9780674455344 / 0674455347

Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul


Publisher:Harvard University Press



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About the book:

Freud once defined psychoanalysis as an impossible profession. What he meant, explains Jonathan Lear, is that "professionalization" is by its very nature a codification of standards, a mandating of stock responses--we already know the answers, professionals tell us, now give us a problem to solve. For Lear, psychology (literally, in Greek, "working out the logic of the soul") is much more open-ended, a quality it shares with philosophy. The two disciplines, he writes, "share the same fundamental question, posed by Socrates: in what way should one live? ... To live openly with the fundamental question is to avoid assuming that there are any fixed answers which are already given."

In a fascinating reevaluation of Oedipus Tyrannus, Lear proposes that Oedipus's problems were not, in the Freudian sense, oedipal--after all, Oedipus doesn't know that he's killing his father and marrying his mother, so it doesn't necessarily make sense to claim that he's acting on or even possesses those desires. What Oedipus does do, consistently, is behave as if he knows the answers before the questions have even been asked, and thus fundamentally misunderstands the questions. Similarly, Freud bashing is usefully understood not as an attempt to "kill" the grand old man of psychoanalysis and attain his power but as a failure to recognize that Freud's legacy lies not in any offered "solutions," but in a methodology of asking questions--a methodology that has in many ways already moved beyond Freud. "The point of psychoanalysis," Lear tells us, "is to help us develop a clearer, yet more flexible and creative, sense of what our ends might be." He makes useful connections between Freud's ideas and those of "acknowledged" philosophers, particularly the ancient Greeks and Wittgenstein, that do as much to revitalize philosophy as they do to relegitimize psychoanalysis. --Ron Hogan

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