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Chalfin, R.M. (1996). Freud And His Critics. By Paul Robinson. Berkeley/Oxford: University of California Press, 1993. 281 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 65:820-822.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:820-822

Freud And His Critics. By Paul Robinson. Berkeley/Oxford: University of California Press, 1993. 281 pp.

Review by:
Robert M. Chalfin

This book reviews three major contemporary critics of Freud: Sulloway, Grünbaum, and Masson. In a cogent, clear, and easy to follow style Paul Robinson, a professor of intellectual history at Stanford University, explicates the main points of each, skewers their reasoning, scholarship, and motives, and finally demolishes their objectives in part by turning their arguments against them. Robinson's interest in writing this book arises in part from his conviction that all three fundamentally misrepresent Freud. Two, Masson and Sulloway, claim that Freud misrepresented himself and his data, with clear implications of moral weakness if not frank dishonesty. Grünbaum also intimates that Freud misrepresented his data, but his focus is on Freud's failings as a scientist, emphasizing the “Tally argument” and its shortcomings.

Robinson's aim is to understand from an intellectual historian's perspective this late twentieth-century turn against Freud, our hero and genius. He considers their critiques as a “neo-positivist” backlash against Freud's demonstration of the limits of man's awareness and control and as part of recent linguistic deconstructive trends in the intellectual and academic worlds. Not being knowledgeable in intellectual history makes it difficult for me to comment on these points.


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