- Fallacious Etiologic Inferences from Thematic Infinity
A. Fallacious Etiologic Inferences in the Case Histories of the
Rat Man and the Wolf Man
As we saw in the case of the Rat Man, Freud appealed to the thematic kinship between the punitive biting episode and the adult rat obsessions as his basis for inferring an etiologic linkage between them. But, as is now clear, the thematic connection adduced by Freud does not vouch for the etiologic role of the paternal punishment in the pathogenesis of the rat obsessions. And Freud simply begs the etiologic question here by trading on thematic affinity. Furthermore, as I have noted elsewhere (Grünbaum, 1988, Sec. III, pp. 654-657), in the case of his Wolf Man, Freud appealed to a thematic affinity of upright physical posture as a basis for fallaciously inferring an etiologic connection between an 18-month-old child's presumably witnessing a tergo intercourse between his parents and his wolf obsessions in adult life.
B. Fallacious Etiologic Inferences in the Theory of Transference
An equally unfavorable epistemic judgment applies to the web of causal inferences that were drawn in Freud's theory of transference, which I have articulated. For argument's sake, let us grant the retrodictive inference that the patient's behavior toward the doctor does actually recapitulate thematically scenarios from the patient's childhood. Then this thematically recapitulatory behavior toward the psychoanalyst does not itself show that the behavior is also pathogenically recapitulatory, because it does not show that the original childhood scenario had been pathogenic at all in the first place. Yet that is precisely what the psychoanalyst infers. How, for example, does the reenactment, during treatment, of a patient's early conflict show that the original conflict had been at all pathogenic in the first place?
So much for my appraisal of Freud's own handling of so-called "meaning connections." But what of the hermeneutist objection that Freud gave a "scientistic" twist to these connections? Let me use my answer to this question to draw a general two-fold moral for the human sciences.