Freud's Argument for the Oedipus Complex : A Philosophy of Science Analysis of the Case of Little Hans book cover
1st Edition

Freud's Argument for the Oedipus Complex
A Philosophy of Science Analysis of the Case of Little Hans

ISBN 9781032224084
Published September 23, 2022 by Routledge
296 Pages

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Book Description

In this close reading of Freudian theory, Jerome C. Wakefield reconstructs Freud’s argument for the Oedipal theory of the psychoneuroses, placing the case of Little Hans into a philosophy-of-science context and critically rethinking the epistemological foundations of psychoanalysis.

Wakefield logically evaluates four central Freudian arguments: the "undirected anxiety" argument which contends that Hans suffered from anxiety before he developed his horse phobia; the "day the horse fell down" argument where, engaging in some scholarly detective work, Wakefield resolves a century-old dispute between behaviorists and psychoanalysts about when Hans witnessed a frightening horse accident; the "N=1 sexual repression" argument that the trajectory of Hans’s sexual desires matches the Oedipal theory’s predictions; and lastly, the "detailed symptom characteristics" argument that the Oedipal theory is needed to understand otherwise inexplicable details of Hans’s symptoms. Wakefield demonstrates that, although Freud’s arguments are brilliantly conceived, he misread the facts of the Hans case and failed to support the Oedipal theory as judged by his own stated evidential standards. However, this failure creates an opportunity for renewed consideration of psychoanalysis’s distinctive contribution: the understanding of an individual’s unique meaning system and confrontation with meanings outside of focal awareness in order to reshape an individual’s fate.

This book will be of interest to psychoanalysts and psychotherapists alike, and will prove essential for scholars working in the fields of psychoanalysis, philosophy of science, and the history of psychiatry.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Freud's Lakatosian Moment, Or, Why Freud's Case of Little Hans is the Most Important Clinical Theory Paper Freud Ever Wrote  2. "All My Efforts Valueless": Freud's Lifelong Concern with the Suggestion Objection as the Major Threat to Psychoanalytic Theory  3."A More Direct and Less Roundabout Proof": The Hans Case as Freud's Response to the Suggestion Objection  4. "A Little Oedipus": Freud's Analysis of the Hans Case (co-authored with Jordan A. Conrad)  5. Freud Versus the Fright Theory: Wolpe and Rachman's Behaviorist Challenge to the Oedipal Analysis of the Little Hans Case  6. "Without an Object to Begin With ": Does the Case Evidence Support Freud's Claim that Hans's Disorder Started with a Period of Free-Floating Anxiety Preceding the Phobia?  7. "Chronological Considerations Make It Impossible": Solving the Century-Old Puzzle of the Day the Horse Fell Down  8. "A Repressive Process of Ominous Intensity": Freud's N=1 Sexual Repression Argument  9. Methodological Interlude: The Suitability Argument as Freud's Foundational Methodology and His Reply to the Suggestion Objection  10. "Acquaintance at Close Quarters": Evaluating Freud's Suitability Argument for the Oedipal Theory of Hans's Phobia  11. Critical Analysis of Grunbaum's "Tally Argument" Analysis of Freud's Response to the Suggestion Objection  12. Conclusion: The Little Hans Case, Philosophy of Science, and the Fate of Psychoanalysis

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Jerome C. Wakefield is university professor, professor of social work, affiliate professor of philosophy, professor of the conceptual foundations of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry (2007–2019), associate faculty in the Center for Bioethics in the School of Global Public Health, and honorary faculty in the Psychoanalytic Association of New York Affiliated with NYU Grossman School of Medicine, at New York University.


"This book is a major work from a unique philosophy of science perspective. Wakefield traces Freud's reasoning and theoretical motives in proposing the theory of the Oedipus complex. He demonstrates with his usual lucidity that Freud's formulations of infantile sexuality and Oedipal theory represented efforts to rescue the core proposition of the sexual theory of the neuroses following the failure of the seduction theory. Wakefield's analysis of the logic and pattern of Freud's thinking and reasoning is unmatched by anything I have read in the area of Freud scholarship. It is as if the reader has occupied Freud's mind and is privy to the sequence and pattern of his thoughts. An additional virtue of the book is that even if that is not its intention, it speaks to a long-standing barrier between clinicians, on the one hand, and theorists and researchers, on the other. Wakefield's analysis of Freud's reasoning and use of clinical data is unmatched in its lucidity and cogency. It serves as a model for a meaningful discussion of the use of clinical data in theory building. For anyone interested in bridging the gap between clinical practice and theory in psychoanalysis, this book is a must-read."
Morris Eagle is professor emeritus at the Derner Institute for Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi University, and author of Toward a Unified Psychoanalytic Theory: Foundation in a Revised and Expanded Ego Psychology