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Eidelberg, L. (1949). Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis: By Franz Alexander, M.D. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1948. 312 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 18:361-363.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:361-363

Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis: By Franz Alexander, M.D. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1948. 312 pp.

Review by:
Ludwig Eidelberg

The author begins his book with the discussion of the methodological problems of psychoanalysis. He observes that 'thinking is one of the functions of the biological system' and therefore psychology, in as much as it is based on a causal approach, is not only related to biology but represents a legitimate part of it, equal in its importance to anatomy, physiology, etc.

He defines and defends 'common sense' which in the 'normal person', he believes, promotes scientific understanding. Identification is the chief instrument of common sense. Four errors grossly reduce its value: deliberate deception, self-deception, individual differences and 'blind spots'. One might add unconscious projection.

In his discussion of the theory of instincts, he argues in favor of Freud's first theory and rejects his second. His criticism seems to be due to misunderstanding. The first theory '… was not an attempt to describe instinctual forces' and is therefore not more clinically valuable than the 'philosophical' second one. Freud always insisted that the concept of the instincts is the result of speculation; that instinct itself cannot be observed by psychological methods, and that the subject of psychoanalysis is the derivative of instincts. Both theories are schematic abstractions, a filing system for the collection of clinical data.

Freud did not regard the death instinct as being directly responsible for neurosis; he cited cancer as an illustration of its function. Because he regarded psychological phenomena as derivatives of instinct fusions, he described the death instinct as being 'silent' (Stumm). These and other misunderstandings are probably responsible for Alexander's statement: 'Freud … continued to distinguish between self-preservative and sexual instincts' (p. 62). In An Outline of Psychoanalysis, Freud writes: 'The contrast between the instincts of self-preservation and of preservation of the species, as well as the contrast between ego love and object love, falls within the bounds of Eros'.

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