Thus Spoke Sigmund Freud

Yesterday I finished what has been something like an 8-year project, getting through the 20 recommended books by the No Dogs or Philosopher Allowed website A pretty interesting selection they have there. I don’t know much else about what they do though.

The last book I got to was Norman Brown’s Love’ Body. Basically a mystagogic blend of Freud, mythology and art, finding the hidden penis is everything, so to speak. It was not convincing or enlightening to me in any way.

I have mixed feelings on Freud. I think in certain ways he opened up a new realm of the human experience, namely the unconsciousness and desire. Yet, I think there is plenty of reason to suspect his findings. He specialized in “treatments” of people with abnormal perspectives that governed their thinking. His analysis was that everyone is haunted by unresolved incest fantasies and penile infatuations. I think it begs the question of whether Freud really discovered the problematic root or whether he was just a neurotic himself who convinced others that his neurotic and unresolved issues were the universal cause of mental illness.

Much of psychoanalysis rests on this double bind of either you discover the Freudian nature of yourself, or you’re just repressing it. Reminds me of a lot of fundamentalist Christian belief that if you don’t accept a (limited) Christian view then you’re obviously Satanically possessed. Or the popular fascination of some with the “Matrix” movies. “Yes, what if reality is unreal and there is a Matrix?!” Or perhaps Keanu Reeves did escape from a “false reality” but simply winded up in yet another false one?

People have made good with Freud’s work, but too few are really willing to turn Freud against Freud. Perhaps they are afraid the Father of Psychoanalysis will castrate them if they do?

  1. Rachel said:

    Why don’t you read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams? This should give some helpful perspective on those unsubstantiated generalisations and vague notions of normality. The book is widely regarded as a classic, and not just amongst psychoanalysts.

  2. I have read it, although a second read my be in order. It does well to propose dreams as manifestations of the unconscious, and to analyze the semiotics of that unconsciousness. However, I think his further generalizations about that structure (Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and Totem and Taboo) are full of mistakes, his personal biases and over sexualized.

    Of course, I was a little generalized above, but I don’t think my terse response to Freud’s Oedipalizing is off the mark. Especially as Norman Brown made use of it.

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