Tag Archives: Peter Galison

The Idea of Censorship in Freud’s Psychoanalysis

The June 2012 issue of the British Journal for the History of Science is now online. A special issue on the topic of scientific secrecy, the issue includes a piece on Sigmund Freud that may be of interest to AHP readers. In “Blacked-Out Spaces: Freud, Censorship and the Re-Territorialization of Mind,” historian of science Peter Galison discusses the idea of censorship within Freud’s work. The abstract reads,

Freud’s analogies were legion: hydraulic pipes, military recruitment, magic writing pads. These and some three hundred others took features of the mind and bound them to far-off scenes – the id only very partially resembles an uncontrollable horse, as Freud took pains to note. But there was one relation between psychic and public act that Freud did not delimit in this way: censorship, the process that checked memories and dreams on their way to the conscious. (Freud dubbed the relation between internal and external censorship a ‘parallel’ rather than a limited analogy.) At first, Freud likened this suppression to the blacking out of texts at the Russian frontier. During the First World War, he suffered, and spoke of suffering under, Viennese postal and newspaper censorship – Freud was forced to leave his envelopes unsealed, and to recode or delete content. Over and over, he registered the power of both internal and public censorship in shared form: distortion, anticipatory deletion, softenings, even revision to hide suppression. Political censorship left its mark as the conflict reshaped his view of the psyche into a society on a war footing, with homunculus-like border guards sifting messages as they made their way – or did not – across a topography of mind.

Also included within this issue is a review of Fernando Vidal‘s interesting recent history of psychology, The Science of the Soul: The Early Modern Origins of Psychology.

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On Now: X-Rays of the Soul

Anyone who happens to be in the Boston area, may want to stop by the Special Exhibitions Gallery of Harvard University’s Science Center. Currently featured in the Center is a special exhibition on the history of projective tests titled, X-Rays of the Soul: Rorschach & the Projective Test. The exhibit runs until June 30, 2012 and this coming Friday, March 30th, from 5-7pm Harvard history of science professors Peter Galison and Janet Browne will host the exhibit’s official opening.

The exhibit is described on the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at Harvard University’s website as follows,

Beginning in 1921 with the Rorschach Inkblot Test and gaining momentum with the Thematic Apperception Test in 1935, a new breed of psychological probe aimed to reach previously inaccessible layers and levels of the unconscious self: the projective test.

Likened to X-rays of the inner life, these instruments promised to capture what no other tool could access – the secret self. The story of the triumphal rise as well as the periodic setbacks of the projective test movement is evidence of the heady confidence of the Twentieth Century human sciences to be able to extract and access the most human parts of human beings –scientifically.

From the genesis of the tests in passionate personal relationships to the recent Wikipedia furor over posting the Rorschach images, the exhibit will capture this neglected history’s equally utopian and dystopian elements.

More details on the exhibit can be found here.

via a recent post by Ben Harris on the Cheiron listserve.

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Titchener & Scientific Objectivity in Isis

The latest issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, features an article on the importance of scientific objectivity in Edward Bradford Titchener’s experimental psychology. The piece, authored by Christopher Green, extends the analysis of scientific objectivity made by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison in their recent book on the subject.

“Scientific Objectivity and E. B. Titchener’s Experimental Psychology,” by Christopher D. Green. The abstract reads,

Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s recent book on the history of scientific objectivity showed that, over the course of the nineteenth century, natural scientists of many stripes became intensely concerned with the issue of the distorting influence that their own subjectivities might be having on their observations and representations of nature. At very nearly the same time, experimental psychology arose specifically to investigate scientifically the nature and structure of subjective consciousness. Although Daston and Galison briefly discussed some basic psychological issues—especially the discovery of differences in human color perception—they did not strongly connect the widespread European concern with scientific objectivity to the rise of experimental psychology. This essay critically examines the theoretical and empirical activities of the experimental psychologist who most energetically strove to discover the structure of subjective conscious experience, Edward Bradford Titchener. Titchener’s efforts to produce an objective study of subjectivity reveal important tensions in early experimental psychology and also serve to situate experimental psychology at the center of an important intellectual struggle that was being waged across the natural sciences in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century.

Pictured at the right is Titchener’s plan for his psychology laboratory at Cornell University (click to enlarge).

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