Illusions, sounds and Freud.

Quite interesting evening at the Freud Museum yesterday, as part of their celebration of the Unconscious. Joe Banks spoke about auditory illusions, such as the McGurk effect which show that what we hear is influenced by what we see. (More here. He also referred to the work of Diana Deutsch, such as the phantom words illusion. (I also like here ‘Mysterious Melody” illusion. It’s so much easier to hear the tune when you know (or think you know) what it is.

Sadly he presented this largely as an attack on Electronic Voice Phenomenon believers, which seemed to me like using a sledgehammer to crack a handful of nuts. (Although I have to confess I put Ghost Radar on my tablet.)

What was interesting was that we cannot entirely trust our perceptions, not only visually, but also our hearing. But then I suppose Sextus Empiricus said this 1,800 years ago.

I was reading Freud coming back on the North London Line and was more struck by his comment (in ‘Thoughts on War and Death’, that “To tolerate life remains, after all, the first duty of all living beings. Illusion becomes valueless if it makes this harder for us.” Tolerate – an odd choice of word. (I can’t find the German original to see what Freud actually said.) ‘Survive’ or ‘endure’ might suit the pessimist; ‘enjoy’ or ‘optimise’ or ‘make the most of’ or ‘learn from’ might appeal to the optimist. But ‘tolerate’?

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