In the latest issue of Ny Tid (4/2017) there was on pp 60/61 a report about the Littfest 2017 event in Vasa, about the topic “Makten och litteraturen”.
Among the events there was a discussion about “Hjärnan som freak” with “psykiatrikern och författaren” Claes Andersson among the participants. One of his contributions is reported as follows: “Det sägs inom psykiatrin att det som Sigmund Freud hade rätt i, det hade han stulit från den grekiska mytologin. Allt det andra hade han hittat på och det var helt fel.” The report does not tell whether Claes Andersson was explaining and specifying this formulation any further, but I intend to comment on the matter as if he had not done so.
The formulation reminds me of an anecdote: During a break from a conference about philosophy the American philosopher John Searle (of whom I know that he writes a clear and reasonable style) sits together with the very Michel Foucault and says to him: “Michel, if one sits with you like this over a cup of coffee, everything you say is perfectly clear and reasonable, but if one has to read what you write … Oh God!!!” To which Michel regretfully is saying this: “Well, you see I am from France, and in France you are not taken serious as a philosopher if not at least one third of your production is completely impenetrable rubbish.”
If one assumes that it is really the case, the next question is of course why this might be so. And my suspicion is that the reason is the French tradtion of the “salon”. – In at latest the 1800s there was at least in Paris the phenomenon that well-moneyed ladies had taken up the habit of regularly inviting larger numbers of guests to their salons, taking care to also invite, for the entertainment of the other guests, some “thinkers/philosophers”. And if one thinks how these philosophers had to behave in order to be invited again to those receptions with all those oysters, caviar, champagne and also those attractive and well-moneyed women whose favours one could hope to curry, then one can perhaps arrive at the following rules: (a) never insult any important person present (nor any persons to whom important persons are closely related); (b) do not embarrass the guests by publicly arriving at (e.g. moral) conclusions which would oblige them to do things which they might not like to do; (c) do your best to develop thoughts and formulations which give everybody afterwards the feeling of having been experiencing (perhaps even been participating in) some grandiose, deep, perhaps also uplifting thinking (an effect which is not produced by clear reasoning but by being and sounding mysterious but impressive – cf Foucault’s “impenetrable rubbish”).
And the above-reported saying about Freud seems, to me, to fit the described French pattern nicely. Freud is widely disliked for his idea that we are not really aware of all our motivations and impulses, he is also dead, the psychiatrist who have been seriously studying (and understanding!) Freud is not so very big: altogether, it is safe to speak bad about Freud, while Greek mythology has certainly still a big reputation as being mysterious but “true” (and better avoid asking too closely in which way …). Whereas there are those facts that (a) psychoanalysis is still able to cure people who cannot be cured in any other way (this was demonstrated by not only the subjective opinions of these successfully-treated people but also by the objective statistics how many days per year these people had to spend in mental hospital before and after treatment), and (b) there is such a thing as mental disease (I was for years sharing my place with a person whom I certainly treated like a normal adult, but who anyway went through several psychotic episodes – which was indeed impressive and certainly needed treatment, which luckily was also available).
Altogether, if the Left wants to present to the public some expert opinions about psychiatric matters, then I should urgently recommend some expert who produces more intelligent opinions than “French-style” formulations. I know that there are such experts, also Swedish-speaking ones (just today, for example, I met in the tram the retired psychiatrist Sixten Bondestam, who certainly would be able to give a few fitting names).