Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality
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Dalrymple reveals how the fashionable schools of psychoanalysis, behaviorism, modern neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology all prevent the kind of honest self-examination that is necessary to the formation of human character. Instead, they promote self-obsession without self-examination, and the gross overuse of medicines that affect the mind.
Admirable Evasions also considers metaphysical objections to the assumptions of psychology, and suggests that literature is a far more illuminating window into the human condition than psychology could ever hope to be.
pathological in the eyes of the psychiatrists; or a feeling of guilt, an increase in which is likewise pathological, irrespective of any possible justification for it. The way in which the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association deals with bereavement (its one exception to the rule that the actual circumstances of the possibly depressed patient are not be taken into account in diagnosis, only his symptoms) would be comical were it not the
conduct to those who seek to “lay their goatish disposition to the charge of a star.” In other words, it’s not me, it’s my neurotransmitters. Or possibly my genes. From time to time, with a great fanfare, scientists make announcements that the gene for this or for that behavioral trait has been found: the gene for aggressive behavior, for miserliness, for sexual promiscuousness, for alcoholism or drug addiction, and so forth. Then the experimental work fails to be reproduced, though this failure
improved by their analysis, but this is as little evidence of the truth or value of psychoanalysis as is the recent convert to Islam’s opinion of the Koran as proof of the prophethood of Mohammed. A little bit of what you fancy may do you good, but it doesn’t make it true. In my experience, at least, analysis has at least as many harmful as good effects (I put it mildly). It turns people permanently inward and guts their language of individuality, replacing particularity by a kind of impersonal
brow of the hill with it. Psychology repeatedly announces huge advances in human self-understanding, only for the announcement to be shown to be premature, whereupon another school promptly steps into what might be called the self-promotional breach. This is not to say that behaviorism was in no respects an improvement on Freudianism. It had its limited successes. Though the administration of aversive stimuli to homosexuals and alcoholics did not “cure” them (electric shocks on the presentation
helped to lose their irrational fear, which on occasion could be crippling. Confronted with evidence that this was the case, the psychoanalysts promptly argued, with the inventive cunning that each of us possesses when a pet theory of ours is refuted by the evidence, that unless the buried treasure were found, the phobia would be replaced by some other symptom, possibly worse than the original one. No such symptom substitution has ever been found, but of course for psychoanalysis some symptoms