“Super-Freudianism” is a term LionKimbro uses to mean: The assumption that all things, considered honestly, show that humans are, in essence, horrible. It works as a heuristic: If something sounds horrible, it’s probably true- if it sounds good, it’s probably false. SuperFreudianism is thus a romantic notion, because Romanticism plays on the horrible-beautiful dynamic.
Lion believes that this assumption penetrates both popular and scientific cultures.
EvolutionarySpirituality is one of the forces combating it.
The reference to Freud is indirect; It only refers to the concept that there’s a “horrible negativeness” that exists in the core of our being- this is a popular idea of what Freud said, regardless of whether he said it or not. The person of Freud, and the actual content of his ideas, are mostly immaterial to the concept of “SuperFreudianism,” despite his name being in there.
Lion coined the term because he didn’t know of any existing terms for what he is talking about. That said: If you know a term or phrase that people use to describe it, please speak up here.
Untrue things that too many people believe:
Things scientists say:
It’s almost certain that many of these ideas extend from an unconscious rejection of religion, as a general heuristic rule: “Does this sound like something that would be in a religious textbook? If so, it’s almost certainly false.”
So, if you ask a scientist to explain consciousness, and they are unable to do so, they pass it through the heuristic, and have their answer: “No, there is no such thing as consciousness.” Authors like Dennett are accepted as “conclusive,” not on the merits of the arguments, but on the weight of this heuristic. 1
Does the universe have meaning? “No, the universe is devoid of meaning.” Not even an inquiry into what the word “meaning” means! Denied!
So it’s easy to see why humans are fundamentally bad, rather than fundamentally good: “fundamentally good” sounds religious, and is therefor wrong.
As for the popular culture, there’s a regular fear that science will explain something horrible about us. Rather than get their hopes up, people just dispense with them right away. In the unlikely event that science has something good to say about us, well, yay that thing. But that’s probably outweighed by all the negatives.
People fear themselves, and feel full of shame and doubt.
Religious priests recognize this, and do what they can, in their power, to lead people to the good that lives within themselves.
Unfortunately, people, (including the priests,) have this nagging doubt that science is true, and that their religion is false. Some are able to combat it with a torrent of faith- some with great power, even- but…
…that horrible truth that science might be right, and that would mean that…
People tend to fit their self-concept. That’s been shown over and over in the psych studies. You can literally become stronger or weaker, more or less intelligent, based on how you conceive of yourself.
We should be more mindful of how we think of ourselves, and stand with courage.
When people say, “People don’t care,” what they do is then justify that “I don’t care.” Even if they care, they whip themselves when they say, “People don’t care.”
If someone remembers this thought- “People don’t care-” at a critical junction, at a decision making moment, it leads them to make the uncaring choice, and feel less (or rather, collectively distributed) guilt over the decision.
One interesting consequence is that uneducated people are actually more capable than educated people, because they believe less horrible things about themselves. A metaphysician, a person of faith, someone who believes that God lives within the hearts of all people, is more likely to commit acts of virtue, than the educated person who believes that humanity is fundamentally horrible.
That said, the people who believe that all people are fundamentally sinful are also at a disadvantage: Just having faith is not the benefit, it’s a matter of having the right faith.
That is, if your faith is that people are fundamentally sinful, cruel creatures, and that there is no redemption that changes that fact (though there may be mercy on a soul,) this is just as bad as (perhaps worse than) the scientist who thinks that all things are fundamentally miserable within humans.
But people who believe that humans are fundamentally good, and positive, are regularly doing kind and beneficial things. How could it be otherwise?
I’ve been tracking this idea for a long time now.
I would hear a scientist say something, and ask myself: “How does he argue that, given his facts?” Usually the conclusion is way out of line from the facts of the case. The “filler” is made up of sheer ThinkingGoo. “Here’s the facts, here’s the desired end, we’re going to manufacture the bridge between them out of nothing but SuperFreudianism, which you will accept.” And accepted it is. That is the proof I have that SuperFreudianism is as pervasive as I believe it to be: The story is accepted without question.
It’s rare that I find something that talks about this phenomenon. (Pervasiveness, again.)
Explananda's Evolutionary Reasons talks about evolutionary psychology wackiness. His criticism is dead-on: Evolutionary Psychology provides the modern day "just so" story - when an evolutionary psychologist is explaining why the smartest people in the world are men, it’s similar to (but worse) than tribal stories about “how the leopard got it’s spots” - worse, because at least we know that leopards have spots for certain. People eat up the stories, scientists included, because they pass the “Does it sound like religion?” heuristic, meet prejudices, meet observations (test results,) and feel like “a dirty truth,” which implies trustworthiness. If conclusions went the other way (intelligence is not intrinsicly different in men or women,) it would be intrinsicly suspicious by SuperFreudianism.
SuperFreudianism is so pervasive, it would be shocking if everybody who read this agreed with it. So I’ll now answer several ideas of SuperFreudianism, just so that you can see how I (and others) can disagree with them.
It’s clear that people do what is best for themselves, in isolated situations. However, most people’s actions take place within a larger story, and that larger story regularly has a positive set of assumptions and purposes and motives that work for others.
Put more plainly: That guy who just cut you off may well be hurrying to work so that he’s not late again, so that he can get the money, that he then uses to provide for his family.
Now, granted, there’s the whole Mark Twain thing where he persuasively argues that anything a man does is for his pleasure. What you’re missing is that his pleasure regularly derives from doing things for others. So if you’re basically saying that people are selfish because they like to do things for other people, you’re being cruely unfair and intentionally shortsighted, just to stubbornly hold to SuperFreudianism.
More likely, people are in a lot of psychological pain, that they don’t even recognize, and limit themselves by it. A lot of people feel deeply frustrated, incapable, and let down, and they think: “Why bother? I could never make a difference.”
Belief that people are apathetic is itself part of the suffering; It is an excuse and a crutch, to excuse their own inactivity. This furthers the largely unconscious downward pull.
A common belief in activist circles, which some studies have shown have some of the least hope for the world..! The belief is that people are starving because there is a moral failing.
More likely, it’s because the world is freakin’ complicated, and it takes a lot of intelligence to make effective change. And it’s hard to know that you’ve actually had any effect, whatsoever.
People know that they can spend a few dollars and (maybe?) help some kid in Africa, assuming the money isn’t all skimmed off before it gets there (which is unfortunately, frequently true.)
It’s not clear what the benefit is, either. Sure, a kid can grow up a little healthier. But what about the adults? And what are people living for, anyways? Surely for more than just eating, right? If you’re just helping people stay on life support, what kind of aid is that?
This is not to argue that this aid is unimportant, or meaningless. It’s to show that there is actual moral and systems reasoning that happens in people’s minds, regardless.
Further, a moral life does not mean a life of purely giving, nor does it mean working by the numbers.
There are no end to the number of the basically sensible arguments.
Generally, when people are killing each other, it’s not out of a lack of care. More likely, it should be that people care just too damn much. Both sides see a horrible future if the other side gets their way, and they have to fight to protect the future. Generally speaking.
Most people, including mobsters, believe in their heart that what they do is good, or at least right. Check the first chapter of “How to Win Friends and Introduce People” for a dramatic introduction to the idea. It should not shock people when they find that “the horrible person” actually disagrees with them on something.
Desire surely plays a role in things, but nobody can deny their conscience. Mark Twain dedicated a whole book to the subject, and argues far more persuasively than I could ever hope to.
People regularly do things that goes against their desire, because it is required by their conscience.
Or, society exists because people generally like being with other people.
Given a story about the nature of humanity or the world, there is no actual solid good reason to believe it or not believe it. The ConservationOfRationality is so extreme, that it is likely that we will never have a completely rational explanation. The smallest break of logic in the ArgumentPyramid places the whole argument out of the realm of mathematics and logical certainty, and into the world of functioning systems (“I don’t care if it’s true- does it work? Can I live like this?”) and doubt, skepticism, faith (“We don’t really know.”)
If two stories can work, then why not pick the story that works best? If you have no way of knowing which story is true, then why not pick the positive, uplifting story?
Look at it this way:
A boy and a girl play a game of imagination. They know for sure that, whatever they play, reality will tend to go the way they imagine it.
Should they imagine a beautiful world, or a terrible one?
Not only does the imaginary game they play have any bearing on reality, it cannot have any bearing on reality. The boy and the girl cannot access reality. They are purely choosing which game of imagination that they want to play.
Now, Lion, I have made extensive research and have observed that if two rats are simultaneously placed in a maze in which there is exactly one reward, the rat who successfully localized the reward is likely to intentionally misguide his competitor by feigning an unsuccessful search. Based upon this obvervation, and many germane reports in the litterature (for ex. Ottkins, 1943; Krauerstrag, 1971), I conclusively assert that your caracterization of “Super-Freudianism” is in fact a thin veil over a pent-up desire to control and manipulate us, doubtlessly motivated by an infantile refusal to subconsciously let go of religious doctrines instilled in you as a child that leads to an irrational need for self-justification.
Well, that sounds right to me!
Dear professor, charmed.
And so on, and so forth.
It is completely non-sequiter to say, “These rats in my experiment were selfish, therefor we know that human behavior is intrisnicly selfish, and Lion is just trying to control us on religious grounds.”
The frame that makes this argument sound “convincing,” I call: “SuperFreudianism.” At the level of logic, it is nothing more, and nothing less, than a metaphysical belief system, only just barely engaged in reality.
(a big section ripped out of PassagesOfPerspective and plopped down here – needs to be integrated with the above)
SuperFreudianism is a term I use to express: The belief that everything is for horrible, horrible reasons. Or cold or uncaring. Or meaningless. Or anything that doesn’t bring a smile to your face. Things that people would be revulsed in their gut to believe.
Freud believed that everything everyone does is based on sex. Not so bad in my book, though I don’t believe it.
But SuperFreudianism is worse: It’s the belief that anything good or positive is false. It’s a prima-facie heuristic. You just hear an idea, and go: “Would that make people happy? It would? Okay: It’s false.”
If anything could be bad, it’s actually worse. If anything could be good, it’s just self-delusion.
It is my personal belief that it is the reason why people are so depressed.
In A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline Le’Engle writes that the Earth is surrounded by a darkness. I believe that SuperFreudianism is that darkness. The characters in the story name real people who have lived (I remember Leonardo Da Vinci and Einstein named among them) all of those people were people who did not carry the assumptions of SuperFreudianism.
But I diverge.
The point of this part of the page is to say: I think it’s easy to slip into SuperFreudianism when we observe the stubbornness of others. I think it’s easy to think: “These people, all of them- they’re all crazy. They’re never going to change their minds. They won’t change their thoughts. I think this way, because it’s all I’ve ever seen.” It’s just a few short steps from there into SuperFreudianism. (There’s a lot of paths to SuperFreudianism.)
I admit that what I say: It’s not voiced in the most scientific way. I don’t have a whole lot of references to give you. I don’t have a lot of credentials.
But I can refer you to something you have some experience with: Your own life.
You can ask yourself: Did I ever change my opinion?
How did it happen?
I’m going to bet that, most of the time, it was in the quiet of your own thoughts. And while you were thinking, you remembered important things that other people said. There’s no safer place than your own thoughts. And we can hear other people’s voices within our thoughts. We remember things.
It’s kind of neat how one idea spoken by one person can hang with us for so long, for so many years, and then just pop itself in at the right moment, when we’re sorting something out.
I believe we should combat SuperFreudianism within ourselves. What is negative is clear. We must search ourselves for what is positive, and we must seek to understand what is happening within and without us.
I don’t think that we can take the path of rationalism to be the one way. It’s a great path, and it can do very useful things for us. But we tend to falsely believe that it will do everything for us. The worst is when we believe that we are rational, or mostly rational, and most everyone else isn’t. It’s just plain false, and it doesn’t matter who you are, when you are.
But abandoning the illusion of pure rationality doesn’t mean we’re just casting in the wind. We’ve seen that our mind can give us useful thoughts, even if we didn’t follow some rational process to get it. It doesn’t mean that it’s a “magical” process, requiring spirits and fairy. (Nor does it mean contrarywise, either.) It simply means that the world is complicated, and cybernetic systems do some pretty funky stuff underneath.
We will likely produce pure Machine Intelligence within 50 years.
I want to include more links here, to real world examples, as I find them. SuperFreudianism is just so incredibly common.
I feel like I need a detailed collection of non-sequiters. That is, places where:
I wonder how much SuperFreudianism overlaps with nihilism. Nihilism’s a word I’m not very comfortable with since I’m not exactly sure of what it means. On a tangeant, that’s why I like the name “SuperFreudianism” - it’s slightly ridiculous, easy to remember and we’re fairly certain of what it means; which is better than potshots at “this is how I understand nihilism” (or “dialectics” or “phenomenology” …), since it skips the whole “but is that what the author originally meant ?” bit.
I’m not sure where I stand next to SuperFreudianism. I’m against pessimism and negativity, but heh, I’m also a rabid atheist; I don’t recognize myself in any of the “of course life has no meaning” or “there is no such-thing as consciousness”; but then I do refularly disagree with atheists (this should be solved by more interunfaith dialogue).
This reminds me of something I heard at an information meeting about cults, where a woman was talking about how to scare away Jehovah’s Witnesses - sometimes they start talking about how bad the world is and how everything is getting worse, and if you just talk about all the stuff you’re busy on or excited about (my daughter’s marriage ! This book I’m writing !), they’ll quickly retreat and go find other souls to feed on (Er, I hope there aren’t any JWs in the assistance …)
When I think of nihilism, I think of something with much more intentionality behind it.
SuperFreudianism, on the other hand, … …is just so… …helpless, and floaty.
Most people are not nihilists. That is, most people don’t wake up, and go: “The world has no meaning. Everything is horrible. I will now go and shoot myself.”
But, SuperFreudianism is more like a major unconscious trend in thought. It can’t be nihilism, because nobody subscribes to it as a philosophy.
That said, most people throwing around the term “nihilism” are referring to other people. I, too, am referring to other people, but it is more of a hopelessness rather than a defeat.
If this makes any sense.
An existentialist may or may not partake in SuperFreudianism, it depends on how they apply the heuristics. Many existentialists construct meaning, and thus are likely not involved in SuperFreudianism. They may also reject irrational arguments that people are intrinsicly bad, and stuff like that. (I suspect PatrickFarley is in this category.) That said, the existentialist may go the complete opposite direction.
My personal belief is that God is both real and imaginary, (it is not contradictory, because imagined things are, truly, really, imagined, and because the universe really did start, and we cast our imaginations over the energy of that “starting,”) sort of like how you are both real and imaginary. My belief is just a belief; It’s “agnostic theism,” or “belief in God, without knowing.” (There is agnostic atheism, “I don’t know, but I don’t think so,” gnostic atheism “I know there’s no God,” and gnostic thism “I know there’s a God.”) Depends on what you mean by God.
If you know a term or phrase that people use to describe it, please speak up here.
Hmmm.. this is one kind of cynicism.
Ah! That’s great!
I usually mean something different by “cynic.”
To me, a “cynic” must be an idealist, as well as a realist. That is, “cynic” includes MarkTwain, for me, personally, but not a Super-Freudian. (Mark Twain is most definitely not a super-freudian.) Super-Freudians are realist-by-attitude, (not by reality,) and aren’t in the same camp as Mark Twain.
But most people don’t use “cynic” like I do, and I am not particularly in the right here.
I guess the problem I face is this:
You can’t just be bitter, and count yourself in the same camp as Mark Twain. There’s just no freakin’ way.
If you haven’t read much Mark Twain, I feel sorry for you. Maybe you had to read some Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer in high school - these are not my favorite Mark Twain stories, I don’t even think they’re his “best” or even “better” stories. (Then again, maybe I just haven’t read them recently enough.) I think he did his best when he wrote in the short form, whether it’s a short book, a short story, or a short essay. His argument form “stories” are also incredible.
Here’s the gutenberg directory for his name.
Here’s The Mysterious Stranger. No idea why they don’t have kids read that one in school.
This isn’t some cheap 2-bit phoney cynicism. This isn’t Super-Freudianism.
I can’t clump Mark Twain in with “cynical” tripe. We’ve got standards around here!
I’m glad you wrote about SuperFreudianism. When I disagree with an idea, I am happy to give it a silly-sounding name .
“They say,” that we ascribe more joy to the past, than to the present. So, when we look back, we go, “Oh, those days were great.” But we look around, and we go, “Everything is horrible.”
I want to look at this a different way. I’m not going to change any facts on you; I’m just going to interpret this differently.
I’m going to say that it takes a few decades, really, before we can really, truely appreciate a prior decade.
It’s an IntelligenceFailure problem. We honestly don’t know how cool it is, until it’s gone and past, and we’ve had time to think about it and study it and talk about it. Then we recognize the glory of the decade past.
But it’s so busy happening, we’re so busy making it, that we can’t see what it is.
Isn’t this “appreciation” just a Summary issue in that the importance of something is only properly appreciated when it is placed an a context that includes other items it can be ranked with?
I don’t totally understand what you’re saying, …
I understand that things gain importance only with respect to some larger interpretive context.
I don’t see the connection with SuperFreudianism.
Lion… I probably should not have interjected my question, since that’s all it is. I found myself agreeing with your earlier statement…
Even though I’m a big fan of C.S. Lewis, I still like the name “SuperFreudianism” better .
No, Bulverism is not the same as SuperFreudianism. Bulverism is making an account for why the person is saying what they are saying, when you don’t have the time to verify whether what they’re saying is true or not.
Bigfoot specialist: “Bigfoot is real! I have seen the tracks!”
Bulverist: “Don’t mind him; He’s just getting caught up in his own fantasies.”
Quite different than SuperFreudianism.
Super-Freudianist: “What a sad state the world is; Only I see reality as it truly is. The bigfoot specialist is hopelessly deluded, but who can blame him? His poor brain is made to delude him in a constant search for fantasies to chase. Let us take the lesson for our own lives, and then seeing the Truth, and living accord, mope in misery.”
Bulverism is not necessarily wrong.
I have an idea why CS Lewis found himself confronting Bulverists…
I encounter them frequently myself: A person would choose to psycho-analyze “Why does Lion have this weird thought about X?”… …rather than choosing to think or talk about X itself.
It is irritating, but I understand why they are doing it, and the validity of the line of thought.
I take it as a challenge to communicate X better.
I find thinking about the context around a statement X useful – I call that “going to a meta level”; is there another term for this?
For example, context such as: “What are people going to do with my response to X?”, “Why are you so interested in X – is this leading somewhere?”, “Do discussions about X generally degenerate into useless flaming?”, “Who benefits if X happens to be true?”, “Should I give you only the fish, or teach you how to fish?”, etc.
So is that always Bulverism? Or is it only Bulverism when – after getting sidetracked, perhaps using ThePowerOfQuestions, into discussing people – you never returns to topic X?
Bulverism is just what you call it when you don’t like it.
Compare: Creative Network vs. Clique. Organization or Community vs. Cult.
I honestly think that there are tons of situations in life where we have two words for the same thing: One for where we like it, and one where we don’t like it. Often, the criteria applied to the thing that we don’t like are also, if really applied fairly, just as applicable to the thing that we do like. The difference is in how many excuses we grant, or how little leeway we give.
This is not to say that good and evil are one and the same; Rather, it’s to say that our “objective” labels of things (cliques, cults) have more to do with whether we think they are good or evil, than they have to do with any actual metric of the thing itself. That is, we use the labels to get social permission to criticize or condemn the thing (those people are a cult, or those people are a clique.)
Whenever those terms are used, I would immediately direct conversation to “Is it good or evil,” rather than “Is it a creative network or a clique,” because we’re not really discriminating anything when we talk about creative-network v. clique, but we are discriminating everything meaningful when we talk about “is it good or evil.” (Or “good or bad,” if the situation warrants less drama.)
I would not, however, take the author’s track: “…assume that all endoxes have some truth and our job is to ferret out exactly what truth they have, …” If we take this position, then we are merely systematically defending the status quo because it is the status quo. If this is the case, we are merely flipping between extreme liberalism (assume all of society’s principles are false) and extreme conservativism (assume all of society’s principles are right.) That is not how he worded it (he said “have some truth,”) but his instruction (”…our job is to ferret out exactly what truth they have”) forces us into a conservative position; We are not free to merely say, “Well, we could do without this, and let’s think about what would come out,” because we will have to engage in a lot of historical work and bookkeeping beforehand (“Now wait – what exactly was the historical value there?”)
That is, I’d like to be able to say, “Well, perhaps that endox is dumb.” ex: “Well, perhaps love of cars wasn’t such a good thing after all. Maybe mass transit is a better idea,” without having to make a detailed history of the love of cars in American culture, and then make a chart showing what aspects of that love were beneficial, and which we could do without.
But yes, I agree: “Assume all endoxes are false” is a fast-track to SuperFreudianism. And yes, it’s been a problem on “the left” (in America, at least,) for decades, if not a century.
Occasionally I find a triplet of words: “He/She has prejudices. You have biases. I have preferences.” I’ve been collecting such pairs and triplets of words in my personal spin dictionary.
Sometimes “political correctness” involves using the positive-sounding word of such pairs. When someone assumes such positive-sounding words are always a politically-correct flowery euphemism for the negative-sounding word of such a pair, that’s another slippery slope towards SuperFreudianism. That slippery slope problem seems to be more common on “the right” in America.
Spin dictionary! I love it!
I’m sorry – did I miss a fishing aphorism?
I was alluding to: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” 
As you pointed out before at ThinkTalkAct, there needs to be a balance between talking about something and doing it.
Perhaps there also needs to be a balance between talking about talking – as we discuss at MetaCommunication and SpaceForMetaDiscussion – and talking about doing something. Bulverism seems to be an imbalance there – or at least a perceived imbalance. Fortunately, this usually does not lead to an infinite regress – whatever we might say while “talking about talking about doing something” usually applies just as well to “talking about talking about talking about doing something”, and so on.