Freud: the last great Enlightenment thinker

From Prospect Magazine:

FreudFreud’s ideas are today not simply rejected as false. They are repudiated as being dangerous or immoral; the “gloomy mythology” of warring instincts is condemned as a kind of slander on the species, the fundamental nobility of which it is sacrilege to deny. To be sure, righteous indignation has informed the response to Freud’s thought from the beginning. But its new strength helps explain one of the more remarkable features of intellectual life at the start of the 21st century, a time that in its own eyes is more enlightened than any other: the intense unpopularity of Freud, the last great Enlightenment thinker. Born in Austria-Hungary in 1856 and dying in London in 1939, Freud is commonly known as the originator of the idea of the unconscious mind. However, the idea can be found in a number of earlier thinkers, notably the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. It would be more accurate to describe Freud as aiming to make the unconscious mind an object of scientific investigation—a prototypically Enlightenment project of extending the scientific method into previously unexplored regions. Many other 20th century thinkers aimed to examine and influence human life through science and reason, the common pursuit of the quarrelling family of intellectual movements, appearing from the 17th century onwards, that formed the Enlightenment. But by applying the Enlightenment project to forbidden regions of the human mind Freud, more than anyone else, revealed the project’s limits.

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