What Is Modern Psychology? Letter to the Editor of The Listener
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

486 ] What Is Modern Psychology? Letter to the Editor of The Listener The Listener, 7 (11 May 1932) 698 I think that Professor Pear has missed the point of my brief remarks about modern psychology; but that, I perceive, is chiefly my own fault. The phrase which I used, “modern psychology or psycho-analysis,” was a deplorable ellipsis.1 Although it is twenty years since I studied psychology seriously, I was quite aware that psycho-analysis is only one department, or perhaps one type, of psychological study.2 I should have said: “modern psychology, which for the purposes of this talk is represented by psychoanalysis .” I was, as the context ought to have made clear, concerned only with psychology in so far as it infringes upon the domain of theology; and that psychologists do so infringe, Freud’s Future of an Illusion and some of the popular works of Adler make abundantly evident.3 I ought also to explain to Professor Pear the point of my joke about “sublimation .” The joke is, of course, that, as he says, sublimation was invented “in relation to the sexual instincts.”4 Professor Pear has not controverted my point that “sublimation” means practically “substitution”; or alternatively , my contention, that the theory of sublimation infringes upon the territory of Werttheorie.5 The higher values (not merely alternative values) but exist (or if you prefer, subsist) already; and what we want is the science which tells us about them; and that science turns out to be theology. T. S. Eliot Notes 1. On 4 May, the Listener published a letter by Tom Hatherley Pear (1886-1972), since 1919 Professor of Psychology at the University of Manchester, responding to TSE’s broadcast talk “The Search for Moral Sanction” (4.446). Professor Pear objected to TSE’s apparent conflation of modern psychology with psychoanalysis: “I think, if Mr. Eliot will read a recent resumé of psychology, for the general public, Dr. C. S. Myers’ presidential address to the Psychology section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (London meeting, 1931) he will not identify modern psychology with one of its branches, important as that branch is” (651). 2. TSE studied the theories of the French psychologist Pierre Janet during his year in Paris 1910-11. [ 487 What Is Modern Psychology? 3. In Dec 1928, in a Criterion book review of the Hogarth Press edition of Freud’s The Future of an Illusion, TSE characterized “Dr. Freud’s brief summary of his views on the future of Religion” as “shrewd and yet stupid” (3.551). The most recent popular work by Adler was What Life Should Mean to You (1932). Collections of Adler’s writings had been edited by TSE’s acquaintances at the “Chandos Group,” Philip Mairet and Alan Porter. 4.TSE’sbroadcasttalkdrewahumorousanalogytoillustrateFreud’sconceptofsublimation: “Supposethatmytroubleisdiagnosedasasuppressedcravingforcaviare;Well,that’ssomething, to know what the cause of the trouble is. But I have not the money to buy enough caviare to satisfy the craving. I can, however, cultivate a taste for playing the flute or cross-country running. But in my own experience I have never been able to deal with any of my low appetites or vulgar tastes in this way. I have perceived their transience, their unsatisfactoriness, and the horror of satiety which is far beyond the famine of deprivation; but I have never known a desire to be expelled by anything but another desire” (4.449). Professor Pear responded: “I re-read Mr. Eliot’s view of ‘sublimation’ with care, for it is humiliating to overlook a joke. But, reflecting that jokes are uncommon at 5.30 on Sundays, I take him seriously. The concept of sublimation was originally formed not to explain anyone’s taste for caviar, but in relation to the sexual instincts. Why draw caviar across the trail? It is just as effective, and more patriotic in 1932, to employ the customary red herring” (651). 5. Werttheorie: theory of value. TSE was presumably familiar with the System der Werttheorie (1897) of Austrian psychologist Christian von Ehrenfels, whom he mentions among theorists of value in “New Philosophers” (1:730). ...