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The Existentialist Critique of Freud: The Crisis of Autonomy

The Existentialist Critique of Freud: The Crisis of Autonomy

Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 368
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    The Existentialist Critique of Freud: The Crisis of Autonomy
    Book Description:

    Although largely sympathetic to Freud's clinical achievement, the existentialists criticized Freudian metapsychology as inappropriate to a truly humanistic psychology. Gerald Izenberg evaluates the critique of Freud in the work of two existential philosophers, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, and two existential psychiatrists, Ludwig Binswanger and Medard Boss.

    His book interprets the relationship of psychoanalysis and existentialism and traces the history of a crisis in the European rationalist tradition. The author unveils the positivist foundations of Freud's theory of meaning and discusses the reactions it provoked in the work of Binswanger, Boss, and Sartre. Probing beneath the methodological dispute, he shows that the argument involved a challenge to the conception of the self that had dominated European thought since the Enlightenment. Existentialism, reflecting the turmoil of the inter-war and post-war years, furnished a theory of motivation better able to account for Freud's clinical data than his own rationalist metapsychology. This theory made problematic the existentialist idea of authenticity and freedom, however, and so the attempt to provide a substitute ethic and concept of mental health ended in failure, although in the process the basic questions were posed that must be answered in any modern social theory.

    Originally published in 1976.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6959-6
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION The Crisis of Autonomy
    (pp. 3-12)

    This book is a study of the critique of Freud’s theories advanced by a number of existential philosophers and psychiatrists. On one level, it is necessarily concerned with philosophical psychology, for the existentialists saw themselves in relation to Freud primarily as opponents of what they regarded as the humanistically inappropriate and conceptually unsound structure of explanation in psychoanalytic theory. On another level, however, it is the history of a stage in the crisis of the European rationalist tradition. Behind the methodological issues raised by the existentialists was a conception of the self that ran counter to the one that had...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Positivist Foundations of Freud’s Theory of Meaning
    (pp. 13-69)

    That the existentialist critique of psychoanalysis originated in Freud’s positivism can appear puzzling in the light of the generally accepted version of his achievement. It was Freud after all who definitively broke with the conventional approach of nineteenth-century psychiatry, which viewed the psychic manifestations of mental illness as meaningless and looked exclusively for physical pathology as the necessary and sufficient cause of irrational behavior. By discovering hidden intentions, emotions, and beliefs in neurotic behavior and ideation, Freud called into question, for many if not all cases, the nineteenth-century “medical model” of mental illness.

    This interpretation, of course, is today considered...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Background of the Existential Critique
    (pp. 70-107)

    The historical background of the existential critique of psychoanalysis was the attack against positivism mounted toward the end of the nineteenth century. The link is to be found in the early writings of Ludwig Binswanger, the Swiss psychiatrist who introduced the idea of existential analysis. The works of his pre-existentialist period were concerned with the theoretical and methodological issues involved in the debate about the nature of the human sciences that preoccupied continental philosophy in the decades before the First World War. Indeed, Binswanger is an interesting figure in twentieth-century intellectual history not only for his own contributions but because...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Existentialist Critique of Psychoanalytic Theory
    (pp. 108-165)

    InBeing and Time, Heidegger’s description of Dasein’s “essential structures” and the analysis of the problem of authenticity were part of a single enterprise; indeed, the definition of the first in terms of the second gave the book’s argument what Heidegger frankly acknowledged to be its circular character. The two elements, however, could be separated because the categories of his analysis of Dasein could be seen to be in opposition to certain prevailing paradigms in the human sciences and could be thought of as an extension of the methodological debate about their nature. While denying thatBeing and Timewas...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Historical Significance of the Existential Critique
    (pp. 166-217)

    There have been a number of different assessments of the significance of existentialism within psychotherapy in general and in relationship to psychoanalysis in particular. It has been suggested that existential analysis was primarly a vehicle for the introduction of religious consolation into therapy, an attempt to use the phenomenological method to buttress faith by appeal to “experience as given” against reductive reason. Freud thought so, and gently chided Binswanger for his illusions. Boss was militant in his defense of the “numinous” quality of religious experience. A number of his case studies described a therapeutic progression from the liberation of sensuous...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Existentialist Concept of the Self
    (pp. 218-249)

    In the last chapter it was argued that the existential critique of Freud could not be adequately characterized as a philosophical debate about the proper foundations of a science of human behavior. The attacks on mechanism and biologism, which were explored in detail in chapter three, were part of a more fundamental difference with Freud about the nature of human motivation and selfhood. This difference emerged in the historical setting of crumbling faith in the premises of European rationalism. If Heidegger laid the foundations for the new view of human motivation, however, it was left to others to apply it...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Authenticity as an Ethic and a Concept of Health
    (pp. 250-289)

    Existentialism, it was argued in chapter four, completed the critique of rationalism begun before World War I by offering a theory of motivation that accounted for the human desire to escape from freedom. This did not put the existentialists into the camp of the irrationalists, however; on the contrary, they insisted on the inescapable reality of human responsibility for human choices and used their theory of motivation to explain the ideological belief systems and everyday self-deceptions by which men tried to escape it. However, the existentialists did not fully appreciate the negative implications of their own conclusions.

    In rejecting the...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Ideology and Social Theory in Psychoanalysis and Existentialism
    (pp. 290-335)

    Psychoanalysis, it was argued in chapter four, represented the internalization of rationalist social theory and its central problem. In the guise of biological instincts, the conflict between individual interest (autonomy) and social harmony was fought out on the level of the individual rather than on that of society. The same difficulties of reconciliation that in social theory were manifest as interpersonal conflict and social and political disequilibrium were manifest within the personality as internal conflict and symptom formation.

    At this point, however, it is necessary to make distinctions within rationalist social theory that were initially glossed over in the emphasis...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 336-346)
  13. Index
    (pp. 347-354)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 355-355)