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Stolorow, R.D. (2009). Apprehending the Inaccessible: Freudian Psychoanalysis and Existential Phenomenology. By Richard Askay and Jensen Farquhar. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2006, 480 pp., $29.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(1):237-241.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(1):237-241

Book Reviews: On Presuppositions

Apprehending the Inaccessible: Freudian Psychoanalysis and Existential Phenomenology. By Richard Askay and Jensen Farquhar. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2006, 480 pp., $29.95.

Review by:
Robert D. Stolorow

Apprehending the Inaccessible, coauthored by the philosopher Richard Askay and the psychotherapist Jensen Farquhar, is a magnificent piece of historical-philosophical and psychoanalytic scholarship devoted to four aims: (1) to assemble an account of the philosophical ideas and presuppositions that influenced Freud's theorizing, (2) to summarize the critiques of Freud's metapsychology offered by existential phenomenologists, (3) to present a philosophically fortified “virtual Freud's” response to his critics, and (4) to suggest possible pathways of convergence of psychoanalysis and existential phenomenology.

1. The authors' account of the philosophical influences on Freud's theorizing is comprehensive, rigorous, and highly illuminating. Indeed, this account alone makes the book worthwhile reading for any psychoanalyst interested in gaining knowledge of the place of our calling in the history of Western philosophical thought.

Significantly, the first set of influences the book takes up are those that derived from Enlightenment philosophy and that shaped Freud's dedication to a scientific weltanschauung—his commitment to positivism, rationalism, reductive materialism, and causal determinism—the very commitments for which he was vigorously criticized by existential phenomenologists. As Askay and Farquhar convincingly show, “It was Enlightenment philosophy—as represented by Descartes, Bacon, Diderot, Voltaire, and Kant—that provided the philosophical infrastructure for Freud's scientism” (p. 40). Thus Freud, consistent with the presuppositions of Enlightenment philosophy, was confident that psychoanalysis, through the exercise of reason and objective empirical observation, could gain true knowledge of inaccessible regions of the human psyche.

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