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Roudinesco, Elizabeth. Freud: His Time and Ours.

ROUDINESCO, Elizabeth. Freud: His Time and Ours. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2016. ix + 580 pp. Cloth, $35.00--The book lives up to its subtitle. If the book has any failing, it is that Elizabeth Roudinesco overwhelms the reader with a detailed description of the extended family of her subject.

Sigismund Schlomo Freud was born May 6, 1856, in Galicia, which was then a province of the Hapsburg Empire. The son of Jacob and his much younger wife, Amalia, he was the first of eight children born of that union. Freud had two half-brothers from his father's first marriage, who were about the same age as his mother and remained in Jacob's newly formed household. Amalia was particularly fond of "my Golden Sigi," who was judged early on to be precocious.

Freud's education and professional development has to be viewed against the status accorded Jews in France and Germany in that time. French Jews did not achieve full citizenship until 1791, and then on the condition that they renounce any claim to a dual identity. The idea that one should define himself as a Jew was contrary to the spirit of French secularism. Under French laicite, Judaism came to be regarded as just another religion that could be practiced in private but without public recognition.

The situation in Germany was slightly different. Moses Mendelssohn, a self-educated German philosopher, respected by Jews and Christians alike, advised Jews emigrating front the east, particularly the Ashkenazi, to leave their self-initiated ghettoes, learn the German language, and adopt the culture of the nation in which they settled. Many did and within a generation achieved intellectual prowess.

Early in his career, Freud thought he wanted to pursue a degree in philosophy. He took courses offered by Franz Brentano, and Brentano even agreed to direct his dissertation in spite of their different outlooks. Brentano, after all, was a Catholic priest and Freud an unbelieving Jew. Unlike Husserl, who also studied under Brentano, Freud fell under the spell of Ludwig Feuerbach's materialistic critique of religion. Feuerbach thought that any talk of God or reference to the transcendent alienated man from the pursuit of earthly goods, and when manifested in religion was even an obstacle to material progress and human knowledge. In following the lead of Feuerbach, Freud embraced Kant's notion that man had first to free himself of all such alienation if he were to enter the world of reason and understanding.

At age seventeen, Freud gave up the pursuit of a degree in philosophy. Enrolled at the University of Vienna, he began studies in anatomy, biology, psychology, and medicine. In his own words, "I felt a strong attraction to philosophical speculation but ruthlessly checked it."

He allowed physiology to replace his penchant for speculative learning because it gave primacy to observation. That it reduced the human being to physical and chemical forces, by even bringing the phenomenon of consciousness into the field of physiology, suited Freud's materialism.

Offered the opportunity to do some experimental work in marine zoology and comparative anatomy at Carl Claus's renowned laboratory in Trieste, Freud reputedly became quite good as an experimentalist.

As he once left neurology behind, Freud subsequently attempted to leave psychology behind in the interest of forming a new science, that is, psychoanalysis, described as situated "somewhere between philosophy and phenomenology." This move enabled Freud to take on the task of decomposing "myths" relating to good and evil, immortality, and the origins of humanity, by supplanting metaphysics with metapsychology. Freud reasoned that if metaphysics is the study of being and existence, and thus the study of realities separate from matter and lived experience, then metapsychology may be regarded as the parallel study of psychic reality, namely, everything that escapes consciousness and material reality. By this speculative undertaking Freud meant, in his own words, "to found psychoanalysis as a new discipline distinct from psychology."

Acclaimed throughout Europe and North America, Freud was awarded an affiliated professorship by the University of Vienna, which enabled him to live well as he continued to study and to publish. The rise of National Socialism in Germany did not bode well for the future of Jews in Europe. Freud could easily have secured a position in the United States, given his reputation abroad, but he preferred to remain in Vienna. In fact, Roudinesco tells us, "Freud feared American democracy which threw in discredit the very idea of a republic of the elite, favoring instead the domination of the masses." It was Hitler's annexation of Austria and the brutality which followed that finally forced Sigmund and his wife, Martha, to leave Vienna. Freud never lost his respect for the virtues promoted by the Hapsburg Empire, self-restraint and its protection of minorities, to name two. He fully thought Austrian Catholics would be able to protect the Jews among them, but this did not happen.

By June 1938, Freud, dying of cancer, had no choice but to accept an invitation to migrate to England. He and his wife and household staff left Vienna for England on June 4'" aboard the Orient Express. On June 25"' he received a delegation from the British Royal Society, who invited him to become a Fellow. Though intensively treated for cancer he succumbed a year later on the Feast of Yom Kipper, September 23, 1939.--Jude P. Dougherty, The Catholic University of America
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Author:Dougherty, Jude P.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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