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Eriksson, J. (2010). Freud and Philosophy. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 33(2):142-148.

(2010). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 33(2):142-148

Book Essay

Freud and Philosophy Related Papers

Johan Eriksson, Ph.D.

Today, Freud's ambivalent relation to philosophy is well documented. As a young university student, alongside his medical education, we know him to have devoted a fair share of his time to studying philosophy. In an often quoted letter to Fliess, we read that “as a young man I knew no longing other than for philosophical knowledge, and now I am about to fulfill it as I move from medicine to psychology. I became a therapist against my will” (Freud, 1985, p. 180). However, we also know that Freud often denied that his psychoanalytic theories would be in any kind of debt to the philosophical tradition, and in his Selbstdarstellung from 1925, he even says that he is suffering from a “constitutional incapacity” for philosophical thinking (p. 59). It is not hard to find comments, scattered throughout Freud's writings, where he accuses philosophy of being too speculative and abstract, and of having a notorious tendency to ignore the existence of the unconscious and to deprive it of its prominent role in our mental life. Psychoanalysis, however, is nothing less than a branch of science, and as such, it does not content itself with loose speculation, but is founded upon a secure amount of empirical evidence for the existence and functioning of the unconscious.

Historically, the question of Freud's relation to philosophy, however, extends beyond the task of mapping, either the possible philosophical influence on or the philosophical ambitions of psychoanalytic theory.

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