Georges Politzer : Critique of the Foundations of Psychology (1928)


1. If no one thinks of contesting the general affirmation that theories are mortal and that science can only advance on its own ruins, it is not possible to have its representatives ascertain the death of a present theory.

The majority of scientists consists of researchers who, having neither a sense of life, nor of truth, can only work in the shadow of officially recognised principles: we cannot ask them to recognise a fact that is not “given,” but that has to be created. For their historical role is quite different: it consists of the work of expansion and exploitation; it is through them that the “principles” spend their vital energy; respected instruments of science, they are incapable of renewing it and renewing themselves.

And so they recognise the mortality of all theories, even theirs, but only in the abstract: that the moment of death has already arrived still seems incredible to them.

2. That is why psychologists are outraged when they are told of the death of official psychology, of this psychology that proposes to study psychological processes, either by wanting to grasp them in themselves, or in their physiological concomitants or determinants, or in the last resort with “mixed” methods.

It is not that psychology possesses fruitful and positive results that we could doubt only by denying the scientific spirit itself: we know that for the moment there are only “lost” researches, on one hand, and, on the other hand, promises, and that a lot is to be expected from a mysterious improvement that the future will generously bring.

It is not even as if there is, at least with regard to what has already been done, a unanimous agreement among psychologists, an agreement that can discourage “fanatics” in advance: we know that the history of psychology in the past 50 years is just an epic of disillusion and that, even today, new programs are launched each day to focus hopes that are once again available.

If psychologists protest, and if they can protest with a certain appearance of good faith, it is because they have succeeded in taking refuge in a convenient position.

Their scientific needs being satisfied by the handling of devices, even when without results, and by obtaining a few statistical averages that do not usually survive their publication, they proclaim that science is made of patience, and they reject all control and all critique using as an excuse that “metaphysics” has nothing to do with science.

3. This 50-year history, of which psychologists are so proud, is only the history of a “frog pond.” Psychologists, unable to find the truth, wait for it every day, from anyone and from anywhere, but as they have no idea of what the truth is, they do not know how to recognise it or seize it: thus, they see it in anything and become the victims of all sorts of illusions.

Wundt appears first on the scene to advocate a psychology “without soul,” and starts the migration of devices from physiology laboratories into those of psychologists. What pride and what joy!

Psychologists have laboratories and they publish monographs … No more verbal disputes: “calculemus!” We invent far-fetched logarithms, and Ribot has even calculated the number of brain cells to find out if they are capable of containing every idea possible. Scientific psychology has been born.

But in fact, how miserable: it is the most insipid formalism that has won a universal complacency and with the applause of all those who, of science, only know the common grounds of methodology.

To be sure, in appearance, the psychologists in question helped psychology by fighting the eloquent outworn ideas of “rational psychology,” but, in reality, they built a refuge where, sheltered from criticism, it still had a chance of survival.

Once we could measure to a thousandth of a second the associations, we started to feel some fatigue. The “conditional reflexes” came, fortunately, to revive the faith. What a discovery! And to the astonished psychologists, Bechtherev presented Psycho-reflexology. But this movement fell asleep, too.

Next, it would be aphasia renewing the disappointed hopes, then the physiological theory of emotions, and then glands with internal secretions, but the only result was a tension and an easing of a powerless desire, because it was visionary, and, at the same time, after each period of “objectivist” agitation, the vindictive monster of introspection reappeared.

4. Thus, the arrival of experimental psychology, far from representing a new triumph of the scientific spirit, was really a humiliation.

For, instead of being renewed by it, and serving it, in fact, some of its life was borrowed for old traditions that no longer had any, and for which this operation was the last chance of survival.

This is what explains the recognised fact today that all the “scientific” psychologies that came after Wundt are only disguises of classical psychology.

Even the diversity of tendencies only represents the successive rebirths of this illusion that consists in believing that science can save scholasticism. For psychologists looked for this in every fact, physiological or biological, that they could lay their hands on. And that also explains the powerlessness of the scientific methods in the hands of psychologists.

5. As for the seriousness of the scientific method, there exists a veritable hierarchy of scholarly conceptions. The world of quantity being the mathematicians’ own world, they move in it with natural ease, and they are the only ones who do not display their rigour on a parade.

The use physicians make of mathematics has already been felt sometimes due to the fact that it represents only a rented costume; the pure span of mathematicians is inaccessible to them and they are often narrow-minded.

But all this is nothing in comparison to what is going on at the next level below. Physiologists are very much into the magic of numbers, and their enthusiasm for the quantitative form of laws is often the adoration of the fetish.

This awkwardness, however, cannot make us forget the fundamental seriousness that it covers. As for psychologists, they receive mathematics third-hand: they get it from physiologists, who got it from physicians, who get it from mathematicians.

Thus, at each stage, the level of the scientific spirit drops, and when, at the end, mathematics gets to psychologists, it is “a little brass and glass” that they take for “gold and diamonds.” And it is the same for the experimental method.

It is the physician who has a serious view of it; he does not play with it, and it is uniquely in his hands that it always remains a rational technique without ever degenerating into magic.

The physiologist already has a strong tendency to magic: with him the experimental method often degenerates into experimental “display.” What about the psychologist? With him everything is “display.” In spite of all his protests against philosophy, he sees science only through the common grounds that philosophy has taught him.

And as he was told that science is made of patience, that hypotheses were built on studies of detail, he thinks patience is a method in itself, and that it is enough to look blindly for details to attract the synthetic Messiah.

He wallows among devices, throws himself into physiology, then into chemistry, biology; he accumulates statistical means and is convinced that, to acquire science, as to acquire faith, “one must become a half-wit.”

We need to understand that psychologists are scientists like evangelised wild tribes are Christians.

6. Whether introspectionist or experimental, the radical negation of classical psychology found in Watson’s behaviourism is an important discovery.

It exactly signifies the condemnation of that feeling of believing in the magic of form without understanding that the scientific method requires a radical reform of understanding. Indeed, we cannot, no matter how sincere our intentions and our desire to be precise, transform Aristotle’s physics into experimental physics.

Its own nature refuses, and it would be entirely unwarranted to trust any future improvements based on an attempt of this kind.

7. The history of psychology in the last 50 years is not, as we are wont to assert at the beginning of psychology manuals, the history of an organisation, but one of dissolution. And in 50 years the authentically official psychology of today will appear to us as do now the alchemy and the verbal fables of Aristotlelian physics.

We will still smile about the resounding formulas with which the “scientific” psychologists began, and about the painful theories they developed; static schemes and dynamic schemes, and the theology of the brain will constitute an interesting study, like the old theory of temperaments – but afterwards all will be relegated to the history of unintelligible doctrines, and we will be amazed, as we are today by Scholastic philosophy, of their persistence.

We will then understand what now seems incredible, that the contemporary psychological movement is only the dissolution of the myth of the double nature of man.

The establishment of scientific psychology precisely supposes this dissolution.

All the articulations that a notional elaboration has introduced in this primitive belief must be obliterated one by one, and the dissolution must proceed by stages, but by now it should already be finished.

Its duration, however, was considerably prolonged by the possibility given to the dead theses to be renewed by means of the respect that surrounds scientific methods.

8. But at last the moment of the final liquidation of all this mythology has arrived.

Today, the dissolution can no longer affect the form of life, and we can now recognise with certainty the end within the end.

Indeed, psychology is now in the state where philosophy was at the time of the elaboration of the Critique of Pure Reason. Its sterility is evident, its constitutive steps are exposed, and while some confine themselves in a Scholasticism that despite the impressive appearance of its production is not advancing at all, others throw themselves into desperate solutions.

A new idea can be perceived as well: we would like already to have lived this period of the history of psychology, but we constantly fall back into Scholastic fantasies.

Something, then, is missing: the clear recognition of the fact that classical psychology is nothing else but the notional elaboration of a myth.

9. This recognition should not be a critique of the same kind as those that proliferate throughout psychological literature, and which show the failure of either subjective or objective psychology and that periodically advocate the return of the thesis to the antithesis and of the antithesis to the thesis.

We cannot, consequently, start a controversy that can, once again, remain inside classical psychology, and whose only benefit is to make psychology spin in place.

We need a renovating critique, one which, by going beyond the standstill where psychology is now found, through the total elimination of all that has been creates the obvious facts that must be communicated.

10. Contrary to all hope, this vision of the new psychology which the critique in question supposes does not emerge from the practice of the new psychology.

The result of this exercise is entirely negative: it resulted, in fact, in behaviourism. Watson recognised that classical objective psychology is not objective in the true sense of the word, since he asserted, that after 50 years of scientific psychology it was time for psychology to become a positive science.

Now behaviourism is at a standstill, or rather a greater misfortune has happened to it.

The Behaviourists, at first charmed by the notion of behaviour, finally realised that the following behaviourism, i.e. Watson’s, had no future, and missing the bubbling cauldron of introspective psychology, they returned, with the excuse of non-physiological behaviourism, to introspective notions, or else simply limited themselves to translating in terms of behaviour the notions of classical psychology.

We then state regrettably that, at least with some people, behaviourism served only to give a new form to the illusion of objectivity.

Behaviourism thus presents the following paradox: to assert it sincerely, we must not develop it, and to be able to develop it, we must not assert it sincerely, thus taking away its reason for being.

All this is not surprising. The truth of behaviourism is established by the recognition of the mythological character of classical psychology; and the notion of behaviour is valid only when it is considered in its general scheme, prior to the interpretation that the Watsonsians and others give it.

Fifty years of scientific psychology has simply resulted in the affirmation that scientific psychology is only beginning.

11. Classical objective psychology could not have had any other result.

It has never been anything else but the impossible wish of introspective psychology to become a science of nature, and it only represents the tribute of the latter to the taste of the day. There was a time when philosophy, even metaphysics, wanted to become “experimental,” but this was not taken seriously. Psychology managed to allay suspicion.

In fact, there has never been an objective psychology different from this psychology that we pretended to deny. Experimental psychologists never had new ideas of their own; they always used the old supply of subjective psychology.

And each time we found out that a certain tendency fell victim to this illusion, we started from another direction thinking we could do better even though we started from the same principles.

That is why these researchers to whom the scientific method was to give wings always found themselves behind in comparison to the introspectionist psychologists, for while the former were busy translating into “scientific” formulae the ideas of the latter, the introspectionists could do nothing else but recognise their illusions.

And now experimental psychology is only beginning to recognise its own nullity, and introspectionist psychology is still at the stage of its marvellous and moving promises, whereas with psychologists who are not interested in the physiology of sensations, in classical laboratories and in the “emotional change” of consciousness, there appears the indication of a very productive direction, with a clear vision of its errors.

12. It is in the light of tendencies that are trying to separate from the influence of the problems and traditions of subjective as well as objective psychology, that the positive and negative aspects of the critique that we are undertaking must be defined.

For, if it is understood that this critique is not to be the result of a purely notional work, it is not required, either, to start it from the bottom for it to be valid. It must strike at the trunk, the central ideology of classical psychology.

We are not cutting off the branches but cutting down the tree. We are not condemning the whole, either; some facts will survive the death of classical psychology, but only the new psychology will give them their real signification.

13. What is really remarkable in the whole history of psychology is neither this oscillation around the two poles of objectivity and subjectivity, nor the lack of genius characterising the manner in which psychologists use the scientific method, but the fact that classical psychology does not even represent the false form of a true science, for it is science itself that is radically false and all question of method notwithstanding.

The comparison of psychology with Aristotle’s physics is not accurate, for psychology is not even false in the same way, but it is false, as are the occult sciences of spiritualism and theosophy, which also affect a scientific form, are false.

The natural sciences that deal with man never exhaust what we can learn about him. The term life represents a biological fact, as does properly human life, man’s dramatic life.

This dramatic life presents all the characteristics that render a domain eligible for scientific study. And even if psychology did not exist, for the sake of this possibility it would have to be invented in the name of this possibility.

The reflections on this dramatic life have succeeded in finding their place only in literature and theatre, and although classical psychology asserts the necessity of studying “literary documents,” it has never, in fact, been truly put to use outside of the abstract aims of psychology.

And so instead of transmitting to psychology the concrete theme it harboured, it is literature, instead, that underwent the influence of false psychology: writers felt obligated, in their naivete and ignorance, to take the “science” of the soul seriously.

Nevertheless, official psychology owes its birth to inspirations that are radically opposed to the ones which alone can justify its existence, and to make matters worse, it is nourished exclusively from these inspirations.

It represents, in fact, to use crude terms, only a notional expansion of the general belief in demons; that is, the mythology of the soul, on one hand, and, on the other hand, the problem of perception as it is asked in terms of the old philosophy.

When behaviourists assert that the hypothesis of inner life represents a leftover of animism, they have hit upon the true character of one of the tendencies whose merging gave birth to current psychology.

This is a very informative history, but its narrative goes beyond the framework of the present study. On the whole, the mystic and “pedagogical” attitude facing the soul, the scatological myths, incorporated into Christianity, found themselves suddenly reduced to the level of a dogmatic study inspired by a barbarian realism, thus encountering the inspiration of the Aristotelian treatise of the soul.

And while this study was to serve theology, it tried, also, to establish a content, by drawing indistinctly from the theory of knowledge, from logic and from mythology.

Thus a web of themes and problems was formed, defined clearly enough to form an identifiable part of philosophy.

We can say that right from its formation it was complete, and no psychological discovery worthy of this name has been made until nowadays: the psychological work since Gocklen, or, if we prefer, since Christian Wolff, was only notional, a work of expansion, of articulation, in a word, the rationalisation of a myth, and finally its critique.

14. The Kantian critique of rational psychology should already have ruined psychology.

It could have determined an orientation toward the concrete, toward the true psychology which, under the humiliating form of literature, was excluded from “science.” But the Critique did not have this effect.

To be sure, it eliminated tile notion of the soul, but since the refutation of rational psychology was only an application of the general critique of things in themselves, the result for psychology seems to be an empirical realism, parallel to the one that imposes itself in science after the destruction of the thing in itself.

And as current interpretation drops this extraordinarily productive idea of the priority of external experience over internal experience, retaining only the parallelism, the Critique of Pure Reason seems to sanction the hypothesis of inner life.

The old stock of psychology was survived, and upon it fell the nineteenth century in fashion: experience and calculation. That was the beginning of the deplorable story, the Carmen Miserabile.

15. The worship of the soul is essential for Christianity. The old theme of perception would never have been enough to produce psychology, for its strength comes from religion.

The theology of the soul, once established in tradition, survived Christianity, and continues today feeding from the ordinary sustenance of all the scholastics.

The respect with which it succeeded in surrounding itself, thanks to the scientific disguise, allowed it to vegetate a little longer, and it succeeded in surviving because of this disguise.

It would be wrong, then, to say that classical psychology only feeds on the past. It succeeded, instead, in joining some modern exigencies, and the inner life, in the “phenomenist” sense of the word, succeeded in becoming a “value. »

The ideology of bourgeoisie would not have been complete if it had not found its own mystique.

After several tries it seems now to have found it in the inner life of psychology. The inner life is perfectly suited to that destination.

Its essence is that of our very civilisation, that is, abstraction, for it only implies that life in general, and man in general, and the “wise men” of today are happy to inherit this aristocratic conception of man with a cluster of costly problems.

The religion of the inner life seems to be the best defence against the dangers of a real renovation.

As it implies no linking to any determinate truth, but simply a disinterested game with forms and qualities, it gives the illusion of life and “spiritual” progress, whereas abstraction, being its essence, puts a stop to all real life; and as it is affected only by its own expansion, it is only an eternal pretext to ignore the truth.

That is why inner life is preached by all those who want to win over those desirous of improvement before they can attach themselves to their real object, so that their greed for qualities replaces their comprehension of truth.

That is also why those who are too weak to show themselves as being “difficult” grasp the outstretched hand for this offer to be saved while contemplating their navel seems really irresistible….

16. Classical psychology then is doubly false: false with regard to science and false with regard to the spirit.

What fun it would have been to see ourselves stand alone with our condemnation of inner life!

And with what pleasure we would have been shown the “scientific bases” of false wisdom! All these “philosophies of consciousness,” which play with notions borrowed from psychology, all these wisdoms which invite man to deepen, whereas in point of fact he should get out of his current form, could have continued, with great effect, to realise the affirmation of the legitimacy of their basic thought processes in psychology.

But, in fact, both condemnations concur. False wisdom will follow false science to its tomb: their destinies are linked and they will die together, because abstraction dies. It is the vision of concrete man that chases it out of both domains.

17. This agreement should not, however, be a reason for confusing the two condemnations. It is much more efficient to separate them and to isolate the condemnation of the abstraction by psychology first.

But this condemnation appears in the most technical part of psychology, and it is made by authors who ignore all our requirements. This meeting, however, to be successful, is not an accident: truth works on all areas at a time, and its different flashes end up by merging into a unique truth.

Since we want to separate the two condemnations in question, theoretically, we also need to separate them materially.

That is why we need to start by establishing the sense of dissolution of classical psychology while adhering to the study of tendencies which, at the same time as they complete the dissolution, announce the new psychology.

18. Three tendencies can be taken into account here: psychoanalysis, behaviourism, and Gestalt theory.

The value of Gestalt theory is especially great for its critical point of view, it implies the negation of the basic thought processes of classical psychology that breaks down the forms of human actions so as then to try to reconstruct the totality of meaning and form, from shapeless elements without significance.

The consequent behaviourism, Watson’s, recognises the failure of classical objective psychology, and brings, with the idea of behaviour, whatever its final interpretation, a concrete definition of the psychological fact.

But the most important of the three tendencies is unquestionably psychoanalysis. It gives us the truly clear vision of the errors of classical psychology, and shows us from this time forth the new psychology in life and in action.

But as with the truth, these three tendencies still contain the error under three different aspects and thus lead their followers along paths that once again move psychology away from its true direction.

Gestalt theory, in its broadest sense (including Spranger’s definition), on one hand, like Spranger is devoted to theoretical constructions and on the other hand, cannot seem to be freed of preoccupations of classical psychology.

Behaviourism is sterile, or falls back into physiology, biology, and even introspection in a more or less disguised form, instead of forgetting everything to wait only for the surprises of experience.

As for psychoanalysis, it has become so overwhelmed by experience that, when at last consulted was bursting to speak, that it did not have time to notice that deep within its heart it was concealing the old psychology that it was mandated to eliminate, and, on the other hand, its strength feeds an unimportant romanticism and speculations that solve only obsolete problems.

Moreover, it is generally either implicitly, or with a certain timidity that most authors dare pronounce the condemnation of classical psychology.

They seem to want to prepare the work of those who see safety in the conciliation of opposites, without realising that here again there is only an illusion, since it is impossible to place side by side tendencies in which each of them raises the previous question about the other or the others.

As for those who, like Watson and his followers, dare pronounce the frank condemnation, their assertions about the falsehood of classical psychology and the reasons for this falsehood are so vaguely articulated that they could not even prevent their own authors from falling back into the condemned attitudes, and so their declarations are to a real critique of the foundations of psychology what the general reflections on the weakness of “human understanding” are to the Critique of Pure Reason.

19. The critique of psychology, to be efficient, must be blunt, and it should respect only what is really respectable: false considerations, the fear of being wrong by declaring what one thinks or what one’s thought implies, only make the way much longer with no other benefit than confusion.

This timidity can be explained by the fact that it is very difficult for us to tear away from this psychology that kept us prisoners for so long.

The schemes it gives us do not only seem indispensable in a practical way; they are, also, so deeply rooted in us that they reappear in the midst of our most sincere efforts to free ourselves of them, and then we can easily take this stubbornness with which they pursue us for insurmountable evidence.

It is thus, for example, that the affirmation that states that inner life does not exist any more than animal spirits do, and that the notions which are borrowed from inner life are so scarce that it is even useless to translate them in terms of behaviour, seems, at first, impossible to conceive.

But let’s be careful: this is only the temptation peculiar to old evidences. The critique consists precisely in taking them apart piece by piece to expose their thought processes and the implicit postulate that they contain.

That is why, under penalty of inefficiency, it cannot stop at general affirmations that only condemn without executing: the critique must go all the way to the execution.

There are, however, still problems. At each step, we will wonder if we have the right to get rid of a piece of evidence or a given problem. But we must never forget that, for now, our “sensibility” has been falsified, and that it is precisely in going on that we will acquire a true vision allowing us to recognise what should be salvaged, and we will see then to what extent the evidences which, at first, seem insurmountable are less so later.

20. To come back to those tendencies we were talking about, the teaching that they contain for psychology risk collapsing because of the nostalgia which calls its followers to return to it, and because a radical liquidation of classical psychology does not allow them to be free of it forever.

That is why, in order to bring out all the rigour and significance of this teaching, we are going to devote a study to each of the tendencies that we have mentioned.

These will be preliminary studies that will prepare the critique by shedding light on the plan of its components and in bringing in essential elements; they will form the “Materials for the Critique of the Foundations of Psychology” [Materiaux].

The critique itself, in which the problem that we just talked about will be treated separately and systematically, will be in the “Critical Essay on the Foundations of Psychology” which will follow the Materiaux. This preparatory and consequently provisional, character of the Materiaux. must never be forgotten; it still does not include the critique, but only represents the first rough tools that will help forge the instruments themselves.

21. This research that we undertake in the Materiaux cannot, of course, no more than any other, be carried out in a vacuum. We do not pretend to examine the tendencies in question “naively” with no preconceived ideas.

Affirmations of this kind can be sincere, but never true, because a true critique does not exist without a feeling of truth. The whole point is to know the source of this feeling.

As far as we are concerned, it is by reflecting on psychoanalysis that we have perceived true psychology. This could have been an accident, but it is not, because today only psychoanalysis can rightfully give a vision of true psychology, because it is already its unique incarnation.

The Materiaux must therefore begin with the examination of psychoanalysis: by looking for the teaching that psychoanalysis entails for psychology, we will obtain exactitudes that will permit us to remember the essential in the examination of the other tendencies.

22. The first wave of protest that the appearance of psychoanalysis unleashed now seems to have levelled off, although it was recently seen reviving furiously in France, and the situation between classical psychology and psychoanalysis is now not as tense.

This change of attitude, which we can interpret as a victory for psychoanalysis, only represents a change in tactics by psychologists.

We realised that the first way of fighting psychoanalysis in the name of morality and propriety was to surrender the field to the psychoanalysts without a fight, and that it is much more tasteful, and also more efficient, to acquire by a proof of liberality – which consists in assigning Freud his place in psychology, in his treatment of the unconscious – the right to have the reserves about psychoanalysis that “science” demands.

So, thanks to a certain number of assimilations, we have passed on to Freud all the contempt that we now have for certain tendencies, and we assert then that psychoanalysis is only a rebirth of the old associationist psychology; that it is entirely based on the psychology of the Vorstellung, etc.

23. As to its followers, in psychoanalysis they only see libido and unconscious.

Freud is for them the Copernicus of psychology, because he is the Columbus of the unconscious, and psychoanalysis, according to them, far from reviving the intellectualist psychology, is instead connected to this great movement which became apparent starting in the nineteenth century and which stresses the importance of emotional life; psychoanalysis, with its theory of the libido, the primacy of desire over intellectual thought, and, in short, with the theory of emotional unconscious, is indeed the crowning of this whole movement.

24. It is not hard to see that the picture, which has become classic, that its followers give psychoanalysis, goes exactly in the direction of the wishes of classical psychology by helping it to recover its balance after the shock received from psychoanalysis.

For by attributing to Freud only the classic merits of Columbus and Copernicus, psychoanalysis simply becomes progress made within classical psychology, a simple reversing of the values of old psychology, but only a reversing of the hierarchical order of its values; a group of discoveries that the categories of official psychology can accept, provided it expands to fit in so much material. Indeed, what the discussion thus directed is questioning are theories and attitudes, and not the very existence of classical psychology.

In fact, it is not evolution that is taking place, but revolution, only a revolution a little more Copernican than we think: psychoanalysis, far from being an enrichment of classical psychology, is actually the demonstration of its defeat. It constitutes the first phase of breaking away from the traditional ideal of psychology, with its inspiring occupations and strengths; the first escape from the field of influence which has held it prisoner for centuries, the same as behaviourism is the premonition of the next break with its notions and fundamental conceptions.

25. If psychoanalysts are collaborating with their enemies in the canalisation of the psychoanalytic revolution, it is because they have kept, deep down, a fixation on the ideal, on the categories, and on the terminology of classical psychology.

It is, also, unquestionable that the theoretical framework of psychoanalysis is full of elements borrowed from the old psychology of the Vorstellung.

Nevertheless, the followers of classical psychology should not have exploited this argument.

Because by confusing the essence with the appearance, they only draw attention to the incompatibility in psychoanalysis between fundamental inspiration and the theories in which it is embodied, and thus digging their own graves.

Indeed, in the light of this fundamental inspiration the abstraction of classical psychology bursts forth, and then the true incompatibility appears not that between psychoanalysis and a certain form of classical psychology, but between psychoanalysis and classical psychology in general.

Also, because of the very nature of this incompatibility, each step forward in the comprehension of the concrete orientation of psychoanalysis has for a counterpart the revelation of a constitutive step of classical psychology; thus, the way Freud expresses his discoveries in traditional language and outlines is only a special case that allows us to observe how psychology makes up its facts and theories.

In any case, it is not enough vaguely to reproach Freud of intellectualism or associationism: we need to reveal exactly those thought processes that justify this reproach.

Only, then we will be forced to recognise in light of the true sense of psychoanalysis that these processes whose errors we celebrated with so much pride are, in reality, only the constitutive steps of psychology itself, and the reproach in question will be revealed as a particular case of this illusion that does not stop persecuting psychologists, and that consists in believing that we have changed our essence, when in fact we have only changed our dress….

26. We want to look for the teaching that psychoanalysis brings to psychology by demonstrating the preceding affirmations.

We will need then, on the one hand, to release psychoanalysis from the prejudices of followers and adversaries by seeking its inspiration, and by constantly opposing this inspiration to the constitutive steps of classical psychology of which it implies the negation, and, on the other hand, to judge Freud’s theoretical structures in the name of this inspiration, which will allow us, at the same time, to catch, red-handed, the classic thought processes. Thus, we will obtain not only a clear vision of that incompatibility that we just spoke of but also important indications of the psychology to come.

But as the analysis must be precise, and as it must grasp the way in which psychoanalysis is elaborated and built, we thought that the best thing to do would be to study the dream theory.

Freud himself says: “Psychoanalysis rests on dream theory; the psychoanalytic theory of the dream represents the most complete part of this young science.” Besides, it is in the Traumdeutung that the best sense of psychoanalysis appears and that the constitutive steps are exposed with care and an extraordinary clarity.

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