Comment on ‘The Freudian Slip’
Sebastiano Timpanaro’s refutation of the Freudian method (nlr 91, pp. 43–56) seems to base its case on three main arguments: a) that laws of philology relating to syntax, translatability and semantic content are fully adequate to explain the omission of the word aliquis from the Latin quotation Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor (Aeneid IV, 625); b) that Freud draws on the varying criteria of phonic, semantic and factual similarity in the setting up of the associative paths between the forgotten word and the suppressed thought which it conceals; c) that associative paths can retrospectively be constructed from this thought to all the other words in the sentence which were not forgotten; and that the combination of the above factors prove the unscientificity of the Freudian procedure. The question as to whether or not psycho-analysis can claim the status of a science will not be discussed here (a claim amply represented in the essay by Althusser published in your journal, Freud and Lacan, nlr 55, May/June 1969)  Cf. also on the question of falsifiability (Timpanaro, art. cit., p. 56, n. 17) B. R. Cosin, C. F. Freeman, N. H. Freeman, ‘Critical Empiricism Criticised: the case of Freud’, in Journal of the Theory of Social Behaviour, Vol. I, no. 2, 1971., but a number of points need to be made in relation to Timpanaro’s separate arguments.  A more complete review of the positions contained in Timpanaro’s paper must await nlb’s publication of the book from which it is the extract.
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