Review of "Freud, Adler, and Jung: Discovering the Mind Volume 3"

As Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit was the summation of all philosophy up until that time, and in many ways held criticism against those that made the similar intellectual errors mistakes that he himself or others made, Walter Kauffman’s “Discovering the Mind” trilogy has the same function. The last part of the series, Freud, Adler, and Jung: Discovering the Mind Volume 3 focuses strictly on Freud’s development of psychoanalysis and the developments that followed from his disciples.

For Kauffman Freud is like Abraham. Rather than leading people into the promised land, however, he brings them to an understanding of themselves that can lead to increased self-knowledge and self-actualization should they work towards foregoing self-deception. In the reconstruction of the Freud’s development
of a poetic science that could benefit humankind’s aspirations for greater autonomy, Kauffman shows how it is Goethe’s conception of science that Freud replicated in psychoanalysis and how this means that he is a major contributor to the discovery of the mind.

Freud’s discovery of the importance of sex, his discovery of the importance of childhood experiences for character development, his new therapy, his interpretation of dreams, his psychopathology of everyday life, his interpretation of mental illness, his interpretation of jokes, his analysis of literature, art and religion and even his personality are cited by Kauffman as his key achievements in the discovery of the mind. In each of these sections he clarifies terms of Freud’s that have entered into the everyday vocabulary in order to bring attention to the originators understanding of them rather than watered down popular misunderstandings of them. He does this on the larger conceptual level too, for instance pointing out that Freud never endorsed his patients to decline responsibility for themselves in order to blame their parents, society or religious upbringing. While Freud would say that these factors helped bring about a certain neurosis, this sort of self-victimization was anathema to him. Kauffman also highlights examples of lesser known terms, such as “mischievement”, that ought to enter into our vocabulary and thus help us analyze our life and lead to insights that thus applied could batter our self. Kauffman also points out how it is that certain terms of latter commentators or practitioners of psychoanalysis, such as Thanatos, did not originate from Freud and how he thought that these words obfuscated the object of their description.

Besides the recreation of Freud’s intellectual development and exegesis of some of it’s major components, he is defended by Kauffman from other informed commentators such as Sartre and Popper as well as popular misprisions of his ideas. In brief Poppers criticisms are shown to be coming from the school of science that values only quantitative methods, a methodology that disavows the qualitative development of those under analysis while Sartre’s desire to form an existentialist psychoanalysis based upon the total translucency of consciousness is shown to be out and out baseless when presented with case studies. Rather than using unadulterated rationalism and defending himself dogmatically, we see that Freud consistently based his theories on the empirical situation and revised them when necessary. One of the prime examples is in relation to expanding the source of much human motivation from just the libido to include the aggressive drive.
For doing this and in many other ways he is repeatedly praised as one of if not the most honest man that has lived. Kauffman relates these contribution in a biographical fashion in much the same way that Freud understood himself – it was his outsider status as a Jew in Vienna and his incredible love of literature that helped him to discover a talking cure for people’s neuroses.

In this series thus far, this book is the longest and also the most tedious however this is because a majority of the subsequent analysis devoted to Adler and Jung are concerned with correcting the well-documented but oft-misunderstood breaks between these two with Freud. As Kauffman amply documents, the decision and strategy pursued to achieved personal and professional separation from Freud by these two is intimately connected to the form their intellectual work took. In short Adler and Jung are disparaged for providing no redeemable insights into the human psyche or society and their behavior is shown to be equally opportunistic, uninformed, ignorant, or out and out disturbing.

Adler is shown to be a poor writer that is overly-concerned with escaping the shadow of Freud and establishing himself as a professional by heaping personal insults on him instead of producing work which shows failings, a poor thinker that makes no great effort to understand Nietzsche yet uses a poor approximation of his though in his own work, a man unwilling to revise his theories in the face of new evidence, a man afraid of “idea theft” rather than research and someone that wants at all costs to stay within the bounds of then-current social conventions rather than work towards developing a science that leads to greater knowledge. After the devastating account of Adler, one would assume that Jung could not possibly come off worse, however we see that this is not true.

Jung repeats several of Adler’s qualities such as poor writing skills and the inability to think with a scientific rigor, and adds to it a strange penchant for taking upon the role of guru. Besides deracinating the notion of extroverts and introverts, something that is clearly absent in Freud and is suitable only for positivistic physical sciences and not that of the mind, he examines Jung’s notion of archetypes – probably due to the then ascending influence of Joseph Campbell, parapsychology and occultism. The reasons why this is specious, both on the historical and personal level, are readily apparent and yet still have credibility for a reason that Kauffman is wise to point out – it allows for patients to skip deep personal analysis and instead play with symbols that are magically inherent in the consciousness as a means for self-growth. Here, Kauffman’s differentiation between scholarship and erudition is important to recall – the former being intellectual self-discipline that involves the scrupulous consideration of objections and alternatives while the later is mere book knowledge.

If I give Adler and Jung only a little attention and don’t bother to go into all of Kauffman’s criticisms of them and their work, it is because they serve Kauffman only as negative counter-examples of what self-knowledge looks like. These were men deceiving themselves and others and produced works we, after having placed them in a wider intellectual web, can now leave them behind much in the same way that Kant and Heidegger were in the previous two books.

The closing chapter of the book, titled Mind and Mask, gives a moving summation of what was to be Walter Kauffman’s last project before his unexpected death. Throughout his life Kauffman sought to bring attention to the creative and scientific works that could ennoble a caring reader. This section does not give a distilled, singular method for achieving this, a task that would have been anathema to Kauffman’s method of thinking, but instead presents a series of philosophical precepts, considerations and attitudes that lead to a honest, productive life. Indeed, I dare say, a good life. In this manner Kauffman is reminiscent of Epictetus, who sees the study of philosophy as the means which one orients oneself to a flourishing life. We can say than that intellectual exertion is not enough, but action and embodiment of these qualities are required if we are to life the best possible life of the mind.