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Alexander, J. Isaacs, K.S. (1968). The Psychology of the Fool. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:420-423.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:420-423

The Psychology of the Fool

James Alexander and Kenneth S. Isaacs


The type of character disorder considered in this paper is not the buffoon-jester-clown type of fool who plays the "fool" with conscious intentionality, but the type that consciously has no recognition of being a fool and hence, who acts out his folly against himself and others—usually under the guise of decent or even lofty ideals. Freud said that the moral-ethical was self-evident. This was true of Freud, but it is not true of everyone. To us it appears that it is not possible to deal with the psychology of the fool without considerable reference to the moral-ethical domain.

Guilt is an intolerable narcissistic wound to the sort of person who deserves the epithet of "fool". Hence, the fool denies the guilt and the destructive rage which lies behind it. Reaction formations of idealism are erected, but they fail to prevent the destructive acting out. The fool does not believe in the reality of forgiveness.

Essentially, the fool is nihilistic. His seeming idealism and seeming possession of humane convictions sometimes permit him to obtain power, such as political power, but he is very prone to betray any trust reposed in him. The fool, because of his fundamental dishonesty, seldom enters psychoanalytic or any other form of treatment.

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