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22 - Freud and the Unconscious

from Part IV - Classical Modernity: Philosophical and Scientific Currents

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 September 2021

Michael Ruse
Affiliation:
Florida State University
Stephen Bullivant
Affiliation:
St Mary's University, Twickenham, London
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Summary

Sigmund Freud’s critical theory of religion continues to generate controversy and dismay within and beyond psychoanalysis. A number of his critics attempt to separate his views on religion from the rest of psychoanalysis, a misguided and fruitless enterprise, as I will demonstrate in this chapter. Such critics appear to think that religious experiences and beliefs must be protected from psychoanalytic theories such as unconscious fantasy and projection in order to maintain the illusion that religious realities possess their own sui generis essence or inherent nature that renders them immune to critical examination and explanation. From the perspective of psychoanalysis, transcendent dimensions are not independently existing ontological realities that are apprehended by human minds. Rather, they are mental creations that are culturally constituted, shaped, and expressed. While it is not unreasonable to interpret Freud’s writings in a broadly colloquial sense as atheistic, it is woefully insufficient for scholarly analysis.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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