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Emerson, L.E. (1915). A Philosophy for Psychoanalysts. Psychoanal. Rev., 2(4):422-427.

(1915). Psychoanalytic Review, 2(4):422-427

A Philosophy for Psychoanalysts

L. E. Emerson, Ph.D.

In the rise and growth of psychoanalysis various philosophic attitudes have been exemplified. Psychoanalysis took its origin in therapy. The original attitude was particular, pluralistic, idealistic, and courageous. But failure soon made itself manifest, and since then much philosophizing has been going on. This is natural, for philosophy has its roots in failure.

What I mean by failure, is this. At first it was thought hysteria was due to childhood sexual traumas, repressed. Release the repressions, allow sublimation to take place, and the patient was cured. But things turned out not to be so simple. Patients came along in whom childhood sexual traumas could not be found. So it was said it was not so much a question of what the sexual experiences of childhood had been as it was the attitude the patient took towards such experiences. But the analysis of attitude led to the conception of character, and thus the whole problem of personality, and the relation of the individual to society and the world became the central problem of psychoanalysis. Patients now were not cured and sometimes not even helped much. Doctrines now abound and “winds of doctrine” begin to blow till veritably there seems to be a regular tempest.

Now I have entered the lists to battle for a philosophic doctrine that I think emphasizes the right point of view. In Dr. Putnam's phrase, I wish to champion, in a small way, the conception of “disinterested love.”

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