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Blank, H.R. (1956). Psychoanalysis and Ethics: By Lewis Samuel Feuer. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1955. 134 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 25:589-590.
(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:589-590
Psychoanalysis and Ethics: By Lewis Samuel Feuer. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1955. 134 pp.
Review by: H. Robert Blank
The Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vermont has provided us with a stimulating, scholarly monograph. For the layman, it will serve also as an antidote to Fromm's The Sane Society (reviewed in This QUARTERLY, XXV, 1956, pp. 270-272). Feuer's erudition encompasses the social sciences as well as psychoanalysis; his integrated and condensed subject matter is presented in a highly readable style. He argues debatable points without pedantry, and, where one disagrees with him, there remains the feeling that further discussion would be fruitful.
The volume is divided into three parts. In Part One, The Psychoanalytical Foundation of Human Values, Feuer disposes of the red herring that psychoanalysis fosters ethical nihilism, develops his central thesis that psychoanalysis provides the soundest basis for testing ultimate values in ethics, and applies the thesis in a critique of various philosophies, notably those of Nietzsche and Mill.
In Part Two, Critique of Freud's Philosophy of Civilization, although he accepts the basic psychoanalytic postulates, Feuer rejects Freud's application of psychoanalysis to civilization. This section will provoke the most opposition among psychoanalysts, especially those who are unwilling to consider the concept of the social origin of the sense of guilt. However the author's case is well documented and reasoned, and he does not engage in 'culturalistic' quibbling.
In Part Three, Final Questions, Feuer takes a forthright stand against cultural relativity which 'is conjoined with a principle of ethical relativity; it holds that there is no transcultural criterion of basic value postulates'.
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