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Freud (The Routledge Philosophers) [Paperback]

Jonathan Lear
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Book Description

15 Jun 2005 0415314518 978-0415314510 New Ed

Jonathan Lear clearly introduces and assesses all of Freud's thought, focusing on those areas of philosophy on which Freud is acknowledged to have had a lasting impact. These include the philosophy of mind, free will and determinism, rationality, the nature of the self and subjectivity, and ethics and religion. He also considers some of the deeper issues and problems Freud engaged with, brilliantly illustrating their philosophical significance: human sexuality, the unconscious, dreams, and the theory of transference.

Freud is one of the most important introductions and contributions to understanding this great thinker to have been published for many years, and will be essential reading for anyone in the humanities, social sciences and beyond with an interest in Freud or philosophy.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (15 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415314518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415314510
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 434,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Jonathan Lear is one of the most subtle and original thinkers in psychoanalysis. So a book by him simply called Freud should attract everyone is at all psychoanalytically minded. They will not be disappointed. This is simply the best introduction to Freud I know." - Marcia Cavell, The International Journal of Pyschoanalysis

"Lear does very well to explain a fundamental modification in Freud's clinical work...this is definitely worthwhile for anyone wanting a serious briefing on the undoubted accomplishment on classical Freudian pschoanalysis." - Joseph Schwartz, New Humanist

"This is a lucid exegesis of Freud's conception of the mind, and a satisfying demonstration of its enduring value. Freud's loudest detractors often seem simply incapable of understanding him; they will no longer have that excuse." - Mark Solms, University of Cape Town, South Africa and International Neuro-Psychoanalysis Centre, London, UK

"First rate - Lear captures the wider philosophical importance of Freud: how he makes us rethink our conceptions of ourselves as human beings, and the implications of this for morality and religion. A superb volume, and a terrific addition to the series." - John Cottingham, University of Reading, UK

About the Author

Jonathan Lear is the John U Nef Distinguished Service Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several acclaimed books on philosophy and psychoanalysis, including Aristotle: The Desire to Understand; Love and Its Place in Nature; Open Minded; and Happiness, Death and the Remainder of Life. His most recent book is Therapeutic Action: An Earnest Plea for Irony.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, refined, and challenging account 15 Aug 2006
By Dr. Matthew Broome VINE VOICE
There have been several books that examine Freud and psychoanalysis philosophically: Cavell, Gardner, Wollheim, Cioffi amongst others. This book is perhaps closest to Wollheim's in that it is both very philosophical yet also sympathetic to Freud's project and addresses his writings in a systematic and coherent manner. Lear writes very well and one can learn a lot from this book: it is challenging and has forced me to re-read much of Freud as Lear's interpretation attacked some of my long-held prejudices and beliefs about Freud's work. Lear however is more than just a commentator on Freud - his book addresses the work of other writers on psychoanalysis, such as those listed above, but more importantly, puts Freud's arguments in the context of contemporay concerns in the philosophy of mind and psychology, through the use of Davidson and others.

I'd recommend this to all philosophers and all thoughtful mental health professionals: the few quibbles I have lie in his use of developmental psychology and in that, if anything, he applies a Davidson Principle of Charity too charitably to Freud!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy read, enjoyed every chapter. 28 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Loved it, easy to read. Enjoyed the unravelling of Freud's studies and then the pointers, towards the end of each chapter, on the different direction the studies may have taken under psychoanalysis today.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Freud 11 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very easy to read and accessible book. I bought the DVD of "A Dangerous Method" - basically rubbish. I you want to learn about Freud and psychoanalysis I would recommend this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A WONDERFUL AND IMPORTANT BOOK 11 Sep 2005
By Jon Fobes - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As soon as I heard that Jonathan Lear was writing "Freud" for the Routledge Philosophers series, I pre-ordered a copy. I am sorry it's taken me so long to post a review, but I have been savoring the book since it arrived, re-reading portions and making notes . . . as I've done with most of Lear's previous offerings, which have proved invaluable in my own philosophy-psychology study project going back at least 15 years.

The point behind Lear's books, if I may be so bold as to seek out a ruling idea, is that, and I quote, "In general, in the English-speaking world, there has been a regrettable tendency for philosophers and psychoanalysts to ignore each other." And Lear explains why they shouldn't. If I may paraphrase: Psychology without philosophy is personally rewarding and beneficial but limited in scope; philosophy without psychology may be enlightening but personally non-transformative, which is to say that the "great" philosopher may be a wretch whose vast knowledge does nothing to promote inner harmony or expand personal freedom; indeed, his entire study project may be nothing by a psychological aberration!

Lear goes on to say: "Philosophers take seriously such notions as autonomy, authenticity, freedom and happiness in their accounts of human life and its possibilities. But it is difficult to see how these notions can be adequately addressed without taking into consideration" accounts of how individual psychology develops and influences all we think and do. Conversely, psychologists tend "to be ignorant of all the work done by philosophers on the nature of happiness and freedom." Lear aims to heal the "intellectual splitting that has lead to impoverishment on both sides."

Lear wonderfully launches his project by citing Socrates' motto, "Know Thyself," as a starting point for bringing the two camps back together, not that he believes it is likely that anyone can really know himself in any once-and-for-all manner, but because he believes understanding the genesis of the self is fundamental, that without it the philosopher mistakes knowledge for wisdom and forgets ignorance and complexity.

Remember, Socrates is also known (some say disingenuously) for widely proclaiming his ignorance, which starts with the limits of knowing himself. He is, in effect, humbled in the face of his personal complexities in ways that most philosophers are not, and this brings out, I believe, a crucial difference between knowledge and wisdom. Philosophy means, "love of wisdom." But it seems to have become more about knowledge and truth. In other words, it's not uncommon for the philosopher, like the religious fundamentalist, to think he has some absolute knowledge about the world and to make bold claims about those "facts." Wisdom makes no such claims, and therefore comes closer to a way of life than a body of knowledge.

That philosophy started out with wisdom and care of the self is wonderfully illustrated by Pierre Hadot in his, "Philosophy as A Way of Life." I could write pages on Hadot's wonderful book, (as I could about Lear, too) but one quote from Epicurus will do: "We must concern ourselves with the healing of our own lives." Then we may try to learn about the world but with less likelihood of getting waylaid by our hidden agendas. I think Epicurus sums up Lear's project, which is to show that we err when we split psychology and philosophy.

To come back to the book at hand: It goes without saying that Lear writes brilliantly about Freud. The chapter on transference -- and the whole idea of the transference world, in which we're all caught -- is worth the price of admission alone. "Freud" by Jonathan Lear is highly recommended for insights into the first psychoanalyst and for healing the split between two important disciplines!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exemplary Introduction to Freud's Thought 6 May 2006
By M. Giles - Published on
This smallish book is not for those who have already spent a considerable amount of time with Freud, and it doesn't attempt to be. The project undertaken here by Lear differs significantly from Ricoeur's Hermeneutic or LaPlanche's extensive dictionary. Those looking for a comprehensive history of psychoanalysis, a mitigation of Freud and Lacan, of Freud and Wittgenstein, or similarly advanced readings of Freud should look elsewhere. That said, for those attempting to gain access to the breadth of Freud's work, even and especially those with the intention of eventually arriving at an advanced appropriation of Freud's work, this introduction is better than anything else available. It is telling that we find Richard Rorty, Slavoj Zizek and Sebastian Gardner corroborating on the back cover that there really is no philosophical introduction to Freudian psychoanalysis more worthwhile.
5.0 out of 5 stars Freud within the history of thought about meaning 16 Jun 2013
By Michael Hoit - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jonathan Lear is extremely well suited to undertake a study of Freud from the standpoint of the phiulosophy of thinking. He writes lucidly and gives us a lot of substance on the subject..
4.0 out of 5 stars The Kindle edition needs some revising; otherwise excellent book! 13 Nov 2012
By Carlos Alberto Rivera Carreño - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Kindle edition was very carefully crafted, except for one minor detail: the quotations (mostly from Freud) were not properly formatted for using with the black background (I use the Kindle app. in my smartphone). I read Kinlde books mostly at night; thus, it's very cumbersome having to switch between black and sepia. [By the way, for those of you wondering what the black background is for, it's for protecting your eyes when using LCD screens at night. Since I do most of my readig at night, this small mistake is very bothersome]

On the other hand, unlike some other e-publishers, Routledge's Kindle editions tend to be of superior quality. I would certainly recommend them! All the other things on this book, such as links, paragraphing, etc., seem to be working fine.


Regarding the content, this book is the best introduction to Freud I have found so far. I am not a Freud fanboy, so perhaps I am not qualified to say that. However, I have come across three other introductions to Freud:

Freud: A Very Short Introduction
Sigmund Freud (Routledge Critical Thinkers)
How to Read Freud

So far, Jonathan Lear's is the most useful and comprehensive for the laymen. I am an International Relations major with only a slight background in philosophy, yet I didn't struggle to understand this book. In fact, what I find hard about reading Freud himself is not his prose, but his content. Freud's ideas seem too far-fetched at times and even though his style is not obscure at all (unlike Lacan's), he is a very deceptive writer. Namely, even though Freud thought of himself as a man of science and his prose is, indeed, very clear, you never really know if he actually meant what he meant.

Also,this book is part of a Routledge series on individual philosophers, but the treatment Freud gets here is not the literary Freud (which I think is the most common approach to Freud in the Anglo-American world). Those of you who want to give Freud a chance won't be disappointed. Jonathan Lear does a critical exposition of Freud without committing any Freud bashing. A very good read indeed! I will certainly look for the other books in the series!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative 27 April 2013
By Philip Cassell - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I would prefer that Dr Lear's faith commitment had not briefly obtruded; however, it would be mean to deprive him of five stars for this weakness. The book is full of useful insights and puts in their place those who think that Freud is finished.
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