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Young, R.M. (1986). Freud: Scientist and/or Humanist. Free Associations, 1(6):7-35.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(6):7-35

Freud: Scientist and/or Humanist

Robert M. Young

My aim in this paper is to use historical analysis as a way of reflecting on the deepest philosophical assumptions of psychoanalysis. In preparing it, I have been very influenced by its venue, reflecting what I hope is an interest in the study of life, human nature and society. I have a certain sense of occasion about the growth of interest in the history of the human sciences. In fact it is a quarter of a century since I embarked on a doctoral dissertation in this area. It was, I don't mind saying, lonely work, and I cannot sufficiently convey my pleasure that there now appears to be a real interest in this country in humanistic scholarship about the history of the disciplines which seek to understand our humanity. I wish it well and I will do all I can to help it on its way.

When I became a professional historian of psychology, it was considered sufficiently noteworthy that the main entrepreneur in the field, Robert I. Watson, dubbed me the first person ever to receive a doctorate in the history of psychology in the Anglo-Saxon world. (I have never known if that was true or not, but it felt nice at the time.) I have moved on more than once, but I have remained preoccupied with human nature, the constraints on it, what can be hoped for and perhaps achieved, in a variety of guises: researching, teaching, supervising, editing, agitating a bit, making films about it, writing and publishing.


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