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Schlesinger, H.J. (2000). Musings about My Intellectual Development. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 49-55.

Schlesinger, H.J. (2000). Musings about My Intellectual Development. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 49-55

Musings about My Intellectual Development Book Information Previous Up Next

Herbert J. Schlesinger, Ph.D.

In contrast to analysts I have long envied, I didn't read Freud as a boy. We had a good-sized collection of books at home with a fair representation of world literature and leftish political thinking. I knew our well-hidden, brown-paper-wrapped volume of Krafft-Ebing, but we had no Freud. My recollection of first hearing the name is perhaps a screen memory: a radio announcer gravely reported that Freud had died. It was during a broadcast of the New York Philharmonic on a rainy Sunday afternoon. It always rained on Sunday when I was a boy. Freud was described as the author of the recently published Moses and Monotheism. At that time, if there was anyone I was less aware of than Freud it was Moses.

My intellectual heroes were Roy Chapman Andrews, who explored for dinosaur fossils in the Gobi Desert, and the naturalists Martin and Osa Johnson. A distant cousin was a bacteriologist, and I loved the word before I had any idea what it was about. I was stunned by her microscope, binocular and with three objectives. My father gave into my entreaties, and I received an antique model and spent many hours putting anything small enough under it, playing with stains and preparing specimens.

I assumed I would major in chemistry at Brooklyn College, but I was waylaid by psychology. Lewinian Field Theory and Gestalt Psychology were taught by professors who had been colleagues and students of Kurt Lewin and Max Wertheimer. My psychological education was totally un-American. To paraphrase a saying from the Reconstructionist South, I didn't realize that “damnedbehaviourist” was two words until graduate school.

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