...With Apologies to the Potential Varelse / by Bryce Hidysmith

Definitely an example of Alienism, but not in the way you're thinking.

Definitely an example of Alienism, but not in the way you're thinking.

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The archaic term Alienist, seems to be a much more honest description of the profession of studying psychopathology than Clinical Psychiatrist or anything else currently in vogue. This is perhaps the Platonist in me speaking too loudly over modern voices that attempt to temperance but simply confuse it with agreeableness, but Plato/Socrates' claim that one does not intentionally do evil, and instead only does evil through ignorance begins to make one wonder if the earlier models of psychology had something far more viable than current ones.

While Freud and his analogues were and are certainly showmen fond of retroactive addenda and unable to meet the Popperian standard, there is something that has been lost with the introduction of the Popperian standard as an engineering specification masquerading as a scientific method. That is not to say anything bad about Popper's falsification, rather that it is massively good in the specific context of the analysis of bounded phenomena. In a discipline such as psychology that handles the analysis of subjects that are as complex as the observers themselves, it seems as though there is a need for tempered inductive reasoning and pure rationalism outside of empiricism to generate a sufficiently complex model that might then be testable, though likely not falsifiable as the replicability of experiments will be dubious at best. This seems to point to the notion that sciences that are either anthrocomplex or at the same scale as anthrocomplex systems will never be able to be sufficiently bounded, and that the analysis of anthrocomplex domains will be limited to inductive reasoning from what are effectively historical events, which by their nature can only happen once. This matters not if we're talking about the Milgram Experiment or the Crimean War, both have the same limits to analysis unless one is somehow able to clone the set of individual humans that engaged in these events and place them in an identical physical environment with identical memories at to how they got there. This has a further implication that the analysis of biological causality as, for example, in the heritability of schizophrenia that cannot be pinned down to a set of concretely documented processes of physical mechanisms is capable of generating only the same type of limited inductive conclusions as historic examples. This is not to say that the information gained from these kinds of analyses is not valuable—far from it. Rather, it is simply not the same thing as documenting a clear, falsifiable mechanism.

Regardless, before psychology attempted and failed to meet the Popperian standard, the word Alienist was still sometimes used. It seems to be a far more accurate assessment of what the role of clinical psychology and psychiatry has always been when it has been effective. Philosophical Psychology and Experimental Psychology should be understood to be distinct disciplines. (I believe it was Taylor who first made this argument, though I can't remember the volume.) All three of them are obviously interrelated, but form different practices of coming to psychological truth. The role of Clinical Psychology is the application of information gained in all three disciplines to have a desired effect. One might better term it "field" psychology to encompass the many territories that are similar to, but distinct to clinical psychology such as public relations/propaganda, user experience design, military strategy, and all other disciplines that include the intentional modification of minds for a given purpose. One must presume that the tools of clinical psychology do not require one to swear a Hippocratic Oath, else what would the point of swearing the oath be in the first place? One must also not presume that there is a great functional difference between those that minted the banner of Psychology in the nineteenth century, and the various scholars, clerics, and others who practiced similar crafts in previous eras. For instance, the notion that Thomas Aquinas or Augustine of Hippo are not somehow part of the tradition of psychological analysis as they are marked as solely theological is patently absurd. Stage magic, for instance, has a clear element in common with clinical psychology, but has enough other elements in it that it must be understood to be a hybrid discipline like many of the others above. For example, the psychological aspects of public relations do not include the logistical aspects.

It seems as though there's a clear, coherent convergence inside of the domain of clinical psychology that unifies all of the examples above and more. Clinical psychology is about the use of asymmetric—or in other words alien—information for a purpose. It doesn't matter if the usage of asymmetric information is an attempt to integrate the internal model of a patient to grant them further autonomy in getting over fears that they can know to be irrational, or the exploitation of dark patterns in user experience design. Both of them are based on the usage of alien information, either to preserve the asymmetry of information or integrate it. This seems a coherent reunification of the early psychoanalytic predilection with the unconscious and later, more structured analysis of the nature of the mind as a whole. Thus, it seems as though the term Alienist, shouldn't have become remotely archaic if we were taxonomizing things as literally as possible, rather than engaging in the standard scholarly pursuit of conflating the organizational movement with the field of study or practice. Alienism should be understood to be the superset of skills that involve the manipulation of asymmetric information, which of course includes things like clinical psychology.