Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays

Overview

True skepticism is an attitude of constant questioning, a mode of thinking Frederick Crews held so dear he applied it to Freudian psychoanalytic theory, an intellectual tradition he initially believed to be empirically sound. But as his examination of the logical structure and institutional history of psychoanalysis revealed ever more cracks in the field's empirical framework, Crews broke with Freudian theory, eventually labeling it the very model of a modern pseudoscience.

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Overview

True skepticism is an attitude of constant questioning, a mode of thinking Frederick Crews held so dear he applied it to Freudian psychoanalytic theory, an intellectual tradition he initially believed to be empirically sound. But as his examination of the logical structure and institutional history of psychoanalysis revealed ever more cracks in the field's empirical framework, Crews broke with Freudian theory, eventually labeling it the very model of a modern pseudoscience.

This collection features essays chronicling his rejection of Freudian psychoanalysis and our recent recovered memory movement, including such controversial and widely quoted pieces as “The Unknown Freud” and “The Revenge of the Repressed.” Crews also tackles new subjects as diverse as UFO abduction reports, American Buddhism, contemporary literary criticism, and theosophy. A single theme animates these bracing and witty discussions: the temptation to reach for facile wisdom without attending to the little voice that asks, “How might I be deceiving myself here?”

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
If Freud is, perhaps, no longer "a whole climate of opinion" (as characterized in Auden's memorial poem), he is still everywhere in the culture: what educated reader today has not heard of the concepts of repression; sublimation; transference; wish fulfillment; libido; Oedipus conflict; penis envy; the unconscious; neurosis; the id, ego, superego; and more? That being the case, Crews (English, emeritus, Univ. of California, Berkeley), the infamous Freudian contrarian, has his work cut out for him; and he does it well here. He argues convincingly-and this echoes many of Freud's critics, such as philosopher Adolph Greenbaum in a classic study-that it is impossible to verify any of Freud's central contentions empirically. This is shown in Crews's best essays and reviews of the past 15 years, as reproduced here, among which are the two controversial and widely quoted essays-"The Unknown Freud" and "The Revenge of the Repressed"-that caused Crews to "awake one day in 1993 to find himself notorious." Although this collection is mainly about Freud and the many issues entailed in his thought, Crews's interests are wide and varied, and there are topical and insightful essays here on other pertinent subjects: creationism and intelligent design, Darwin, Melville, Kafka, theosophy, and Zen Buddhism. Highly recommended for public libraries and academic collections in intellectual history.-Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, DC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593761509
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2007
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

1 The unknown Freud 15
2 Freudian suspicion versus suspicion of Freud 43
3 A handful of dust 62
4 Unconscious deeps and empirical shallows 71
5 The revenge of the repressed, part I 91
6 The revenge of the repressed, part II 112
7 Demonology for an age of science 134
8 The trauma trap 153
9 Keeping us in hysterics 173
10 Out, damned blot! 187
11 The mind snatchers 200
12 The consolation of theosophy 219
13 The esoteric unconscious 233
14 The new creationists and their friends 254
15 Darwin goes to Sunday school 270
16 Zen and the art of success 282
17 The end of the poststructuralist era 297
18 Kafka in the clouds 315
19 Call me liberal 328
App. A Compromises with creationism 343
App. B Freud, Lacan, and the pseudoscientific academy 351
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2007

    Brilliant demolition of various idealist nonsenses

    Frederick Crews is a retired teacher from the University of California, Berkeley. In this brilliant collection of essays, he passes judgment on `Intelligent Design¿ creationism, UFO reports, satanic mind control, alien abductions, previous incarnations and telepathy. He demolishes the frauds Freud and Jung, and he exposes the cults of psychoanalysis, theosophy, Zen Buddhism, channelling, rebirthing and past life regression. As he writes, science is ¿not a body of correct or incorrect ideas but a collective means of generating and testing hypotheses, and its trials eventually weed out error with unmatched success.¿ He suggests, ¿If knowledge can be certified only by a social process of peer review, we ought to do what we can to foster communities of uncompromised experts. That means actively resisting guru-ism, intellectual cliquishness, guilt-assuaging double standards, and, needless, to say, disdain for the very concept of objectivity.¿ He observes, ¿trust in the supernatural does get shaken by the overall advance of science. This is an effect not of strict logic but of an irreversible shrinkage in mystery¿s terrain. Ever since Darwin forged an exit from the previously airtight argument from design, the accumulation of corroborated materialist explanations has left the theologian¿s `God of the gaps¿ with less and less to do. And an acquaintance with scientific laws and their uniform application is hardly compatible with faith-based tales about walking on water, a casting-out of devils, and resurrection of the dead.¿ He notes that certain features characterize religious fanaticism - ¿undue deference to authority, hostility towards dissenters, and, most basically, an assumption that intuitively held certitude is somehow more precious and profound than the hard-won gains of trial and error.¿ He writes, ¿certain indicators of bad faith ¿ are unmistakable: persistence in claims that have already been exploded reliance on ill-designed studies, idolized lawgivers, and self-serving anecdotes evasion of objections and negative instances indifference to rival theories and to the need for independent replication and `movement¿ belligerence.¿ Unfortunately, he uses his justified attack on Freud to swipe at Marxism, as if exploitation and class conflict were as unreal as the Oedipus complex. Marxism is an ally of reason and common sense against wishful thinking and superstition. Nonetheless, Crews has produced a valuable book that examines and explodes many absurd claims and theories.

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