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Laing, R.D. (1964). General Psychopathology: By Karl Jaspers. (Manchester Univ. Press, 1963. Pp. 922. 75s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:590-593.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:590-593

General Psychopathology: By Karl Jaspers. (Manchester Univ. Press, 1963. Pp. 922. 75s.)

Review by:
Ronald D. Laing

This book is already regarded by many eminent psychiatrists as a major psychiatric classic. Jaspers is also regarded by many as a great philosopher, and this book can be seen as the golden touch on psychiatry of the finger of a master European thinker. Despite the fact that a number of people whom I respect hold Jaspers in high regard as a philosopher and as a psychologist, in my view there is a radical lack of discrimination on the highest level if Jaspers is classed among the great thinkers of recent European history. As a philosopher, Jaspers has produced an amalgam of the work of others, mainly of Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Max Weber—in a way that Sartre has called 'soft and underhand'.

As a psychopathologist, I find Jaspers even less satisfactory than Sartre finds him as a philosopher. For here, his grasp of large tracts of the subject is not merely undistinguished, it is inadequate. I refer the reader to his sections on dreams and his remarks on transference, repression, conflict, childhood, for instance.

Consider dreams. His account of the phenomena of dreams (pp. 144–145), based on Hacker, does not begin to grapple with the subject. In his section on dream-contents and their interpretation (pp. 372–376), not only does he not give evidence of a first-hand knowledge of the stuff of dreams, he virtually limits his account of dream interpretation to the work of Silberer, and he appears to have no understanding of the different functions that dreams may have in a person's life.

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