Thursday, September 23, 2010


Here is the reaction from my colleagues in the psychology department to a proposed undergraduate general education course on Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams:

We would be concerned if students had an academic experience at [our University] that endorsed psychoanalysis as a viable approach to personality and the meaning of dreams in an era where psychological inquiry has for decades relied on scientific methods that have dismissed psychoanalysis along with phrenology, astrology and other invalid explanations of human behavior.
Salvidor Dali's 1939 sketch of Freud.
It's not that the psychology department itself has any interest in teaching courses on Freud. This we knew already. However, the fact that they wish to prevent any "academic experience" of Freud by students anywhere at our university is new.

I don't believe these objections will prevent the course from being offered, but it will consume the time and energy of many people around campus. This is the level of intellectual debate that occupies much of my time as an academic. Some days it strikes me as comic. Other days, it just makes me sad.

Perhaps the next course I propose will be "Psychoanalysis, Phrenology and Astrology." That should make for some entertaining committee meetings at the very least.


  1. What university is this? For shame!

  2. I take pleasure in writing a pseudonymous blog, so I try to avoid posting identifying details about my institution.

    However, my school is hardly unique in its resistance to Freud. Freud often attracts very vocal critics, and psychology departments are no longer the place in the academy where Freud is read.

  3. Naturally, the moneymakers in psychology are all about drugs. However, before they dismiss psychoanalysis, some of the pseudo-scientists in psychology might want to take a look at, well, neuroscience, beginning with Gerald Edelman - who dedicated his popular book on his work, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire to Darwin and Freud - and other advances displeasing to the pill popping industry. Perhaps you should propose a course in Entrepreneuring in psychoactive chemicals for psychologists: roads to wealth! I'm sure they would jump on that wagon.