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Brady, D. (1986). Freud's Distaste for Philosophy: A Hint of an Explanation. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 14(3):297-307.

(1986). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 14(3):297-307

Freud's Distaste for Philosophy: A Hint of an Explanation

Don Brady, Ph.D.

Good and Bad Philosophy

In the 1920's an American physician wrote to Freud, offering an argument why Freud should be interested in Jesus and in the Bible. If Freud were interested, the truth about God and the next world would be revealed, and he would be saved from his indifference to spiritual matters.

The American physician had been once an unbeliever having concluded that a just God could not exist because a just God would not create suffering for the innocent. One day he observed a cadaver of a “sweet-faced dear old lady” being carried to the dissecting table. “There is no God; if there were a God, he would not allow this dear old woman to be brought to the dissecting room.”

But later, a voice came and stayed his doubts. God made it clear to him, he claimed, that “Jesus was our only hope … [and] God has revealed himself to me by many infallible proofs.” From then on the physician was a believer.

Freud used this exchange of letters as the basis for “A Religious Experience” (Freud, 1928) in which he comments on his correspondent's “particularly bad logic.” Surely, Freud says, this doctor must have seen evidence of far greater misery than the dead body of an old lady. He then goes on to interpret the experience in light of psychological theory.

Let me summarize the two points of view.

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