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Niederland, W.G. (1961). Freud and Dewey on the Nature of Man: By Morton Levitt. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1960. 180 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 30:109-110.

(1961). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 30:109-110

Freud and Dewey on the Nature of Man: By Morton Levitt. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1960. 180 pp.

Review by:
William G. Niederland

This is a somewhat curious book. What it purports to tell us, it definitely does not; and what it does not claim to tell, it does. To wit, the book is written for the purpose of demonstrating in detail how Dewey and Freud 'paralleled and complemented one another without ever meeting' and how they 'stood, by biographical similarity at least, almost shoulder to shoulder'. Citing what Levitt calls 'a long string of likenesses', among which he lists not only their relentless efforts directed toward an understanding of human nature but also such items as the fact that both Freud and Dewey were born in the mid-nineteenth century, that 'each had five letters in their last names', that both had six children, and so forth, the author attempts to develop a number of similarities in position and concept by examining the basic writings of the two for areas of agreement and disagreement. In doing so, he rather sketchily compares the works of Dewey and Freud in terms of their thoughts on instincts and their vicissitudes, the pleasure-pain principle, transference, reaction-formation, psychic conflict, symbolism, sublimation, and so on. Levitt concludes that 'the two men were more alike with regard to intellectual and systematic matters than has heretofore been recognized… Dewey and Freud fought for the understanding of the nature of man from complementary, not opposing positions.'

As simple and intellectually comforting as these formulations seem to be, they are, in the opinion of this reviewer, far from conclusive and in part even misleading, since most of the author's deductions appear to be based on surface comparisons and superficial analogies.

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