Encyclopedia of Freud & Freudianism edited by Edward Erwin, Coral Gables
(Routledge) is a comprehensive, one-volume reference work containing entries on
the life, work, and theories of Sigmund Freud.
Latest scholarship on key Freudian theories and concepts. The book discusses the most recent work on such topics as the theory of dreams, the concept of repression, defense mechanisms, and the Oedipus complex. Also included are essays on later psychoanalytic theories such as object relations and self psychology.
Information on psychoanalytic therapy and techniques. The encyclopedia contains a wealth of articles on all aspects of the practices and its theories of psychoanalysis. As the founder of psychoanalysis, Freud is a seminal figure in the development of techniques of treatment and of the philosophical foundations of the psychoanalytic movement.
Biographies of major figures The book includes biographical sketches of Freud himself and of the leading figures in the Freudian movement, including Melanie Klein, Karl Abraham, and Otto Rank. Essays can also be found on philosophers who anticipated or influenced Freud, such as Schopenhauer, Brentano, and Nietzsche.
International in scope. The encyclopedia has essays on psychoanalytic developments in twenty-five countries and covers the criticisms and defenses of Freud's work written by leading specialists around the world.
Sigmund Freud is regarded as one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century, and interest in his life and work remains high. This book will contribute to a further understanding of his influence and of the current evaluations and debates surrounding his work.
We live in an age when some scholars seriously question the value of truth. Inquire of a theory, it is said, not whether it is true or false, but whether it is "insightful," "useful," "profound," "brilliant," or "penetrating." This way of thinking about theories was not congenial to Sigmund Freud. On a number of occasions, Einstein expressed admiration for Freud's "brilliant achievement" but refused to say that any of his theories were true. In response to one such congratulatory letter from Einstein, written to honor Freud's eightieth birthday, Freud replied: "But I have often asked myself what indeed there is to admire about them [his theories] if they are not true‑i.e. if they do not contain a high degree of truth".
If the correctness of his ideas is what ultimately matters, however, then there is a problem in explaining why Freud is still worth taking seriously. Critics will point out that in the last thirty years, Freud's theories have been shown to be pseudo‑scientific, or basically mistaken, or at the very least largely unproven. If these critics are right, why invite hundreds of expert scholars from around the world to devote so much time and effort to writing articles on Freud's work and influence? And why should a reader care? These questions deserve an answer.
As someone who has published a book skeptical about Freud's ideas (Erwin, 1996) but who has also spent much of the last nine years, together with his co‑editors, putting together this encyclopedia, I would answer that despite the critiques, there are still very good reasons to care about Freud and what he created. One reason concerns the degree of truth in Freudian theory.
To What Extent Was Freud Right?
Many contemporary supporters of Freud argue not that he was mostly right, but that some of his theories contain deep insights and have received a reasonable amount of empirical support. Assuming that this is a credible viewpoint, there is still an important question to be answered: Exactly which parts of Freudian theory are at least approximately true and which are not? On this issue, scholars are still deeply divided.
If there have been impressive critiques of Freud's arguments and theories, there have also been impressive defenses. Some scholars argue that Freud's critics presuppose such high evidential standards that almost all psychological theories, including those we take for granted in our commonsense theorizing about human behavior, would fail to meet their requirements. Some argue that central parts of Freudian theory have been empirically confirmed by Freudian experimental studies; others appeal to recent work in biology, neuroscience, and linguistics; still others argue that newer versions of psychoanalytic theory, based partly on Freud's ideas and findings, have been empirically confirmed by recent scientific research.
On this question of exactly how much truth there is in Freud's work, some of the best arguments pro and con can be found in this volume.
Suppose that Freud's theories fail to contain, as he put it, "a high degree of truth." If that were so, would that be a good reason not to read him? That depends partly on what happened after his theories entered the public domain. Some of his contemporaries, such as his friend Wilhelm Fliess and his onetime follower Wilhelm Reich, introduced speculative theories, such as the theory of orgon energy, that were briefly taken seriously and then ignored; the effects of their theorizing quickly decayed and vanished. That clearly has not been the fate of Freudian theorizing.
Consider that even as late as approximately ten years ago, a survey of citation indexes concluded that of all the works that had ever been published, not counting the Bible, Freud's books and articles were still being cited more than those of any other author except for four people: Plato, Aristotle, Lenin, and Shakespeare (Friman et al., 1993). Pointing this out does not by itself explain why Freud's works are still worth contemplating, but if a high degree of truth is the only criterion, then why read Plato or Aristotle, or their philosophic successors such as Aquinas, Hume, Kant, Hegel, or Nietzsche? How many of their theories have been shown to be true? Very few. Yet if one wants to understand recent philosophic work, and the spillover effects into other disciplines, one cannot reasonably ignore all that has gone before on the grounds that the earlier philosophic theories are either untrue or unproven.
The same argument applies to Freud. A careful survey of twentieth‑century intellectual developments will reveal the obvious marks of Freudian theorizing in art, literature, biography, history, cinema, psychiatry, clinical psychology, religion, anthropology, sociology, and, to a lesser degree, philosophy. Is there, in fact, any thinker of the last century whose intellectual influence was greater?
Central CharactersNot all that is of interest to Freud scholars directly concerns his theories or therapy. There is an intellectual drama that began early in the nineteenth century, if not before, with a cast of philosophers, psychologists, and others who thought deeply about many of the same problems that interested Freud and who developed theories in varying degrees similar to his theories. The work of some of these thinkers has been treated in recent decades, except by a few specialists, as if it had never come into being; it has been largely forgotten or ignored. How many of us have read the philosophic works of, say, Johann Herbart, who anticipated in great detail much of Freud's psychoanalytic theorizing? How many realize the degree to which Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, whose works are better known, anticipated Freud's theories not just in some vague fashion but in quite specific ways? The extent to which they influenced Freud is of course, a separate issue Besides Freud's predecessors, there were his con temporaries and those who came to prominence after he died. Some who were in some way or other connected with psychoanalysis, such as Gustav Fechner, Havelock Ellis, and Richard yon Krafft‑Ebing, were not Freudians but they made important intellectual contributions it their own right. Others, such as Alfred Adler, Carl Jung and Wilhelm Reich, were psychoanalysts who clashed with Freud and who eventually started their own intellectual movements with their own followers. Some, such as Karl Abraham, Sandor Ferenczi, and Victor Tausk remained loyal to Freud, and played an important part in the Freudian movement, while developing their own distinctive psychoanalytic theories, and others, such as Melanie Klein, Heinz Hartmann, and Jacques Lacan moved Freudian theorizing in a very different direction. Perhaps to a point where it ceased to be recognizably Freudian. All of these people and others played important roles in the psychoanalytic movement or in intellectual currents that ran counter to it.
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