Plato’s suggestions

readingsOur regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

Unfortunately, it seems like Freudian pseudoscience is making a come back. Which is doable, as long as one generously interprets his already vague notions in light of modern cognitive science…

Apparently, rude behavior spreads like a disease, and can be studied with the tools of epidemiology. Fortunately, as I wrote in Answers for Aristotle, however, positive behaviors do as well.

The story of Vulcan, the non existing planet that was searched for over decades, and finally killed by Einstein’s relativity theory.

Could your healthy diet make me fat? The rise of personal nutritionism.

A gym studied as a religion, and a far too expansive concept of what a “religion” is in the first place.

98 thoughts on “Plato’s suggestions

  1. SocraticGadfly

    Does an official center for Jungian studies count as academic, or not? One of the books I read was from someone affiliated with such a place. At a minimum, it’s academic sub specie Jungianism studies.


  2. Thomas Jones

    Hope you are enjoying Munich and the conference, Massimo, and looking forward to your commentary on it.


  3. Philosopher Eric

    Well Philip, I suppose that doesn’t help me much with my own stuff, though it does suggest that you believe our computing will need to develop a substrate based approach to resolve such “hard” issues. It’s all beyond me, but perhaps so.


  4. Philosopher Eric

    Regarding the “head shrinking” business in general, I’ve been under the impression that it has undergone a tremendous transformation in recent years that, if true, ought to be noted. I’ve heard that psychiatrists, who of course traditionally had patients relax on a couch to discuss their circumstances so that assessments and advice can be provided, have virtually abandoned this sort of work. I understand that today these scientists meet with their patients essentially to assess which, if any, drugs might help.

    If true, this would seem quite damning for the concept of talk therapy. Apparently this kind of service has effectively been transferred to other (hopefully less expensive) specialists. And is it effective? Well perhaps it can be, though I’m quite sure that it would be far more so if such practitioners had a basic functional model of human dynamics as their disposal. I did provide a sketch of my own earlier, and it was founded upon ultimate conscious motivation, or what’s good/bad for us in the end.


  5. davidlduffy

    It is easy to be a therapeutic nihilist with respect to psychiatric illness generally, not just “deep” psychodynamic therapies. The recent meta-analyses in the area of depression I liked were that of Linde et al [2015] examining psychotherapy in the primary care setting,
    who conclude that all types pf psychotherapy have some effect, ~0.3 standard deviations of a depression score, whether face-to-face interpersonal psychotherapy or “no or minimal contact CBT”. So the concentration on cheaper, shorter therapies is simply that they are as good, and can be delivered to more of the population, and that mood tends to improve over 6-9 months anyway, so reducing short to medium term disability is a worthwhile target.

    And two recent reviews of biases (practitioner allegiance effects, publication bias) affecting these conclusions, that suggest there are real effects (about the size found by Linde et al), but a bit smaller than one would like:

    Simplistically, we might divide up effects into those that are therapist-independent eg book- or internet-provided CBT; those that rely non-specifically on human companionship (all epidemiological studies show number of community links are protective) – possibly that might include companion animals; nonspecific physical interventions such as exercise; those due to the specific personality of the therapist, and those due to the skill of the therapist. Pragmatically, we have to rely on the average uncharismatic, busy therapist.


  6. David Ottlinger (@DavidOttlinger)


    Finally found my old comment. First I’d like to second Dan’s recommendation of Lear’s “Freud”. If it helps at all Lear is also a scholar of ancient philosophy and often makes interesting connections.

    The big meta-study I always came across was this one:

    Click to access amp-65-2-98.pdf

    The lead author Jonathan Sheddler has written a lot about this topic.
    He apparently just wrote a critique of “evidence based” as a catch phrase (this expands on things he has written in the past):

    Click to access Shedler-2015-Where-is-the-evidence-for-evidence-based-therapy-R.pdf

    Sheddler responds to critics of analysis here in his “Science or Ideology” (paywall):

    I have also been referred to this meta-study but haven’t read it (paywall):

    An interesting discusion on analysis and the APA from a former President of the APA Division of Psychoanalysis:

    Sheddler also provides a brief overview of contemporary analyisis:

    Click to access Shedler%20(2006)%20That%20was%20then,%20this%20is%20now%20R9.pdf

    Some quotes jump out at me:
    ” the question ‘Are you a Freudian?’ is unanswerable because no
    contemporary psychoanalytic therapist is a “Freudian.” What I mean is that
    psychoanalytic thinking has evolved radically since Freud’s day—not that you would
    know this from reading most textbooks.”

    “It may be easier to explain what psychoanalysis is not than what it is. For
    starters, contemporary psychoanalysis is not a theory about id, ego, and superego (terms,
    incidentally, that Freud did not use; they were introduced by a translator). Nor is it a
    theory about “fixations,” or sexual and aggressive instincts, or repressed memories, or
    the Oedipus complex, or penis envy, or castration anxiety. One could dispense with
    every one of these ideas and the essence of psychoanalytic thinking and therapy would
    remain intact. (Surprised?)”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Massimo Post author


    thanks for the links (and thanks to duffy too). I will zero in on a selection of those, plus other stuff I found myself, and return to the topic. A couple of things, however, struck me as weird:

    “One could dispense with every one of these ideas and the essence of psychoanalytic thinking and therapy would remain intact. (Surprised?)”

    Well, yes. If that’s the case, in what sense is current psychoanalysis an “evolution” of Freud’s thinking, then?

    “What I mean is that psychoanalytic thinking has evolved radically since Freud’s day—not that you would know this from reading most textbooks.”

    If the new generation of analysts isn’t learning their trade from textbooks (and the teachers who use them), where are they getting it from?

    Liked by 3 people

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