Psychoanalysis: Science, Literature or Art?

  • Allan Janik
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 114)


“Es klingt wie ein wissenschaftliches Märchen,” with these words on the evening of April 21, 1896 Count Richard von Krafft-Ebing dismissed Freud’s account of the aetiology of hysteria as the result of childhood rape and thereby opened up vehement controversy with respect to Freud’s work, which has persisted to this day and shows precious little sign of resolution.1 In the many and varied controversies over psychoanalysis between then and now hardly an aspect of Freud’s work has escaped becoming the focus of more bitter conflict. For the most part the reception of psychoanalysis in Austria has been exactly the opposite of its reception in the United States (and, more recently, in France). Austrians have tended to reject it out of hand; whereas Americans have embraced it wholeheartedly and unquestioningly. In both cases the general public’s attitude has been less than critical: psychoanalysis has usually been extolled or excoriated almost always for the wrong reasons. In what follows I am less interested in concocting a catalogue of the Austrian friends and foes of Freud’s movement than I am with suggesting — there can be no question in such a short piece of establishing — the actual relationship between its scientific promise, its therapeutic performance and its mythopoeic character on the basis of some of his Austrian critics. I shall indicate why I find Arthur Schnitzler’s critique of psychoanalyisis especially noteworthy.


Oedipus Complex Therapeutic Performance Sexual Impression Scientific Promise Austrian Critic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Quoted by Jeffrey Mousaieff Masson, The Assault Upon Truth (New York, 1984), p. 9.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ferdinand Ebner, Das Wort und die quistige Realitäten (Frankfurt/Main, 1980), p. 262.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Gespräche über Freud”, Vorlesungen und Gespräche über Ästhetik, Psychologie und Religion, hrsg. Cyril Barrett; übers. Eberhard bubser (Göttingen, 1968), pp. 73–86.Google Scholar
  4. 3a.
    Brian McGuinness, “Freud and Wittgenstein”, Wittgenstein and His Times, ed. B. F. McGuinness (Chicago, 1982), pp. 27–43.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Arthur Schnitzler, “Über Psychoanalyse”, Protokolle (1976), pp. 277–84.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Bernd Urban “Arthur Schnitzler und Sigmund Freud: Aus den Anfängen des “Doppelgängers”, GRM XXIV (1974), pp. 193–223.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Alasdair MacIntyre, The Unconscious (London & New York, 1958).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Quoted by Maclntyre, p. 43.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    See note #1. For an account of the controversy surrounding Masson’s work see Janet Malcolm, In the Freud Archives (New York, 1984).Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    This is argued persuasively by Seymour Fisher and Roger P. Greenberg, The Scientific Credibilty of Freud’s Theories and Therapy (New York, 1977).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Schnitzler, op. cit. p. 280.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allan Janik
    • 1
  1. 1.Brenner ArchiveInnsbruck UniversityAustria

Personalised recommendations