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Dorpat, T.L. (1971). Ego and Instinct: Psychoanalysis and the Science of Man. William Barrett and Daniel Yankelovich. New York: Random House, 1970. 494 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(1):149-153.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(1):149-153

Book Review

Ego and Instinct: Psychoanalysis and the Science of Man. William Barrett and Daniel Yankelovich. New York: Random House, 1970. 494 pp.

Review by:
T. L. Dorpat

This book provides a philosophical critique and examination of the basic assumptions underlying psychoanalytic metapsychology. The authors (a psychologist and a philosopher) are concerned with what they call the central philosophical conflict of our time. In this conflict, the scientific conception of man, as typified in the philosophy of scientific materialism, opposes the existential perspective. According to the authors, metapsychology needs a drastic reconstruction, since it represents an almost pure form of the obsolete nineteenth century version of scientific materialism. They say:

The Freud who wrote the great case histories (like the Wolf Man) is the greater Freud, the man of original genius. The Freud who wrote about the psychic apparatus, the pleasure principle, and the reality principle was the lesser Freud, the man who borrowed a secondhand metaphysics from his teachers.

The book is divided into five parts. Part I includes a brief survey of the discovery of psychoanalysis and an elucidation of Freud's early theories on such concepts as instinct, psychic energy and the psychic apparatus. Freud had a philosophical commitment to the Helmholtz school of physicalistic physiology. Members of this school had the explicit intention to reduce all aspects of the human organism to physical-chemical processes. Along with other behavioral and social sciences in the nineteenth century, psychoanalysis attempted to adapt a physical, i.e. mechanical, mode of explanation to human experience. Freud's early work, “The Project,” was an attempt to reduce psychology to physics. The later translation of his terminology from the physical into psychology, far from abandoning Newtonian materialism, merely continues the same mode of thought in metaphorical garb.

The authors make a thorough examination of Freud's theory of the psychic apparatus.

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