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Whitebook, J. (1996). The Psychoanalytic Mind: From Freud To Philosophy. By Marcia Cavell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993, 276 pp., $32.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:986-995.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:986-995

The Psychoanalytic Mind: From Freud To Philosophy. By Marcia Cavell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993, 276 pp., $32.00. Related Papers

Review by:
Joel Whitebook

A number of commentators have observed that Freud's attitude toward philosophy was deeply conflicted. With the exception of Plato—who was spared by being cast as a “poet-philosopher” (Freud, 1920p. 58)—Freud's pronouncements on the subject were almost uniformly negative. Along with religion, to which it played a not always distant second, philosophy, with its tendency toward the omnipotence of thoughts, had to be vigilantly criticized as a source of illusion. At the same time, however, we know that Freud had been so drawn to the field in his youth that he seriously considered pursuing a career in philosophy, and that “after making a lifelong detour through the natural sciences, medicine and psychotherapy(Freud, 1935p. 72), he returned to philosophical topics with a degree of speculative abandon that, at times, rivaled the presocratics. Indeed, the excessiveness of those flights suggests that his persistent hostility served as a reaction formation against his intense speculative impulses. He told Ernest Jones that “as a young man [he] felt a strong attraction toward speculation and ruthlessly checked it” (Gay, 1988p. 25). And it can be argued that his adoption of a tough-minded scientific self representation served as “a vital and even fertile illusion(Castoriadis, 1984p. 3) that enabled him to discipline his theoretical imagination and protected him from becoming a quack like his friend and mentor Wilhelm Fliess.

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