had no memory of the supposed sexual molestations and that these incidents had to have occurred in infancy. Masson’s credulity towards Freud’s subjective opinions and rhetorical gestures knows no bounds, as if Freud’s unreliability, and indeed deviousness, had not repeatedly been demonstrated in the literature of recent decades. For instance, he quotes Freud’s demonstrably false 1933 account of the episode (see above) and asks, "Could anything be clearer?" On the equally demonstrable contention that Freud was endeavoring to validate a preconceived theory, his rebuttal is on the grounds that first, Freud twice said he had no such preconception, and second, that Freud said he had a personal disinclination for the notion! Indeed such is Masson’s extraordinary credulity in quoting Freud’s words both in his 1984 book and in his 2003 Afterword that one gains the impression that the critical examinations of Freud’s historical writings in recent times that have exposed their self-serving nature, and more generally the laying bare of Freud’s rhetorical techniques, have completely passed him by. References: Esterson, A. (1998). "Jeffrey Masson and Freud’s seduction theory: a new fable based on old myths." History of the Human Sciences, 11 (1): 1-21. Esterson, A. (1998). "Addendum: Masson’s Account of the Prehistory of the Seduction Theory." Esterson, A. (2002). "The myth of Freud’s ostracism by the medical community in 1896-1905: Jeffrey Masson’s assault on truth." History of Psychology, 5 (2): 115-134. SC: In 1993, literary critic, Frederick Crews reviewed several books on Freud for the New York Review of Books, one of which was yours, Seductive Mirage. That review set off an incendiary debate on the merits of Freud’s theories and methods that has come to be characterized as the Freud Wars. One of the biggest battles waged in this war has centered on the notion of Freud’s false memories and the Recovered Memory Movement. Can you briefly explain this dispute? AE: Inherent in the question are two (related) issues that concerning Freud’s false memories (or tendentious misrepresentations—it is often difficult to disentangle one from the other) of what actually happened with his patients in the mid-1890s, and the supposed false memories of his seduction theory patients. It is regarding the latter that the "battle" has raged. The traditional psychoanalytic story has always been that Freud soon came to realize that many of the seduction theory patients’ reports of childhood sexual abuse were fantasies, or in current parlance, false memories. However, this view involves a misconception about the nature of Freud’s original clinical claims and the theory they supposedly vindicated. On the basis of this misconception, feminists concerned with women in psychotherapy represented the episode as a kind of prototype for the Recovered Memory Movement (RMM). Freud had been right originally, they argued, when he believed the (purported) reports of paternal childhood sexual abuse. We must take our cue from this, the argument went, and recognize that just as Freud found many instances of childhood sexual abuse among his patients at that time, we have to appreciate just how widespread the sexual abuse of female children (especially by their father) is today. In effect, feminist-inspired therapists saw Freud’s 1896 theory of hysteria (as they understood it) as essentially correct, and became convinced that the task of the therapist was to uncover memories of sexual abuse using various techniques to facilitate their recovery. One of the fruits of this development was the "bible" of the RMM, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (1988), by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. Bass and Davis propounded the view that almost any somatic or behavioral symptom could well indicate forgotten childhood sexual abuse, and this became a commonplace view among recovered memory therapists, i.e., therapists who saw as their main task the uncovering of early abuse experiences. Tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands of women in the United States (almost all well-educated) took the lesson to heart and came to believe that the images and putative memories that were induced under therapeutic procedures designed to uncover presupposed sexual abuse represented the central reality of their childhoods. This resulted in the shattering of thousands of families as so-called "survivors" broke off relations with their parents, grandparents, and even siblings if the latter were unconvinced by their stories. (A similar process was to follow in Britain, albeit on a smaller scale.) Critics of the RMM pointed out that the kinds of techniques practiced by recovered memory therapists were conducive to the production of false memories or false beliefs, and that even the conviction induced by the reading of books like The Courage to Heal predisposed some women to believe that childhood sexual abuse was at the root of specific problems (somatic or behavioral) in their lives. Many such critics saw in Freud’s candidly expressed mid-1890s coercive procedures parallels with the burgeoning RMM, while admirers of Freud argued that, on the contrary, he had been a pioneer in recognizing the occurrence of false memories. Regarding the latter view, however, there is a lack of understanding of the nature of what Freud meant when he decided that the analytically reconstructed "sexual scenes" from infancy were actually fantasies. In large part due to Freud’s tendentious ambiguity in his accounts of the episode, there is a widespread failure to appreciate that the supposed "fantasies" were not reports given by the patients to Freud, or accounts the patients pieced together, as is generally the case with recovered memory cases in the present era; rather, they were the imaginative productions of Freud himself. What that episode actually exemplifies is not the danger of mistaking patients’ false memories for authentic events, but that of taking internal properties of a reconstruction, such as supposed symbolic relationships with symptoms and self-consistency within a narrative largely fashioned by Freud himself (i.e., his jigsaw puzzle argument cited above), to be a demonstration of its validity. Contrary to what generally happens in recovered memory therapy, Freud’s seduction theory patients were not easily won over, if at all, to the belief that they had been sexually abused in early childhood. (Freud himself made this clear, and, in fact, used this as evidence that his theory was correct, since he would anticipate there would be strong resistance to the uncovering of deeply repressed memories.) And, as Crews has pointed out, despite appreciable differences with psychoanalytic formulations, the RMM is indebted to Freud’s post-seduction theory to the extent that there is a core of shared assumptions. These include that human beings are predisposed to repress early experiences of a sexual nature, that such unconscious memories lead to the occurrence of psychological disturbances in adulthood, that these repressed memories remain essentially unchanged beyond conscious awareness and can be retrieved by appropriate techniques decades later, that knowledge of occurrences in early childhood can be obtained from the analysis of dreams, that both somatic and behavioral symptoms may be symbolic representations of early traumas, and that it is essential to uncover and work through repressed material from childhood if current emotional problems are to be resolved. SC: Why do you think there is so much importance placed on setting Freud "straight" rather than on concentrating on what’s taking place now in psychoanalytic thinking? Indeed, Marcia Cavell has argued that "It is as foolish to try to "analyze" Freud sixty years after his death without taking account of what has happened in psychoanalytic thinking in the meantime, as it would be to appraise Darwin without locating him in post-Darwinian evolutionary biology." Do you agree? AE: There is a misconception among admirers of Freud that the critical literature of recent decades has been about criticizing Freud’s theories—as if that had not been adequately undertaken by previous generations of critics—whereas the bulk of it has been about setting the historical record straight (as well as providing previously unrecognized instances of Freud’s misrepresentations of his clinical experiences) in a social context in which mythological notions about Freud and his work have had wide currency. My impression is that few of Freud’s defenders have actually read the books giving detailed evaluations of his work, but rely instead on reading commentators who expound what are essentially summaries of the critiques, so that they have only a sketchy notion of what the issues are actually about. This is exemplified by Cavell’s proposed analogy with Darwin, as if the issue is purely to do with some erroneous notions propounded by Freud, rather than with the whole basis of his theoretical postulations, the means by which he purportedly validated them, and his frequent lapses from probity in pursuance of persuading people (including himself!) of the validity of his contentions. If one is to rebut Cavell’s contention in a single sentence, one can simply point out that the essential elements of Darwin’s theory remain central to modern biology, whereas Freud’s fundamental proposition that he had discovered a unique technique that reliably enabled him to uncover the contents of his patients’ unconscious minds is without foundation. As Clark Glymour has observed about Freud’s first exposition of psychoanalysis, written immediately following his recognition that the seduction theory was erroneous:
"Freud had many scientifically honorable courses of action available to him.... He did none of these things, or others one might conceive. Instead he published The Interpretation of Dreams to justify by rhetorical devices the very methods he had every reason to distrust.... At the turn of the century Freud once and for all made his decision as to whether to think critically, rigorously, honestly, and publicly about the reliability of his methods. The Interpretation of Dreams was his answer to the public, and, perhaps, to himself."
This echoes Cioffi’s words in the same context a decade earlier: "Freud could not bring himself to recognize the reasoning by which he had persuaded himself of the authenticity of the seductions, because it was the same sort of reasoning which, for the rest of his career, he was to employ in his reconstruction of infantile fantasy life and of the content of the unconscious in general." ("Was Freud a Liar?" 1974) SC: Has progress been made in the field of psychoanalysis since Freud? AE: In the sense that the more outlandish Freudian notions were gradually jettisoned by many psychoanalysts once dissenters like Karen Horney developed their own theoretical structures in the 1930s, one can say there has been progress. But one must also consider the question of what is meant by psychoanalysis nowadays, given that the discipline has become so dispersed and diluted. Commentators favorable to psychoanalysis argue that the current situation illustrates the fruitful developments that have occurred since Freud’s day. More perceptive, I think, is the view expressed by Alan A. Stone, in a Keynote Address to the American Academy of Psychoanalysis in 1995. Repudiating the view that the work of psychoanalytic theorists over the previous century was analogous to the construction of a great conceptual cathedral, Stone stated:
"Unfortunately I and many others in my generation have lost that sense of conviction and with it the feeling that we are part of a collective enterprise. To us, the maxim about dwarfs standing on giants seems untrue or at least inapplicable to psychoanalysis. Those who stand on Freud’s shoulders have not seen further, they have only seen differently and often they have seen less. Rather than building a cathedral, psychoanalysts have built their own churches. Consider from this perspective the two great women, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, who dominated psychoanalysis after Freud’s death. Each of them thought she was standing on Freud’s shoulders and extending his true vision. And their adherents certainly believed they were building Freud’s cathedral and they accommodated both their psychoanalytic practice and thinking accordingly. Today, at least in my opinion, and I am not entirely alone in thinking this, neither Anna Freud’s Ego Psychology nor Melanie Klein’s Object Relations Theory seem like systematic advances on Freud’s ideas. Rather they seem like divergent schools of thought, no closer to Freud than Karen Horney who rebelled against Freudian orthodoxy."
Treating the same issue from a more theoretical perspective, in 1993 Morris Eagle, former President of the Division of Psychoanalysis of the American Psychological Association, arrived at the following conclusion concerning modern developments in psychoanalytic theory and practice:
"I believe that after examining the different variants of so-called contemporary psychoanalytic theory... one must conclude that the theoretical formulations and claims that constitute contemporary psychoanalytic theory are on no firmer epistemological grounds than the central formulations and claims of Freudian theory... There is no evidence that contemporary psychoanalytic theories have remedied the epistemological and methodological difficulties that are associated with Freudian theory."
SC: Almost every element of Freud’s views was contested during his lifetime. How did Freud handle such criticism? AE: One needs to appreciate that Freud was utterly convinced that he had discovered an epoch-making technique for accessing the contents of the unconscious, and equally convinced that the fruits of his technique constituted truths about human beings of which he was the supreme authority. That being the case, he had to explain why numerous experienced psychologists and practitioners in related fields were, in varying degrees, skeptical about his psychoanalytic contentions and supposed discoveries. His favored explanation was that their objections were actually rationalizations that masked their unconscious resistance to psychological truths that they were unable to confront, and since analytic theory predicted that there would be strong resistance on the part of patients to the retrieving of unwelcome repressed ideas, he treated people’s "resistances" to psychoanalysis "as actual evidence in favour of the correctness of its assertions" (1913). In a similar vein, in relation to opposition from his contemporaries to his ideas, he wrote in 1914 that "psychoanalytic theory enabled me to understand this... as a necessary consequence of fundamental analytical premises."Applying the same notion to opposition from "scientific opponents of psychoanalysis," he averred that this was "a manifestation of the same resistance which I had to struggle against in individual patients" (1933). In short, the refrain that he never tired of repeating was that society "disputes the truths of psychoanalysis with logical and factual arguments; but these arise from emotional sources, and it maintains these objections as prejudices, against every attempt to counter them" (1916). Of course, he also occasionally provided more direct responses to specific criticisms, in the course of which he frequently made use of rhetorical devices, of which he was a master. For instance, his response sometimes implicitly assumes the point at issue and only has the appearance of being an answer to the objection. In such cases, the weakness of his argument may be camouflaged by the buttressing of his case by his citing supposed analogies, though the only legitimate use of an analogy is to clarify a point being made, not to provide evidence for its validity. The reader is also likely to be inundated with repetitions of the procedure he is defending, the purpose of which is to induce a sense of conviction rather than to persuade by force of argument. Despite his not having adequately addressed the criticism in question, his presentational skills are so brilliant that he generally manages to convey the impression that he has done so, and he proceeds as if the criticism has been decisively rebutted. If I had to sum up the essence of Freud’s mode of dealing with criticisms of his ideas or skepticism about his supposed clinical findings, I would say it is encompassed in this statement which prefaced his last major work, An Outline of Psychoanalysis: "The teachings of psychoanalysis are based on an incalculable number of observations and experiences, and only someone who has repeated those observations on himself and on others is in a position to arrive at a judgement of them." In other words, only someone who has accepted the premises of psychoanalysis (since this is necessary to make the required "observations") can make a just evaluation of it. SC: Breuer’s seminal case study - the story of Anna O. - continues to be a source of fascination for many, even though a century or so has passed. Freud, who never treated her, mentions her more often than any of his own patients. What is it about this case study that has captivated so many? AE: The interest in "Anna O." (Bertha Pappenheim), who was treated by his colleague Josef Breuer in 1880-1882, stems from the fact that Freud several times alluded to the clinical procedure used by Breuer as the basis on which he was to develop his own psychoanalytic theory and practice. Precisely what happened with Breuer’s patient has long been the subject of debate and disagreement. There are two main sources for the crucial information—Breuer’s case history published (partly from memory) in Studies on Hysteria in 1895, some thirteen years after the treatment was completed in June 1882, and Breuer’s original report written in July 1882. The latter is augmented by letters written by Breuer and two doctors at the Bellevue Sanatorium, where Pappenheim resided for several months from July 1882, plus some relevant letters written by the patient and her mother. Breuer reports that from the summer of 1880 through to the end of November, when he was called in on account of a cough that he quickly diagnosed as hysterical, Pappenheim had developed a number of transitory symptoms while nursing her father, who was suffering from a tuberculosis-related pulmonary abscess. She fell into states of absence, hallucinated, developed visual disorders, right-sided limb contractures, and other symptoms. Soon after being called in, Breuer had little hesitation in deciding that she was experiencing a hysterical illness. During the following months, when she became bedridden, Pappenheim exhibited more visual disorders, paralysis of the anterior neck muscles, and more severe right-sided contractures and anesthesias that later affected the left-sided extremities. The patient also suffered from extreme distress and agitation, and the loss of her native German language, though she was able to communicate in English, and occasionally in French or Italian. There was then a period during which some of these symptoms spontaneously diminished or even disappeared. Following the death of her father in April 1881, there was an exacerbation of some of the visual disorders and of her states of absence, with accompanying hallucinations. Later on, her recurring disturbed mental states were found to ease temporarily after she recounted fantasy stories while in evening states of absence. Breuer recorded that by the summer of 1881, the illness had passed its winter peak, and several somatic symptoms had either considerably diminished or vanished. The remaining part of his original report mainly deals with minor symptoms that resulted from day-to-day "annoyances" and disappeared when the incidents were later recounted. Unfortunately, the report only goes up to December 1881. The story of Pappenheim’s recovery that became part of psychoanalytic mythology as told by Freud, was that during the last six months of the treatment the patient was led to trace back to the emotional experiences that had occasioned the onset of her symptoms, and as a result of their cathartic expression they disappeared, and the patient was brought back to health:
"[Breuer] was able with the help of hypnosis to study and restore to health a highly-gifted girl who suffered from hysteria... Breuer was able to establish that all her symptoms were related to [the period when she was nursing her dying father] and could be explained by it... The therapeutic procedure adopted by Breuer was to induce the patient, under hypnosis, to remember the forgotten traumas and to react with them with powerful expressions of effect." (Freud, 1924)
However, the discovery of Breuer’s original 1882 report by Henri Ellenberger in the early 1970s showed that, at the very least, this was a gross oversimplification of the story. As noted above, during the illness there was spontaneous remission of some symptoms. Again, as the original report stopped at the end of 1881, for the crucial period of the last six months during which the cure was accomplished, we have only Breuer’s less reliable case history published some thirteen years later, written up partly from memory. Then there is the fact that the crucial recollections occurred in states of auto-hypnosis into which Pappenheim slipped in the evenings, and that Breuer’s published report of the final six months was heavily dependent on what his patient told him in this hypnotic state, including his account of the onset of the symptoms. (As Breuer records in his original report, Pappenheim only knew of this first period of her illness from what he was to tell her later; he, in turn, had heard it from the patient while she was in a trance-like state.) Following Ellenberger, it has become the received view that, after Pappenheim’s transfer to a sanatorium in the summer of 1882 with only a short break at the end of Breuer’s treatment, she retained a considerable number of the symptoms designated as "hysterical." However, as Richard Skuse has pointed out, most of the symptoms listed by Breuer were not in evidence in the sanatorium report on the patient, though she did still retain the tendency to cease to be able to communicate in German in the evenings, to slip into trance-like states of absence, and was subject to hallucinations. In addition, she continued to experience severe facial neuralgia, for which she had been treated with high doses of morphine for some months to the extent that she had become addicted. She had also been treated with high doses of the narcotic chloral hydrate for an unknown period and had to be weaned off the drug. Finally, it was discovered by Albrecht Hirschmüller that Pappenheim spent periods in another sanatorium on three occasions between 1883 and 1887, each time with a diagnosis of "hysteria," with an official description of "somatic illness." That Pappenheim was free of the majority of her somatic symptoms at the end of Breuer’s treatment is a separate issue from whether she was "cured" as a result of the procedures described in the 1895 case history, and as subsequently recounted by Freud. Malcolm Macmillan has noted that in the original report and in the purely descriptive parts of the later case history, Breuer wrote of symptoms being talked away rather than there being a cathartic discharge of emotion. In a detailed examination of the issues that revolve around the case, Richard Webster has also noted some significant differences between the original report and the case history published in Studies on Hysteria (a joint venture to which Breuer had agreed only very reluctantly). The (whole or partial) spontaneous remission of some symptoms during the period that Breuer was tending the patient raises questions about the traditional psychoanalytic account. Breuer himself acknowledged that "As regards the symptoms disappearing after being ’talked away,’ I cannot use this as evidence; it may very well be explained by suggestion." Though he went on to argue against this possibility, three reviewers of Studies on Hysteria at the time remarked on the unreliability of material obtained from a patient under hypnosis, and the possibility that the claimed therapeutic successes may have owed much to suggestion. On the other hand, several authors have argued for a predominantly organic illness, especially as Pappenheim’s symptomatology had much in common with neurological disorders such as those associated with epileptic seizures. However, the difficulties of retrospective diagnosis are considerable, and no consensus about Pappenheim’s illness has emerged. No discussion of the significance of the case for psychoanalysis can omit Freud’s postscript to the story. While it was claimed that Breuer had achieved a remarkable cure, there remained the fact that there is nothing about sexuality in his account of the case. In other words, it lacked a crucial ingredient that Freud insisted was always present at the core of patients’ symptoms (an issue that was a major factor in his ending his friendship with Breuer not long after the publication of Studies on Hysteria). He resolved this problem by hinting at an "untoward event" that supposedly led to Breuer’s breaking off the treatment prematurely, and wrote in terms that gave readers the impression of his having good evidence to support such an incident having occurred, pointing to the existence of a strong transference between patient and physician. Privately, he told of Breuer being confronted one day with Pappenheim supposedly experiencing a "phantom pregnancy," causing him such a shock that took flight from the sexual implications. Though this account achieved wide currency, through much of the twentieth century, it is now generally recognized as a story Freud self-servingly reconstructed to explain away the absence of sexual elements in Breuer’s account of his "cure" of Anna O.

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (May 6, 1856–September 23, 1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian ps...

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (1856–1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, who was allegedly the first to offer a comprehensive explanation of how human behavior is determined by the conscious and unconscious forces, is regarded as the founder of psychoanalysis.
Along with the “talk therapy” that remains the staple of psychiatric treatment to this day, Freud popularized, among other notions, such concepts as the psychosexual stages of development; Oedipus complex; transference; dream symbolism; Ego, Id, and Super-Ego; and the one that has become part of the colloquial English more than any other psychiatric term—the Freudian slip.
Frank Cioffi (1928-2012) was honorary professor of philosophy at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He was born and raised in New York City, but received his university education in England. He began his academic career as a social psychologist. He is the author of Freud and the Question of Pseudoscience (1998), and Wittgenstein on Freud and Frazer (1998).

Simply Charly: You are often cited as one of the most trenchant critics of Freud and psychoanalysis. Yet, you’ve been trained as an analytic philosopher—a field not customarily associated with this area of pursuit. How did you get mixed up in this business of Freud criticism? Frank Cioffi: I read Philosophy and Psychology at Oxford. All papers were compulsory, and one of these was Abnormal Psychology in which Freud largely figured. His achievement was taken for granted. When I later came to read his case histories and his early papers with some care, I was astonished at how uncritical my tutors had been. And this had implications for my view of the value of analytic philosophy. Like most products of Oxford analytic philosophy, I thought that in acquainting my students with the problem of induction; the distinction between necessary and contingent propositions; the refutation of skepticism; etc. etc., I would have produced minds nurtured in astringency and adept in the detection of sophistry and tendentiousness. It was thus a great blow to this view when I noticed that the most abjectly appreciative of Freud admirers were themselves distinguished analytic philosophers: Richard Wollheim, Stuart Hampshire, John Hospers. This is what Hospers wrote of “the remarkable predictive powers” of psychoanalysis: “on the basis of your past history and general laws, the psychoanalyst can not only explain why you have the dreams that you do, why you feel aggression toward this person and affection toward the other, and why you feel guilt in the situation you do, but also predict what conflicts will arise, what course therapy will take, and whether it will achieve certain desired results.” No one now believes this. How did the analytically minded ever come to credit it? Tributes like that of Hospers (and of Wollheim in his Freud book) led me to suspend my exorbitant claims for analytic philosophy and to seek the solution to the puzzle of how blatantly unwarranted claims to knowledge came to be so readily accepted in ideological and affective forces rather than lack of analytic acumen. SC: You have stated that one of the mistakes you made early in your analysis of Freud’s theories was your over-dependence on the use of Karl Popper’s notion of testability. Can you explain why? FC: My interest in testability was much narrower than Popper’s. I was only concerned with its adequacy at capturing what critics have in mind when they describe a body of claims as not merely mistaken but pseudo-scientific. (Though it would have been better from the outset if critics had avoided the term “pseudo-scientific” and confined themselves to humanistic terms of disapprobation such as tendentious, spurious, fraudulent. Etc. We would then have been spared the sophistical apologetic of Thomas Nagel and others.) The usefulness of Popper’s notion of testability is confined to pretensions to law-like knowledge. It is noteworthy that when Popper wishes to illustrate the concept of testability he uses the law-like example “All swans are white” and its relation to a black swan. This is natural since Popper’s interest is science and laws are the staples of scientific discourse. The question he does not address is how we are to assess statements such as “a rainbow-colored swan was observed at such and such a time and place.” And it is statements like these, which are a staple of psychoanalytic discourse. Though law-like psychoanalytic claims also abound, sophistical apologists like Nagel are happy to abandon them and confine their case for Freud’s genius to his remarkable particular “rainbow-coloured” swan-like discoveries. It is worth remarking that even when dealing with law-like claims, it is not the simple rejection of falsification that Popper objects to, but the theorist treating his ability to explain away an apparent falsifier as constituting further evidence in favor of the claim at issue. It is quite common for a theorist whose theory has been declared false to exert all his ingenuity in explaining away the apparent discrepancy. This is too common a practice to be treated as a criterion of pseudo-science. But Popper does not confine himself to this criterion. What he also objects to is what he calls “the stream of confirmations.” Consider his Adler anecdote: He says that when he told Adler of a case, which seemed to falsify a theory of Alder’s, Adler explained it away. When Popper asked Adler how he knew his account was correct rather than his critics’, Adler replied “From my thousand-fold experience.” Popper’s comment was: “And now I suppose you think your experience is a thousand and one fold.” Note that it is not simply untestability that Popper is objecting to but a spurious claim that the theory had now more evidence in its favor than before the explanation of the apparent disconfirmation. So it is not the rejection of the apparent disconfirmation alone that is the ground of his indictment. Let me illustrate. There is a story that J. Edgar Hoover, when he was anticipating a report on the telephone conversations of suspected subversives, prepared a list with two outcomes: “subversive,” if there were incriminating conversations, and “cunning subversive,” if there were not. Now, what was Hoover’s malpractice? It was not in refusing to treat the non-occurrence of incriminating conversations as exonerating, for this was perfectly compatible with the suspect being a “cunning subversive.” What is deplorable is his failure to provide a third category, i.e., “yet to be decided.” He treated the possibility of “cunning subversive” as evidence of guilt rather than as just leaving the matter open. His fault was the same as Adler’s, and the simple judgment “untestable” obscures the relevant considerations. It is not untestable theses per se but their accompaniment by claims that the theory has been subjected to attempts at falsification and survived them which characterizes the pseudo-scientist. But testability has a more radical deficiency as a criterion of pseudo-science. It is the implication that if a theorist accepts falsification of his general claims, he has done all that is necessary to exonerate him from the charge of practicing pseudo-science. Suppose that an advocate of the thesis that all swans are rainbow-colored generously admits that he has overstated his case and concedes the authenticity of white swan reports. Does this settle the question of his status as a bona fide enquirer? Would we not wish for assurance that his reports of rainbow-colored swans were well-founded? The appropriate criterion of pseudo-science in this area is not untestability but the issuance of spurious instantiation reports. How is such spuriousness to be demonstrated? It is in addressing this question that Popper’s emphasis on the testability is of law-like claims is unhelpful. The grounds that the analyst can produce for public inspection in favor of an interpretation along Freudian lines may be admittedly inadequate, but he can argue that the bulk of his evidence consists of private non-transmissible grounds such as the patient’s posture, facial expression, tone of voice, etc. (Ernest Jones advances this extenuation). It then becomes obvious that the case depends on judgments as to the judiciousness, disinterestedness, and probity of the analyst. This explains the longevity and intractability of disputes both about and within psychoanalysis. I have brought together grounds for distrusting Freud’s own testimony in a paper which has been translated into French “Epistemologie et Mauvaise Foi: Le cas du Freudism” in Le Livre Noir de la Psychoanalyse, ed. C. Meyer, 2005) but for which I have been unable to secure publication in an Anglophone journal—so tenacious is the myth of Freud’s trustworthiness. Freud’s habitual departures from truthfulness are now conceded by even ardent admirers. Robert Holt now admits that Freud “did undoubtedly make up many constructions from theoretical whole cloth, later presenting them as what his patients told him.” (Robert Holt review of Macmillan’s Freud Evaluated, in Psychoanalytic Books, Winter 1997, p. 404) And Ian Hacking admits that “Freud ... like many a dedicated theoretician probably fudged the evidence in favor of his theory” but that his “passionate commitment to truth is fully compatible with—may even demand—lying through one’s teeth.” (Rewriting the Soul, p. 195) [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud[/caption] SC: What do you say to the assertion that psychoanalytic claims should not be judged as scientific claims? Rather, they are extensions of our ordinary understanding of the mind, our commonsense, or folk psychology. FC: The question that has to be addressed is how do we distinguish between common sense psychology claims that are sustainable from claims that are not? Which of Freud’s claims are being put forward as sustainable? Nagel is careful not to say. Consider a psychoanalytic claim which was treated as demonstrated in an abnormal psychology text for undergraduates: Women prefer their firstborn to be male because they have long craved the penis a male child brings with it. How does it help describe this as an extension of common- sense psychology? SC: A few defenders of Freud have sought to soften and relativize his theories. For instance, the philosopher Thomas Nagel has written, “Much of human mental life consists of complex events that will never precisely recur. If we wish to understand real life, it is useless to demand repeatable experiments with strict controls.” Do you find any merit in Nagel’s viewpoint? FC: Yes, but only as a corrective of the scientific obtuseness of philosophers like Adolph Grünbaum and not as a defense of Freud’s practice. An advocate of Freud’s status as a discoverer, the philosopher, Walter Kaufman writes: “If it should be found that [‘the oedipal triangle’] is not at the core of every neurosis ... it would not follow at all that Freud’s discovery of the Oedipus complex is not a major contribution.” (Walter Kaufmann Discovering the Mind, Mcgraw Hill Vol. III, 1980:115.) This is true. Freud’s mistake would have been only to generalize his discoveries. But where has it been shown that the Oedipus Complex is at the core of a single neurosis? If a patient came out in a rash that read “Thou shall not covet thy father’s wife” we would have a plausible instance of the mechanism of conversion applied to oedipal conflicts and the fact that it could not explain every hysterical symptom would not impugn the value of his discovery. Nor would our inability to state the conditions under which we would deem it false make it pseudoscientific. It is the veridicality of particular instantiation claims, which must be assessed and not their generality. How can we go about this? We must take an explanation of a complex event, which we agree is cogent, and then ask how closely the Freudian ones approximate it. Nagel’s defense only works if we are amnesic for the explanation of “complex events” that Freud actually gave. For example, consider Freud’s account of why an obsessive patient was plagued by the thought of his father being subjected to cruel torture in which ravenous rats are introduced into the victim’s body and eventually burrow their way out through his rectum. According to Freud, the patient’s associations show him to equate rats to babies and their emerging from the rectum, when subjected to the principle of reversal, reveal themselves to be babies anomalously born of a male. This constituted an insult to his father and called for self-punishment, which Freud then considers explained. This has been widely extolled as a brilliant clinical diagnostic feat. But consider this—the torture, which plagued the patient, was merely a repetition of a torture described to him a day before its first appearance by a sadistic Captain in the unit in which he was serving. What need was there for the introduction of his childhood fantasy that children are born through the rectum and that men, as well as women, can bear them? Is it not gratuitous? How does Nagel’s persuasive counsel to eschew the demand for strict controls redeem Freud’s tendentiousness? The defense of Freud’s interpretations does not always take the form of a denial that Freud’s positive instantiation reports are spurious (though admission is often reluctant). It is argued rather that spurious instances do not preclude the existence of genuine ones, and these are weighted differently by the contending parties extenuating or compensating for some and not for others. I have dubbed this, prompted by a remark of Wittgenstein’s, “the asininity/insight ratio.” Here is my paradigm of asininity—how the operation of the primary process transformed a childhood trauma into an adult affliction. As an adult, the patient often felt a depression. This depression was the transformation of a childhood episode in which he had placed his hand between a little girl’s thighs and instead of encountering a penis like his own, “felt a depression.” (Ella Freeman Sharpe, Dream Analysis, Hogarth, 1930, p. 32) As an adult, he symbolically enacts this trauma by “feeling a depression.” Nagel would probably concede that this example (from a work once used in the training of analysts) is asinine, but what would he put forward as the “insight,” which compensates for it? Esterson has produced good reasons for doubting that Freud has given any. SC: Throughout your writings, you’ve invoked Wittgenstein’s remarks on Freud to elucidate certain points about psychoanalysis. What may we learn from Wittgenstein that’s useful in understanding Freud? FC: There are two distinct epistemic conceptions of how it is appropriate to respond to statements, which purport to tell us what lies at the back of our minds or influencing our current mental state. We can appoint ourselves arbiters of their correctness, or we can deny ourselves any special role in determining their truth and treat them as if they were addressed to a third party. The first of these Wittgenstein dubs “further descriptions”; the second we call hypotheses. The confusion of these two categories, which Wittgenstein finds endemic in psychoanalysis he describes as an “abominable mess.” When the question is the familiar one of finding the word at the tip of our tongues, it is obvious which is the opposite procedure. Elsewhere it is not so clear. In the third of the aesthetic lectures, Wittgenstein speaks of “An entirely new account of correct explanation, you have to give the explanation that is accepted; that is the whole point of the explanation.” We can readily call to mind examples of explanation where the procedure Wittgenstein commends would be profoundly obscurantist. The profitability of addressing Freud through Wittgenstein lies in its compelling us to address more strenuously the relative value to us of articulating our self-feeling as opposed to identifying the causal influences which make it the self-feeling that it is. SC: What do you make of the view espoused by Elizabeth Thornton that Freud’s research may have been flawed as his findings were influenced by his altered states of consciousness as a result of his excessive use of cocaine? FC: Too speculative. There are more straightforward ways of accounting for Freud’s “flawed” findings as Allen Esterson has copiously illustrated in his book Seductive Mirage. SC: Thomas Szasz, long the most outspoken gadfly of his profession, insists that there is really no such thing as mental illness, only normal problems of living. Do you agree? FC: I have never found Szasz’s arguments that there is no such thing as mental illness convincing. My admiration for Szasz is based on my perception of him as a great champion of civil liberties in his battle against the abuse of psychiatric power. But the correct argument against this abuse is not that there is no such thing as mental illness, but that mental illness does not supply adequate grounds for depriving individuals of their civil rights. This must rest on the demonstration that they are a danger to others. This is rarely the case. SC: Freud has bequeathed a rich panoply of metaphors for the mental life such as penis envy; castration anxiety; phallic symbols; the ego, id, and superego; repressed memories; Oedipal itches; sexual sublimation. Have any of these survived the test of time beyond mere terms embraced by popular culture? FC: What you must ask is: suppose you woke up one morning with complete amnesia for the meaning of the itemized terms; in what ways would you be disadvantaged? Wouldn’t it be more like forgetting the names of all the current movie stars than forgetting to sterilize your hands before performing surgery? You would be at a loss to fathom the genitalization of the cultural landscape. You would no longer understand why the Empire State Building was considered a symbolic erection; why the lamp rubbed by Aladdin was really his phallus; why the locked room in the classical whodunit is the parents’ bedroom and what it conceals is the primal scene, etc. etc. No activity, which depends on knowledge for its successful execution, would be held up. Only in conversation would you be at a disadvantage. SC: One charge leveled at psychoanalysis is that it is cruelly glacial. It takes years for patients to see results, if at all. What is your view on its efficacy as a treatment? FC: It is my understanding that the claim for the differential efficacy of psychoanalysis is no longer made. SC: Freud hated America. Yet America embraced him wholeheartedly. Why was America more hospitable to psychoanalysis than any other country outside Germany and Austria? What was it that America embraced wholeheartedly? FC: Someone once said of Christianity that it was always transforming itself into something which could be believed. That this is even truer of psychoanalysis is illustrated by the following vindication of Freud’s status. “Is it reasonable to assume that early childhood experiences affect adult personalities? Does a Mother’s love really matter? Is sex important? Do people act without full awareness of their motivations? Because the answer is yes, it follows that Freud made important contributions to the science of psychology.” This is not from a blog but from a scholarly journal which advises libraries on book purchases. (F. L. Coolidge, Choice, March 1999) I would like to mention an overlooked feature of Freudian discourse, which makes its popularity less surprising. This is the way in which it may collude with our sexual hypocrisy and bad faith. We may be quite happy to acknowledge the full range of our polymorphous perversity so long as we are permitted to declare it unconscious rather than intermittently obtrusive and importunate. The Freudian unconscious permits us to declare ourselves oblivious of that of which we may be not oblivious but disquietingly, if intermittently, aware. SC: Freud had lots of anecdotes but almost no empirical data. Today, however, neurologists are using modern brain imaging to map the neurological activity inside a living brain. Do you feel that as researchers dig deeper into the physical structure of the brain that some of Freud’s theories will be vindicated? FC: Advances in neurology will vindicate the amorphous and figurative speculations of Freud in the same sense in which the major events of the last few centuries vindicate the prophetic powers of Nostradamus.

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian ...

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (1856–1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, who was allegedly the first to offer a comprehensive explanation of how human behavior is determined by the conscious and unconscious forces, is regarded as the founder of psychoanalysis.
Along with the “talk therapy” that remains the staple of psychiatric treatment to this day, Freud popularized, among other notions, such concepts as the psychosexual stages of development; Oedipus complex; transference; dream symbolism; Ego, Id, and Super-Ego; and the one that has become part of the colloquial English more than any other psychiatric term—the Freudian slip.
Malcolm Macmillan is an Australian psychologist who has been a clinician (intellectual disability, childhood psychoses), a university teacher in the area of psychopathology and has researched topics such as hypnosis, self-change, and depression. He has made critical, historically-based evaluations of psychoanalysis and has investigated aspects of the history of the development of the doctrine of localization of brain function. He has published on most of these topics and is also the author of the award-winning An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage and the highly regarded Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc, both MIT Press.

Simply Charly: Sigmund Freud was responsible for popularizing the idea that a person’s interior life merited not just attention but dedicated exploration—a notion that has since propelled tens of millions of people into psychotherapy. Do you think this effort was misguided? Or do you feel there is merit to the path he paved? Malcolm Macmillan: I’d agree that interior lives warrant attention, but I’d put severe qualifications on how they should be explored. Freud’s free association and interpretation are completely inadequate for the navigational task. Free association is too much influenced by the expectations of the analyst, and the interpretation of the data recovered by it is too indeterminate to tell us anything reliable about what goes on in the interior of the continent; These conclusions of mine are not mere opinions; they follow with iron logic from equally iron-cast therapeutic facts and are confirmed by the opinions of a number (unfortunately small) of self-critical psychoanalysts. Free association. Like contemporary psychoanalysts, Freud asked his patients to speak whatever came into their minds as they roamed their interior pathways. According to him, the method recovered the trains of ideas or associations linking symptoms and unconscious causes. Freud paid special attention to those parts of the patients’ journey in which they seemed to lose direction, or could not explain where they were going. He believed those gaps indicated the presence of unconscious forces that repressed the ideas that should have provided the next step, and that free association uncovered it. Until the end of his life, Freud believed the method was as reliable as the microscope and that what it found was uninfluenced by the psychoanalyst’s expectations. Almost all his modern followers take the same view, although a very small number of them grudgingly admit that the basic data of psychoanalysis might not be anywhere as reliable. Studies of one-to-one verbal psychotherapies show that what patients talk about and how they come to think about themselves is a function of the therapist’s theoretical framework rather than the ideas of the patient. Interpretation. The data recovered by free association are given meaning by being interpreted. The meaning of the elements of a dream and the dream’s overall meaning, for example, are supposed to be built up or constructed from the patient’s associations. Formal comparative studies of the interpretations of the same dreams, symptoms, and the like by different psychoanalysts show there is little agreement among them. Without interpretations being compared with what actually is the case, they can only be judged by their plausibility, and unless interpretations are widely outlandish, there is no way to judge which among them is the most correct. Given this fundamental indeterminism, the disagreement among analysts is not surprising. Indeterminism is particularly acute when the modern psychoanalyst follows Freud and constructs or reconstructs some part of the patient’s hidden past. Although the correctness of these kinds of construction ought to be judged by what really happened, neither Freud nor his modern followers usually make such comparisons. As a consequence, much of what passes for a Freudian developmental history is little more than speculation. It is only the basic unreliability of the data obtained by free association and the indeterminism of the interpretations and constructions based on them that explains the existence of the widely disparate and conflicting “schools” of psychoanalysis. SC: In your book, Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc, you state that it was central to your argument when judging Freud’s theories that they are placed within their historical context? Can you tell us why? MM: I meant more than usual by this phrase. I justified Freud’s evidence for his theoretical ideas and assessed how well he used the standards of his time to draw his conclusions. I also put his ideas into a developmental framework. At each stage of his theorizing, I assessed how well his clinical observations and other relevant evidence supported his theory and its associated theoretical concepts and tried to determine the effects of those conclusions on his later theorizing. Let me cite an example that illuminates the sources of Freud’s emphasis on and conceptualization of libido, the sexual drive. The first neuroses for which Freud tried to find the causes were anxiety neurosis and neurasthenia. His observations were the frequency of one of two specific sexual practices in each neurosis, and he evaluated the causal status of these practices by using what he claimed was a standard procedure for identifying the specific bacteria that caused physical diseases. But Freud’s use of the method was faulty, and he mistakenly concluded that each neurosis was caused by its own specific sexual practice. A few months later Freud used the same equally faulty method to “identify” the sexual causes of neuroses like hysteria and obsessional neuroses. The first mistake had laid the foundations for the exclusive causal role Freud gave sexuality; the second confirmed it for him. I believe my evaluation brings out this development and its consequences more clearly than other analyses. Sigmund Freud SC: Freud has been analyzed more than he analyzed others. Indeed, little, if any, of Freud’s work has survived the scrutiny of later research. Can you give us a few examples of Freudian theories that have been debunked? MM: Debunked is not a word I would choose. Too many of his concepts have been disproved to discuss in this limited arena, and unfortunately, I must omit his concepts of repression and those of the division of the mental apparatus into ego, super-ego, and id, but here are three important ones: i) Although we all have a sexual drive, Freud’s particular concept of it—libido—never found favor with many psychologists and has been abandoned by most psychoanalysts. One part is hardly controversial-the drive is based on physiological processes. The other part, that the drive consisted of the three oral, anal, and phallic components that sought perverse satisfaction through stimulation of the three related body zones, and that libidinal development was caused and controlled by a biological process, is. Freud himself had little direct evidence for libido having these three components when he formulated the concept and misrepresented what little he did have on the sexual nature of the pleasures children derived from thumb-sucking. Virtually no evidence confirming the drive or the personality traits supposed to develop from fixations of the three components of the drive has since been found. ii) Clearly, the sexual and gender characteristics of males and females develop over time, but Freud’s explanation, especially for females, is so tortuous that it was controversial among his followers at the time, and few of them believe it today. Freud assumed, incorrectly even then, that the libido was originally male for both sexes and was directed to females. According to his clinical observations and interpretations, the final adult choice of a female sexual object by the male child came only after the resolution of the Oedipus complex. Fear of castration by the father had deflected the boy’s libido from his mother to an unrelated female. Up to the Oedipal stage, female children developed in the same way. Because there could be no castration threat, the Oedipus complex was unresolved, leaving the girl with a passive sexuality and a weaker superego and moral standards. In any case, many modern psychoanalysts deny the universality of the complex, and many also deny they find it even in “Western” families. iii) Transference—the patients’ transferring to the analyst of the infantile sexual feelings they once had had toward their own parents—was an essential part of Freud’s own treatment and his theory of therapy. It no longer has that place. Freud expected transference would revive the pattern of infantile feelings responsible for the adult patients’ neurosis by generating an infantile neurosis, the resolution of which was an essential part of therapy. Contemporary psychoanalysts have failed to find that that transference is an essential ingredient of successful therapy although, at the same time, they cannot agree on its manifestations. Nor have the main research projects on transference been able to establish its basis in infantile sexuality. Nevertheless, feelings of dependency toward the analyst are still called "transference" and are supposed to be worked through in therapy. All that even Freudian couch-carrying sympathizers now call transference is the platitude that one’s feelings toward others are based on one’s childhood experiences. SC: Philosopher Karl Popper argued that Freud’s psychoanalytic theories were presented in untestable form. What do you make of Popper’s claim? MM: Not a great deal. Partly this is because Popper’s claim is embedded in very debatable propositions about the nature of scientific inquiry and partly because, as you can see from the examples I have already mentioned, he was wrong about psychoanalytic propositions not being testable. Scientific theories can only be confirmed by testing the logical consequences (the hypotheses) predicted from them. If the consequences aren’t observed, i.e., if the prediction fails, the particular hypothesis is disproved. But if the prediction is confirmed, the hypothesis is not necessarily correct—it merely tells one that the hypothesis might be true. Testing a whole theory is more complicated because it usually requires testing several related hypotheses of differing centrality to the theory. Even what happens after disproof is more complicated than Popper allows. Disconfirmations do not cause scientists to give up their theories or even their hypotheses. Usually, they modify them in small ways rather than abandon them. A further limitation of Popper’s thinking is that it does not deal with the consequences of hypotheses being confirmed or the problem of how scientific theories come to be accepted. My favorite question to ask Popper (were that possible) is: “At what point was Galileo Galilei’s theory that the earth revolved around the sun accepted as a more-or-less true reflection of the structure of our solar system?” I don’t know, but I doubt it was solely through the confirmations or disconfirmations of particular hypotheses. This limitation of Popper’s thinking means that he does not help us judge whether what psychoanalysis tells us is more or less true. SC: Do you think it’s fair to assess and to justify Freud’s psychoanalytic theory within the framework of the natural sciences? MM: Yes, primarily because that is where Freud always placed it. He frequently drew parallels between his work and the natural sciences even saying, right at the end of his life, that the inferences made by psychoanalysts filled gaps in the phenomena of consciousness in the same way that the inferences made by physicists filled the gaps in their observations of atomic particles. I see the assertions of some modern psychoanalysts that Freud’s endeavor is not a natural science, as an attempt to replace what might really be the case about people and the causes of their behavior with the merely plausible. And, to my knowledge, none has explained how Freud could have been so mistaken about his mission. SC: Our notion of sex has never been the same after Freud pointed to its overarching significance. Do you think his contamination of our perceptions has been pernicious? MM: Yes and no. I’m sure most people don’t know what Freud’s theory of sexuality really entails. So, even though they use such terms as “id” or “anal character,” I’m sure they don’t understand or accept the overarching significance he undoubtedly gave it. Nor do they know he was merely one of a number of late 19th century workers, mainly medical, who paved the way for the sexual revolution that took place in the 1920s. Recognizing the role sexuality plays in our lives cannot be pernicious. What really is pernicious are false notions about its nature and ramifications. SC: Freud’s concept of the “unconscious” implies that the mind and body are two different kinds of entities or substances and that mental states are connected to physical events. Do you think his dualist stance led him astray as the mind/body problem remains insoluble? MM: I doubt that the insolubility of the mind/body problem has much to do with dualism. In any case, Freud was not a dualist, and neither the acceptance of unconscious motives nor an unconscious mind, even when thought of as causing physical effects, makes one so. As early as in his 1891 book On Aphasia, Freud said explicitly: “The psychological is thus a parallel process to the physiological one (‘a dependent concomitant’).” This conceptualization is not a dualist one; a dualist would hold the psychological and physiological to be only concomitants. Freud’s is the materialist view that commonly underpins the work of natural scientists. SC: If it is true that much of what Freud postulated is untrue and that psychoanalysis is nothing but a pseudo-science, then what do you make of psychoanalysts who stress that their enterprise has come a long way since the time of Freud—existing theories have evolved, new theories have emerged, and many of Freud’s ideas have been shown to be true through overwhelming, rigorous clinical observation? MM: My question to those who make assertions like these is “Where is the evidence?” What supports the assertion that the new formulations are supported by clinical, observational, or experimentally established facts, and where is the evidence of the “overwhelming, rigorous clinical observation” that shows Freud to have been right? Far from improving things, the new formulations have precipitated psychoanalysis into what seems to be its deepest theoretical and practical crises. Within the past five years, notable psychoanalysts like Bornstein, Rangell, Meissner, and Schacter have stressed this. As Fayek put it, “Analysts and candidates are unable to define what is considered psychoanalysis. Patients and the public, in general, do not know where to find it or what to look for.” In fact, so deep is the crisis that the International Psychoanalytic Association set up special research projects in 2003 to resolve it. So far, until 2007, all they have been able to do is attract a few more patients and trainee analysts by publicizing their efforts (often with the external assistance of governments and universities). As for Freud’s ideas being “true,” apart from the clinical-observational basis of my published criticism, there is any number of compilations of clinical and experimental findings that show the central ones to be false and that only a few of the less important are supported (and then weakly at best). SC: Freud was a prolific writer. His collected works comprise 24 volumes, not counting his voluminous correspondence. For someone who produced so much, is there any explanatory power left in any of his theories? MM: One has only to turn to the 63 pages making up Albert Einstein’s four early annus mirabilis papers to see that explanatory power is not a function of how much a scientist writes. Yes, there is plenty of explanatory power in Freud’s theories, but it is a pseudo-explanatory power. If one accepts, for example, that the unconscious mind as conceived by Freud lacks a sense of logic, reality, or language, but can nevertheless generate the most logical, multi-lingual, and creative slips of the tongue and dreams, one can “explain” those kinds of everyday phenomena. Again, if one accepts—as did Freud—that humans come into the world equipped with a memory of fathers’ actually castrating their sons in pre-historic times, one can explain how a severe superego can develop even when children have actually not been punished for sexual play or sexual feelings toward their mothers. SC: If Freud was so wrong, if his methods remain dubious and if he was a poor and possibly unethical practitioner, then why is he so irrepressible? MM: I’m not sure how much of the “unethical” and “poor” labeling I’d accept. “Dubious” is much more certain. It is almost certain that he assigned to others his own slips of the tongue and failures of memory, and "explained" them with unconscious causes—although they were most probably not brought about by his own unconscious motives. Psychoanalysts also concede that the central events in two of his most important published case histories (those of Ratman and the Wolfman) did not take place in the way Freud described. Nor was Anna O.’s case—the foundation case of psychoanalysis—as he and Breuer portrayed it. She was not cured, and her symptoms were not alleviated by emotional expression (catharsis). “Irrepressible” is a word I’d accept and would argue there are four reasons for using it: i) Psychoanalysis seems to offer explanations about precisely those things in which people have the greatest interest and about which no other psychology says anything very much. This is especially true of the twin topics of sex and the interpretation of dreams or faulty actions. But as I have argued, the explanations are not real but are pseudo-explanations. ii) Because the most fundamental criticisms of Freud’s theories arise from within psychoanalysis itself, most people are completely unaware of them. Nor do they know that there is no agreement among analysts about the kind of psychoanalytic theory and practice that should replace Freud’s original. iii) Almost everyone takes it for granted that psychoanalysis is an effective psychotherapy. However, although Freud said a successful outcome of a psychoanalysis depended on the generation and resolution of transference during it, almost all modern studies of therapy show transference is not at all necessary. Nor do people know there is no evidence that psychoanalysis has an outcome rate much better than the 66% Eysenck reported in the 1950s as the rate for minimally treated neuroses. The best that psychoanalysts can now say is that their results are not worse than those of the cognitive behavior therapies. iv) Finally, there is the attraction of the irrational impulses that psychoanalysis seems to discover. Many people feel their lives are at the mercy of forces they can’t control, and Freudian theory seems to give them insight into those forces. Moreover, psychoanalysis has a particular appeal in that it draws on everyday psychological concepts like sexual drives or feelings of guilt. Although they are unconscious, these drives and feelings act in the same way as their conscious counterparts. Most psychoanalytic explanations are therefore easy to understand. As Frank Cioffi has pointed out, this ease of understanding is part of what Wittgenstein called the "charm" of psychoanalysis. And how easy it is to apply psychoanalytic concepts to others! Because of the indeterminism of interpretation, almost any interpretation or reconstruction can, within limits, be matched by another equally as good. There is simply no way of judging the accuracy of an interpretation of a dream, a slip of the tongue, or the reconstruction of the significant events in one’s life or those of one’s friends. More, even an amateur’s efforts are likely to be as plausibly satisfying as that of a professional. The reason we still argue about Freud, Cioffi also says, is this very indeterminism. There is no way of judging whether which of Freud’s or any of the later modifications of his theory are more or less correct. Not only that; with the possibility of seemingly profound knowledge immediately available to everyone, and with apparent minute-by-minute confirmation of one’s insights into one’s self and others, it will always be “irrepressible.”

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (May 6, 1856–September 23, 1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian ps...

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (1856–1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, who was allegedly the first to explain how human behavior is determined by the conscious and unconscious forces, is regarded as the founder of psychoanalysis.
Along with the “talk therapy” that remains the staple of psychiatric treatment to this day, Freud popularized, among other notions, such concepts as the psychosexual stages of development; Oedipus complex; transference; dream symbolism; Ego, Id, and Super-Ego; and the one that has become part of the colloquial English more than any other psychiatric term—the Freudian slip.
Tamas Pataki is Honorary Senior Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Honorary Fellow at Deakin University, also in Melbourne. He has published several philosophical articles in academic journals and in several academic anthologies, such as Racism in Mind (Cornell University Press, 2004). In 2007 he published a polemical book Against Religion (Scribe Publications 2007), which drew a vigorous critical response.

Simply Charly: Sigmund Freud is regarded as the father of psychoanalysis, and the first person to seriously explain how our behavior is determined by the unconscious mind. Before these findings, what was the commonly accepted and practiced psychiatric treatment of the day? Tamas Pataki: The situation in psychiatry was in many respects the same as today. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century (especially in the Germanic world) the view that (most) mental illness was a disease of the brain—an organic condition—had gained ascendancy, and treatment was geared to regulate the condition of the nervous system. Hence, sanitariums for seclusion and rest, massage, baths, etc., were recommended, but also tonics such as electricity, exercise, strychnine, etc. At the same time, however, mostly in France, there were pockets where a more psychological conception of some mental illnesses predominated, and hypnosis, certain kinds of psychotherapy, “magnetism,” and automatic writing were practiced to effect a cure. SC: How did Freud’s findings, especially relating to the five psychosexual stages of development (oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital) play out in the Victorian times? Were they considered shocking? TP: Yes and no. They were certainly considered shocking by some sections of the reading public, as well as by many medical folk, and the religious. But it’s good to remember that infant sexuality and perversions were being investigated by many other specialists at the time, for example, Havelock Ellis, Krafft-Ebing, and so on, and were grist for the mill among some academic and literary circles. SC: Freud relied heavily upon his observations and case studies of his patients when he formed his theory of personality development. Yet, this approach has been proven fallible, and one often-cited example is of a woman patient whom Freud claimed to have cured of hysteria but had been proven wrong. What is modern psychiatry’s take on this? TP: The approach to theory construction based on individual cases certainly is fallible, but experimental methods well suited to other areas of science are going to have very limited application in the case of people. It’s generally acknowledged among contemporary analytic circles that Freud’s own therapeutic practice was in many respects flawed and his analyses often incomplete. Since then there have been very major developments in both therapy and theory construction. Psychoanalytic theory construction is now very closely allied to developments in neuroscience and developmental psychology, especially so-called “attachment theory.” It is remarkable how much consilience is found between these disciplines. Within psychiatry, the attitude to psychoanalysis seems to be fairly cool, but often it doesn’t know its own history. SC: Freud was once a proponent (and user) of cocaine, which he considered to be beneficial for a variety of conditions, including for depression and pain relief. Later, as medical evidence of addiction started to come out, he regretted his support for the drug. Did Freud refute any other of his own theories? TP: He didn’t exactly refute his view about cocaine, but he did realize (as many others did at the time) its addictive potential. Cocaine and its derivatives are still widely used in medicine for analgesia and other things. SC: Some people find Freud's psychosexual development theory intriguing but difficult to verify in real life because, although the entire theory focuses on early childhood experience, it is not based on studies of children, but memories and dreams of Freud's adult patients. Has there been any closure on this issue, and what is your view? TP: Since the 1920s, psychoanalysts and others have been conducting direct observations on children in various settings. Direct observation has borne out much, though not all of the contentions of the early generation of analysts. (It’s worth bearing in mind that the classical, i.e., early psychoanalysis was not the product of one man alone.) And the significance of some of those contentions is now often seen in a different light. For example, while few would dispute the occurrence of the classical Oedipal constellations, these would generally be considered as less important in most pathology than the nature of the pre-oedipal tie to the mother. And so on. Today, as I mentioned earlier, there is a remarkable coming together of neuroscience, attachment theory (the dominant developmental theory in academic psychology), and psychoanalysis. SC: In his lifetime Freud had many supporters, but already at that time quite a few psychiatrists, including his own disciple, Carl Jung, distanced themselves from Freud. What were some of the arguments raised by these people? TP: Almost every element of Freud’s views were contested during his lifetime. Freud revised his views continuously. The history of the development of his views from, say, 1895 to 1939 is a history of continuous revision, rejection, or augmentation in the light of fresh evidence and considerations. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud[/caption] SC: Do we know how Freud reacted to the criticism? TP: Freud didn’t like criticism; though it must be said that he endured heaps of it rather stoically and unswervingly. SC: Freud is respected by many, but skeptics say that the entire structure of modern psychoanalysis is little more than a house of cards. Which of his theories are the ones that are most hotly debated/criticized, and have any been definitely debunked? TP: This depends on where you stand. For most neurotic and psychotic disorders, Freud tried to provide psychological analyses, i.e., in terms of more or less distorted desires, beliefs, and fantasies. He tried to provide motivational structures for understanding them and thought of therapy as an attempt to unravel those (usually unconscious) structures. The dominant psychiatry today looks mostly at disorders of brain functioning and hence to chemical interventions. Now, this raises the very difficult questions about mind-body relationships, which are certainly still unresolved. Contemporary neuro-psychoanalysts like Mark Solms and Allan Schore do not see serious incompatibility or unbridgeable gaps between psychoanalysis and recent neuroscience, and I think they’re right. It must be said that the “house of cards” people usually don’t have much familiarity with what they’re talking about and have no conception of the way psychoanalysis has developed. It has developed not so much by ‘debunking’ older views but by learning from where they went wrong and re-assessing their significance in the scheme of things. SC: Which of Freud’s theories and methods are undisputed and still widely practiced? TP: It’s fair to say that most people practicing psychotherapy today are beholden to Freud’s methods in one way or another, even when they don’t know it because psychoanalysis has so thoroughly penetrated psychiatry that its mark has become invisible. Nobody today would really question the importance of transference, for example, and very few would question the importance of the early relationship to parents in personality development. Few would question the importance of sexuality and aggression, of envy and guilt, and so on, in the psychic economy, though they may conceptualize the source and nature of these things in differing ways. SC: What, in your view, is Freud’s biggest (and undisputed) contribution to modern psychiatry? TP: Re-introducing the psychological understanding of mental illness in the context of a very sophisticated theory of mind he had constructed out of the best materials available to him at the time; and along with this, a fruitful and effective psychotherapeutic procedure. More generally, Freud drew attention to the overriding importance of infancy and childhood in human life and the ongoing significance of the child’s relationships to his or her earliest love objects. This has had revolutionary cultural ramifications. SC: On the whole, does the modern mainstream psychiatric community still rely heavily on Freud’s theories? Are they taught in medical schools as mere theories or as viable techniques that are practiced by mental health professionals? TP: Yes, those who, at least to some degree, are psychotherapeutically minded do rely on what were essentially psychoanalytic insights, even when they don’t know it. The major contemporary account of personality development, which informs an increasing amount of psychiatric/psychological understanding (at least of the neurotic and borderline spectrum), such as attachment theory, grew out of the work of the psychoanalyst John Bowlby. Unfortunately, attachment theorists and psychologists/psychiatrists often don’t realize the extent to which Bowlby’s work owes to earlier psychoanalysts and to the analytic ethos. Those psychiatrists who are more or less “biologically minded” and rely largely on medications and other physical interventions—who are probably in the majority today—owe little to psychoanalysis. Most of them, if they engage with patients at all, would have to have some understanding of the psychodynamics pioneered by Freud." Medical schools never did teach psychoanalysis as a technique. That was always done by psychoanalytic institutes. As a theory it is still taught in many places and psychoanalysts, especially in the U.S., still hold many prestigious professorships, though it is true that its influence is waning in the universities. This is not surprising for various reasons, one of the main ones being the focus on the neurobiological exploration of the brain, which the new imaging techniques have made available. SC: What are some of the lesser-known but intriguing facts about Freud the man? TP: He was a very smart, more or less normal chap. Someone who knew him once told me something I haven’t read much about: that he was “a great one for friendship.” SC: In what way does your own work relate to Freud? TP: I’ve worked mostly in the philosophy of mind, and I regard Freud as one of the most important contributors to that field. Passing over Freud in psychology would be akin to passing over Newton in physics, albeit of course the views of both are now seen as more or less flawed and limited in various ways. SC: Freud’s theories are quite complex for a layperson to understand fully, and some people may get discouraged by all the complicated jargon. Is there a way to “demystify” Freud and make his teachings easier for an average high school/college student to grasp? TP: I don’t think the views are all that mysterious, though they are often difficult, and psychoanalysis does have to be studied systematically and historically. That is because it was constantly modified and augmented, both in Freud’s lifetime and subsequently. There are some fairly good books out now that take the reader through the theory and its developments. Freud’s views often strike adolescents (and of course others) as repugnant and outlandish. The best way to try and remedy that is to explain the historical context of the views, the clinical material on which they’re founded, and the contemporary “placing” or assessment of them.

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (May 6, 1856–September 23, 1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian ps...

An eccentric Spanish artist whose name is synonymous with the Surrealist movement, Salvador Dali (1904-1989) created more than 1,500 paintings in his lifetime. His works also include prints, drawings, sculptures, and theater sets. His popularity spawned countless forgeries; art experts say there are probably more fake artworks attributed to Dali­  than to any other artist in history.
A former Belgian journalist, Stan Lauryssens became an art dealer specializing in fake Salvador Dali works. He was eventually arrested and incarcerated. His experiences spawned a book, Dali and I, The Surreal Story which is being made into a movie starring Al Pacino.

Simply Charly: You were once a journalist who interviewed some well-known personalities. What made you change the direction from journalism to art dealing? Stan Lauryssens: I was in my late twenties and fed up with freelancing and struggling through life. A journalist, if he's honest, doesn't make much money, and I wanted to get rich fast. Because of its international exposure, the art world is the perfect vehicle for laundering and whitewashing criminal money. Investors don't buy paintings; they buy blue-chip "names"—Picasso, Van Gogh, Warhol, Dalí­—that guarantee a return on their investment. I was a kind of modern-day Robin Hood: I took money from the rich, but instead of giving it to the poor, I kept it for myself and had a great time spending it. SC: As an art dealer, you specialized in Dalí­. What specifically attracted you to his works in the first place? SL: Nothing. I didn't know anything about art. I didn't know anything about Salvador Dalí­. To me, the art world was foreign territory. I only knew about greed. I tried to sell Picasso and Chagall, but investors weren't interested. Those artists were so boring. Then I started talking about Salvador Dalí­. In Rome, he gave a two-hour press conference in Latin though he didn't speak a word of the language. He made it all up, on the spot. In Venice, Dalí­ transformed himself into a very tall giant on stilts. He requested the Holy Vatican to film him in the Sistine Chapel nailed to the floor, the way Christ was nailed to the cross. My wealthy investors pricked their ears. That was interesting stuff. "Now you're talking," they said. Once I was there, once I had their attention, selling them a "Dalí­" was easy—I sold them a dream. SC: What are your memories of Dalí­ the artist and Dali the man? SL: In the early 80s, I went to Dalí­'s house. He was sitting in a wheelchair, in a white robe that covered his legs. He wore white socks and sandals. His famous mustache was gray, almost white. He was balding. His stomach was swollen. His right arm shook from shoulder to wrist. A week earlier, I was in prison, charged with selling fake Dalí­s to the world. Now there I was, in Dalí­'s own house in Spain, face to face with the man himself. I couldn't believe it. Suddenly Salvador Dalí­ was my only neighbor. He looked different from the photographs I'd seen and the books I'd given to my clients, but I still considered him to be the greatest surrealist and commercial artist of all time because he'd "created" wealth and made me and others so much money. SC: You spent time in prison for selling fake Dalí­s. Was this really a lucrative business and, if so, why Dalí­ and not any other artist? Are his works particularly easy to fake, or is there a huge demand for his works? SL: Today, sadly enough, the integrity, honor, and trustworthiness of Salvador Dalí­ as the icon of the 20th-century Surrealism is being questioned in courtrooms all over the world. There was this damning story about art auctions on cruise ships that led to anger, accusations, and lawsuits: a businessman from San Diego touring the Mediterranean attended an art auction promoted onboard and bought a trilogy of pencil-signed Salvador Dalí­ prints valued at $35,000. The prints were purchased in international waters, beyond the three-mile radius of the United States Court jurisdiction. "The auctioneer told us Dalí­ prints would go up 20 percent a year," the San Diego businessman stated. Back in California, he did some research and soon learned that a) the Dalí­ signature on his purchase was a forgery, and b) the resale value of the trilogy of Dalí­­ prints was next to nothing. There's more. On March 19, 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice released an indictment against seven U.S. and European "art dealers" and "counterfeit artwork distributors" for their alleged role in a $5 million international fraud scheme selling counterfeit Salvador Dalí­ fine art prints "bearing forged signatures and false numbering" between July 1999 and October 2007. The fake Dalí­ prints were sold primarily on eBay. One of the objects currently for sale on the site is a Salvador Dalí­ lithograph representing the ultra-famous "The Persistence of Memory" with a bid price of US $ 1,700,000. The image depicts soft watches in a desolate landscape and is offered for sale from Santa Monica, CA. Isn't that strange? "The Persistence of Memory"—small oil on canvas—is the undisputed star piece at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. How come you and I can buy the image on eBay for almost two million dollars? SC: You say that Dalí­'s works were "a hot commodity for wealthy investors looking to launder their black market cash." Why was Dalí­ a willing accomplice to this shady activity? SL: Dalí­ lived expensively, like a Maharaja. He needed big sales to fund his millionaire lifestyle and pencil-signed hundreds of thousands of blank sheets of paper, like a machine cranked up all the way, one sheet every two seconds at forty dollars per signature. If he did it for an hour, Dalí­ was seventy-two thousand dollars richer. He needed more paintings, bigger paintings that could be sold for tenfold the price of small surrealist oil on canvas. Then disaster struck. In his later years, he suffered from Parkinson's disease so that he couldn't paint anymore. He hired assistants who painted his later paintings. Other studio assistants applied the famous Dalí­ signatures, also on the hundreds of thousands of fake Dalí­ prints and lithographs that, even today, are sold on eBay and elsewhere. If someone buys a Dalí­ print now, it's a fake Dalí­, which means Dalí­ himself has never seen it and probably didn't even know it existed. Today, twenty years after the artist died, new fake Dalí lithographs are printed and signed in secret printing plants all over the world. It's a racket, of course. I know what I'm talking about since I was part of that racket. SC: In the book, you allege that the world's museums are packed with fake artworks that were only signed by the artist or his representatives and sold to fund his lavish lifestyle. Do you actually have proof of that? SL: What about Art Experts Inc., Florida, attesting on its website that all Dalí­ prints created in the 1970s and 1980s are considered "fakes," while all Dalí paintings produced between 1981 and 1983 are in the hands of either Manuel Pujol Baladas or Isidro Bea, two of Dalí­'s main assistants? After Dalí­ passed away in 1989, Isidro Bea phoned me. I met him and talked to him at length. He'd been painting stage screens for the Barcelona opera house when he met Dalí­. Bea confirmed to me that it took him only a couple of days to copy every square inch of Senor Dalí­'s giant Battle of Tetouan from a color photograph in Life magazine. Manuel Pujol Baladas I met on several occasions. He even paid for, participated, and exhibited at an art fair I organized in Barcelona. In Spain, Manuel was nicknamed "Young Dalí." "How many Dalí­ oils on canvas did you paint?" I asked him. "Five hundred, between 1975 and 1982," Young Dalí­ said. "How many watercolors on paper?" "Two thousand? Three thousand?" (It's in my book.) "Not true, I never said that and I never did that," Manuel Pujol Baladas commented in an open letter sent to various newspapers, magazines, and Internet sites in Spain. Not true? Manuel Pujol Baladas has a short memory. In March 1983, Rafael Cid interviewed him for the weekly Spanish Cambio 16 magazine. What did Young Dalí­ say back then? I translate: "I admit that I painted 430 fake Dalí­ paintings between 1975 and 1982 and that Dalí­ knew what I was doing because he paid me to do so. I was Dalí­'s official forger." A month after his confession, a Barcelona judge ordered the arrest of Young Dalí­. SC: If this contention is true, why do you think nobody else has stepped forward with the same allegations? Has there been a conspiracy in art circles to keep this kind of illicit activity hush? SL: If you step forward, there is a price to be paid. You're either a liar, or you shut up. Experimenting with a photomosaic technique at Bell Labs-previously United States Bell Systems and formerly known as AT&T Bell Laboratories-Professor Leon D. Harmon created large prints from highly pixelated symbols or images. To illustrate his 1973 article "The Recognition of Faces" published in Scientific American, he created a computerized block portrait of Abraham Lincoln copied from the American five-dollar bill. Dalí­ saw the magazine, extracted the image and used it as the basis of a large Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea or Lincoln in Dalí­ vision painting he was working on in his New York suite with the help of "a certain Phillips," Dalí­'s American assistant who was, in fact, Israeli. The now-famous Dalí­ painting nearly prompted a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Professor Harmon was paid off handsomely and chose not to sue. SC: A movie based on your book is in the making with Al Pacino playing Dalí­. Did you have a say in the choice of Pacino for the lead role, and if so, what authentic qualities do you think he will impart to his portrayal of Dalí­? SL: "We read about 1,500 scripts. Stan's story was the best. I am convinced both title roles will attract A-list actors," producer David Sacks told Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the movie industry trade papers. "Stan provides many casting opportunities. Handsome, suave, 30ish leading man is a very big category in Hollywood. For the Dalí­ part, Al Pacino and Benicio del Toro are high on our wish-list and so are Johnny Depp, Gary Oldman, and Ian McKellen." That was four years ago. In my book, I am a 40-year-old Belgian art dealer. In the script and the film, I'm 28, a New Yorker, I smoke like a chimney and chase every available woman-when I'm not snorting cocaine." Only chasing women can be attributed to me." Seven o'clock sharp. Early morning news on the radio. First item: "Oscar-winner Al Pacino will play the Salvador Dalí­ part in a new film based on the book 'Dalí­ & I: The Surreal Story' by Stan Lauryssens ."I choked on my coffee when I heard that. I couldn't believe my ears. Al Pacino!" SC: Do you think your book will tarnish Dalí­'s reputation in art circles and with the public in general? SL: Thanks to Dalí­'s paintings, I made a lot of money. There was a warrant out for my arrest. I fled to Spain. An extradition request was filed through Interpol. I was arrested, handcuffed, fingerprinted, and interrogated endlessly. My cellmates in prison were Russian mafia, London cockney gangsters, Americans on the run from the FBI, Colombian drug barons, and a handful of psychopathic killers. I was lucky that I got out alive. Now, thanks to my book, and thanks to the movie, I make money legally—and Dalí­ is still and will always be. It's a win-win situation.

An eccentric Spanish artist whose name is synonymous with the Surrealist movement, Salvador Dali (1904-1989) created more than 1,500 paintings in his lifetime. His works also include prints, drawing...

A celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of Codebreaker and Computer Pioneer Alan Turing’s birth has been scheduled at King's College, Cambridge for June 15-16, 2012. Over a dozen of the world's leading scholars and experts including several family members and friends along with a special appearance by Turing's last surviving wartime colleague from Station X will be on hand to celebrate Turing's unique impact on mathematics, computing, computer science, informatics, morphogenesis, artificial intelligence, philosophy, and the wider scientific world. A series of lectures has been organized covering the Second World War, the development of our technological society, Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Life, the theory and practice of computing, and the understanding of the human mind. Not to be missed! For more information, please visit Turing's 100th Year

A celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of Codebreaker and Computer Pioneer Alan Turing’s birth has been scheduled at King’s College, Cambridge for June 15-16, 2012. Over a dozen of the ...

Regarded by many as one of the most intelligent humans that ever lived, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646–1716) was one of the greatest thinkers of the 17th and 18th centuries. He made significant contributions to the fields of philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, religion, as well as mathematics, physics, and geology.
Philosopher at the University of Pittsburgh and the Co-Chairman of its Center for Philosophy of Science, Nicholas Rescher has had a lifelong interest in the works of G. W. Leibniz. He authored numerous books and scholarly articles about the philosophy of science, Arabic and ancient Greek philosophy, process philosophy, logic, metaphysics, and values.

Simply Charly: You've had a lifelong fascination with the life and work of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. What is it particularly about Leibniz that has swayed you so? Nicholas Rescher: The amazing things about Leibniz are his versatility and creativity. Quite apart from his classic system of philosophy, he invented entire branches of mathematics (differential and integral calculus, binary arithmetic, topology (analysis situs), theory of determinants), of symbolic logic, of hypsographical method. He devised the first four-function calculating machine (with its ground-breaking stepped drum), a cryptographic machine, a novel style of windmill, and various other devices. He also invented an entirely new way of doing physics, viz. analytical mechanics whose salient question is not “How are we to explain the phenomenon by means of laws?” but “How are we to explain the laws by means of principles?” He was a great scientific organizer, the inaugural President of the Royal Academy in Berlin, and instrumental in launching academies in Vienna and St. Petersburg. He invented the role of science advisor to ruling princes and was an active and influential diplomatist as well as an astute political theorist. SC: In an interview we conducted a few years ago with philosopher John Searle, he stated that “For sheer intelligence, probably the most intelligent philosopher who ever lived and perhaps the most intelligent human being who ever lived was Gottfried Leibniz.” Do you agree and why? Nicholas Rescher: I wholly agree with my colleague John Searle. Leibniz was perhaps the most intelligent human being who ever lived. And he was also that most widely informed and profoundly learned. No one else since Aristotle’s day has had a complete command of the scientific and scholarly thought of the time. SC: In the same interview, Searle states that “Leibniz’s actual doctrines are extremely implausible. And though he made important contributions to a lot of fields (for example, along with Newton he invented the calculus) his purely philosophical work is today regarded as mostly of historical interest.” Do you agree with his assessment? NR: The oft-repeated contention that Leibniz’s purely philosophical work is nowadays of solely historical interest is very questionable. There are many different ways of contributing to philosophy, seeing that one can espouse points of view that people see as originally significant, articulate theses that people nowadays widely endorse, put on the agenda questions that continue to engage thinkers, introduce modes of reasoning and argumentation that find ongoing application. In all of these respects, Leibniz made significant contributions. SC: Many people first became aware of Leibniz through Voltaire's satire Candide. In it, Voltaire introduced the phrase “the best of all possible worlds” a doctrine first developed by Leibniz. Today, contemporary philosophers and logicians have made great use of this concept. Can you explain the idea behind it? NR: Leibniz wrestled extensively with the issue of the world’s contingency—the question of why it is that the world should have the features it actually does and what it is that sets reality apart from other possibilities. His response was that the possibilities actualized in this world maximize “perfection” in a somewhat technical sense of this term. This optimalism of his is not really all that optimistic. The idea of “the best of possible worlds” must be understood with an emphasis on that qualifier possible. The idea is not that this world is flawless, but that the other possibilities fare even worse. SC: Unlike most of the great philosophers of the period, Leibniz did not write a magnum opus. If he published anything, it was, more or less, “designed to win the approbation of princes and princesses” for whom he served as a courtier. However, the center of his philosophy was is his metaphysics—his theory of the fundamental nature of reality that is contained in the Monadology. Can you briefly explain what Leibniz set out to show in this work? NR: While Leibniz published several important historical works—especially in the area of political and diplomatic history—he wrote only two philosophical books, the Theodicy of 1710 and the New Essays on Human Understanding (a critique of John Locke he refrained from publishing after Locke’s death). He chose a very different way of disseminating his philosophy—viz. correspondence. His exchanges with some of the most significant thinkers of the day are in many cases book-length. (And over a hundred thousand pages of his correspondence still survive.)  While Leibniz was glad to have the approbation of princes and princesses—an asset very useful for his extensive efforts to establish academies and learned societies—he principally sought the understanding and appreciation of his fellow scholar-scientists. And he engaged them one at a time—through correspondence. SC: In Bertrand Russell's book A Critical Exposition of The Philosophy of Leibniz, Russell referred to the Monadology as “a kind of fantastic fairy tale, coherent perhaps, but wholly arbitrary.” Do you agree? NR: Leibniz saw the task of metaphysics not as one of describing the worlds of our ordinary experience, but as one of explaining it. And this explanation has to take everything into account—including not only natural science from the microscopic to the cosmic level, but also the social sciences, and even theology. Now it is, or should be, deemed only natural and expected that any explanation of reality at this level of generality and depth should look strange to casual inspection—“a kind of formalistic fancy talk.” And here people who live in glass houses shall not throw stones. Compared to our present-day quantum theory of the very small and many-world cosmology of the very large, the Leibnizian monadology is a quintessence of prosaic. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz[/caption] SC: In that same book, Russell also stated that the key to Leibniz's thought might be entirely derived from his logic. How so? NR: Bertrand Russell’s contention that “the key to Leibniz’s [metaphysical] thought may be entirely derived from his logic” is a deeply flawed exaggeration. It would, however, be unproblematically true if “the key” were changed to “a key” and that “entirely” omitted. Russell is right in that much of Leibniz’s metaphysics can be unraveled by following out the thread provided by the theory of truth encompassed in his logic. But he is quite wrong seeing this as the only pathway to this destination. The fascinating thing about Leibniz’s metaphysics is explained and motivated from very different angles of approach. These certainly include logic, but also mathematics (via his infinitesimal calculus), physics (via his critique of Cartesian mechanics), biology (via his converting on the terms of microscopy), theology (as per his correspondence with Arnauld and Des Bosses), theology (as per his theory of creation as a choice among possibilities), and so on. Just as Leibnizian metaphysics reality encompasses a manifold of points of view, Leibniz’s own philosophical thought-reality conjoins and coordinates a multitude of thematic perspectives. It is exactly this much-encompassing proliferation of thought-perspectives that is the hallmark of Leibniz’s philosophizing and the ground of its fascination. SC: One of the most public episodes in Leibniz's career concerned the priority dispute with Sir Isaac Newton over who rightfully invented the calculus. Can you describe the circumstances of this controversy? NR: The priority dispute over the development of the calculus between the Newtonians and the Leibnizians was conducted by both parties at arm’s length. With both Newton and Leibniz, the dispute was carried on through intermediaries. Here Newton’s secretiveness did his cause much damage. He himself used his methods (based on the concept of “fluxions”) effectively but did not explain and expound them. Leibniz, on the other hand, had cultivated outreach and found many able expositors and exponents (especially l’Hôpital in France, and the Bernoullis in Italy). The controversy with the Newtonians came to a boil in the early 1700s when Leibniz was extensively preoccupied with other matters. He was more than happy to leave the defense of his interests in other hands. As a result of the dispute, the Leibnizian perspectives and methods prevailed on the Continent and yielded a flourishing of mathematics there that left Britain mathematically in the dust for almost a century. SC: Among the many hats that Leibniz wore, he was also an inventor. He developed a calculating machine, inspired by an earlier model designed by Pascal, called Staffelwalze or the Stepped Reckoner, which you had a hand in rediscovering and eventually restoring. Can you tell us more about it?  NR: Besides his skills as a theoretician, Leibniz also (and most unusually) had a talent for engineering, sought to make innovations in clockworks, carriage wheels, navigation aids, windmills, and other devices. Of special interest for him were machines that would conduct cognitive operations. These preeminently included his calculating machine—the very first that could carry our all four basic mathematical operations. For its sake, he devised the stepped drum (German: Steffelwalze) a gear—still called the “Leibniz gear”—that only came into occasional operation and provided for the carrying operation in arithmetical calculation. (The Google entry “stepped drum” leads to a lovely illustration of its operation.) It occurred to Leibniz that the carry-over from one decimal place to another could also provide for the shift from one monoalphabetic cipher to another in encryption. And this led him to conceive of another cognitive machine—a cipher machine that would transpose messages from one language system to another. He kept this idea in deepest secrecy and put it to view on only two occasions in memoranda for audiences with princes (John Friedrich of Hannover in 1676 and Emperor Leopold II in Vienna in 1688). The descriptions needed to conceptualize the device were only recently published, and it is currently being recreated by Leibniz-machine experts. SC: What do you feel is Leibniz’s lasting legacy? NR: Leibniz’s numerous and enduring contributions to philosophy include: the theory of neutral monism in metaphysics; the conception of alternative possible worlds; the idea of the arithmetization of cognitive relationships; the theory that all natural processes root in considerations of maximization or minimization. Even his strange-seeming metaphysic of monadology has made a substantial impact as recently as Russell and Whitehead. Most important, however, for Leibniz’s lasting legacy is his conception of the systemic integrating of knowledge—that any adequate philosophy must accommodate the sciences of nature, of man, and of society in a seamless whole, integrating this with humanistic and theological perspectives SC: How would you recommend a student approach Leibniz’s philosophy for the first time? Are there particular texts or secondary sources you’d recommend? NR: To approach the philosophy of Leibniz one might well read: • Bertrand Russell, A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900). [A somewhat dated but lively exposition.] • Maria Rosa Antognazza, Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). [A vivid and comprehensive account of Leibniz’s life and work.] • Nicholas Rescher, Leibniz: An Introduction to his Philosophy (Totowa, N.J. : Rowman and Littlefield, 1979). [An accessible general introduction.] Thereupon one should read the work of Leibniz himself, especially via: • Leroy E. Loemker, Philosophical Papers and Letters (Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 1956).

Regarded by many as one of the most intelligent humans that ever lived, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646–1716) was one of the greatest thinkers of the 17th and 18th centuries. He made significa...