thumbnail of Man is not a thing; Freud and the social sciences
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
The National Association of educational broadcasters presents Freud and the social sciences one in a series of transcribed programs dealing with some of the discoveries and errors of Sigmund Freud. A series titled Man is not a thing. First you will hear Dr. Eric from psychoanalyst and author as recorded in his study in Cuernavaca Mexico. Then you will meet Robert Nisbet dean of the College of Letters and Science University of California Riverside. Together with Floyd Ross professor of world religions at the Southern California School of Theology and Dr. Edward Rutan chief psychiatry of the California State Mental hygiene clinic in perverse side. Now here is Erich Fromm as interviewed by John harder in Cuernavaca Mexico. I got a doctor from that you feel that much of Freud still stands today with modification with addition with additional understandings and additional knowledge to be to be built in or build on and in some cases contradicting. Is this what is happening with these corals that run between the various schools of
psychoanalysis. Well I'm afraid that something quite unfortunate happens. Something for which you find perhaps a parallel in certain political and more so perhaps in certain religious movements that there is a fruitful and important idea. But then it becomes bureaucratized misted interests which take charge of the idea and to lay down the law what is and what is not in conformity with it. Actually I think the problem which is so often raised today is one for Freud against Freud is quite silly. It's about like saying is one for Newton life is one against you. Freud made scientific discoveries and it is a very essence of science that it changes by new findings and by new modes of thinking. I have tried to say in the beginning of our conversation here that Freud's ideas were of course conditioned by his time by the philosophy prevailing in his time. And
indeed the human race has changed considerably in its whole outlook in these last 50 years. In many ways for the worse but in many ways also by seeing a wider horizon by seeing new concepts. If you take for instance only then you consider all one word. The overcoming of provincialism or by the new concepts which theoretical physics have created. In other words I think was Freud as with any great scientist the problem is to see he's basically scurries. But then to go on developing them continuing them changing them with new insights with new facts and with a new point of view which the development of the human race permits us to have. So that it isn't a question of being for fraud or against fraud but it is a question of seeing that Freud has created the basis for a new thinking about men. But that to be true to these bases one must not stay there and just repeat what Freud
has said. But one must develop his insights in the new frame of reference which the development of our culture has taught us and expect and hope that a few generations from now whatever we know and think will be transformed in terms of new insights and experiences which our grandchildren will have. Well do you feel that our lives are or somewhat different slightly changed or perhaps vastly different because of Freud and what has followed upon Freud in the way of continuing to think continuing to search and continuing to ask questions within the the frame of reference set by Freud in developing an image of man. Will Mr.. I think this question is the question amounts to the very general question. What is the inference of a great man in history. And I feel it's a question which cannot be answered in simple yes or no terms.
On the one hand a great man I would say and this is his genius who always expresses explicit that which is already implicit and potentially given in a certain stage of historical evolution. And in that sense he doesn't really create something new but in another sense by making explicit things which are not yet explicit he enables people to think to follow up to develop ideas. And in that sense he has indeed a great influence and culture. It really goes back in a way to what we were saying in the beginning that a great man is at the same time transcending his time and is a child of his time. And I would say from this it follows he helps changing lives. But in another way. This change which he promotes which he faces is a change which is already prepared it potentially there in the situation in which he lives.
You have heard Dr. Eric from psychoanalyst and author as recorded in his study in Cuernavaca Mexico. Now to continue our discussion of Freud and the social sciences will switch to Studio C at San Bernardino Valley College where we'll join Dean Robert Nisbet of the University of California Riverside. Professor Floyd Ross of the Southern California School of Theology and Dr. Edward Rutan chief psychiatry east of the riverside state mental hygiene clinic. Dean is but is our moderator. Well gentlemen on this possible recapitulation of Freud's thought and inquiry into his relationship to modern thought. I must say I am struck first of all by a penalty which a great man sometimes receives even if he doesn't earn it. And that is by having his own name converted into an ism. So
often what is brilliant and guiding and distinctive in the ideas of a great man becomes almost submerged by the quasar dogmatic material which begins to appear when that man's greatness allows itself to be expressed into an intellectual movement that has the word ism after it. I think of Marx I think of Freud. I can think of others and I think it is symptomatic here that isms following great man tend to appear often err in the realm of the social sciences and in the humanities. How seldom if ever does one hear of say Newton ism or past tourism in the physical sciences. And this may well be a penalty that any great thinker in the social sciences or in the mental sciences faces as a result of the very greatness and creativity of his thinking.
We do know Dina's But with so many variables in the examination of people and of the environments in which people live. That it is almost as though there needs to be some kind of hypothetical construction on which to base one's discoveries or explain one's discoveries which it seems to me is responsible for this development of isms in the field of investigation of the social sciences. Freud himself complained throughout his life that there were too few of his followers who were making significant additions or revisions to his concepts. He was aware of the freezing tendency that was taking place with Freudianism and he was in the position very often which he bitterly complained about and that even when he would be present in a room people would talk about Freud and Freudianism as though Freud were some sort of traditional long deceased
individual. I have a feeling that many of his followers converted a brilliant insights and suggestive ideas of Freud and to what someone has called a self sealing system. And wherever a man's ideas or what Wherever a philosophy or methodology becomes converted into a system of this kind it seems to me that the possibilities of new knowledge are almost wholly closed off. PROFESSOR ROSS I'm reminded of a Chinese saying that a good teacher leaves no footprints. But then of course this of course makes an impossible demand upon any teacher. Freud included. And I suppose when a man has come along with a new hypothesis that seems to throw a great deal of additional light on him the two unexplored are on misunderstood areas of human behavior. This idea or hypothesis tends to take hold with a great deal more emotional force than perhaps is justified. And when one is talking about discoveries or hypotheses about the man himself
rather than just about the falling object let us say then we are subject to even more need for distortion. True and we all feel that we are experts on this one subject of man just as internal to religion we seem to assume that we're all experts. That's one of the great difficulties that is faced I think by the social sciences in the mental sciences in a way that does not trouble. They physical sciences we're dealing always with behavior or forces of behavior which in many respects are open to the average person. So far as his own observation is concerned and more to the point a great deal of what we're concerned with in the social sciences involves terminology that is open also to the average person in his everyday speech. And it makes it very difficult for us in the social sciences to give precision to our terms.
But we are measuring when we attempt to evaluate a psychology of men we are measuring men through men. It's as though we were to weigh a scale on a scale and attempt to devise a scale. We begin with the very thing that we're trying to measure or study. Very true for us. And don't we honor a man a man like Freud most adequately. When we are willing to recognize our subjectivity in our own involvement here both as disciples and just as human beings weighing human beings when we try to have something of the freshness of approach in something of the daring that the teacher had himself. And isn't this what we really need today and which doctor from is referring to. We need to be just as exploratory in our approach to the unresolved problems in human behavior and the gaps in our knowledge regarding human nature. As he was in a day that did not like many of the things that he said.
One of the problems that I think we face in this field today and have faced for the past 20 years is that the students of psychology have had to destroy the authority figure of Freud and have expended their energies in doing this rather than in making any discoveries. For example I think the most vivid demonstration of this is in the apparent lack of information the lack of observation that Freud was able to contribute about the psychology of the female. And we find ourselves today with a great many of the Kootenai in our information about feminine psychology and Freud never pretended that he had the answers to feminine psychology he kind of glossed over it rather lightly. This either wasn't particularly important or he was hoping at least that it could be explained in the terms of the male psychology and what we find happening today is that those investigators who do try to give us some answers about feminine psychology are constantly attacking Freud first
wasting all of their energies on defending their positions or on tearing down what they conceive of as an existing statement of fact about female psychology and therefore not devising a structured psychology of woman. It's an interesting commentary on our time I think. That most of the women who have written in this field have gone on trying to understand femininity through the national anigh Freud and his followers. Yes or vehemently protesting that Freud was all wrong. Yes it is another aspect of Freud and his relationship to contemporary thought that seems to me to be shared with the relationship of systems in general to contemporary thought as a social scientist. I am impressed by the fact that less influence is being exerted on the works and ideas and investigations of individual social scientists today by
systems than was the case even 20 years ago in the 1930s. I remember when I was beginning my own work in the social sciences that at that time sociologists economists and others were much more given. Do identifying themselves in whole or in part with systems the systems that came from The Economist Marshall or Keynes or Marx or others. And today I don't find this present. It seems to me that we have in a sense emancipated ourselves from a reliance upon knowledge and social science as divided into systems and our thinking more definitely now in terms of individual hypotheses which will be retained so long as they seem to be verified so long as they are useful. This is an encouraging sign and I think it may be in part attributable to the influence of Freud because after all the desire for a system in any field I think and not just in the field of religion or the social sciences generally is a desire for security to have
everything nailed down neatly. And it may be that at this point we are showing signs signs of increased maturity in dealing with the complex problems of human behavior. I quite agree A I remember William James many years ago made a division of the human race into what he called a tender minded and the tough minded and according to James the tender minded mind is the tender minded person is the person who seeks refuge in systems whether they are religious systems or secular and the tough minded tends to be more nearly the Ampera assist the man who is willing to face the fact that life is inherently complex and that we are not likely to find any single generalize ation that covers it all. Well perhaps in Freud's giving us permission to have aggressive drives he has helped us all to become a little more tough minded. Well perhaps there is a trading in of reliance on systems for a greater sharing between the various disciplines working in the social sciences. It seems to me that there
is some attempt and some front fairly successful attempt being made for people in the various social sciences to get together exchange lingo perhaps even settle upon some kind of common lingo and really share and exchange ideas which it would seem to me will lead to some revision of the basic psychology is in operation today. Haven't we over specialized frequently in our disciplines. I think this is true in the academic field certainly and this is undoubtedly related to the need for security and status also. And what you say suggests that we are beginning to recognize that we must creep out these little caves of specialization and try to communicate with people in other areas. I think you two have certainly put your hand on what is for me the most distinctive and probably fertile aspect of contemporary social science at least when I began my own work 20 years ago 25
years ago. The departmental eyes ation compartmentalized and I should say in the social sciences was excessive and I think this specialize ation flowed in a sense from the heavy reliance of that time upon systems. As these once self sealing systems have begun to be put into the background and as we are now as individual social scientists attempting to work on manageable problems we are discovering that problems don't fall neatly into an economic category into a purely psychological category. And I think probably this working together representatives of the different disciplines is more successful today than it has ever been before. I think too that the recent experience of having so stable a science as that of physics and mathematics seem to collapse in the face of new discoveries has given the the social scientists some permission to exchange ideas with other
scientists. Very true. Think about it down some of his system. Indeed think of the almost revolutionary influence of chemistry for example on the biological sciences in the last 10 or 20 years. And of course Einstein was a very upsetting influence so far as the owner Newtonian physics was concerned. Indeed and Einstein at the present time presumably I mean to say the insights or the principles of Einstein presumably are under the impact of work now going on that we may not know anything about. Don't you think though that this kind of question and doubt about the systems of knowledge that men has assumed that he has is that this creates some increased anxiety and increased concern. In the individuals who have come to rely on experts those individuals who. Are aware of neuroses now are aware of themselves as persons are aware but are aware of the world in which they live improve communication
transportation etc. has brought them face to face with the problems of the world and they turn to the experts for specific structured unequivocal answers. And what do they find instead that the experts are saying that our whole system structure has great failings and we have serious doubts about the conclusions that we have arrived at in the past that we are arriving at now. This has created I think an educational problem not just within the schools but for the public generally. In other words we're going to have to learn to live with our anxieties and not just think in terms of how can we get rid of all of our anxieties for. It's important I think that not only the experts but the average person who makes no claim to being an expert recognized that we still know very little about many things. We would like to know and if we accept this with some degree of humility our teach ability and I would equate those terms then the methodological scepticism of the expert are the research here. Need not terrify us. We can recognize that this is the way in which we
become candidates for a larger growth and larger insight. But of course it does involve real education. Some of your words Professor us inclined me to a question that I'd like to direct at our colleague Dr. root and it has to do with recognition of anxieties but it has to do also with a quest for adjustment that seems to me to be one of the by products of the great influence of Freud and of psychology and psychiatry in general in our own time. Is there not a danger that we may be in society possibly depriving ourselves of some of the creative consequences all of us a little insecurity of a little maladjustment If we tend to convert adjustment and security into idols. We have talked before about the anxiety of men as being one of the tools by which he learns it is only through having these anxieties only through having these questions and concerns about his own life
that he can begin to investigate his own life. We certainly develop a culture we develop a civilization in response to NGs dieties this being the case if we are to tranquilize ourselves pharmaceutically surgically or. Ideational E then we really do not progress. We really regress in terms of our culture and civilization. We are unable to make adequate contributions to an improved understanding of ourselves. In other words I think I heard psychiatry say in a lecture one evening that anxiety can be the cutting edge of the mind in its approach to a problem. Exactly we need motivation and there is no better motivation than concern and anxiety about a subject certainly we get to the point or times when the anxiety becomes paralyzing. But up to that point it acts as a constructive energy for us.
What we're demanding is it not is more realism. You know our approach to live not sentimentalism not pessimism or a sense of our overweening guiltiness or inadequacy but real is and I'm reminded of the statement that somebody made along the way that in order to see reality or the world our experience as it is we must be willing for reality or the world to be what it is. In other words we have to pull ourselves out of this subjectivity are this desire for too much adjustment. And simply learn to use the equipment we have. And I think that one of the contributions that Freud has made in this regard perhaps has shown up most in the area of childhood. I think a great number of people now no longer think of the child either on the one hand as a mass of perdition as Augustine and many Orthodox Christians describe the child nor as a bundle of sweetness and light. I think we've begun to recognize that the child is a bundle of a good many potentialities and these can be directed in constructive ways or they can be
distorted. And that's come out in all kinds of unfortunate and eye social ways. I certainly agree with you about the lasting impact of Freud's insights so far as our understanding of childhood is concerned. And I wonder too if we are not deeply indebted to him for having been perhaps the first to present systematically I do not say the first but the first to present systematically they hold irrationality as a mode of behavior and the concept of the unconscious. Here it seems to me we are dealing with the beginnings of what I think is the most important single sphere of all the interpersonal sciences and that is the study of motivation. Isn't it interesting that a man growing out of a period of rationalism. Should allow us to accept concepts of the irrational in ourselves and to develop a system about the most
unsystematic most illogical parts of ourselves the unconscious aspects of AI thinking quite right where I think Freud failed in a sense is in his lack of recognition a truly important influence of the interpersonal relationships in adult life. I think probably the revisionists of Freud and some of the sociologists have given a great deal of important admission to Freud's earlier work along this line. It seems to me that. Again we have to recognize the history and the time factor itself. Freud in his early work became involved with the unconscious the concept of the unconscious of the rat race of the unconscious and he had to explain and define this. And he really spent a lifetime in trying to. Understand the Unconscious processes of man which led him into a an understanding which he was
able to share quite eloquently. Of the end of the super ego but which left him with little opportunity to examine the conscious aspects of man and the ego of man which is the part of men through which the individual has contact with the environment so that the whole area of interpersonal contact of interpersonal relationship of the relationship of men to his environment was left out simply because there wasn't time to examine this. And isn't this one of the areas where perhaps some of the greatest adventuring can be done in the decades ahead. Freud threw some light into the cellar area of man's psyche. This has led some oriental thinkers and psychologists to say that he tended to equate man with the unconscious and from their standpoint he ignored what they call the super conscious. But from what you were saying about the ego I'm wondering if it isn't in this area that we need to concentrate more now that we have thrown some light on the unconscious namely what is it that makes man
distinctively man as an integrated personality. We know that he has this region we'd like to know more about it. We know that his super ego can frequently be a tyrant and Freud was in revolt against the tyrannous super ego of the Victorian age. But in this area of the ego to use Freud's term. Perhaps this is where we need to do more exploration and maybe then we will discover what a home personality is and not think so much in terms of these three segmentation of the psyche. Quite right and I think probably one other important difference of contemporary thought in psychology in the social sciences is that it is no longer seeking world hypotheses and by that I mean generalize ations which are aimed at the totality of man the totality of society were more modest Nol I think and all of these fields and even when we're not confining ourselves to the small hypotheses and problems at least we don't go above
the middle sized hypotheses and problems. This is again a part of our caution. We're thrown in with the other disciplines working in related fields and we find that their discoveries are so relevant to our own that we do need to be more cautious about our statements. That's right. What we refer to is caution and modesty are a byproduct so I think one of the. Diminishing lack of faith in great secular systems of thought and second and I think probably more important the healthy recognition of the possibilities of interrelationship of the social sciences. Well gentlemen I think we have reached a concluding point than to you Dr Floyd Ross professor of world religions of the Southern California School of Theology and you Dr. Edward Rudin chief psychiatry's of the riverside state mental hygiene clinic. Our thanks for a pleasant and profitable discussion.
You have been listening to Freud and the social sciences one in a series of transcribed programs concerned with the discoveries and errors of Sigmund Freud. A series titled Man is not a thing. First you heard Dr. Eric from psychoanalyst and author as interviewed in his study in Cuernavaca Mexico then to Studio C at San Bernardino Valley College where we heard from Robert Nisbet dean of the College of Letters and Science University of California Riverside. Together with Floyd Ross professor of World Religions Southern California School of Theology and Dr. Edward Rutan chief psychiatry list of the California State Mental hygiene clinic in Riverside. These programs were produced and edited by John harder for the community education division of San Bernardino Valley College and were developed under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters.
This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Man is not a thing
Freud and the social sciences
Producing Organization
San Bernardino Valley College
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-gq6r378g).
Episode Description
This program, "Freud and the Social Sciences," looks at how Freud's theories relate to other social sciences.
Series Description
This series presents a discussion of the discoveries and errors of Sigmund Freud and his impact on the American family, politics and religion.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Editor: Harding, Bob
Interviewer: Walker, Fred
Producer: Harter, John
Producing Organization: San Bernardino Valley College
Speaker: Fromm, Erich, 1900-1980
Speaker: Nisbet, Robert A.
Speaker: Ross, Floyd Hiatt
Speaker: Rudin, Edward
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-22-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:09
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Man is not a thing; Freud and the social sciences,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2024,
MLA: “Man is not a thing; Freud and the social sciences.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Man is not a thing; Freud and the social sciences. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from