Was Freud right about anything?

Mar 21, 2020
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Given that the advertising industry leverages his theories as a foundation for all advertisement, and given that advertising works, I'd say: Yes, his theories are valid. Watch the documentary "The Century of Self."
 
Jan 28, 2020
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I'd say that Freud was basically correct, though not in an all encompassing way. With credit to the Firesign Theater, "we are all just Bozo's on this Bus".

So there.
 
Mar 21, 2020
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This is a typical example of the resistance to Freud that has beset psychoanalysis from the outset--and a rather weak attack at that. A more interesting article would be how Freud was right about almost everything! Here are some of the examples of things Freud was right about:
1) Dreams--still the best theory out there (disguised "wish fulfillment"
2) Fundamental and continued attraction to the first love object, usually the mother
3) Persistence of the infantile--e.g. narcissism, play, love, etc. (e.g. The President and his followers.)
4) Sexual "perversions" as the repressed nature of human sexuality
5) Misogyny as based on repressed desire for the mother.
Or, if you like, a one word defense: note the frequent use of the common term for sex with the mother (not even allowed to print it here, as well as the term for the woman's genitalia as opposed to the male's).
Etc. Etc.
 
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Mar 21, 2020
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Freud was actually most interested in the unconscious, not the subconscious. Also, he did not actually say that we are all repressing desires to have sex with our parents.
 
Mar 21, 2020
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This is a typical example of the resistance to Freud that has beset psychoanalysis from the outset--and a rather weak attack at that. Here are some of the examples of things Freud was right about:
1) Dreams--still the best theory out there (disguised "wish fulfillment"
2) Fundamental and continued attraction to the first love object, usually the mother
3) Persistence of the infantile--e.g. narcissism, play, love, etc.
4) Sexual "perversions" as the repressed nature of human sexuality
5) Misogyny as based on repressed desire for the mother.
Or, if you like, a one word defense: note the frequent use of the common term for sex with the mother (not even allowed to print it here, as well as the term for the woman's genitalia as opposed to the male's).
Etc. Etc.
Well said. Not that it will probably help....
 

jdb

Mar 21, 2020
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Freud was certainly right about psychosexual development and oral/anal fixations. Just go look for some toilet paper during the COVID-19 scare.
 
Mar 21, 2020
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From a classic 1970s critique of Freudian psychoanalysis: "Is it possible that, by taking the path that it has, psychoanalysis is reviving an age-old tendency to humble us, to demean us, and to make us feel guilty? Foucault has noted that the relationship between madness and the family can be traced back in large part to a development that affected the whole of bourgeois society in the nineteenth century: the family was entrusted with functions that became the measuring rod of the responsibility of its members and their possible guilt. Insofar as psychoanalysis cloaks insanity in the mantle of a 'parental complex', and regards the patterns of self-punishment resulting from Oedipus as a confession of guilt, its theories are not at all radical or innovative. On the contrary: it is completing the task begun by nineteenth-century psychology, namely, to develop a moralized, familial discourse of mental pathology, linking madness to the 'half-real, half-imaginary dialectic of the Family', deciphering within it 'the unending attempt to murder the father', 'the dull thud of instincts hammering at the solidity of the family as an institution and at its most archaic symbols'. Hence, instead of participating in an undertaking that will bring about genuine liberation, psychoanalysis is taking part in the work of bourgeois repression at its most far-reaching level, that is to say, keeping European humanity harnessed to the yoke of daddy-mommy and making no effort to do away with this problem once and for all. ... We are surprised when we hear a knowledgeable analyst mention, in passing, that one of his 'patients' still dreams of being invited to eat or have a drink at his place, after several years of analysis, as if this were not a tiny sign of the abject dependence to which analysis reduced the patients. How can we ward off, in the practice of the cure, this abject desire that makes us bend our knees, lays us on the couch, and makes us remain there? ... We are all little colonies and it is Oedipus that colonizes us." — Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Viking Penguin, 1977 (originally published 1972)

Similar critiques have been made by very different writers. Here's psychiatrist Theodore Dorpat writing in the 1990s: "Freud's need for power and control over his patients, and to some extent also his followers, was sufficiently strong that it prevailed irrespective of what he said in his discussion of technique and theory." — Theodore Dorpat, Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis, Jason Aronson, 1996
 
Mar 21, 2020
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Given that the advertising industry leverages his theories as a foundation for all advertisement, and given that advertising works, I'd say: Yes, his theories are valid. Watch the documentary "The Century of Self."
Coincidence is not causation... especially from such a vague description as you provide. In what way is anything that Freud suggested used in modern advertising? "Sex sells"?
 
Mar 21, 2020
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This is a typical example of the resistance to Freud that has beset psychoanalysis from the outset--and a rather weak attack at that. A more interesting article would be how Freud was right about almost everything! Here are some of the examples of things Freud was right about:
1) Dreams--still the best theory out there (disguised "wish fulfillment"
2) Fundamental and continued attraction to the first love object, usually the mother
3) Persistence of the infantile--e.g. narcissism, play, love, etc. (e.g. The President and his followers.)
4) Sexual "perversions" as the repressed nature of human sexuality
5) Misogyny as based on repressed desire for the mother.
Or, if you like, a one word defense: note the frequent use of the common term for sex with the mother (not even allowed to print it here, as well as the term for the woman's genitalia as opposed to the male's).
Etc. Etc.
The tragedy is that alternate explanations are more likely correct and far more productive. Freud set psychological "science" in the wrong direction, using it to advance his own pet theories. We have the same sickness in the psychological sciences today.
 
Mar 21, 2020
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From a classic 1970s critique of Freudian psychoanalysis: "Is it possible that, by taking the path that it has, psychoanalysis is reviving an age-old tendency to humble us, to demean us, and to make us feel guilty? Foucault has noted that the relationship between madness and the family can be traced back in large part to a development that affected the whole of bourgeois society in the nineteenth century: the family was entrusted with functions that became the measuring rod of the responsibility of its members and their possible guilt. Insofar as psychoanalysis cloaks insanity in the mantle of a 'parental complex', and regards the patterns of self-punishment resulting from Oedipus as a confession of guilt, its theories are not at all radical or innovative. On the contrary: it is completing the task begun by nineteenth-century psychology, namely, to develop a moralized, familial discourse of mental pathology, linking madness to the 'half-real, half-imaginary dialectic of the Family', deciphering within it 'the unending attempt to murder the father', 'the dull thud of instincts hammering at the solidity of the family as an institution and at its most archaic symbols'. Hence, instead of participating in an undertaking that will bring about genuine liberation, psychoanalysis is taking part in the work of bourgeois repression at its most far-reaching level, that is to say, keeping European humanity harnessed to the yoke of daddy-mommy and making no effort to do away with this problem once and for all. ... We are surprised when we hear a knowledgeable analyst mention, in passing, that one of his 'patients' still dreams of being invited to eat or have a drink at his place, after several years of analysis, as if this were not a tiny sign of the abject dependence to which analysis reduced the patients. How can we ward off, in the practice of the cure, this abject desire that makes us bend our knees, lays us on the couch, and makes us remain there? ... We are all little colonies and it is Oedipus that colonizes us." — Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Viking Penguin, 1977 (originally published 1972)

Similar critiques have been made by very different writers. Here's psychiatrist Theodore Dorpat writing in the 1990s: "Freud's need for power and control over his patients, and to some extent also his followers, was sufficiently strong that it prevailed irrespective of what he said in his discussion of technique and theory." — Theodore Dorpat, Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis, Jason Aronson, 1996
There are many examples of resistance to Freud from theoreticians who should know better (cf. Foucault's ingenious idea that the idea of repression is itself a repressive idea!), but, in the case of Deleuze, you might want to update your reference to his far more respectful comments about Freud, as in his book on Sacher-Masoch
 
Mar 21, 2020
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Coincidence is not causation... especially from such a vague description as you provide. In what way is anything that Freud suggested used in modern advertising? "Sex sells"?
See Edward Bernays, Freud's nephew and "A pivotal figure in the orchestration of elaborate corporate advertising .. "
 
Mar 21, 2020
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The tragedy is that alternate explanations are more likely correct and far more productive. Freud set psychological "science" in the wrong direction, using it to advance his own pet theories. We have the same sickness in the psychological sciences today.
Freud is a psychoanalyst, NOT a psychologist. "alternative explanations are more likely correct" is way too vague to constitute a "tragedy."
 
Mar 21, 2020
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There are many examples of resistance to Freud from theoreticians who should know better (cf. Foucault's ingenious idea that the idea of repression is itself a repressive idea!), but, in the case of Deleuze, you might want to update your reference to his far more respectful comments about Freud, as in his book on Sacher-Masoch
Framing legitimate criticism of Freud as illegitimate "resistance" is exactly the kind of infantilizing power play that Deleuze & Guattari were criticizing. And Deleuze & Guattari were far from alone in pointing this out.

Here's sociologist Philip Rieff commenting on the same tactic: "Built into the therapy, through the notion of resistance, is disavowal of the patient's critical judgment. Indeed, the concept of resistance is a mode of attack for the therapist. ... Whatever was important, the patient 'resisted'. Whatever the patient 'resisted' was important. Freud applied his theory of resistance not only to the strategies and compliances of patients, but to the general public's reception of his science. Time has weakened the invincible explanation Freud gave of why his ideas met objection." — Philip Rieff, Freud, the Mind of the Moralist, 3rd edition, University of Chicago Press, 1979

And psychologist Robert R. Holt: "American psychoanalysis has lived for so long within a snug cocoon of myth that it seems unable to go through the predictable pains of metamorphosis into a viably progressive discipline. The protective threads it has wound around itself include warding off all criticism as resistance, idolatry of Freud, and faithful internalization of all his faults as a scientist and writer." — Robert R. Holt, "The current status of psychoanalytic theory", Psychoanalytic Psychology, 2(4), 1985

And more recently from a couple of other philosophers: "When Freud was unable to find traces of a pathological complex or unconscious desire to account for a patient's behaviour, he was undeterred and treated this as a token of unconscious resistance. The more the material offered by a patient resisted interpretation, the more it counted in favour of the theory. This characteristic pattern of reasoning in psychoanalysis bears a striking resemblance to conspiracy theorizing (Farrell 1996). ... The way in which the concept of resistance has been put to use by Freud and his acolytes, for example, has been rightly dismissed by critics as a specimen of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose reasoning. Nevertheless, it proves difficult to disentangle such fallacious reasoning from psychoanalytic theory itself, because it is effectively supported by the way the unconscious is conceptualized in Freudian theory. If Freud's model of the human mind is correct, and if the unconscious really is some sort of trickster in disguise, then indeed it becomes natural to label counter-arguments and criticisms as manifestations of unconscious resistance to psychoanalytic 'truths' and 'interpretations'." — Maarten Boudry & Filip Buekens, "The epistemic predicament of a pseudoscience: social constructivism confronts Freudian psychoanalysis", Theoria. 77(2), 2011

If Deleuze had written respectful comments about Freud in his earlier book on Sacher-Masoch, then he updated his view later, as his attitude toward Freudian psychoanalysis in Anti-Oedipus and later is overwhelmingly negative.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg of extensive legitimate criticism of Freud.
 
Mar 21, 2020
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Why do you think criticizing Freud is legitimate but criticizing his critics is an "infantilizing power play"? See Sarah Kofman's excellent books on Freud (a student of Derrida's) and, of course, Lacan, who correctly framed the debate as one between "ego psychology" and true psychoanalysis.
As I am not a practicing psychoanalyst I can't comment on its efficacy (about which, pro and con, much has been written), but in terms of analyzing culture and, in particular works of art, psychoanalysis has proven enormously successful.
 
Mar 21, 2020
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Why do you think criticizing Freud is legitimate but criticizing his critics is an "infantilizing power play"?
I don't think that, but I will be charitable and assume that you misunderstood and not that you are intentionally distorting my point. I said that framing legitimate criticism of Freud as illegitimate "resistance"—not criticizing Freud's critics—is the kind of infantilizing power play that Deleuze & Guattari were criticizing. Criticizing Freud's critics through sincere engagement with their arguments and demonstrating that those arguments fail is one thing; dismissing Freud's critics out of hand without addressing the content of their arguments, and attributing their criticism to "resistance", is another thing. The first approach is genuine intellectual engagement among equals; the second approach is the infantilizing power play that Deleuze & Guattari were criticizing and that Dorpat analyzed at length in relation to the practice of psychoanalysis in his book that I cited above.

Here are some of the examples of things Freud was right about:
1) Dreams--still the best theory out there (disguised "wish fulfillment"
2) Fundamental and continued attraction to the first love object, usually the mother
3) Persistence of the infantile--e.g. narcissism, play, love, etc. (e.g. The President and his followers.)
4) Sexual "perversions" as the repressed nature of human sexuality
5) Misogyny as based on repressed desire for the mother.
As far as I know, Freud's explanations of the topics you listed above are not the most current and plausible explanations. I don't have time to address all of them, but I will address the first topic, dreams. Here is what a recent text says about current acceptance of Freud's explanation of that topic: from William H. Moorcroft, Understanding Sleep and Dreaming, 2nd edition, Springer, 2013, pages 272–273, 279–280:

"At the beginning of the twentieth century, Freud changed the focus of the function of dreams with his publication of The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). Prior to Freud, the prevailing notion was that the source of dreams came from outside the individual. Because of Freud much of the Western world came to believe that dreams were internal functioning as an individual's emotional drive or instinct relief valves. Pent-up pressure from basic drives and wants that could not be manifested while awake because of personal and societal constraints could be released during dreams in disguised forms. It was believed that if this pressure was not released, then severe psychological problems would result. During this time, there were others, collectively known as post-Freudians, who accepted Freud's basic foundation but modified his details (see Sect. 9.1.3).

"The discovery of REMS in the middle of the twentieth century led to the rapid demise of the Freudian and related post-Freudian views, for it was found when people were deprived of sleep, or specifically REMS, hence major dreaming, they did not go crazy. Subsequently, there were a number of new putative functions for dreams, but all in the realm of the internal and the personal. As of yet, there is neither convincing evidence nor consensus about the correctness of any one of the theories of dream functioning. It may be, as with sleep itself, that several functions of dreaming coexist. The leading candidates today are that dreams benefit the emotions of the dreamer, generate creative solutions to problems, and/or play a role in consolidating memories. ...

"Earlier models of dream function such as those of Freud and Jung have not been scientifically verified. In their place new models derived from research in cognitive neuroscience are coming to the fore. More and more evidence points to the idea that dreaming is the experience of mechanisms in the brain that are implementing emotional and memory reprocessing while asleep and then consolidating, assimilating, and even actively repealing changes that were acquired when awake. Rather than exact replay of what occurred when awake, dreams are made up of portions of several recent episodes mixed with older memories, information, and sensorimotor memories.

"Just like REMS, dreaming is thought to facilitate memory reorganization and maintenance. It has been hypothesized that during dreaming, memories are reorganized by associating and integrating the past with the present (Hobson 1989). Dreaming also helps us master new experiences by assimilating them into the structure of preexisting memories helping keep our memories more efficiently organized (Scrima 2011). A related idea is that dreams are important for reprocessing waking experiences that are important for our survival (Winson 1990). For animals, the survival value of dreams involves memories such as where to obtain food or where to escape from predators. In this way, dreams are biologically relevant. For humans, the survival value is more involved with the complex interrelationships of humans and the complexities of human personality."
 
Mar 21, 2020
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No need to continue this; I will be charitable and just assume that we are coming from two very different points of view- the passages you quote and the people (sociologists!) who wrote them are laughable when it comes to someone like Lacan. So, I will conclude by asking (as I often do when confronting those who put forth silly refutations like your point about REM sleep having anything whatsoever to do with dream symbolism); have you every really read Freud as opposed to reading those who criticize him?
 
Mar 21, 2020
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the passages you quote and the people (sociologists!) who wrote them are laughable when it comes to someone like Lacan. So, I will conclude by asking (as I often do when confronting those who put forth silly refutations like your point about REM sleep having anything whatsoever to do with dream symbolism); have you ever really read Freud as opposed to reading those who criticize him?
Yes, I have really read Freud. I have also read Lacan. I think that dismissing Moorcroft's summary of research on the function of dreaming as "silly", and the entire field of sociology as "laughable", is an example of dismissing others out of hand without addressing the content of their arguments.
 
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Mar 21, 2020
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Please keep in mind that this entire thread was started by dismissing EVERYTHING that Freud wrote, so please don't lecture ME about being dismissive.
 
Mar 21, 2020
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Please keep in mind that this entire thread was started by dismissing EVERYTHING that Freud wrote, so please don't lecture ME about being dismissive.
If I have misinterpreted you, then please explain how. Otherwise I stand by my observation.

The original article started with a statement that seems uncontroversial: "Sigmund Freud is one of the most famous doctors to delve into the human subconscious." And then it asked a question that others have asked and that I consider legitimate: "But is anything he said rooted in science?" Being a very short article, it didn't provide an adequate answer, but the answer did NOT dismiss everything that Freud wrote. It noted that "not everyone is as critical as Crews" of Freud. It quoted Robert Stickgold: "Freud was right about 'day residue' in dreams." And Harold Takooshian: "Freud never considered himself a data guy. He hoped other people would take on his ideas to prove or disprove them."

As for this comment thread, it was started by three people who answered "yes" to the title question:

Given that the advertising industry leverages his theories as a foundation for all advertisement, and given that advertising works, I'd say: Yes, his theories are valid.
I'd say that Freud was basically correct, though not in an all encompassing way.
A more interesting article would be how Freud was right about almost everything!
So your claim that "this entire thread was started by dismissing EVERYTHING that Freud wrote" is incorrect, or at best hyperbole.
 
Mar 21, 2020
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WHAT??? You are delving into details and yet you ignore the title (Was Freud Right about Anything?), and nothing you quoted changes the fact that Freud has been dismissed. This is nonsense.
 
Mar 21, 2020
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WHAT??? You are delving into details and yet you ignore the title (Was Freud Right about Anything?)
The title is a question, not a statement. Questions invite different answers, and different answers were provided in the article. It's a very short and superficial article, but as a whole it does not at all succeed in "dismissing EVERYTHING that Freud wrote".
 
Mar 21, 2020
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Mmm, I'm with Snakecharmer on this. I feel that the article is probably meant to troll Freud's supporters. In my opinion, "Was Freud Right About Anything?" is not a serious question; it reminds me of the researchers who have supposedly proven that mindfulness or Tyelenol is as effective as opiates for pain control. Unfortunately, due to the rise of experimercials and neurobabble, we are supposed to take these questions seriously. Forgive me if I don't.

Of course we all want to have sex with our parents-- at least at some level. We're animals, and the first female we know is our own mother. I don't think it always plays out, er, exactly as Freud described it! But I think drive theory is a great starting place to approach the field.

I actually had four years of Freudian analysis as a teenager in the late '70s. Despite its many well-documented flaws, it's a brilliant modality of treatment, though somewhat culture-bound; I'm not sure it could be practiced effectively today. And it's easy to practice badly, and can be quite dangerous for many patients, though it's risks pale in comparison to, say, ECT, behaviorism, psychopharmacology with SSRIs, or many of today's more popular crackpot interventions.

As for advertising, uh, no. That was John Watson-- a behaviorist. His life story is a cautionary tale with respect to what happens when we pretend that psychology is only a science, instead of what it will always be if practiced honestly: A hybrid of art and science.

Freud was not a great scientist, and his work does bear many disturbing artifacts of his character defects-- I mean, the guy became a cocaine addict. The way he was revered in the '70s was a little weird, and the psychoanalytic associations often got pretty creepy.

But he wasn't a monster. I think Watson was. Freud admitted many of his mistakes; Watson and Skinner never did. I'm glad Freud's theories are still an integral part of how psychology is practiced today, and I think the world would be a much better place if we were rid of Skinner and Watson's once and for all.
 
Mar 9, 2020
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Derrida is also much criticized but all the same time he was perhaps the most popular philosopher of the 20 century and was greatly influenced by Freud. I believe his wife was a psychoanalyst. The Mystic Writing Pad (using the analogy of a child's toy by that name to explain conscious thought) by Freud is a 5 page introduction to Grammatology by Derrida. While Platonists to Saussure in the main Western tradition would have us believe that when we think we are expressing or calling to mind "ideas", Freud claims that we are communicating, writing ourselves messages which are read by "our other hand." Therefore, instead of contemporaneous two layered signifier and signified, we have a temporal (deferral differance) between two persons or roles. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen but it makes understanding Derrida a lot easier.

Reaction formation -- basically saying the opposite of what we feel when we don't like or want to hid how we feel -- was proved by some research that asked men what they thought of homosexuality and then showed them homosexual porn while measuring how aroused they became. It was found that homophobia was positively correlated with homoerotic porn arousal.

As predicted by Freud, I am always forgetting the Sino-Japanese characters for the things that I don't want to remember such as 禿 which means bald, because I am and don't like it. I should be easy to remember (rice with feet).

That the reasons we consciously give for our behaviour are complete post hoc fabrications and excuses, whereas the real causes of our behaviour are unconscious and unknown to us, is being gradually demonstrated by Gazzinga (split brain patients), Nisbett and Wilson (telling more than we can know), Haidt (emotion based moral judgement), Libbet ("mind time"), Airely (predictably irrational) and a host of other psychologists and neuroscientists.

We can be sure that at least some dreams are wish fulfillment to keep us asleep from analysis of those that persuade us to wet the bed. We dream were are in the toilet and it is okay to pee.

Freud's Superego -- someone else in our mind with us -- is found in many other writers such as Adam Smith (the impartial spectator), George Herbert Mead (generalised other) Michail Bakhtin (Superaddressee), Arimasa Mori ("the third person" provided by Western languages) , Philippe Rochat (Others in mind), Hermans and Kempen (Dialogical self), Marin Buber (Thou - but I don't understand this one), Derrida (Ear of the Other), and of course Lacan (Other), Thomas Jefferson (Reason - a woman but he may have been being allegorical), Martin Luther (Reason as the whore of the devil), and Kitaro Nishida (who says we make a mephistopheles of part of ourselves). If the great atheists were being more serious in their scientific dismissal of religion, it is these theories that they would be treating and rejecting. Freud and these writers provide a bridge between science and religion.
 

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