We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

I think people come to Chomsky and essentially worship him for precisely that reason. He allows them to feel justified in their refusal to think. They never have to ask themselves any difficult questions or provide any difficult answers. It’s a form of intellectual cowardice essentially, but I’m sure you can see its appeal.

This may be one of the reasons for Chomsky’s hostility to psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis may be many things, but it is certainly a method of gaining self-knowledge, of asking difficult questions about one’s self and others. And that is precisely what he, and his followers, want to avoid.

Benjamin Kerstein speaking with Michael Totten

15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Claude Levy-Strauss has a wickedly funny (and very cogent) put-down of Psychoanalysis in “Structural Anthropology”, where he suggests obliquely that it’s simply Shamanism in modern drag. The serious import of that is that Psychoanalysis isn’t a method of gaining self-knowledge, just another framework for rationalizing behavior.

    Of course, there’s nothing in that to keep Chomsky from being hostile to Psychoanalysis as a competing framework to his own, but let’s not let Kernstein get away with the idea that it represents Truth.

  • bloke in spain

    The Chomskys are curious. The writer on NLP asks us to question the way the words we use to describe the world influence the way we perceive it. The writer on political issues us asks not to question the facts we use to perceive the world by downright lying. Both authors must be hoping their respective audiences never get to compare notes. But then it’s unlikely both audiences get to live in the same head.

  • The serious import of that is that Psychoanalysis isn’t a method of gaining self-knowledge, just another framework for rationalizing behavior.

    Except it really is not a ‘rationalisation’ for behaviour at all, just an attempt to explain it, with varying degrees of success.

  • moira green

    kerstein is a self described communitarian, so he is a collectivist statist himself. third way is just a marketing euphamism for the left way. does not mean he is wrong about chomsky though.

  • john in cheshire

    I suggest that psychoanalysis is the modern form of the confessional for atheists. It just costs a lot more.

  • Paul Marks

    As for Noam Chomsky (and his endless, John Pilger like, lying and twisting) – the essays in the “The Anti Chomsky Reader” (edited by Peter Collier and David Horowitz in 2004) say all that needs to be said.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way has anyone else noticed that Chomsky and Pilger speak in the same way? I do not mean their accents – I mean the way their voices do not really rise and fall, they just drone on in a monotone.

    It is almost like some form of chanting. Or listening to a speak-your-weight machine, or the speaking-clock.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Perry de Havilland (London)
    December 21, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    I can’t quite remember Levy-Strauss’s quip verbatim, but it was something like “The shaman convinces his patient that he (the shaman) knows the names of the demons troubling the patient, and enlists him in casting them out. Practitioners of certain kinds of psychotherapy may find this familiar.”

    There’s a classic case of a patient undergoing Analysis who ‘remembered’ he was an unwanted sperm… and the analyst (who was desperate for a ‘discovery’) was foolish enough to publish it. The immediate lesson is that patients in Analysis are sensitive to their doctor’s needs and highly suggestible, but the larger one is that this suggestibility, combined with the structured nature of Freudian theory, makes any ‘insights’ very suspect.

  • I think the reality of quite a lot of psychoanalysis is a bit different. There are questionable theories in all fields and psychoanalysis is certainly no different, but there is nothing wrong with the idea one can try to see causal links and theorise about patterns of behaviour… and not all psychoanalysis treats Freud as gospel 😀

  • guy herbert

    That sounds like a rehabilitation of Chomsky to me. Hostile to psychoanalysis? Perhaps he’s hostile to Scientology, too.

  • Richard Thomas

    I find the Chomsky situation interesting as my introduction to him was through the documentary “The Manufacturing of Consent” which did (and still does) make a lot of sense. What I have read about him since has meant I haven’t pursued any of his other works and has lead me to lend less weight to what I did integrate but none the less, it seems I happened upon an island of rationality within a sea of nonsense there.

    My understanding is that his linguistics work is still well thought of. But I take anything from the non-natural sciences (and recently, a fair bit from natural science) with a pinch of salt.

  • CaptDMO

    “intellectual cowardice”?
    Is that some new incredulous “they just CAN’T be that stupid” phrase to supplant “The (Dr.)Peter Principal”

  • Paul Marks


    Yes – they speak like tribal shamans . The chanting recital of nonsense – that neither facts or reason are allowed to oppose.

  • Joseph W.

    Hostile to psychoanalysis? Perhaps he’s hostile to Scientology, too.

    He was definitely hostile to exaggerated claims about talking apes, so I doubt he’d care much for screaming tomatoes.

  • Richard

    I can’t speak for Chomsky, he’s far more articulate and analytical than I am and he can speak for himself and, in fact, I wasn’t even aware that he had objections to psychoanalysis. But my objection to it lies in the facts that it is highly speculative, imprecise, non-empirical tripe.