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Wilson, M. (2005). Misunderstanding Freud By Arnold Goldberg New York: Other Press. 2004. 260 pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(4):1237-1241.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(4):1237-1241

Misunderstanding Freud By Arnold Goldberg New York: Other Press. 2004. 260 pp.

Review by:
Mitchell Wilson

Arnold Goldberg has been one of the bright lights in the psychoanalytic universe for the better part of three decades. Though known best for his numerous writings on self-psychology and his editorship of the annual Progress in Self Psychology, Goldberg has repeatedly demonstrated an appetite for the next exciting idea, the nearby and useful theory, and the second-cousin academic disciplines with whom psychoanalysts need to become better acquainted. Goldberg is not unlike Levi-Strauss's bricoleur—grabbing what is within reach to make what he is able to make, unconcerned that the unusual combination of materials can render his creation wobbly, if often interesting.

This is an ambitious book. Goldberg attempts to integrate some of the latest thinking in the philosophy of mind and neuroscience and bring these ideas to bear on essential issues in clinical psychoanalysis. I applaud the author's attempts to integrate adjacent disciplines with psychoanalysis; it is no easy task. Unfortunately, though marked by his usual intellectual curiosity and clinical wisdom, the work is not tightly argued. Goldberg's infusion of recent thinking in the philosophy of mind and neuroscience into his text tends to mar this otherwise valuable contribution to clinical psychoanalytic theory. He eschews the rigorous argumentation of the philosophical tradition while liberally borrowing ideas from it, and sometimes his rhetorical urge trumps his getting the ideas right. There is a further problem: assertions he makes and positions he takes in early chapters sometimes contradict those made and taken in later ones. I am not sure if this represents faulty editing or faulty thinking. My sense is it is more the former than the latter.

Misunderstanding Freud is much less about Freud (and ostensible misun-derstandings of him) than about misunderstanding itself. Misunderstanding is Goldberg's central object of interest. He is right to emphasize this crucial and still little understood aspect of psychoanalytic theory and its relationship to clinical work. While both Lacan and Bion long ago placed great weight on the centrality of misunderstanding in psychoanalysis, North American psychoanalysts have lagged behind in this regard. Goldberg's effort, therefore, is a welcome contribution.

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