Thursday, September 17, 2020

Hmm …

… The Lie of Viktor Frankl - Tablet Magazine. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

In The Doctor and the Soul, written soon after his release from the camps, Frankl argues that Freud was reductive and low-minded, a common charge among those who, like Frankl, call themselves existential humanists. They prefer to talk about the soaring human spirit, unlike Freud with his grubby interest in fetishes, perversions, and the like. But Freud is a permanent wisdom writer, who sways us with even his wrongheaded ideas. Freud can teach you something about almost any human subject: love, death, culture, war, religion, growing up. Whenever you reread him, you come away with a new insight.
I heard enough about Freud by the time I was in high school that I felt obligated to read him. I tried. I just didn’t find it credible (to put it politely). I read Man’s Search for Meaning shortly after it came out. It was recommended to me by my Jesuit mentor, Father Gannon, whose specialty was existential phenomenology, which has shaped my thinking throughout my life. But while I may be an existentialist of sorts, neither Father Gannon nor I could be called “existential humanists.” Like Father Gannon, I am a Christian existentialist (like Gabriel Marcel).  
As for Freud, about the only thing he ever said that I agree with is that “A man who has been the indisputable favorite of his mother keeps for life the feeling of a conqueror.” I agree with it because I know from experience that it is true. Viktor Frankl obviously had some serious flaws. But Man’s Search for Meaning — which I still have around here someplace — is in my view better than anything Freud ever wrote.


  1. It appears to me that the first paragraph is a quotation from Tablet, and the next two are your own remarks. I think you should remove the indentation of those two paragraphs.

  2. You are right. I indented my paragraphs and left the quote as is. I’m having problems with the new Blogger, especially when using my iPad.

  3. The new Blogger seems to be widely disliked. At some point Google offered a way to revert to the old version, but I guess that's gone.