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  1. Introduction
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Weil, M. Wertheimer, K. Lorenz, S. Eddington, M. Polanyi, A. Portmann, F. Jacob, A. Lwoff, L. Due to the preponderant attention given to the physical sciences, epistemology was recently accused of ignoring the most important problems of biology and of underestimating the challenges in socio-human sciences. This became an invitation to change its approach in these areas. The old epistemological paradigm had subdivided the sciences into different classes and groups: a "Empirical-analytical" natural sciences use formal logic and mathematics; they are built on an empirical basis experimental observations and induction or by assuming laws and theorems through hypothetical-deductive, partial, provisory and falsifiable systems.

Their hermeneutic method tries to explain the whole with the part and the part with the whole, to pick up the correlations between events among them and the totality of the process. Among those human sciences that have an experimental component, medicine and economics, above all, seem to represent two complex and instructive cases. The sciences of the group that we have here called "socio-human" are still searching for their identity and their method, not having been able to make a decisive epistemological and methodological choice. They still continue to waiver between the formalizing analytical and empirical-objective demands of the natural sciences, and the hermeneutic demands of the historical-human sciences.

Their attempts to harmonize the two different methodological frameworks, without an underlying consistency, have thus far been largely unsuccessful. Many are therefore convinced that they will not be able to resolve their problem until they cage themselves in the scientific paradigm of the natural sciences. Presently the goal of the socio-human sciences seems to be the attainment of a true identity which will allow them a legitimate methodological pluralism.

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This suggests, in the first place, recognizing that the socio-human events analyzed by them never constitute "things," but rather are human "events" characterized by values and meanings. Such events can be "treated" only with phenomenological and hermeneutic methods, aimed not only at explaining the events, but above all at comprehending them cf.


Possenti, , pp. Once this irreducible diversity of objects is recognized, epistemology will have to admit two fundamental demands. The first is that no discipline, by itself, can exhaust the knowledge of a given reality, but can investigate only a limited and minute portion of it. The second is that every discipline must determine its own scientificity in harmony with its specific approach to reality. This is true not only for the human sciences, but for all the sciences and indeed for the disciplines in every field.

This conviction of limitation is much more important, since it helps to overcome a blind spot in all the sciences. Modern science, which began with classical mechanics , could not perceive the limits of its own deterministic model. Since then, the sciences and their specific objects have altered so much that it is necessary to speak of science no longer univocally as classical mechanics , but "analogically," allowing innumerable "specific models of scientificity. In contrast, the old scientific paradigm, tied to the science of nature and to the presupposition of the absolute certainty of scientific mechanistic and deterministic knowledge, chose very restrictive "univocal" criteria, such as deductibility, universality and necessity, which reduced drastically and unduly the concept of scientificity to "univocity" and thus engendered serious difficulties for the socio-human sciences, in particular, and for all the disciplines in general.

Meanwhile, the socio-human disciplines needed to await the indisputable demonstration of the partial, provisory, conjectural, and fallible character of all scientific knowledge, in order to gain the necessary leeway for their legitimate needs. Today, the emerging problems of complexity draw the interest of epistemology even more towards those sciences. We cannot exclude, then, that an epistemology of complexity developed precisely for the socio-human sciences may in the future inspire the natural sciences as well. The Characteristics of the Economic Sciences.

Among the various disciplines, that of economics constitutes a very interesting, and perhaps unique, case in its epistemological nature. Born essentially as a complete imitation of the natural sciences, in the 20th century it experienced repeatedly the failures of its "scientific" conclusions and doctrines. Shaken by the postwar crisis, by the convulsions of the Sixties and by the stagnation, inflation, and recession of the following years, it lost much of its self-confidence; nevertheless, it remained among the last to begin its own epistemological reflection, claiming an inability to resolve its problems.

As a consequence, by the end of the Eighties there still was no text available to introduce, clearly and comprehensibly, the methodology of economics cf. Pheby, Economists did not consider the epistemology of Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend, Lakatos, Laudan, and others as "apt" for their purposes. They criticized approximate and untrustworthy induction, the insufficiency of theoretical depth, and the construction of great super-structures based on virtual elements.

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They, in reality, had agreed to address concerns regarding the use of mathematical formulas, which were accused of representing unreal and useless models that lacked empirical verification and significant information; macroeconomics was seen as a measure without theory, and natural-mechanistic prejudices were pointed out which rendered microeconomics and macroeconomics incompatible with each other. In spite of all this, few economists accepted Popper's criticisms and continued verifying instead of falsifying their theories cf.

From Kuhn they accepted the criticism of Popperian falsificationism, but not the idea that science operates by "paradigms", a notion which they judged to be vague and not apt for the subtle and complex nature of economics cf. Lakatos attempted a synthesis of the previous epistemologies of economics, proposing a sophisticated falsificationism, aimed at saving groups of theories through programs of research, while preserving the insights of paradigms.

He did not manage, however, to unite the criteria of demarcation and falsification. This was largely due to a lack of rigorous definitions of key concepts in the realm of economics. These definitions are elusive, changing the reality to which they refer; they cannot anticipate anomalies; it is difficult to distinguish "fundamental axioms" and "positive heuristics". Laudan proposed a "disciplinary matrix" or "ordered wholes of elements" shared by a given discipline.

Such excessive methodological disputes neglected the more general and fundamental questions of meaning, and of the ethics of economics, precisely as discoveries of the hidden conditioning of the sciences, of the complexity of processes, and of their socio-cultural dependence had overthrown the absolutist pretensions of the scientific discourse, and confirmed ethics as an indispensable dimension of scientific activity cf. Gismondi, In the 20th century great economic crises and endemic disorders pauperism, inequality, unemployment, etc.

An analysis of the hermeneutical, rhetorical, and communicative character of the economic discourse is urgently needed, as well as a critique of its theories, which have only a short- or middle-range applicability. Economics needs an epistemology open to broader issues concerning the social and political aspects of human life, to which it is by nature anchored.

In this respect, the new models of "rationality of solidarity," based on relationality, solidarity, and reciprocity, inspired with an integral vision of the human being, and more adequately reflecting the demands of civil society cf. Gismondi, are worth considering. The preceding observations in the case of the economic science show that the simple recognition of "epistemological pluralism" is not enough, since we first need to re-define the general criteria of scientificity and of scientific method.

Today it seems possible to begin with three fundamental needs for every discipline. The first is the "logical-programmatic coherence," that is, the ability to conform observations and verifications to reality. The second is the "ability to explain and anticipate," that is, to formulate reliable predictions. The third is the "ability of self-reorganization," that is, to adapt constantly to the growing necessities of its own research. These criteria provide a "general structure of scientificity," which allows every discipline to elaborate an intrinsic, rigorous scientificity, appropriate to its identity, and always adapting to new tasks.

In fact, the "logical-programmatic coherence" addresses the needs of rigor and objectivity, and the "qualification" and "ability to self-reorganize" addresses the need to adapt scientificity to new contingencies. Adopting such universal criteria also no longer forces the social-human sciences to employ heteronomous theories, imposed from outside, "objectified" and "oriented to power," and developed on the model of the natural sciences, which will always remain inadequate to human or social sciences.

These properly autonomous theories, rather, suitable for the comprehension of their objects and able to elevate the self-comprehension of humankind, would help to render human beings more aware of their actions, in full adherence to what specifically pertains to the human sphere. It is therefore necessary to develop an "epistemological pluralism" that legitimizes the plurality of models and types of scientificity suitable for the requirements of diverse fields. Such a pluralism, grounded on the analogical character of the concepts of science and scientificity, is appropriate for the growing diversity of contemporary science and its methods, and facilitates its whole development.

Since it is based on a high ideal of science, it forces the various disciplines to elaborate different, but compatible, models of scientificity. This aspect is very important, because it avoids methodological fragmentation and an arbitrary concept of analogy of scientificity, in favor of a fundamental "analogy of being. On these traits are founded relationships, similarities, and qualities that the human mind grasps and that it expresses in concepts. It has been amply used both by philosophy and by Christian theology, as a way to express the infinite perfection of the Creator, who manifests himself in the innumerable diversity of creatures.

The analogy of being provides a foundation for an intelligibility of things that is not exhausted by a single model of knowledge science , but rather is unveiled by multiple, autonomous forms of knowledge. The analogy of being offers epistemology the possibility of a metaphysical and gnoseological foundation, which recognizes both the unitary and pluralistic dimensions of being, hierarchical and interconnected. On this basis, epistemology will be able to recognize the analogy, the pluralism, and the polyvalence of the concepts that pertain to each field, and to express them through the most appropriate models and forms.

It also helps to overcome the tension between knowing and judging, a tension that has led to the exclusion of ethical values and moral norms from scientific discourse. Such a new epistemology excludes all reductive concordism, and engages the most significant results of the latest scientific research with the great patrimony of experience, intuition, and thought accumulated by humankind through art, philosophy, and religion. Since the "scandal of impeded episteme" denounced by Henri Bergson and Gaston Bachelard was removed, symbolic thought is no longer considered a residue of superstition, barbarism, lack of civilization, "religious obscurantism" or primitive "theological" prehistory.

Contemporary philosophy recognizes it as the most specific and characteristic expression of Homo sapiens , at the very center of the activity of hominization, humanization, and conscious self-development, and it is responsible for the highest human achievements. Regarding scientificity, it is important to remember that the idea of science as authentic knowledge has penetrated deeply into the contemporary mentality. Common discourse understands in scientificity not so much its contents, but its attitudes, thoughts, and emphasis on rigor and objectivity, in whatever field they are applied cf.

Agazzi, , pp.

The scientific "attitude" is clearer and more realistic than the discussion, often unending and inconclusive, regarding the "distinctions" of the sciences and their contents idiographic, nomotetic, concerning nature, spirit, society, and so forth. Pluralism acknowledges what is essential and avoids both the imprisonment of the method in the paradigm of one or a few privileged sciences, as well as its dilution into generic and heterogeneous intellectual attitudes.

In the former, scientific discourse is reduced to rigid homogeneity, while in the latter all discourses and activities are rendered "scientific". With this clarification in mind, we now turn to the demands of "rigor" and "objectivity. In terms of scientific rigor it is worth observing that, in the last few years, techniques of quantification and mathematization have diminished in importance, while the fundamental activities of science, such as data collection, hypotheses, explanations, verifications, and predictions have become more significant.

This change facilitated the work of human sciences, which have been better able to focus on the areas which rendered them vague and unsatisfactory.


In contrast to the natural sciences, the human sciences suffer from a noticeably vague concept of "data". Physicists almost never disagree about the nature of data, while psychologists and sociologists almost never agree. For this reason these latter scientists find it extremely difficult to determine whether certain regularities not simple, isolated facts are data or not, and this uncertainty colors the rest of their work.

They rarely succeed in avoiding contradictions between hypotheses which are considered only plausible conjectures and available data, a difficulty rooted in the thorny problem of passing from a vague plausibility to a logical and coherent explanation of data, based on a well-formed hypothesis. They lack a correct, logical "tree," which would allow such a demonstration.

Above all, concurrent hypotheses in these fields should be measured against one another not on a generic compatibility with data, but on the cohesion of their entire logical framework, which moves from hypothesis to fact by means of cogent explanations. Another difficulty in the human sciences is that of "corroborating" hypotheses through independent predictions and verifications or falsifications.

It is not a difficulty over mathematical methods, but rather over the adoption of more general "methodological frameworks" that would allow the rigor proper to a true scientificity. In short, all the sciences could together fall under the common methodological base of: a gathering data in a rigorous and objective way in order to arrive at the essential parameters of the matter under study; b formulating proper interpretative hypotheses; c corroborating them with further observations in order to obtain data that can be interpreted and explained in the framework of an established theory; and d developing clear and methodical objectives by developing a series of logical connections that may lead from the hypothesis to the desired outcome.

This general schema of scientific rigor appears feasible, in substance, even for the human sciences cf. Dealing with objectivity is a bit more complicated. Objectivity includes the notions of both "non-dependence on the subject" and "inherence in the object". The inherence in the object expresses the strong sense of objectivity, while the non-dependence on the subject expresses the weak meaning.

In fact, an inherent characteristic of an object is recognized by all subjects - but not vice versa. Therefore, the inter-subjectivity, or independence from subjects, is much weaker than inherence, and cannot characterize objectivity. In addition, objectivity also means "reference only to certain objects" cf. The philosophical passage from strong objectivity of inherence, to the weak one of inter-subjectivity can be represented by Descartes and Kant, the latter calling into question our ability to know the object.

In fact, after Kant denied our knowledge of objects in themselves, his successors limited themselves to the weak objectivity of merely overcoming subjectivity. The same shift happened in science, which, from the time of Galileo until the beginning of the 19th century, proposed itself as a decisive form of "inherence" and objectivity. Its collapse into inter-subjectivity is recent, and it is due to many factors.

Among them is the epistemological discussion raised by the theories of special and general relativity, indeterminism, the discussion of the foundations of science, the separation of human and social sciences from the physical sciences, the problem of complexity, the debates on the scientificity of psychoanalysis, the critique of the School of Frankfurt, and so on. As a consequence of this new state of affairs, today we can speak of "scientific objects" not merely as "something that exists," but as "something known.

Inter-subjectivity means that what is said about "something which has been known" must be recognizable by all and not only by those who say it. The role of inter-subjectivity can be clarified by a simple example. The notion of "black" is inter-subjective when, in a group, a subject who invites the others to take black objects contained in the room sees them taking the same objects he would have taken. Inter-subjectivity is actualized through "operative definitions" or notions in use which allow visible and controllable actions to choose the black.

Without operative definitions, the subjects might only tell one another the contents of their own individual and personal experiences, which for some sciences is something impossible or irrelevant. Actually, scientific objectivity is contingent and relative to a determined socio-cultural context; knowledge never starts from nothing, but from a given level of information and its communication is possible only in a certain cultural context.

Each field of science elaborates its operative criteria for inter-subjective agreements, and does so according to its requirements and to a specific socio-cultural context cultural aspect of the "science" phenomenon. With this clarification in mind, let us return to the other meaning of objectivity, that which is "referring to precise objects. In the beginning of scientific activity the objects typically coincided with "things": heavenly bodies for astronomy, plants for botany, animals for zoology, and so forth.

Later the same "thing" became the object of multiple sciences, and were differentiated on the basis of the point of view perspective of each science. The expression "point of view", however, is imprecise. The science of mechanics, for example, wanted to define its object very precisely, as consisting in "things referring exclusively to three predicates" mass, space, time and a few other definable predicates based on those.

This way of expressing the object of a science seemed to be correct and precise. We can say then that every science determines its own object by determining the specific predicates on which it bases its discourse on a determinate thing, adhering always to them. The fundamental task of every discipline consists in building true propositions, keeping exclusively to their proper fundamental predicates and to those that are drawn from them. The truth of such propositions will be ascertained by uniting the predicates and some operative definitions that help to verify their coherence.

In synthesis: a science defines its own scientificity by elaborating the basic operative predicates which, beginning with things, determines their proper object and formulates their "data", that is, the "propositions immediately true about the objects". With this framework in mind, we recover the "objects" of science that are not to be confused with the "things" of daily experience.

The objects, in fact, are "methodologically built," in the way just described, which eliminates the gap between scientific discourse and its object, but not the gap between scientific discourse and things. Thus the two "forms" of objectivity coincide, because the predicates are introduced in a practical and operative way due to the same operations which allow the inter-subjective agreement. In other words: the conditions which determine the objects of a science, are the same conditions that allow the knowledge of such objects inter-subjectively.

What is most important in this matter is that it includes all the sciences, because it constitutes a general scheme applicable to every discipline. Therefore, every particular science will only have to make explicit the predicates of "its" point of view psychological, sociological, historical, political, theological, etc.

The scientific field will need to formulate explanatory hypotheses which contain those predicates, aimed at establishing a semantic relation between theory and the pertinent objects. The sciences will then have to dedicate themselves first to the "formation of the concepts," and then to the "construction of theories," since the problems of theories can be solved only after having resolved those of concepts. These considerations of past problems introduce us to those of the present and to the prospects for the future.

In the post-modern era these problems include that of "weak thought", which also suggests a "weak pluralism. Desiring not to be constrictive, or to compromise the diversity and complexity of reality, they reject every classification, justification, and foundation cf. Deleuze, Difference et repetition, ; Derrida, De la grammatologie, Weak thought is considered an offspring of that hermeneutics which reduces differences but does not deny contingency, which it considers a positive phenomenon and the ultimate reference point of reality.

Some appreciate this refutation of absolutes, strong thinking, and pretensions of privilege and totality, and add that weak thought does leave space for an ultimate, but always open, truth. Against strong thought, weak thought it would defend the reasonableness of judgments and the rationality of thinking. According to the framework of weak thought, then, scientific knowledge could no longer pretend to exhaust any perception of reality, or to replace, surpass, or render superfluous any other kind of knowledge. When understood in this way, weak thought would make clear to the sciences that the lived and the spontaneous are irreducible to various structures of order, method or system; it would also be a reminder that all knowledge is subject to risks and limitations cf.

Brena, , pp. Attention to the concrete, the corporeal, the lived, and the inexhaustible encourage science to look at the objective, but also at the personal, ethical, and religious dimension of truth, in view of which no discourse, even scientific, can ever be neutral. The social-human sciences, in particular, are dependent on one's respect for the values and the experiences of every person. For philosophy and especially for theology, attaining neutrality would mean denying the very ability to speak of what is truly most significant and counts above all.

This apparent conflict between neutrality and intolerance can only be overcome in the context of dialogue , common search for truth, and discernment of basic choices. The same methodological atheism, which demands that every reference to God be omitted in order to understand reality, would be, in this way, a strong factor for tolerance. However, to refute the pretension of neutrality and of methodological atheism neither admits their limits nor advocates a degradation into ideology, but rather elicits the clear emergence, at an epistemological and gnoseological level, the fact that no reality can be understood correctly and fully by excluding its transcendental character, its relationship to human life and ultimately God Himself cf.

What is most evident from the debate in the last few years is that the problem of epistemological unification cannot ignore the fact that in all scientific fields -natural-physical physics, chemistry, biology, etc. The instruments and the fundamental elements which provide the basis for the unity of knowledge are not exclusive to any group of science, nor to any discipline.

Ultimately, the unity of the various disciplines is founded more on these common elements than on the search for a unifying method, while their diversity derives from their specific cognitive aim which "constitutes" the objects proper to each. All sciences, then, are tied to their context. This includes, on one hand, a pre-scientific knowledge of reality which is to be respected as meaningful , and on the other hand, the correlated plurality of interests and knowledge. Scientific truths are both absolute and incomplete, which is to say, partly incontestable and definitive, and partly calling to be completed and surpassed cf.

Regarding the aspect or the hermeneutic dimension of scientific knowledge, contemporary epistemology is searching for an answer to the difficulty of demonstrating, circumscribing, and differentiating its own hermeneutics from a universal hermeneutics of knowledge. To that end an epistemology has been proposed which would concede to the technical application the peculiar and distinctive criteria of scientific propositions cf.

Buzzoni, , pp. The solution to this difficulty would then be found in the intrinsic link between theoretical mediation meaning and technical reproducibility instrumental-technological apparati. The hermeneutic circle would be reflected in the fact that applications which are outdated in theory or methodological rule nonetheless remain essential to understand the meaning of each new application, and also in the fact that every new application of a term, theory, or rule forces researchers to re-interpret, from this point of view, all past applications.

This proposal would be applicable also to the history of science, since the hermeneutic-historiographic nature of the empirical sciences must always remain strictly connected to the technical nature of scientific knowledge. The hermeneutic dimension of scientific progress would consist in the fact that science can deepen its knowledge of empirical reality only if it is able to build on, and summarize, the preceding scientific history.

Technological reproducibility is essential so that this synthesis is not reduced to mere historiography. The hermeneutical dimension of science consists in refining and determining, with ever-growing precision, the meaning of fundamental terms and concepts in use. However, it also must take into account the technical possibilities of human action. A proper hermeneutics, then, must offer a better synthesis, not only of the past history of science, but also of past technical applications.

To these new epistemological proposals another is added, whose character and aspect have a certain importance, and which underlines the need for an epistemological discourse that links itself to the heart of the whole philosophical tradition and the value of its immense patrimony. This proposal suggests a qualitative discourse, free from post-modern prejudices that are mainly sociological, analytical, formalistic, quantitative, logico-linguistic, and so on. It should consequently unite the epistemological and gnoseological realms philosophy of knowledge , giving privilege to the world of life in matters of pure logic and methodology, since these latter, by themselves, never provide definite and convincing answers cf.

Boniolo, , pp. The impasse in the debate among different theories may be overcome if, instead of analyzing the nature of the theories, attention is shifted to behavior, that is, how to manage them cf. To this end it is necessary to overcome another negative attitude, which judges propositions, issues, and problems of an ethical and metaphysical kind, as irrelevant to science.

The fact that this attitude may be superficial and uncritical is demonstrated by the language used by the scientific researchers, who have convinced epistemologists to ignore these kind of propositions by using two categories only: "science" and "all the rest", that is, "non-science. They are part of a field of human knowledge that is much more that simply "non-science" and that, in fact, allows scientific theories to be hypothetical representations of the world, able to know it and live in it, theories that change in different ages and cultural situations.

Before and above these theories are personal philosophies that give meaning to the world and to the scientific theories themselves, that sustain the foundations of epistemological and scientific research, and that furnish the logical presuppositions that determine rules of logical synthesis in both scientific and non-scientific propositions. Scientific theories, in fact, presume a host of presuppositions that render them able to give meaning to the reality they represent, and to themselves. Our personal representations of reality also depend on the hypothetical models built of relations among the data, giving them a global and a uniform applicability and capacity to make predictions.

These presuppositions also influence explorations into new fields or investigation into areas not yet clear within a certain theoretical field, and they help to clarify the meaning and theoretical weight of concepts or an ensemble of concepts cf. This epistemological approach also implies its own theory of advancement or progress of scientific knowledge.

As we have seen, these last proposals address numerous weak points, unresolved dilemmas, and limitations of epistemologies elaborated in the 20th century. They appear to be promising, though their development, consequences, limitations, and results will emerge only in the debate of the 21th century. From the point of view of epistemology, in the second half of the 20th century, scientific thought seemed to be more disposed to reduce or even abandon the old pretensions of totality, exclusivity, and absoluteness, and so to overcoming the inheritance of scientism.

It also seemed more open to recognize the awareness of its own limitations. Scientific researchers seemed more cautious of criticizing other kinds of knowledge and of excluding forms of rational mediation, such as analogy, metaphor, symbol and myth. Many begin to consider these forms as non-substitutable and basic for every rational activity, including science. The number seems to grow among those who recognize that man will still be called sapiens , while valuing his prerogatives and qualities as homo symbolicus and religiosus man, origin and nature , III-IV.

In addition, the analysis of the components of science has demonstrated the historical and logical-conceptual reasons for the constant variation of the scientific models. All this explains why modern science, which at the beginning of the 20th century was still considered a monolithic entity, at the end of the same century appeared much more fluid, perennially struggling with its own difficulties and contradictions.

In order to overcome these difficulties, there is the need of effort, adjustment, and research in new models of scientificity. Thus new challenges have emerged, brought about by complexity and cultural context, for which a new epistemology is required as well, an epistemology open to different needs that must be taken much more seriously than they have in the past. Without such an openness, epistemology will never become the "philosophy of science", unachieved until now, for which many hope. A truly philosophical reflection of science, in fact, must confront critical tasks much more profoundly and comprehensively than is admitted by methodology alone, to which science has hitherto almost exclusively limited itself.

While methodology is indispensable, philosophical reflection must fulfill other requirements too, even more essential and prominent. It is not only a matter of foundational problems, but also of gnoseological, ethical, anthropological, metaphysical, and theological ones, which are at the center of every culture. These latter refer to specific themes of scientific humanism and of scientific culture, themes tied to the maturation of the human conscience and to the solution of the great socio-cultural problems of humankind.

A philosophy of science is required that is committed to the development of a scientific world sensitive to a deepening of transcendental and ethical-moral values, a commitment that has become necessary in order to tackle the problems which have emerged from the constant advancement of research and its applications. Thanks to the development of "thought about sciences" epistemology, history, philosophy which surpasses the limits demonstrated by the "thought of sciences", today's conditions appear more favorable than ever to this deepened understanding.

The thought about sciences must concentrate ever more on the immense patrimony of scientific experience and of reflection on the sciences which has been accumulated. Many scientists admit that this patrimony has thus far been undervalued. According to their important self-criticism cf. Zichichi, , pp. Among these mystifications is that modern science is derived from a rationality opposed to faith.

In reality, its founders, from Galileo to Newton, and many contemporary scientists, have been sincere believers, stimulated by their faith to discern the imprint of the extraordinary power and intelligence of the Creator in all the things of creation. At the beginning, this search dealt with simple objects, and later, more complex and sophisticated things, such as quarks, antimatter and superstrings.

A second mystification was the claim that science was able to explain everything in the world. The best scientists, on the contrary, recognized during the ages that the whole of the universe, and the immense and complex logic expressed in it by the Creator, always transcend any complete scientific understanding.

This rediscovery of intellectual humility, as a way to investigate the divine design in the great book of nature and to search for the truth, remaining always anchored to reality, can result in interesting developments cf. It is necessary to get beyond the tired disputes on the misunderstandings of science and their consequences, and the presumed conflict among science, Sacred Scripture, and faith, to a more concrete commitment to develop and value the cultural significance of the great scientific patrimony.

There is a need to shift from the criticism of discourses, theories, and scientific images of the universe, their partial, provisional, mutable, historically dated, and conditioned character, and their instrumental dimension, to an examination of their essential meaning, and the cultural scenarios in which human beings fulfill their artistic and religious experiences, philosophical reflections, and scientific research. It is a matter of analyzing the relationship of science with the realities of faith, without however confusing each with the other.

It is a matter of addressing the gnoseological, metaphysical, ethical and religious problems raised by the exponential growth of the sciences, in order to grasp the "values" and the authentic meaning of science. In all this, Christian faith and the long experience of Christian thought have much to offer. In the humanistic and cultural perspective of science, after the passing fascination of epistemological "revolutions", it now appears more possible to deepen the ways in which scientific thought, rather than overthrowing past discoveries, tends to correct, integrate, and complete them.

Equally fruitful can be a reflection on the fundamental laws of nature that, far from being arbitrary abstractions, are of a universal value. At a higher level is a needed reflection on the reasons why scientific thought: a is limited to the Immanent, while it cannot ignore the Transcendent; and b is committed to refuting the dogmatisms and ideologies of the Immanent, without denying the truth of the Transcendent. Science as an ensemble of humanly important, though unresolved, problems, is obliged to sustain a profound intellectual humility that is very far from any ideological arrogance.

Furthermore, historians of science have observed that even lies and deceits are not rare among researchers cf. Di Trocchio, , pp. Efforts to overcome these prejudices and other challenges make scientific activity truly "ascetical" with respect to some very basic human attitudes.

It is necessary, then, to reflect on the reasons why, in four centuries of modern scientific experience, these values have not yet become established in culture, and understood in their deepest anthropological dimension. Besides these values, science conveys numerous other truths.

The first is that the human being is the only form of living matter who expresses the need to decipher the logic of Nature, and is the only one truly to succeed in it, though only in part. The second is that Nature which the believer recognizes as Creation is unimaginably complex and beautiful, so that no human being can fancy himself to understand it completely. The third truth conveyed by science is that, while immature science asked when it would arrive at a synthesis or unification of all fundamental forces, today's scientist asks if he ever will reach such a goal, though an exceptional synthesis among forces and structures has nonetheless been attained.

The fourth is that, in order to arrive at such a unification, scientists are obliged to think about the existence of a "super-world" which, paradoxically, no one can scientifically prove to exist. The fifth is that Galilean science has forced scientists to think and verify with the greatest rigor, not only the phenomena that are accessible to our senses or to our instruments, but also those totally inaccessible or invisible virtual phenomena.

More than one scientist claims that "the answer is known only by the Creator" cf. Science appears also as the only instrument capable of discovering whether Nature is configured according to a precise design and whether its laws are valid in every corner of the universe, and therefore that this design, among all the innumerable possibilities, constitutes the logical choice made by the "Creator of all things visible and invisible" cf. DH Besides conveying these and other messages of particular importance and depth, science has the more important role of widening, relentlessly and without limit, the horizons of knowledge and human comprehension.

This role is what we have already pointed out as the "inexhaustible ability to raise problems. The humanistic, cultural, and anthropological value of this phenomenon is immense, since it reminds humankind that, though knowing much and understanding ever more, it finds itself ever further from knowing and understanding everything.

Each advancement of science unveils an immense number of new problems, always more vast and complex, which totally defy its comprehension. This awareness reveals how much science today differs from even that of twenty or thirty years ago. It shows that if our reason and knowledge are subject to such limitations in the face of limited, immanent reality, they are still more limited in the face of transcendent reality, irreducible and inexpressible in the simple terms of space, time, mass, energy, charge, and so forth.

Even the most rigorous formal science has significant humanistic, philosophical and cultural implications. Among these are the claims that an arithmetical truth cannot be deduced only by the axioms of arithmetic that a mathematical truth can exist even without being demonstrated, and that the most rigorous constructions of logic can draw uncertain conclusions and non-demonstrable theorems. Demonstrability, in short, is much weaker than, and inferior to, truth. It also becomes apparent that, if our knowledge of the immanent is so limited, it is unreasonable to be surprised or scandalized if transcendental realities far surpass our knowledge and comprehension.

Other confirmations of this truth come from theories of rationality developed in the last few years, which have concluded that the agenda of the Enlightenment - that human reason is sufficient to solve all problems - is no longer tenable. Today we also know the phenomenon of "cognitive illusion" in which assertions are capable of convincing, though they are wrong.

The study of such illusions shows that pure rationality is an "ideal attitude" that unites different complex and conflicting elements. Its exercise cannot overcome its real limitations by ignoring them. Today the "difference" between an ideal rationality and its real exercise has been exposed, and in fact shown to grow almost inexorably. All of this recommends the greatest caution, without easy optimism or pessimism cf.

Piattelli Palmarini, , pp. What is happening here is the same kind of thing as we meet with occasionally in our analytic work. If an otherwise intelligent patient denies a suggestion on particularly stupid grounds, his imperfect logic is evidence for the existence of a particularly strong motive for his making the denial, a motive which can only be of an affective nature and serve to bind an emotion.

Another sort of answer may be given, in which a motive of this kind is openly admitted. Religion must not be critically examined, because it is the highest, most precious and noblest thing that the mind of man has brought forth, because it gives expression to the deepest feelings, and is the only thing that makes the world bearable and life worthy of humanity.

To this we need not reply by disputing this estimate of religion, but rather by drawing attention to another aspect of the matter. We should point out that it is not a question of the scientific spirit encroaching upon the sphere of religion, but of religion encroaching upon the sphere of scientific thought. Whatever value and importance religion may have, it has no right to set any limits to thought, and therefore has no right to except itself from the application of thought.

Scientific thought is, in its essence, no different from the normal process of thinking, which we all, believers and unbelievers alike, make use of when we are going about our business in everyday life. It has merely taken a special form in certain respects: it extends its interest to things which have no immediately obvious utility, it endeavours to eliminate personal factors and emotional influences, it carefully examines the trustworthiness of the sense perceptions on which it bases its conclusions, it provides itself with new perceptions which are not obtainable by everyday means, and isolates the determinants of these new experiences by purposely varied experimentation.

Its aim is to arrive at correspondence with reality, that is to say with what exists outside us and independently of us, and, as experience has taught us, is decisive for the fulfilment or frustration of our desires. This correspondence with the real external world we call truth. It is the aim of scientific work, even when the practical value of that work does not interest us.

When, therefore, religion claims that it can take the place of science and that, because it is beneficent and ennobling, it must therefore be true, that claim is, in fact, an encroachment, which, in the interests of everyone, should be resisted. It is asking a great deal of a man, who has learnt to regulate his everyday affairs in accordance with the rules of experience and with due regard to reality, that he should entrust precisely what affects him most nearly to the care of an authority which claims as its prerogative freedom from all the rules of rational thought.

And as for the protection that religion promises its believers, I hardly think that any of us would be willing even to enter a motorcar if the driver informed us that he drove without allowing himself to be distracted by traffic regulations, but in accordance with the impulses of an exalted imagination. And indeed the ban which religion has imposed upon thought in the interests of its own preservation is by no means without danger both for the individual and for society.

In women a process of this sort can be observed to follow from the prohibition against their occupying themselves, even in thought, with the sexual side of their nature. The biographies of almost all the eminent people of past times show the disastrous results of the inhibition of thought by religion.

Is Psychoanalysis a Folk Psychology?

Intellect, on the other hand, — or rather, to call it by a more familiar name, reason — is among the forces which may be expected to exert a unifying influence upon men — creatures who can be held together only with the greatest difficulty, and whom it is therefore scarcely possible to control. Think how impossible human society would be if everyone had his own particular multiplication table and his own private units of weight and length. Our best hope for the future is that the intellect — the scientific spirit, — reason — should in time establish a dictatorship over the human mind.

The very nature of reason is a guarantee that it would not fail to concede to human emotions and to all that is determined by them the position to which they are entitled. But the common pressure exercised by such a domination of reason would prove to be the strongest unifying force among men, and would prepare the way for further unifications. Whatever, like the ban laid upon thought by religion, opposes such a development is a danger for the future of mankind.

But what I have to give you is incomparably more beautiful, more comforting and more ennobling than anything that you could ever get from science. And I therefore say to you that it is true in a different and higher sense. Religion cannot make this admission, because if it did it would lose all influence over the mass of mankind. What may be meant by a higher, or a highest, truth, he cannot imagine. Truth seems to him as little capable of having degrees as death, and the necessary leap from the beautiful to the true is one that he cannot make.

Perhaps you will agree with me in thinking that he is right in this. The struggle, therefore, is not yet at an end. The followers of the religious Weltanschauung act in accordance with the old maxim: the best defence is attack. What has science for its part so far accomplished? What more can be expected of it? On its own admission, it is incapable of comforting or ennobling us. We will leave that on one side, therefore, though it is by no means easy to give up such benefits.

But what of its teaching? Can it tell us how the world began, and what fate is in store for it? Can it even paint for us a coherent picture of the universe, and show us where the unexplained phenomena of life fit in, and how spiritual forces are able to operate on inert matter? If it could do that we should not refuse it our respect. But it has done nothing of the sort, not one single problem of this kind has it solved. It gives us fragments of alleged knowledge, which it cannot harmonise with one another, it collects observations of uniformities from the totality of events, and dignifies them with the name of laws and subjects them to its hazardous interpretations.

And with what a small degree of certitude does it establish its conclusions! All that it teaches is only provisionally true; what is prized to-day as the highest wisdom is overthrown tomorrow and experimentally replaced by something else. The latest error is then given the name of truth. And to this truth we are asked to sacrifice our highest good! In Imperial Austria an anecdote was once current which I should like to call to mind in this connection. Science has had too little time for such a tremendous achievement. It is still very young, a recently developed human activity.

Let us bear in mind, to mention only a few dates, that only about three hundred years have passed since Kepler discovered the laws of planetary movement; the life of Newton, who split up light into the colours of the spectrum, and put forward the theory of gravitation, came to an end in , that is to say a little more than two hundred years ago; and Lavoisier discovered oxygen shortly before the French Revolution. I may be a very old man to-day, but the life of an individual man is very short in comparison with the duration of human development, and it is a fact that I was alive when Charles Darwin published his work on the origin of species.

In the same year, , Pierre Curie, the discoverer of radium, was born. And if you go back to the beginnings of exact natural science among the Greeks, to Archimedes, or to Aristarchus of Samos circa B. And it must not be forgotten that the last century has brought with it such a quantity of new discoveries and such a great acceleration of scientific progress that we have every reason to look forward with confidence to the future of science. It has to be admitted that the other objections are valid within certain limits.


Thus it is true that the path of science is slow, tentative and laborious. That cannot be denied or altered. No wonder that the gentlemen of the opposition are dissatisfied; they are spoilt, they have had an easier time of it with their revelation. Progress in scientific work is made in just the same way as in an analysis.

The analyst brings expectations with him to his work, but he must keep them in the background. He discovers something new by observation, now here and now there, and at first the bits do not fit together. He puts forward suppositions, he brings up provisional constructions, and abandons them if they are not confirmed; he must have a great deal of patience, must be prepared for all possibilities, and must not jump at conclusions for fear of their leading him to overlook new and unexpected factors.

And in the end the whole expenditure of effort is rewarded, the scattered discoveries fall into place and he obtains an understanding of a whole chain of mental events; he has finished one piece of work and is ready for the next. But the analyst is unlike other scientific workers in this one respect, that he has to do without the help which experiment can bring to research. But the criticism of science which I have quoted also contains a great deal of exaggeration. It is not true to say that it swings blindly from one attempt to another, and exchanges one error for the next.

As a rule the man of science works like a sculptor with a clay model, who persistently alters the first rough sketch, adds to it and takes away from it, until he has obtained a satisfactory degree of similarity to some object, whether seen or imagined. And, moreover, at least in the older and more mature sciences, there is already a solid foundation of knowledge, which is now only modified and elaborated and no longer demolished.

The outlook, in fact, is not so bad in the world of science. And finally, what is the purpose of all these passionate disparagements of science? In spite of its present incompleteness and its inherent difficulties, we could not do without it and could not put anything else in its place. There is no limit to the improvement of which it is capable, and this can certainly not be said of the religious Weltanschauung.

The latter is complete in its essentials; if it is an error, it must remain one for ever. No attempt to minimise the importance of science can alter the fact that it attempts to take into account our dependence on the real external world, while religion is illusion and derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires. I must now go on to mention some other types of Weltanschauung which are in opposition to the scientific one; I do so, however, unwillingly, because I know that I am not competent to form a judgment upon them.

I hope, therefore, that you will bear this confession in mind in listening to what I have to say, and that if your interest is aroused you will go elsewhere for more trustworthy information. In the first place I ought at this point to name the various philosophical systems which have ventured to draw a picture of the world, as it is reflected in the minds of thinkers whose eyes are as a rule turned away from it. But I have already attempted to give a general characterisation of philosophy and its methods, and I believe I am more unfitted than almost anyone to pass the individual systems under review.

I shall ask you, therefore, instead to turn your attention to two other phenomena which, particularly in these days, cannot be ignored. The Weltanschauung to which I shall first refer is, as it were, a counterpart of political anarchism, and may perhaps have emanated from it. No doubt there have been intellectual nihilists of this kind before, but at the present day the theory of relativity of modern physics seems to have gone to their heads.

It is true that they start out from science, but they succeed in forcing it to cut the ground from under its own feet, to commit suicide, as it were; they make it dispose of itself by getting it to refute its own premises. One often has an impression that this nihilism is only a temporary attitude, which will only be kept up until this task has been completed. When once science has been got rid of, some kind of mysticism, or, indeed, the old religious Weltanschauung, can spring up in the space that has been left vacant.

According to this anarchistic doctrine, there is no such thing as truth, no assured knowledge of the external world. What we give out as scientific truth is only the product of our own needs and desires, as they are formulated under varying external conditions; that is to say, it is illusion once more.

Ultimately we find only what we need to find, and see only what we desire to see. We can do nothing else. And since the criterion of truth, correspondence with an external world, disappears, it is absolutely immaterial what views we accept. All of them are equally true and false. And no one has a right to accuse anyone else of error.

For a mind which is interested in epistemology, it would be tempting to enquire into the contrivances and sophistries by means of which the anarchists manage to elicit a final product of this kind from science. One would no doubt be brought up against situations like the one involved in the familiar example of the Cretan who says that all Cretans are liars. But I am not desirous, nor am I capable, of going deeper into this. I will merely remark that the anarchistic theory only retains its remarkable air of superiority so long as it is concerned with opinions about abstract things; it breaks down the moment it comes in contact with practical life.

Now the behaviour of men is guided by their opinions and knowledge, and the same scientific spirit which speculates about the structure of the atom or the origin of man is concerned in the building of a bridge that will bear its load. If it were really a matter of indifference what we believed, if there were no knowledge which was distinguished from among our opinions by the fact that it corresponds with reality, then we might just as well build our bridges of cardboard as of stone, or inject a tenth of a gram of morphia into a patient instead of a hundredth, or take tear-gas as a narcotic instead of ether.

But the intellectual anarchists themselves would strongly repudiate such practical applications of their theory. The other opposing Weltanschauung is to be taken far more seriously, and in this case I very deeply regret the insufficiency of my knowledge. I dare say that you know more about this subject than I do and that you have long ago taken up your position for or against Marxism.

The investigations of Karl Marx into the economic structure of society and into the influence of various forms of economic organisation upon all departments of human life have in our day acquired an authority that cannot be denied. How far they are right or wrong in detail, I naturally do not know.

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I gather that it is not easy even for better informed people to decide. I do not know how I can throw off the view which I share with other laymen, who are inclined to trace back the formation of classes in society to the struggles which went on from the beginning of history between various human hordes. These hordes differed to a slight degree from one another; and it is my view that social differences go back to these original differences of tribe or race.

Psychological factors, such as the amount of constitutional aggressiveness and also the degree of cohesion within the horde, and material factors, such as the possession of better weapons, decided the victory. When they came to live together in the same territory, the victors became the masters and the conquered the slaves. There is no sign in all this of natural laws or conceptual modifications; on the other hand, we cannot fail to recognise the influence which the progressive control over natural forces exerts on the social relationships between men, since men always place their newly won powers at the service of their aggressiveness, and use them against one another.

The introduction of metals, of bronze and iron, put an end to whole cultural epochs and their social institutions. I really believe that gunpowder and fire-arms overthrew chivalry and the domination of the aristocracy, and that the Russian despotism was already doomed before the war was lost, since no amount of in-breeding among the ruling families of Europe could have produced a race of Tsars capable of withstanding the explosive force of dynamite.

It may be, indeed, that with the present economic crisis which followed upon the Great War we are merely paying the price of our latest triumph over Nature, the conquest of the air. This does not sound very convincing, but at least the first links in the chain of argument are clearly recognisable.

The policy of England was based on the security guaranteed by the seas which encircle her coasts. Nor must the threat of submarines be forgotten in this connection. I am almost ashamed of treating a theme of such importance and complexity in such a slight and inadequate manner, and I am also aware that I have not said anything that is new to you. We seem to have travelled a long way from the problems of a Weltanschauung, but we shall soon come back to the point.

The strength of Marxism obviously does not lie in its view of history or in the prophecies about the future which it bases upon that view, but in its clear insight into the determining influence which is exerted by the economic conditions of man upon his intellectual, ethical and artistic reactions. A whole collection of correlations and causal sequences were thus discovered, which had hitherto been almost completely disregarded. But it cannot be assumed that economic motives are the only ones which determine the behaviour of men in society.

The unquestionable fact that different individuals, races and nations behave differently under the same economic conditions in itself proves that the economic factor cannot be the sole determinant. It is quite impossible to understand how psychological factors can be overlooked where the reactions of living human beings are involved; for not only were such factors already concerned in the establishment of these economic conditions but even in obeying these conditions, men can do no more than set their original instinctual impulses in motion — their self-preservative instinct, their love of aggression, their need for love and their impulse to attain pleasure and avoid pain.

In an earlier lecture we have emphasised the importance of the part played by the super-ego, which represents tradition and the ideals of the past, and which will resist for some time the pressure exerted by new economic situations. And, finally, we must not forget that the mass of mankind, subjected though they are to economic necessities, are borne on by a process of cultural development — some call it civilisation — which is no doubt influenced by all the other factors, but is equally certainly independent of them in its origin; it is comparable to an organic process, and is quite capable of itself having an effect upon the other factors.

It displaces the aims of the instincts, and causes men to rebel against what has hitherto been tolerable; and, moreover, the progressive strengthening of the scientific spirit seems to be an essential part of it. If anyone were in a position to show in detail how these different factors — the general human instinctual disposition, its racial variations and its cultural modifications — behave under the influence of varying social organisation, professional activities and methods of subsistence, how these factors inhibit or aid one another — if, I say, anyone could show this, then he would not only have improved Marxism but would have made it into a true social science.

For sociology, which deals with the behaviour of man in society, can be nothing other than applied psychology. Strictly speaking, indeed, there are only two sciences — psychology, pure and applied, and natural science. When at last the far-reaching importance of economic conditions began to be realised, the temptation arose to bring about an alteration in them by means of revolutionary interference, instead of leaving the change to the course of historical development. Theoretical Marxism, as put into effect in Russian Bolshevism, has acquired the energy, the comprehensiveness and the exclusiveness of a Weltanschauung, but at the same time it has acquired an almost uncanny resemblance to what it is opposing.

Originally it was itself a part of science, and, in its realisation, was built up on science and technology, but it has nevertheless established a ban upon thought which is as inexorable as was formerly that of religion. All critical examination of the Marxist theory is forbidden, doubts of its validity are as vindictively punished as heresy once was by the Catholic Church. The works of Marx, as the source of revelation, have taken the place of the Bible and the Koran, although they are no freer from contradictions and obscurities than those earlier holy books.

And although practical Marxism has remorselessly swept away all idealistic systems and illusions, it has nevertheless developed illusions itself, which are no less dubious and unverifiable than their predecessors. It hopes, in the course of a few generations, so to alter men that they will be able to live together in the new order of society almost without friction, and that they will do their work voluntarily. In the meantime it moves elsewhere the instinctual barriers which are essential in any society, it directs outwards the aggressive tendencies which threaten every human community, and finds its support in the hostility of the poor against the rich, and of the hitherto powerless against the former holders of power.

But such an alteration in human nature is very improbable. The enthusiasm with which the mob follow the Bolshevist lead at present, so long as the new order is incomplete and threatened from outside, gives no guarantee for the future, when it will be fully established and no longer in danger. In exactly the same way as religion, Bolshevism is obliged to compensate its believers for the sufferings and deprivations of the present life by promising them a better life hereafter, in which there will be no unsatisfied needs.

It is true that this paradise is to be in this world; it will be established on earth, and will be inaugurated within a measurable time. But let us remember that the Jews, whose religion knows nothing of a life beyond the grave, also expected the coming of the Messiah here on earth, and that the Christian Middle Ages constantly believed that the Kingdom of God was at hand. There is no doubt what the answer of Bolshevism to these criticisms will be.

One cannot do without compulsion in their education or a ban upon thinking or the application of force, even the spilling of blood; and if one did not awake in them the illusions you speak of, one would not be able to bring them to submit to this compulsion. At this point we should be defeated. I should know of no advice to give. I should admit that the conditions of this experiment would have restrained me, and people like me, from undertaking it; but we are not the only ones concerned.

There are also men of action, unshakeable in their convictions, impervious to doubt, and insensitive to the sufferings of anyone who stands between them and their goal. It is owing to such men that the tremendous attempt to institute a new order of society of this kind is actually being carried out in Russia now.

At a time when great nations are declaring that they expect to find their salvation solely from a steadfast adherence to Christian piety, the upheaval in Russia — in spite of all its distressing features — seems to bring a promise of a better future. Unfortunately, neither our own misgivings nor the fanatical belief of the other side give us any hint of how the experiment will turn out. The future will teach us.

Perhaps it will show that the attempt has been made prematurely and that a fundamental alteration of the social order will have little hope of success until new discoveries are made that will increase our control over the forces of Nature, and so make easier the satisfaction of our needs. It may be that only then will it be possible for a new order of society to emerge which will not only banish the material want of the masses, but at the same time meet the cultural requirements of individual men.

But even so we shall still have to struggle for an indefinite length of time with the difficulties which the intractable nature of man puts in the way of every kind of social community. Ladies and Gentlemen — Let me in conclusion sum up what I had to say about the relation of psychoanalysis to the question of a Weltanschauung. Psychoanalysis is not, in my opinion, in a position to create a Weltanschauung of its own.