Culture Magazine

Monsignor Ronald Knox Anticipating Popper's Critique of Psychoanalysis

By Praymont
Here's a bit of 'found philosophy' in Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox's first mystery novel, The Viaduct Murder (1925):
If you’re out for [money], I should take to psycho-analysis. The system’s the same, generally speaking, only instead of dealing with primitive man, whom you can disregard because he isn’t there, you are dealing with a living man, who will probably tell you that you are a liar. Then you tell him that he is losing his temper, which is the sign of a strong inhibition somewhere, and that’s just what you were saying all along. The beauty of psycho-analysis is that it’s all ‘Heads-I-win-tails-you-lose.’ In medicine, your diagnosis of fever is a trifle disconcerted if the patient’s temperature is sub-normal. In psychoanalysis you say, 'Ah, that just proves what I was saying.' (Emphasis added)
The words are spoken by Gordon, one of the novel's quartet of amateur detectives, during his critique of his friend's too-clever-by-half theories about a murder (and just after denouncing anthropology).
Knox was Penelope Fitzgerald's uncle. Fitzgerald wrote about him in The Knox Brothers. There's also a biography about Knox by his friend, Evelyn Waugh, and another by Francesca Bugliani Knox.
In 2011, I noted George Eliot's anticipation of Popper's use of falsifiability as a mark of empirical science.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog