I have argued that it is always fallacious to infer a causal linkage between thematically kindred events from their mere thematic kinship. Yet it may happen that additional information will sustain such a causal inference in certain cases. Thus, as illustrated by my example of Agnes's dream about the Falling Water mansion, the existence of a strong thematic connection between two mental events, or two series of such events, does not militate against there also being a causal linkage between them. Thus, Freud should surely not be faulted for asserting, in principle, that some mental events can be linked both thematically and causally, though he mistakenly claimed entitlement to infer the causal linkage from the thematic one alone.
Yet as I remarked at the outset, the German philosopher and psychiatrist Karl Jaspers (1974, p. 91) chided Freud: "In Freud's work we are dealing in fact with psychology of meaning, not causal explanation as Freud himself thinks." But since causal relevance is entirely compatible with thematic or so-called "meaning" kinship, Jaspers's objection to Freud here rests on a pseudo-antithesis of "either . . . or" (cf. Grünbaum, 1984, pp. 69-83). Thus, there is no merit in Jaspers's indictment of Freud as having incurred a "confusion of meaningful connexions with causal connexions" (Jaspers, 1974, p. 91). Nor is there warrant for his claim that Freud's psychoanalysis is being vitiated by "a misunderstanding of itself " (p. 80), a patronizing charge echoed later on by Ricoeur and Habermas, as we recall.
As against these philosophers, it emerges precisely from my demonstration of Freud's inferential failings that he gave much too much explanatory weight to thematic affinities, rather than too little, as they have charged. Indeed, such mere "meaning connections" tell us nothing about the supposed unconscious motives or causes for symptom-formation, dream-genesis and the provenance of Freudian slips. Yet such a motivational account is precisely what psychoanalytic theory claims to offer.
I draw a two-fold moral for the human sciences from my stated criticisms of Freud and of his hermeneutic critics: (1) Let us indeed be alert to thematic connections, but do beware of their beguiling causal pitfalls; a fortiori. (2) Narratives replete with mere hermeneutic elucidations of thematic affinities are explanatorily sterile or bankrupt; at best, they have literary and reportorial value, which may be useful as such; at worst, they are mere cock-and-bull-stories lacking both etiologic and therapeutic significance.
Patronizing hermeneutic sermons by Jaspers, Habermas, and Ricoeur against alleged "scientistic" misunderstandings of the role of meanings do nothing, in my view, for the fruition of the psychoanalytic enterprise, or for any other explanatory theories of human psychology or of history. What they tend to do, however, is foster ideological hostility to scientific thought in the social sciences and in psychology. As I have argued elsewhere at length (Grünbaum, 1993, ch. 4), after a veritable cornucopia of brilliantly articulated thematic connections in Freud's case history of the Rat Man, a validated etiology of the patient's obsessions remains deeply obscure to this very day, over eighty years later. Similarly for the Wolf Man.
But that is not all. To my mind, it speaks volumes that those who espouse the hermeneutic reconstruction of psychoanalysis have not come up with a single new psychoanalytic hypothesis that would demonstrate the fruitfulness of their approach. Theirs is a negativistic ideological battle cry and a blind alley. After a while, it ought to die a well-deserved death from its sheer sterility.
Often, a new interpretation or reconstruction of a theory, or a new style in philosophy even when flawed by major errorsnonetheless can be illuminating in some respects. Hence I regret to say that, as I see it, the dichotomous hermeneutic reconstruction of psychoanalysis and of the human or social sciences generally has no redeeming features.
The hermeneutic philosophers have tried to force psychoanalysis onto the Procrustean bed of their preconceived philosophic notions about the human sciences. To implement this program, they begged the epistemological questions by simply downgrading those features of the Freudian corpus that did not fit their prior philosophic doctrines. And, as a normative recipe for the human sciences generally, their program seems to me to darken counsel.