The Freudian Apologists can’t let go of their ‘Great Man’: Adam Kirsch postulates ‘Freud as Talmudist’

Philosophical Apprentice comments.

I will begin with a link to my January 4, 2019 essay:

On ‘Becoming Freud’ : Adam Phillips as incompetent Freudian Apologist/Propagandist. A comment by Philosophical Apprentice

I am reading ‘Becoming Freud’ and read this paragraph with amazement :

Freud always presented Psychoanalysis as a Science, not a tool for Jewish Emancipation, from European oppression in all its iterations, but as a methodology for liberation from the interaction between the Id, Ego and Super-Ego and the malign Unconscious. Freud constructs a Melodrama taking place inside the person.

How can a person raised in ‘complete ignorance of everything that concerned Judaism’, a  defender of Enlightenment rationality, the author of a ‘Science’ called Psychoanalysis be allied in the project of Jewish Emancipation as Mr. Phillips presents it?

That Phillips somehow thinks that part  of his readership might not be former analysands, and or readers/explorers of Freud and his critics strikes this reader as the myopia of the propagandist: the evidence that leads this reader to that conclusion is the Phillips engages in the denaturing of the language of Freud, his arcane jargon,  to borrow Adorno’s more that fitting description of Heidegger’s rhetorical practice,  is disappeared, in favor of a set of easily understood concepts. All of this is made more palatable by Phillips’ fluid writing style, that serves him well.

Phillips ‘biography’ is not just flawed, but is an incompetent apologetic for Freud: Phillips is not just inconsistent, but just sloppy from chapter to chapter about Freud’s childhood, his father kept all thing Jewish from his son…

Mr. Kirsch in his review of ‘Freud: The Making of an Illusion’ by Frederick Crews’ of Sept. 29, 2017, postulates that Freud ‘His claims may seem unscientific or absurd, but we still inhabit the mental universe that he created.’

The appearance of Mr. Crews’s book, which focuses on the early part of Freud’s career before he became world famous, has renewed all these charges in the press. Mr. Crews is trained as a literary critic, not a psychologist, yet in the course of a decades-long obsession with Freud, he has made himself an expert in everything related to his quarry, from the history of neurology to the side effects of cocaine. The Javert of psychoanalysis, Mr. Crews aims not just to debunk Freud, but to defame him, to banish him from serious consideration forever. The index entries under “Freud, Sigmund” give a sense of the book’s tenor: “abandoned by patients; alcohol, recourse to; bribery on behalf of; impotence of; vindictiveness of” and more. Yet Mr. Crews’s quest remains self-contradictory, for you can’t destroy a thinker’s legacy by attacking him; only oblivion can do that, and criticism is the opposite of forgetting. Reading this book, you can’t help feeling that Freud must be important indeed to inspire such anger and warrant such effort.

Mr. Crews’s full-spectrum attack has the unintended effect of undermining Mr. Crews’s valid insights into the deep flaws of Freud’s thinking. It would be enough to prove Freud was not a scientist, and that psychoanalysis is not a science—claims that are now widely accepted. But when Mr. Crews adds that he was a liar and thief, or speculates that he practiced incest with his sister and adultery with his sister-in-law, the reader starts to lose faith in his impartiality.

I find the last sentence, of this part of Mr. Kirsch’s essay, highly implausible, at the very least. Mr. Cruz is too careful a writer/thinker to be careless about facts, and the avoidance of hyperbole, as a toxin that renders argument null. The Reader can explore the ‘Cruz Argumentative Methodology’ by reading this, posted by By John Horgan on June 12, 2019 in the Scientific American:

Headline: Why Freud Should Be Dead

Sub-headline: Freud’s most implacable modern critic recounts the flaws of psychoanalysis and its founder and deplores their persistent influence

And this exchange of letters in The New York Review of Books of April 21, 1994 issue:

Where else might The Reader look, for the use of the Talmud, as an intellectual prop for a polarizing thinker//writer ?

Headline: Leo Strauss and Modern Judaism

So, then, why have I been asked? As has been mentioned, I dedicated my last book1 to the memory of Leo Strauss. But why did I do that? One does not do such a thing lightly. I think if one dedicates a book at all, there should be some thought behind it. I could quote Allan Bloom, who has written, “[T]hose who have lived with his books over a period of many years have been changed, as were Glaucon and Adeimantus, by the night they spent with Socrates.” I take it this is not a controversial statement. In my case this has been true, though not with his books but with certain crucial encounters. I would not be immodest enough to mention my own affairs were it not for the fact that I think that Judaism-or at least Jewish faith and destiny in our time-has been at stake in these encounters.

Winter 1985

Thank you to the patient Reader!

Philosophical Apprentice

Added April 30, 2023 :

In my haste I had forgotten Thomas Szasz invaluable book, that makes available Karl Kraus’s comments on Freud, Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry and provides invaluable historical context.

’Anti-Freud: Karl Kraus’s Criticism of Psychoanalysis & Psychiatry’

Thomas Szasz (Preface, translation, commentary)Karl Kraus


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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