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Seductive Mirage (Tr)

Allen Esterson


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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (1/1/1993)


Book jacket/back: Although it is now widely held that the scientific basis for Sigmund Freud's theories is decidedly wobby, and his surmises often appear woefully incomplete at best, there yet remains an impression that Freud was a bold explorer of the mind's hidden depths, a penetrating if fallible discerner of unsuspected motives behind the superficially innocent forms of behavior. And if even that is now more frequently questioned, we are at least left with the consolation that Freud, however misguided, was a man of unsported integrity, who sincerely strove to uncover the truth and accurately reported what his clients told him.

Only a few writers have heretofore intimated the possibility that Freud's accounts of his cases are systematically and self servingly untruthful, but now Allen Esterson picks up the trail, and demonstrates, by acute detective work, that Freud's work cannot be relied upon (Esterson leaves open the extent to which this can be attributed to self-deception or to calculated fraud).

The notorious 'child seduction' incidents, which supposedly led to the framing of the fundamentals of psychoanalytic theory, have occasioned much controversy over the question whether Freud was right to consign these reminiscences of sexual molestations in infancy to the realm of fantasy. This dispute is entirely beside the point because, as Esterson shows, Freud's clients did not report memories of childhood molestation. Here as became habitual with him, Freud muddled his own conjectures of what was going on in his clients' unconscious with their accounts of what they remembered, and, over time, Freud came to represent the former as the latter.

Esterson takes us through all the key published cases in Freud's cases in Freud's career, showing that Freud's reports are often at least strongly indicative of misrepresentation, and in some cases demonstrably misleading. Esterson's indictment builds irresistiby to a 'proof beyond reasonable doubt' that Freud's claim to rank as a major thinker is unfounded, and indeed quite preposterous, though his extraordinary achievement as persuader and rhetorician is unassailable.

Open Court, 9780812692310, 270pp.

Publication Date: December 31, 1998