Why Freud Still Matters, When He Was Wrong About Almost Everything


George Dvorksy in io9:

[T]he 20th century has often been called Freud’s century. His books landed with the subtlety of hand grenades, featuring such seminal titles as The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901), and his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1915-1916).

Freud’s legacy has transcended science, with his ideas permeating deep into Western culture. Rarely does a day go by where we don’t find ourselves uttering a term drawn from his work: Mommy and daddy issues. Arrested development. Death wishes. Freudian slips. Phallic symbols. Anal retentiveness. Defense mechanisms. Cathartic release. And on and on and on.

As psychologist and Freud critic John Kihlstrom himself admits, “More than Einstein or Watson and Crick, more than Hitler or Lenin, Roosevelt or Kennedy, more than Picasso, Eliot, or Stravinsky, more than the Beatles or Bob Dylan, Freud's influence on modern culture has been profound and long-lasting.”

But his legacy is a shaky one. Freud has, for the most part, fallen completely out of favor in academia. Virtually no institution in any discipline would dare use him as a credible source. In 1996, Psychological Science reached the conclusion that “[T]here is literally nothing to be said, scientifically or therapeutically, to the advantage of the entire Freudian system or any of its component dogmas.” As a research paradigm, it’s pretty much dead.