Grünbaum's Tally Argument


Allen Esterson


(Note: This is a pre-publication version of the article published in History of the Human Sciences, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1996, pp. 43-57. © 1996 SAGE Publications Ltd.)


Adolf Grünbaum contends that he has discovered in Freud's writings a hitherto overlooked thesis (the Tally Argument), enunciated by Freud to underwrite his psychoanalytic method of clinical investigation. [The Foundations of Psychoanalysis 1984: 127-172] He claims that until at least 1917, and possibly up to 1926, Freud invoked the unique efficacy of analytic therapy to vindicate the Freudian theory of personality, including the specific aetiologies of the psychoneuroses and the general theory of psychosexual development. [Foundations: 140-41] In this article I shall argue (i) that the Tally Argument itself is defective, and (ii) that Freud did not invoke it as Grünbaum claims. In short, I shall argue that Grünbaum's Tally Argument thesis is untenable and, as a corollary, that his depiction of Freud as a "sophisticated scientific methodologist" is misconceived.



In Lecture 28 of his Introductory Lectures (1917),  [S.E.16: 452] Freud addressed his opponents' contention that the influencing of patients by "suggestion" may render "the objective certainty of our findings doubtful". If this challenge were justified, "psychoanalysis would be nothing more than a particularly well-disguised and particularly effective form of suggestive treatment..." This would call into question all that psychoanalysis "tells us about what influences our lives, the dynamics of the mind or the unconscious" - in short, the whole psychoanalytic enterprise. More specifically, opponents think that psychoanalysts "have 'talked' the patients into everything relating to the importance of sexual experiences - and even into those experiences themselves." Freud's response to this challenge was as follows: "These accusations are contradicted more easily by an appeal to experience than by the help of theory." Anyone who has carried out psychoanalyses will have convinced himself that it is impossible to make suggestions in this way. The analyst has no difficulty in getting the patient to accept a particular theory, but this only affects his intelligence, not his illness. "After all, his conflicts will only be successfully solved and his resistances overcome if the anticipatory ideas he is given tally with what is real in him." [italics added] Inaccurate conjectures drop out in the course of the treatment. The analysis is not considered complete until all obscurities are cleared up, the gaps in the patients memory filled in, and the precipitating causes of the repressions discovered. Early successes are regarded as obstacles and the analyst puts an end to them by constantly resolving the transference on which they are based. It is this characteristic of working through and resolving the transference in all the shapes it appears that distinguishes psychoanalytic treatment from every other kind of suggestive treatment, and which frees the results of analysis from the suspicion of being successes due to suggestion. If success is achieved it then rests, not on suggestion, but on the internal change that has been brought about in the patient.


Grünbaum believes he has discerned a crucial notion embedded in this passage. He extracts the emphasised sentence quoted above containing the "tally with what is real" expression, and claims it to be a bold thesis consisting of two causally necessary conditions: (1) only the psychoanalytic method of interpretion and treatment can yield correct insight into the patient's psychoneurosis, and (2) the analysand's correct insight into the aetiology of his affliction and into the unconscious dynamics of his character is causally necessary for the therapeutic conquest of his neurosis. [Foundations: 139-40] The conjunction of these two claims he calls Freud's "Necessary Condition Thesis" (NCT). He then argues that "upon asserting the existence of...therapeutically successful patients" two conclusions follow: (1) the psychoanalytic interpretations of the hidden causes of the patients' behaviour are indeed correct, and (2) only psychoanalytic treatment could have wrought the conquest of their psychoneuroses. (He labels the two conditions (NCT) and two conclusions the "Tally Argument".) Finally, Grünbaum draws attention to the assertion a little later in Introductory Lectures of psychoanalysis's considerable therapeutic successes, unachievable by other procedures, to demonstrate that Freud had adduced premise (2). In short, Grünbaum contends, Freud believed that "if psychoanalytic treatment does have the therapeutic monopoly entailed by the Tally Argument, then it can warrantedly take credit for the recoveries of its patients without statistical comparisons with the results from untreated control groups, or from controls treated by rival modalities." [142] The point of the exercise is to purportedly demonstrate that Freud had postulated an empirically based vindication for his clinical methodology and theories which was refutable (one which Grünbaum later shows to have been eventually refuted).


Before I proceed with a critique of Grünbaum's thesis, let us first note a crucial flaw in the above argument as he states it. He writes that "upon asserting the existence of such therapeutically successful patients" his two conclusions follow. But in this context it is not the assertion of unrivalled therapeutic success that justifies the conclusions, but the demonstration (to a reasonable degree of credence) of such success. (We are not concerned here with a discourse in logic, but with a practical situation.) And the distinction is important, for, as we shall see,  in this context Grünbaum appeals to unsubstantiated public assertions by Freud to justify his case, rather than to what Freud really believed as recorded in his private statements (or better still, to what actually was the case as far as he could reasonably have been expected to have ascertained).


There are, however, more basic defects in the Tally Argument itself, as presented by Grünbaum, which cannot be remedied by a change of wording. He claims that (up to the time it was shown to be invalidated by the confirmation of the occurrence of spontaneous remission) the Tally Argument provided a warrant for Freud to conclude that durable therapeutic successes "vouch for the truth of the Freudian theory of personality, including its specific etiologies of the psychoneuroses and even its general theory of psychosexual development". [Foundations: 140-41] But elsewhere he refers to "Freud's successive modifications of many of his hypotheses throughout most of his life". [117] It is difficult to see how Grünbaum can reconcile these two statements, since each time that Freud made a significant change in theory it would undermine his previous invocation of the Tally Argument to vouch for the discarded hypotheses, and hence the Tally Argument itself.


But even if we ignore this difficulty, how could Freud ascertain whether any of his specific hypotheses underlying interpretations adduced in the course of a therapeutically  successful analysis were redundant? Or, to put it another way, how could he know which of the many theoretical notions utilised in the analysis were contributing towards the cure, and hence being validated?



I shall now consider reasons for doubting that Freud invoked the Tally Argument to vindicate his theory and practice. In cases for which there was a durable successful therapeutic outcome, how could Freud (albeit that at an earlier pre-psychoanalytic period when utilising the Breuer-Freud cathartic procedure he may have justified aetiological inferences on the basis of the remission of symptoms) have excluded the possibility that such favourable results occurred for reasons unrelated to the truth of his psychoanalytic theories? This point is underscored by the fact that in the first decade of the century psychoanalysis was only one of many competing therapies whose exponents were claiming successes. To note just one, Friedländer challenged Freud's analytic claims by reporting the cases of seven severely hysterical patients who, he asserted, had remained cured as a result of his treatment for as long as two decades. [Ellenberger 1970: 798] Is there any evidence that Freud examined these, or any other rival's, claims? What grounds could he have had for asserting that his own procedures were more successful and achieved more durable results than those of his competitors, such as Dubois and Vittoz, to mention two lesser-known physicians whose practices were flourishing (leaving aside such eminent psychiatrists as Aschaffenburg, Friedländer and Janet)? [1970: 791, 807] In fact, while Freud evinced not the least interest in examining the claims of other practitioners, the common complaint against psychoanalysts was that they produced no statistics to support their claims. [1970: 794, 803] It is evident that Freud had no grounds for affirming the uniquely efficacious and durable nature of psychoanalytic cures as a vindication of psychoanalytic methodology and theories, and hence was not in a position to appeal to the Tally Argument for such vindication.[1]


Let us now consider whether Freud's therapeutic results would have justified his (alleged) adherence to the Tally Argument during the period specified in Foundations, i.e., up to at least 1917, and possibly to 1926. In this context Grünbaum points to Freud's claim in Introductory Lectures of therapeutic successes "second to none of the finest in the field of internal medicine" (which, Freud added, "could not have been achieved by any other procedure"). [Foundations: 142] Grünbaum himself notes that Freud was reiterating a similar "sanguine" claim he had made in 1895 in regard to his later disowned pre-psychoanalytic cathartic therapy, implying a degree of scepticism towards Freud's "complacent" assertions. In fact we know from his private comments during the earlier psychoanalytic period during which he is supposed to have relied on the Tally Argument to justify his procedures and interpretations that Freud's therapeutic results left a great deal to be desired. But first we shall look at Freud's "Aetiology of Hysteria" paper of 1896, in which he presented his infantile seduction theory. Does therapeutic success play a major role in his argument that he had validated his theory (on which his anticipatory ideas were based) clinically? He claimed that in a number of cases therapeutic evidence could be brought forward to support his case, but he also stated that he did not wish "to lay special stress on the point". The notion that provided the "stronger proof", that by which Freud became "absolutely certain" of his thesis, was "the relationship of the infantile scenes to the content of the whole of the rest of the case history" [S.E.3: 205-6]; in other words, what Grünbaum describes as the consilience of clinical inductions, i.e., the coherence of the analytic material. So clearly he was not appealing to the Tally Argument in this instance.[2] After the demise of the seduction theory in 1897 Freud began developing his psychoanalytic theories; did he look to therapeutic success in this early period of psychoanalysis to vindicate his current procedures and interpretations based on his theories?  On 9th February 1898 he wrote to Wilhelm Fliess: "The cases of hysteria are proceeding especially poorly." [Masson 1985: 299] If Freud had been looking to "the patterns of therapeutic success or failure" at this period to vindicate his postulated dynamics, as Grünbaum claims, [Foundations: 148] one might have expected him to conclude from his poor results that he was on the wrong track. But clearly he decided otherwise. Let us move on and consider Freud's report to Fliess on 16th April 1900: "I am beginning to understand that the apparent endlessness of the treatment is something that occurs regularly..." [Masson 1985: 409] Complete cures still seem to be elusive. What about over the next few years during which he was consolidating his therapeutic procedures? On 4th December 1906 Jung reported to him that he was getting poor results with many of his cases of hysteria, and that he considered it "more cautious not to put too much emphasis on therapeutic results". In reply Freud wrote on 6th December: "I can subscribe without reservation to your remarks on therapy. I have had the same experience and have been reluctant for the same reasons to say more in public than that 'this method is more fruitful than any other'...It is not possible to explain everything to a hostile public; accordingly I have kept certain things that might be said concerning the limits of the therapy and its mechanism to myself, or spoken of them in a way which is intelligible only to the initiate." [McGuire 1974: 12] These comments can hardly be described as a vote of confidence in his therapy; he clearly agrees with Jung that too much emphasis should not be put on therapeutic results. Move on a few years. In a paper addressed to analytic practitioners on the prospects for psychoanalytic therapy, delivered in 1910 at the Second Psychoanalytic Congress, he observed that the influence of "social suggestion" in the case of physical methods "does not enable such measures to get the better of neuroses". He added: "Time will tell whether psychoanalytic treatment can accomplish more." [S.E.11: 147] Judging by these words, at that time he did not feel he could safely claim that psychoanalytic treatment was appreciably more efficacious in the conquest of neuroses than physical treatments.


Let us be clear about the situation. Grünbaum would have us believe that Freud was a sophisticated scientific methodologist on the basis of the epistemological considerations that supposedly prompted him to enunciate the Tally Argument to vindicate his procedures and theories. The credibility of the Tally Argument depends on psychoanalytic therapy achieving appreciable successes which are durable, unlike those of its rivals. But we know from Freud's own testimony in regard to psychoanalysis's mediocre therapeutic results that he was in no position to make such a claim for a considerable number of years during which Grünbaum asserts he relied mainly on the Tally Argument to vindicate psychoanalytic theory and practice. His writings over this period, as later, exhibit his abiding confidence that he was essentially right in his theory and practice. Clearly, this confidence cannot have been based on his therapeutic achievements.


To save at least a vestige of his thesis Grünbaum would have to argue that over the subsequent years Freud had some reason to believe that he had started to achieve the durable successes which he was clearly not in a position to claim in 1910. But on what information could he base such an argument? All we have is the unsubstantiated claim in Introductory Lectures that "under favourable conditions we achieve successes which are second to none of the finest in the field of internal medicine", which Grünbaum himself, with ample justification, regards with some scepticism,[3] [B.B.S: 275] plus similar unsubstantiated claims in 1923 and 1924. [S.E.18: 250; S.E.19: 202] The dubiousness of these claims is indicated by the fact that in 1933, his more modest assessment was that "psychoanalysis is really a method of treatment like others. It has its triumphs and its defeats, its difficulties, its limitations. its indications." [S.E.22: 151] True, he also ritually proclaimed that compared with other therapies psychoanalysis "is beyond any doubt the most powerful", but in the absence of substantive evidence there is no reason to be any less sceptical about this than about his earlier more extravagant claims. Finally, in 1937 he expressed doubts about the durability of psychoanalytic cures [S.E.23: 220]; as Grünbaum writes, Freud's words "bordered on a repudiation of therapeutic success. ...[T]he import of this therapeutic pessimism is shattering." [Foundations: 160] We can only presume he had never had grounds for believing that his therapy produced uniquely durable cures. This in itself is good reason for disputing that Freud invoked the Tally Argument to vindicate his psychoanalytic theory and practice.          


Moreover, we know that in 1901 Freud was aware of a phenomenon which precluded his appealing to the second condition of the NCT (that the analysand's correct insight into the the aetiology of his affliction is causally necessary for the conquest of his neurosis). In the course of expounding his Tally Argument thesis Grünbaum observes that "NCT entails...that there is no spontaneous remission", [Foundations: 140] and later writes that Freud "gainsaid his erstwhile NCT in 1926 by conceding the existence of spontaneous remission" of neuroses. [Foundations: 160; S.E.20: 265] But Freud had acknowledged the possibilty of spontaneous remission much earlier. In the Dora case history he wrote: "[T]he barrier erected by repression can fall before the onslaught of a violent emotional excitement produced by a real cause; it is possible for a neurosis to be overcome by reality. But we have no general means of calculating through what person or what event such a cure can be effected." [S.E.7: 110] By Grünbaum's own criterion, in 1901 Freud was aware of a fact which invalidated the Tally Argument.


In the relevant chapter in Foundations Grünbaum looks for "clues" in Freud's writings to suggest that he championed the NCT until at least 1917. [148] To this end he searches for indications deriving from Freud's responses to patterns of therapeutic success and failure. This enterprise retains plausibility for the period during which Freud practiced the Breuer-Freud cathartic method (roughly prior to 1896), but indications that Grünbaum's account in this section is overdependent on tendentious supposition come from the fact that he has to resort repeatedly to presumption to justify his case. In the course of his attempting to demonstrate that Freud had habitually appealed to the NCT the following expressions occur: "presumably" [149, 151]; "it would seem that" [148, 152, 171]; "I submit that" [153]; "could he be...?" [154]; "seems to have" [154]; "very probably" [170]; "would have" [171]. That he has so frequently to resort to presumption to bolster his case is indicative of the weakness of his attempts to demonstrate directly that the Tally Argument played a "pivotal" [135] role in vindicating Freud's method of clinical investigation.[4]



I shall now adduce further reasons for doubting that Freud ever gave therapeutic efficacy the key role in regard to psychoanalysis implicit in the Tally Argument thesis. By 1901 Freud was consolidating his psychoanalytic methodology and wanted to publicise his procedures to show how he arrived at his clinical theories, [S.E.7: 7-8] and to this end he wrote up his case history of Dora. But the notable thing about the case history from our present perspective is that it finished prematurely, and that it resulted in "no noticeable alteration" in the patient's condition. [S.E.7: 115] Nor is this untypical. Fisher and Greenberg remark on the "striking" fact that "Freud chose to demonstrate the utility of psychoanalysis through descriptions of largely unsuccessful cases". [1977: 285] It seems unlikely that he would have done so if the Tally Argument played the pivotal role in vindicating his methodology and theories that Grünbaum claims. (All the case histories fall into the period during which Freud was supposed to have adhered to the Tally Argument.)


As Grünbaum acknowledges, in Introductory Lectures there is a statement which is clearly inconsistent with the Tally Argument: "Even if psychoanalysis showed itself as unsuccessful in every other form of nervous and psychical disease as it does in delusions, it would still remain completely justified as an irreplaceable instrument of scientific research." [S.E.16: 255] Grünbaum dismisses this as "a gratuitous piece of salesmanship", [Foundations: 141] but there seems no reason why we should not take Freud to have been absolutely serious in this assertion. (In the very section in which the Tally Argument is purportedly enunciated Freud affirms as an "irreproachable source" the sufferers from dementia praecox and paranoia who provide "confirmations" of a large number of findings of analysis. [S.E.17: 453]) In the same paragraph Grünbaum has to resort to assumption ("presumably") of what was in Freud's mind in defence of his position, though why we should prefer his presumption to Freud's explicit statement is not clear. His argument here, invoking the observation that Freud gave the same epistemic sanction to curable and incurable psychoneuroses, is as consistent with a rejection of his thesis as it is with an acceptance of it. It is the 1917 claim (later disowned) of unique therapeutic efficacy that Grünbaum should have dismissed as "salesmanship".


An odd aspect of Grünbaum's thesis is that he has to put together two separately stated assertions from Introductory Lectures to formulate the Tally Argument. As he writes, the suggestibility challenge is a "portentous" and "mortal" one. [Foundations: 133, 135] Yet in the face of a challenge of such "devastating import" [Grünbaum 1980: 320] Freud supposedly adduces his NCT but fails to supply at that point the validatory statement he needs to complete his argument for the vindication of his psychoanalytic procedures and theories, leaving it to the reader to appreciate that it occurs elsewhere in the book - something which Grünbaum alone in the whole history of Freud scholarship has accomplished. Elsewhere he writes that it was enunciated by Freud somewhat "cryptically" (though he makes no attempt to explain why such a crucial thesis should have been presented in this fashion), and has had to be "teased out" by himself [B.B.S: 222, 221], and claims that the NCT sentence in Introductory Lectures is a "terse enunciation of the thesis" which had been "more explicitly" formulated in the 1909 case history of Little Hans as follows:


In a psychoanalysis the physician always gives his patient (sometimes to a greater and sometimes to a less extent) the conscious anticipatory ideas by the help of which he is in a position to recognize and grasp the unconscious material. For there are some patients who need more of such assistance and some who need less, but there are none who get through without some of it. Slight disorders may perhaps be brought to an end by the subject's unaided efforts, but never a neurosis - a thing which has set itself up against the ego as an element alien to it. To get the better of such an element another person must be brought in, and in so far as that other person can be of assistance the neurosis will be curable.[5] [S.E.10: 104; quoted in Foundations: 139]


At this point Grünbaum states that being invoked here are assumptions which he expresses in the form of the two causally necessary conditions which constitute the NCT (as expressed above at the start of this paper). However, earlier in the same paragraph Freud acknowledged that Hans "had to be presented with many things that he could not say himself", and that this "detracts from the evidential value of the analysis". He continued: "For a psychoanalysis is not an impartial scientific investigation, but a therapeutic measure. Its essence is not to prove anything, but merely to alter something." The implication of these sentences would seem to be that a successful treatment outcome cannot necessarily be taken to prove that the interpretations are true. This means that conclusion (1) above which Grünbaum derives from the NCT [that the psychoanalytic interpretations of the hidden causes of the patient's behaviour are correct] is not necessarily vindicated by therapeutic success. Moreover, as Levy [1988: 197] points out, condition (2) of the NCT [the analysand's correct insight into the aetiology of his affliction and into the unconscious dynamics of his character is causally necessary for the therapeutic conquest of his neurosis] is hardly likely to have been applicable in the case of a five-year-old boy. (Freud certainly claimed a complete and durable cure in this case. [S.E.10: 142, 148-49]) In the light of these two points, whatever Freud was intending by his words in the quoted passage it seems he cannot have meant them to have the implications Grünbaum takes them to have. If the passage in question is, as he says, a more explicit presentation of the NCT that is postulated more cryptically in the relevant Introductory Lectures passage, one can only conclude that his thesis is doubtful.



If therapeutic efficacy did not have the pivotal role ascribed to it by Grünbaum, as seems clear from the above analysis, how did Freud generally vindicate his procedures and interpretations? It is by no means apparent that Freud attempted anything like a blanket justification of his psychoanalytic methodology and theories in general on the lines that Grünbaum attempts to demonstrate (up to 1917 or 1926). Perhaps the nearest he came to it was in his last major work An Outline of Psychoanalysis (1939), where he wrote that "the relative certainty of our psychical science is based on the binding force" of "plausible inferences" postulated utilising the psychoanalytic methodology. [S.E.23: 159] This is a  generalised version of the main justification he gave in relation to his infantile seduction theory claims in 1896 [SE 3: 205 (see above)]. He repeated this argument, appealing to the coherence of the analytic material,  on several occasions, e.g., in 1914 in the Wolf Man case history [S.E.17: 52 (published 1918)]; in 1914 with respect to the validity of analytic inferences pertaining to infancy [S.E.12: 149]; in 1900 and 1933 in relation to his dream theory [S.E.5: 528; S.E.22: 7]; and on numerous occasions when he was invoking (explicitly and implicitly) his claim that "applications of analysis are always confirmations of it" [S.E.22: 146]. This is perhaps the most common reason he gave to justify his psychoanalytic theses, but there were others according to the context. For instance, he occasionally adduced therapeutic success in relation to specific interpretations, such as those supposedly revealing the underlying cause of a somatic symptom [e.g., S.E.16: 266, 280; S.E.17: 76]. He also appealed to direct observation of children to vindicate his theories of infantile sexuality, asserting on several occasions that such observation confirmed what had been divined by analytic inference [S.E.16: 310; S.E.20: 39, 213-14]. In 1910 he not only stated that the infantile sexuality theories were confirmed by direct observations, but invoked this claim to vindicate "the trustworthiness of [the psychoanalytic] method of research" [S.E.7: 193-94n].


In his Author's Response in B.B.S. [272], in reply to Cioffi [231], Grünbaum states he did not say in Foundations that if challenged as to the grounds for his theory of infantile sexuality Freud would have appealed to his Tally Argument. (Cioffi had pointed out that on occasion Freud appealed to direct observation of children.) However, on page 171 of Foundations, in relation to a short passage quoted from Fisher and Greenberg referring specifically to the validation of the theory of infantile sexuality, Grünbaum does write that Freud "would have pointed to his Tally Argument" in that context, as Cioffi says. Grünbaum asserts [B.B.S: 272] that he had depicted the Tally Argument as primarily an attempt to support the scientific validity of psychoanalytic methods and evidence in general, rather than as support for specific theories. But in the first sentence of the key 'tally argument' paragraph Freud is explicit that his concern is with the question of the validity of psychoanalytic findings, in other words, corroborations of his theories. In the 'tally' sentence itself his concern is with the correctness of the "anticipatory ideas" given to the patient, which of course derive from specific theories. There is no justification for viewing the 'tally argument' passage in the Introductory Lectures as primarily a defence of Freud's methodology rather than of the validity of his specific theories.


A remarkably forthright statement made in the context of the vindication of his sexual theories is quoted by Grünbaum from Freud's History, in response to a challenge from Cioffi in B.B.S. [231, 272]: "The fact of the emergence of transference in its crudely sexual form, in every treatment of a neurosis...has always seemed to me the most irrefragable proof that the source of the driving forces of neurosis lies in sexual life." Grünbaum responds by saying that this quotation is grist for his mill in the context of the Tally Argument thesis, for the transference relates to therapeutic considerations. However, he is clearly in error here, since in the quotation Freud makes plain that the occurrence of transference is a feature of every treatment (of the transference neuroses), irrespective of success or failure. As it happens, Freud himself confirms that Grünbaum is mistaken in claiming support for his position, for in the same letter to Jung in 1906 (above) in which he agreed that it would be better not to put much emphasis on therapeutic results because they were not very good, he wrote that "transference provides the most cogent, indeed, the only unassailable proof that neuroses are determined by the individual's love life". Clearly, he is saying again that the ocurrence of transference (in every case, as he says in his History) is the proof in question, and that this is so regardless of the results of the therapy (these in fact being somewhat disappointing). Grünbaum's argument that "it is precisely the formation of the artificial transference neurosis  -  whose resolution is regarded as a major ingredient of successful therapy - that Freud cites as his 'irrefragable proof'" does not meet the situation. What we have here is a clear statement from Freud that the sexual factors which, using the psychoanalytic methodology, he has inferred to be at the core of neuroses, are confirmed, not by therapeutic success, but by the mere "emergence" of transference. In this same letter Freud wrote: "Attaching no importance to frequency of cure, I have often treated cases verging on the psychotic or delusional..., and in doing so learned at least that the same mechanisms go far beyond the limits of hysteria and obsessional neurosis." Clearly, this letter shows that in 1906 he was not relying on therapeutic success for vindication of his analytic procedures and theories, and consequently, not on the Tally Argument either.


Grünbaum writes that Freud defended his method of dream interpretation by observing that his procedure was identical to that "by which we resolve hysterical symptoms", and that in the latter case the correctness of his method was warranted by the remission of symptoms. [Grünbaum 1993: 24-25; S.E.5: 528] However, one should note that at the beginning of this same paragraph in The Interpretation of Dreams Freud first appealed to the coherence of the analytic material to justify his method of interpreting dreams, and only then went on to say "[w]e might also" point to the identity of the procedure with that for the resolution of hysterical symptoms. Against this quotation indicating that Freud justified his interpretation of symptoms by their subsequent remission one may place his statement in 1910: "I need not rebut the objection that the evidential value in support of our hypotheses is obscured in our treatment as we practise it today; you will not forget that this evidence is to be found elsewhere." [S.E.11: 142] But trading quotations in this way only serves to indicate that, as already noted, Freud invoked different justifications at different times for his analytic procedures and theories, depending on the context.      


In presenting the above evidence and arguments it should be clear that I am not disputing that on occasion Freud adduced claims of therapeutic success to lend support to his methodology and theories. What I have demonstrated is that he did not rely on therapeutic efficacy to underwrite his psychoanalytic enterprise.


Let me sum up this critique of Grünbaum's thesis. He claims to have discovered a proposition which, in spite of its being absolutely "pivotal" in Freud's psychoanalytic enterprise, he has had to "tease out" because it was enunciated somewhat "cryptically"; which is clearly inconsistent with a statement in the very book in which it was supposedly adduced; and which had hitherto been completely overlooked by all other Freud scholars. Moreover, to support his contention he has to take some thirty pages almost entirely devoted to this purpose in the course of which he has to resort repeatedly to supposition of Freud's rationale to justify his case. [Foundations: 130-59] And most important of all, he has failed to take into account some major objections to his thesis, most notably the documentary evidence that Freud was always aware that the therapeutic achievements of psychoanalytic treatment were unsatisfactory, whatever he (misleadingly) claimed in his public pronouncements. Taken as a whole, I believe the evidence and arguments adduced above constitute good reason for rejecting Grünbaum's Tally Argument thesis.



It still remains for me to give my own interpretation of the key "tally with what is real" sentence in Introductory Lectures. (The sentence is quoted in full at the beginning of this paper, together with a detailed summary of the rest of the paragraph in which it is embedded.) In my view, this sentence cannot be taken out of its context and treated as if it is a separate proposition (let alone one which is part of a thesis whose complement is not explicitly identified). The paragraph taken as a whole comprises Freud's main argument to counter the charge that psychoanalytic therapy is nothing other than a particularly well-disguised form of suggestive treatment, and that consequently any theoretical conclusions arrived at on the basis of analysis are of doubtful value. Now this is an objection which he had great difficulty in refuting. In the Wolf Man case history he observed that it is difficult to induce in others the "sense of conviction" which results from conducting an analysis oneself. [S.E.17: 13] As he effectively acknowledged in relation to his central thesis in that case, his justification for his explanations and theories frequently relied essentially on what amounts to intuitive feeling (based on his subjective experiences in analytic practice, and, more specifically, on the coherence of the analytic material), and in the absence of this he concedes it is impossible to arrive at a decision on the issue of validity. [S.E.17: 52] So what is he to do? There is no question that he had absolute faith in the unique value of his therapeutic procedures and the validity of his analytic findings. The problem was that he found this difficult to demonstrate to sceptics (which is why he had so often to accuse them of irrational resistance). What gave him his conviction was the subjective feeling of certainty he experienced when he was deriving his analytic explanations from his clinical (and non-clinical) inferences. The point is, his methods always worked, in the sense that he was always able to come up with comprehensive explications to cover whatever he was dealing with. (That is why he could claim to have confirmed by direct observation his analytic inferences in relation to infantile sexuality derived from the treatment of neurotics "fully and in every detail" even when he was on the point of making a major emendation of those inferences! [Esterson 1993: 206n]) As already noted, he did on occasion appeal to the subjective "sense of conviction", and invoke the "powerful impression", ensuing from undertaking an actual analysis [S.E.17: 13; S.E.15: 300], but he knew that such an appeal would, by itself, be unavailing in the face of the suggestibility challenge. Nevertheless, he does start off by making a passing reference to his habitual source of conviction: "These accusations are contradicted more easily by an appeal to experience than by the help of theory." The rest of his argument consists of debatable assertions stated as facts combined with a plausible description of the analytic procedure and of the working through of the transference. (He adds subsidiary arguments in the following paragraph, but these are unconvincing to the non-Freudian.) There is little doubt that this exposition made sense to Freud, because he was absolutely sure of the unique utility of his analytic procedures. But is it true, for instance, that "Whatever in the doctor's conjectures is inaccurate drops out in the course of the analysis"? Judging by some of the unlikely, not to say outlandish, conjectures Freud made (and retained) in the case histories of Dora and the Wolf Man, one must have grave doubts in regard to this confidently made assertion. [Esterson 1993: 39, 43, 68-9, 74-5] It is in this light that one should approach the celebrated "tally with what is real" sentence. It is an assertion, and nothing more, made with the confidence Freud frequently displayed in regard to pronouncements which are actually highly debatable. There is no need to read into it anything more than a statement of Freud's belief, pronounced with characteristic assurance. The fact that this statement is assuming the point at issue, and that the whole argument begs the question under discussion - in other words, has failed to meet  the suggestibilty challenge - does not invalidate this interpretation. For it was absolutely characteristic of Freud to counter objections to his ideas and procedures with explications which either assume or evade the point at issue, though they may be so brilliantly presented that this fact is obscured. [Esterson 1993: 161, 164-5, 179-80, 188-89, 207-09] What he is giving us in this passage are the genuine (though essentially subjective) reasons why he was convinced that his procedures and supposed analytic findings were valid. There is no reason to presume that his arguments should necessarily seem anywhere near adequate to meet the challenge from the point of view of an informed critic.


Grünbaum's error arises in part from his mistaken assumption that Freud was a "sophisticated scientific methodologist", who "squarely" and "brilliantly" (albeit unsuccessfully) faced up to the suggestibilty challenge.  Neither of these is true, though the Freudian rhetoric which created this false impression certainly deserves to be described as brilliant. The truth is that not for one moment could Freud dispassionately entertain the suggestibility challenge, for, as he acknowledged in the passage in question, if valid it would undermine his whole psychoanalytic enterprise. To counter it he needed to dig deep into his formidable armoury of rhetorical skills, and in this respect, at least, he was highly successful.


There is one final point to be considered. In his discussion of the Tally Argument thesis in his paper responding to Foundations, Levy voices suspicion of Grünbaum's motivation for attributing the highly debatable NCT to Freud, with so heavy a burden of significance, and asks, could it be because the NCT is so eminently refutable? [1988: 198] If he is suggesting that Grünbaum did so as part of his critique of psychoanalysis, then he is surely mistaken. For in relation to the Tally Argument Grünbaum merely refutes Freud's supposed thesis for the vindication of his method of clinical investigation. If he were interested simply in refuting the psychoanalytic methodology per se, which would be consistent with the general aim of the book, he could have completely by-passed the Tally Argument and adduced only the arguments necessary for that purpose. (As Erwin [1993: 416] observes, Grünbaum's case against Freud's methodology presented elsewhere in Foundations would not in any way be weakened if the Tally Argument thesis was omitted.) However, there are some clues as to why he entered into a digression (concerned with a hypothetical notion) not strictly necessary for his explicit purposes. The thirty pages devoted to elucidating and justifying the thesis follow immediately after two paragraphs which criticise Popper in relation to psychoanalysis. [Foundations: 129] Now in this section Grünbaum utilises the word "bold" in relation to the Tally Argument on no less than five occasions [127; 139; 140; 152; 159; also "daring": 140; 152] But is "bold" (by implication, if not directly, also associated with Freud's attitude) really the appropriate word to use in this context? It is difficult to reconcile Grünbaum's characterisation of the Tally Argument as bold with the fact that it (supposedly) lay unnoticed in Freud's writings for some sixty years before he drew attention to it. But it is precisely the word "bold" that Popper uses to characterise genuinely scientific conjectures. It is difficult to resist the suspicion that Grünbaum is contrasting the supposed thesis, and Freud's attitude, with Popper's designation of psychoanalysis as non-scientific. How else is one to explain what Wachtel describes as his "virtual ode to the Tally Argument" [B.B.S: 264], and his somewhat cryptic description of the latter as "Magnificent, if true!" [Foundations: 141] while affirming he was not countenancing Freud's purported reasoning? [ibid: 149; B.B.S: 275] What Grünbaum has 'discovered' in the Tally Argument is a critical psychoanalytic thesis which is refutable, in other words, a major weapon in his philosophical dispute with Popper in relation to the latter's demarcation criterion for scientific theories. His commitment to that challenge would seem to have led him to overestimate the evidence for his thesis, and neglect some telling evidence against it. 




1. Grünbaum dismisses Wachtel's objection along the above lines by stating that he is explaining Freud's position, not justifying it. [B.B.S: 274-75] He points to Freud's "complacent" attitude in 1917 in regard to the question of the therapeutic monopoly of psychoanalysis, and to his rejection of the use of statistical assessments of treatment outcome in the light of the difficulties involved. [S.E.17: 461] But one would have thought that Freud's words in respect to the latter imply he was well aware that he had no sound basis for asserting the superiority of analytic treatment compared to rival therapies.


2. Though lack of therapeutic success certainly played a role in his subsequent abandonment of the seduction theory, close scrutiny of the episode indicates that the reasons were more complex than this. [Esterson 1993: 28; 56n]


3. In his relevant quotation [Foundations: 142] Grünbaum omits Freud's significant reservation "under favourable conditions". [S.E.17: 458] And this is important, because in a more candid  later passage Freud discussed several difficulties encountered in practising analytic therapy and painted a considerably less rosy picture, concluding with the remark: "This presents a gloomy prospect for the effectiveness of psychoanalysis as a therapy - does it not? - even though we are able to explain the great majority of our failures by attributing them to interfering external factors." [S.E.17: 461]


4. Even in 1895, in Studies on Hysteria, Freud stressed the logical coherence of his clinically-based inferences, [S.E.2: 300-01] as well as the intensification, then remission, of symptoms as the treatment penetrated deeper into the presumed pathogenic memories. [S.E.2: 296-97] Certainly in advocating his seduction theory in 1896 he put greater emphasis on the coherence of the analytic material. (See above.) But whether or not up to 1895 he utilised anything akin to the Tally Argument to judge the validity of his theories, we have seen he was in no position to apply such a principle to vindicate his (post-1897) psychoanalytic theories.


5. This passage seems to contradict the assertion made in the Dora case history (above). In the relevant passage in the latter Freud used the word "neurosis", and did not suggest his comments applied only to slight disorders. Such inconsistency was not untypical of Freud; he occasionally contradicted previous assertions, depending on the context of his remarks. [Esterson 1993: 215-16]




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