Freud on Determinism

Fri, 20 May 1994 11:34:34 CDT

C. Pate's remark about Freud and determinism, occasioned by his
misspelling of my name, reminded me of a passage from Freud's second
introductory lecure. Of such "trivial errors" of everyday life, Freud
wrote that the person innocent of psychoanalysis is sure to regard them
as little accidents unworthy of any attempt at explanation. "What does
the man mean by this? Does he mean to maintain that there are any
occurrences so small that they fail to come within the causal sequence
of things, that they might as well be other than they are? Anyone thus
breaking away from the determination of natural phenomena, at any single
point, has thrown over the whole scientific outlook on the world..."
Though I am less interested in psychoanalysis than I once was (due to
what are,to me, its unsatisfactory standards for evidence and theory), I
find this remark of Freud's admirable and inspiring. What is the purport
of all this about free will or, more recently, "agency," if not to claim
that in the human realm, things "might as well be other than they are"?
--Bob Graber