One thing which the above writeup fails to mention is the striking and obvious dichotomy between those who believe in Freud's theories and accept his case studies, and those who think that Freud was a charlatan and a faker and cured no one.
In this writeup, I will use, as an example of the pro-Freud camp, the section on Freud and his case studies in An Incomplete Education by J. Jones and W. Wilson, a book intended to bring the average American know-nothing up to date on history, philosophy, literature, music, and a bevvy of other social and hard sciences in under 550 pages; thus, it covers everything while going in-depth about nothing. For the anti-Freud camp, I will make use of A.K. Dewdney's Yes, We Have No Neutrons: An Eye-Opening Tour through the Twists and Turns of Bad Science, a work dedicated to sniffing out the honest mistakes, rather than the deliberate frauds, of science.
A relatively lengthy chapter in each work is dedicated to Freud's theories, but here I will treat only their respective opinions on three of his six published case studies.
- "The Rat Man," real name Ernst Lanzer. He had a compulsive fear of rats, which (according to Education) he acquired after hearing tales of a form of torture wherein "a pot of rats was overturned on a man's naked buttocks and left to gnaw their way through the anus" (Ibid). As An Incomplete Education would have it, Freud "helped restore the man to health"; Dewdney's book, however, tells us that Lanzer left therapy after "only a few weeks," not the eleven months that Freud had claimed to the 1908 Psychoanalytic Congress, and that Freud himself admitted that Lanzer suffered from a "father complex," even after his "treatment."
- Little Hans. I will reproduce here a section of Education's treatment of Little Hans verbatim:
The trouble had started when Hans was three-and-a-half and his mother tried to discourage him from masturbating by warning him--as mothers did in those days--that if he didn't keep his hands where they belonged she'd send for the doctor to "cut off your widdler and then what will you widdle with?" Little Hans, who was developing quite a fascination with widdlers in general, had not failed to notice that horses had great big widdlers and that his mother had none. Before you knew it, horses, Mommy, and the possibility of castration were all mixed up with his fears of competing with his father.This starry-eyed acceptance of Freudist thought is typical of this section; Neutrons, however, tells us that "in a fit of common sense rare in five-year-olds [five or three-and-a-half?], Little Hans tried to convince both his father and Freud that he had been frightened of horses ever since witnessing a carriage accident." Nowhere does An Incomplete Education mention this perspective.
- "The Wolf Man," real name Sergei Pankieff. Education tells us that Pankieff "could make contact with reality only after he'd emptied the contents of his intestines with an enema"; this rather curious factoid is not mentioned in Neutrons. Both, however, mention Pankieff's condition--"obsessional neurosis," according to Freud--as well as his dream, in which he had seen "some white wolves sitting on the big walnut tree in front of the window..." From this piece of evidence alone, Freud concluded that a young Pankieff had accidentally viewed the primal scene-- despite the fact that in Pankieff's Russian childhood days, children did not sleep in the same bedroom as their parents, a fact which Education--surprise!--omits. Education leaves the conclusion of the Wolf Man's tale vague in the extreme, while Neutrons tells of an interview with Pankieff in the 1970s, in which he reports that he had "lived his entire life with the same problem," and that he had never been convinced of "the correctness either of [Freud's] diagnosis or of the dream interpretation."
So. Which of these two viewpoints is correct? Looking through the lens of these two works, the anti-Freud camp certainly seems to come out the victor; however, An Incomplete Education's title says much about the quality and depth of its research. Perhaps I will read a better-researched pro-Freud book tomorrow; as it stands, however, the great Freud's pedestal seems to be ever shrinking.