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Freud: The Mind of the Moralist Third Edition Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226716398
ISBN-10: 0226716392
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Philip Rieff is the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Sociology and University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Feeling Intellect: Selected Writings; Fellow Teachers: Of Culture and Its Second Death; and The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Third Edition edition (May 15, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226716392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226716398
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Professor Philip Rieff was 83 years old when he passed away in 2006. By coincidence he died at the same age as Sigmund Freud (l856-1939), whose concepts Rieff spent much of his life studying, analyzing and explaining. A universal scholar, Rieff was described by colleages as a "kind of genius." The critic Gerald Howard pronounced "Freud: The Mind of the Moralist" "one of the most lucid interpretations of a major thinker ever written".

Philip Rieff remained obscure throughout his life (conservative to the point of being reactionary), producing a vast and profound work in the quarterlies, written mainly for culture elites (professional intellectuals and academics). He wrote in a condescending and hard to understand style with jargon derived from the Social Sciences. If he was unable to find a word to express his exact meaning he created a neologism. From 1950 to 1959 he was married to the soon to be famous radical chic political activist and literary icon, Susan Sontag. They had one son, David Rieff, a well known polemicist and pundit.

When this, his seminal work, came out in 1959 it was read in the groves of academe, and, on the strength of this book and his teaching reputation, Rieff was awarded a fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. He remained at UofP, a legendary figure in the classroom, until being forced by failing health to retire in 1993.

"Freud: The Mind of The Moralist" is impossible to summarize. A critic once remarked that reading Rieff is like "chewing ball bearings and finding the occasional cherry." This book is a rigorous exposition of the labyrinthine intellectual and moral implications of Freud's thought. Reading the footnotes alone is like attending a seminar in The History of Ideas. Rieff's erudition is staggering.
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Format: Paperback
This is definitely Rieff's best book, and one of the great works of 20th century social theory. As an exegesis and analysis of Freud, this text stands unmatched. As another reviewer said, it would be impossible to summarize it here. So I'll just say that Rieff's masterful perception of the subject is often breathtaking, he seems more aware of Freud's thought than Freud does.

As a social theory of it's own, this book was extremely prescient. As far as I can tell, Rieff is reading Freudian psychoanalysis as a response to the disenchantment of secularization, to the "death of God". The subject matter may be Freud, but the figures of Durkheim and Weber loom very large over the text.
Rieff's argument is that the loss of religion as both existential orientation and collective conscience means that the tools we have for coping with contingency and limitation have been fatally diminished. Freud's solution to the malaise is a rational one, a turn inwards to an examination of the psyche. But far from liberating us from the impediments of prejudice and tradition, Freud's inward turn was meant to be reconciliation with the inevitability suffering and constraint. The super-ego and the reality principle are the new bases of morality in a world without Gods. Hence, with fuller knowledge of our mental capacity, we are better able to accept our fate. This stands in stark contrast to the liberatory left-wing interpretations of psycho-analysis that Rieff later attacks in Triumph of the Therapeutic.

The paradox, however, is that with the interrogation of the mind, the process of secular rationalization has now rooted itself even deeper; inside the very inner life of the self. We are more trapped in the iron cage than ever.
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Format: Hardcover
I mean you can read every volume of Gay's monumental biography if you're really into Freud or the foundations of psychology... or you can let Philip Rieff put it alll together for you in this brilliantly succint and comprehensive study. What I appreciate most about this book is that Rieff puts Freud's incredibly influential project in the context of the philosophical orientations from which it was spawned. There was much I was wholly ignorant of, such as the dialog between Freud and Dewey, in which Rieff's insights emmended my perceptions of the world and intelllectual history. Many still are hung-up on Freud's notorious reductionism, but they ignore the vast contributions Freud has made toward our world view, however right or wrong it may be.
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