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Kirsner, D. (2006). Freud, Civilization, Religion, and Stoicism. Psychoanal. Psychol., 23(2):354-366.

(2006). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(2):354-366

Freud, Civilization, Religion, and Stoicism

Douglas Kirsner, Ph.D.

Freud's debt to stoicism has been seldom discussed. His attitude toward science had a distinct ethical slant taken from the ancient world, via Freud's humanistic education. Freud's method involved detachment but did not imply moral coldness and indifference any more than stoicism did. The stoics wanted to be therapists of the mind just as physicians cared for the body. For both Freud and the stoics, reason was in battle with the passions and required clear sight to have a chance of prevailing over them. In contrasting religious worldviews with the scientific approach, Freud failed to see his own approach as ethical. Freud made extensive forays at individual and collective levels but in the years since Freud's death, the psychoanalytic vision has narrowed. At 150 years after his birth, the authors can still admire Freud's exceptional ethical courage and recognize that if psychoanalysis is to survive, it needs to regain his cultural range and spirit of critical inquiry.

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