Freud: A Critical Re-Evaluation of His Theories

By Reuben D. Fine | Go to book overview

PREFACE

This book undertakes to examine the whole body of Freud's thought, to clarify what he said, and to review his ideas critically in the light of the best available existing knowledge. In this process of criticism I have tried to specify which aspects of Freud have stood the test of time, and which have not.

Life is full of surprises. One of the most surprising discoveries that I made in writing this book is that no comparable attempt has ever been made, with the exception of Ernest Jones, whose work is in a different category. So far as I can see no one has ever taken the trouble to ask: What did Freud actually say? and How does what Freud said stand up in terms of what we now know?

Jones, in his monumental three-volume work on Freud, undertook three distinct tasks. He wrote a biography, described Freud's intellectual development, and provided much original source material. For a long time to come his contribution will remain unique.

But psychoanalysis continues to expand, and much has happened even since Jones wrote. Apart from Jones, there are scarcely any works that attempt to investigate the whole body of Freud's thought. Some writers, like Erich Fromm, try to uphold certain partisan positions. Most, following the leads of Karen Homey and Clara Thompson, provide a sketchy description of some of Freud's ideas, and then contrast them with others which are regarded as more "modern." The vast complexity of Freud's thought is conveniently forgotten.

Freud's writings cover a period of more than half a century, and the Standard Edition, which is to contain all his works on psychoanalysis, will run to twenty-four volumes when completed. That he would propound many theories that were later to be amended or discarded, and that he would handle some problems so thoroughly

-vii-

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