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Freud, the Reluctant Philosopher

Freud, the Reluctant Philosopher

Alfred I. Tauber
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Freud, the Reluctant Philosopher
    Book Description:

    Freud began university intending to study both medicine and philosophy. But he was ambivalent about philosophy, regarding it as metaphysical, too limited to the conscious mind, and ignorant of empirical knowledge. Yet his private correspondence and his writings on culture and history reveal that he never forsook his original philosophical ambitions. Indeed, while Freud remained firmly committed to positivist ideals, his thought was permeated with other aspects of German philosophy. Placed in dialogue with his intellectual contemporaries, Freud appears as a reluctant philosopher who failed to recognize his own metaphysical commitments, thereby crippling the defense of his theory and misrepresenting his true achievement. Recasting Freud as an inspired humanist and reconceiving psychoanalysis as a form of moral inquiry, Alfred Tauber argues that Freudianism still offers a rich approach to self-inquiry, one that reaffirms the enduring task of philosophy and many of the abiding ethical values of Western civilization.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3692-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. Introduction Psychoanalysis as Philosophy
    (pp. 1-23)

    Freud’s concept—whereby “man lives with his unconscious, not by it” (Meissner 2003, 214)—has vexed critics since its inception. That humans possess a vast reservoir of memories, perceptions, and forms of judgment cannot be denied. Indeed, Freud has been credited with an important role in setting the research agenda for contemporary cognitive psychology (e.g., Pribram and Gill 1976; Erdelyi 1985; Modell 2006; Westen, Weinberger, and Bradley 2007) and many aspects of cognitive science (e.g., Bilder and Lefever 1998; Smith 1999a; Wilson 2002). But the scientific standing of psychoanalysis and of its therapeutic claims has been severely compromised both by...

  6. Chapter One The Challenge (and Stigma) of Philosophy
    (pp. 24-53)

    What are the philosophical antecedents of Freud’s attempt to establish a science of the mind? As already briefly mentioned, during his early university days Freud explicitly rejected philosophy, because of its “speculative” character. He struggled with balancing the intellectual appeal of philosophy with the “certainty” he hoped to find in positivist science. That move heralded the series of clinical studies that would eventually emerge in the therapeutic system of psychoanalysis, a psychiatry he would consistently call a “science.” Freud never abandoned his commitment to scientific knowledge and perhaps more importantly, scientific reason. As he wrote late in his life, “Our...

  7. Chapter Two Distinguishing Reasons and Causes
    (pp. 54-84)

    In establishing their respective psychologies, Brentano and Freud presented radically opposed philosophies of mind: Brentano assigned the unconscious to metaphysics, while Freud claimed to have studied the unconscious as an object of scientific scrutiny. The key element in their divergent views hinged on the notion of psychic causality. Brentano set the criteria that Freud later would attempt to fulfill in his own theory, and in this sense Freud remained committed to Brentano’s original philosophical project, one guided by empiricism and strict observational standards. That Freud failed to fulfill Brentano’s challenge is illustrated here by an analysis of Freud’s circular argument...

  8. Chapter Three Storms over Königsberg
    (pp. 85-115)

    Freud’s effort to establish psychic cause was, of course, part of a larger psychology. Yet despite sustained defensive efforts, his science would suffer unremitting attacks. The charges are now well rehearsed: Objective criteria could not be established, and prediction remained elusive. No one would deny that Freud was engaged in an empiricist project, but that would not necessarily yield a successfulscientificproduct. The earliest criticisms, by and large, revolved around the specific claims of Freud’s construction. Among sexologists and psychiatrists, the debate (and rejection) generally followed the contours of the respective disciplines (Decker 1977). The second level of dispute...

  9. Chapter Four The Paradox of Freedom
    (pp. 116-145)

    Freud’s disavowals about philosophy do not absolve him from complex philosophical debts: Indeed, Freud (and later commentators) have failed to explain how the origins of psychoanalytical theory began with a positivistic investment without recognizing a dual epistemological commitment. Simply, Freud engaged positivism because he believed it generally equated with empiricism, which he valued, and he rejected “philosophy,” and, more specifically, Kantianism, because of the associated “transcendental” qualities of its epistemology. But the relationship between Freud and Kant is not so simple.

    We find Freud on both sides of the divide. His philosophical commitments were split between aspirations for a positivistic...

  10. Chapter Five The Odd Triangle: KANT, NIETZSCHE, AND FREUD
    (pp. 146-173)

    From Augustine to our own era, introspection is inextricable from “self-consciousness,” which in turn is integral to and, in some sense, coincident with various understandings of selfhood. Simply, self-consciousness is enacted through self-reflexivity, and in this process of self-awareness, identity emerges. But the word “reflexivity” has a more circumscribed history. Reflexivity appears as a paradigm of understanding the self during the early modern period, coincident with the preoccupation with optics and the birth of a new physics of light. “Reflexivity” was first applied to cognitive introspection, in referring to “thought as bending back upon itself,” in the 1640s, when theologians,...

  11. Chapter Six Who Is the Subject?
    (pp. 174-195)

    Freud’s thinking about the ego combines several formulations, which begin with early modernist principles. In some sense, he draws an alliance with Descartes’s meditation, “I am a thinking thing,” as the “true” center of his identity. Indeed, the modernist endeavor to define personal identity begins by recognizing that the self cannot be derived, but instead, the Cartesiancogitans—the end point of the skeptic’s query—serves as the starting point of self-consciousness.¹ Accordingly, to the extent that “identity” has a definition in the Freudian universe, it must be that which can be identified; that is, the conscious ego examines and...

  12. Chapter Seven The Ethical Turn
    (pp. 196-226)

    The controversies swirling around psychoanalysis for over a century may be reduced to the nature of its truth claims. Freud believed he followed strong empiricist methods in his analysis of signs and symptoms, and within the clinical tradition in which he trained and worked, he sought to achieve the same clinical status for psychoanalysis afforded other schools of psychiatry (Jones 1953–57; Decker 1977; Clark 1980; Gay 1988; Breger 2000; Makari 2008). The scientific standing of Freud’s theory has suffered for many reasons, not the least of which results from the success of modern psychiatry in transforming itself into a...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 227-276)
  14. References
    (pp. 277-304)
  15. Index
    (pp. 305-318)