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Doidge, N. (2002). Classics Revisited: Freud's the Ego and the Id and “Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety”. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 50(1):281-294.

(2002). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 50(1):281-294

Classics Revisited: Freud's the Ego and the Id and “Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety”

Norman Doidge

Charles Hanly, who chaired the panel, began by pointing out that these two classics have been profitably revisited many times, and remain at the heart of contemporary psychoanalysis, though they were not always appreciated as they now are. A critic at the time The Ego and the Id was published said it was a decline in Freud's thinking and was lacking in ideas; it was, Hanly noted, described as unclear, artificially assembled, and positively loathsome in its diction, as well as being “displeasing apart from the fundamental idea of the id, and the aperçu of the genesis of morality.” That critic was the author himself, in a letter to Ferenczi. Freud was his own most demanding taskmaster. These works are examples of Freud's ability to test, question, and modify, in the light of new data, theories he had used for many years.

Freud's “aperçu of the genesis of morality” is a remarkable achievement best seen from the perspective of the history of ideas, according to Hanly, the fundamental movement of which has been from animism and magic, through religion and metaphysics, to science, naturalism, and technology. During the course of human psychic and cultural evolution, the ability to perform actions for the sake of moral duty developed. This deontological capacity, to do what is right because it is the right thing to do, mystified the human intellect for centuries. It was believed linked to a transcendental spiritual order and to vouchsafe to those who exercised it the reward of immortality. Plato traced its origins to a supernatural preexistence of the soul.

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