Letters: Unfair to Newton

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Joseph Schwartz likening Freud's being "wrong in every essential" with the case of Newton is inept ("Did Freud come up with the greatest idea of the century?", 16 August). Does he really believe that Freud's supposed "discoveries" are comparable with Newton's work on the inverse square law of gravitation?

In what sense is Newton wrong "in every essential", given that it is Newtonian theory which has enabled space missions to reach their destinations with astonishing accuracy? For half a century Freud was hailed as the originator of a solid body of knowledge. Unlike processes, much of that "knowledge" has been abandoned through changes in fashion rather than as a result of evidence.

That the language of psychoanalysis enjoys immense popularity in the Western world is no evidence for the validity of its various conceptual schema, only for its open-ended capacity to enable every Tom, Dick or Harriet to obtain whatever "insight" they wish into other people's behaviour.

When Schwartz writes that Fairbairn "was the first to observe that there existed a fundamental human drive towards relationships and connections with others", this is surely another example of claiming for psychoanalysis "insights" which were already common knowledge.

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