Sigmund Freud

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Sigmund Freud in his study

Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 - September 23, 1939) was the founder of psychoanalysis, an atheist and scientist. Because of the groundbreaking nature of most of his theory, Freud remains influential in the field of psychology, literary studies and history.

Jewish by birth, in 1938 he fled Vienna and persecution by the Nazis to North London, England, where he lived until his death in 1939. Sigmund Freud died of maxillary cancer at the age of 83 due to cigar smoking.

Early life

Born on May 6, 1856 as Sigismund Schlomo Freud[1] to Amalia and Jacob Freud.

Religious studies

Freud wrote two works on the psychological dimension of religion, Moses and Monotheism, and The Future of an Illusion.[2] Both, particularly the second, were attacks on religion.


Today Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind, especially involving the mechanism of repression; his symbolic interpretation of dreams; his redefinition of sexual desire as mobile and directed towards a wide variety of objects; and his therapeutic technique, especially his understanding of transference in the therapeutic relationship and the symbolic interpretation of dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires.[3]

Freud proposed that the human psyche consists of three parts -- ego, super-ego, and id—and that defense mechanisms are an attempt by the mind to resolve conflicts between the super-ego and the id. According to Freud's personality theory, the id represents the innate animal-like drives and instincts of the human being, consisting primarily of sexual and aggressive impulses. The super-ego consists of the learned rules and norms of the human being in their environment, derived from sources such as parental values, societal expectations, and religious teachings. When the id introduces impulses into the consciousness that are in conflict with the "rules" of the super-ego, anxiety can arise. For example, if one feels sexually attracted to the spouse of a family member, the super-ego promptly springs to action to remind us that these impulses are entirely unacceptable and offensive. The conflict between the id and the super-ego is thus born and the ego must resolve it or experience great anxiety.

Freud originally postulated childhood sexual abuse as the cause of neurosis.[4][5] But he retracted this theory and replaced it with the Oedipus complex in the 1890s.[6]

Science issues

Freud's theories are viewed by some as unscientific because they lack falsifiability, as claimed by Karl Popper.[7] Adolf Grünbaum disagrees with Popper's view, and argues that some of Freud's theories are falsifiable and may conceivably be correct. Grünbaum gives as an example Freud's ideas about the development of homosexuality, referring to Freud's paper "The psychogenesis of a case of homosexuality in a woman."[8] Hans Eysenck has said that Freud's theories are falsifiable and therefore are a science, although an incorrect one.[9]

Freud's therapeutic methods continue to have a lasting importance in psychotherapy. As recently as 1987 approximately 75% of practicing therapists relied on Freud's psychoanalytic ideas in therapy.[10] Among the techniques instituted by Freud that are still in use today are:

  • talk therapy (simply talking through problems),
  • free association (allowing the client to say whatever comes to mind), and
  • transference (promoting an emotional relationship between the therapist and client in order to aid in the healing process).

Psychoanalysis as a clinical method has in many cases been shown to be as effective as other talk therapies.[11] Freud may have been aware of his work being damaging and unscientific, as he mentioned to a fellow immigrant on the way to America that "[Freud] was bringing [the West/America] the plague," in reference to his work.[12]

On the other hand, Freud's debunkers declare his "cures" to be the product of wishful thinking and conscious fudging as well as to suffer from usage of circular logic. Peter D. Kramer, a psychiatrist and author of a biography of Freud maintains that every particular of Freudian psychology such as the universality of the Oedipus complex, penis envy, and infantile sexuality, is wrong. Even Freud's most orthodox adherents do not defend his entire body of work in all its details.[13]

World War II

In order to prevent Nazis from banning psychoanalysis as "Jewish science", Sigmund Freud thought he needed a non-Jewish spokesperson for the psychoanalysis movement. He choose Carl Jung, an early supporter who later partially diverged from Freud's psychiatric theories.


See also: Atheism and smoking and Atheism and cancer and Prominent atheists who had cancer

Freud passed away on September 23, 1939, at the age of 83.[14]

Freud died of oral cancer.[15] Freud was a heavy smoker with a 20-cigar/day habit.[16]

Personal life

Freud had six children. Had a vasectomy in 1923 on the belief that it would bring him physical and mental rejuvenation.[17]

Sigmund Freud's view of religion

See also: Sigmund Freud's view of religion and Psychology of atheism

Sigmund Freud was a proponent of atheism who argued that theism was detrimental to mental health.[18] Oxford Professor Alister McGrath, author of the book The Twilight of Atheism, stated the following regarding Freud:

One of the most important criticisms that Sigmund Freud directed against religion was that it encourages unhealthy and dysfunctional outlooks on life. Having dismissed religion as an illusion, Freud went on to argue that it is a negative factor in personal development. At times, Freud's influence has been such that the elimination of a person's religious beliefs has been seen as a precondition for mental health.

Freud is now a fallen idol, the fall having been all the heavier for its postponement. There is now growing awareness of the importance of spirituality in health care, both as a positive factor in relation to well-being and as an issue to which patients have a right. The "Spirituality and Healing in Medicine" conference sponsored by Harvard Medical School in 1998 brought reports that 86 percent of Americans as a whole, 99 percent of family physicians, and 94 percent of HMO professionals believe that prayer, meditation, and other spiritual and religious practices exercise a major positive role within the healing process.[18]

Freud remains popular among postmodern literary academics, who use his anti-Christian pseudoscience as a basis for their own anti-Christianity and moral relativism, even though his theories were disproved decades ago.

See also

External links


  1. Sigmund Freud: Explorer of the Unconscious
  2. Gregory Zilboorg, Freud and Religion: a Restatement of an Old Controversy, 49.
  3. See also The Unconscious Before Freud, by Lancelot Law Whyte, 1979
  4. Masson, J. M. (1984). The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. page 187
  5. Jones, E. (1953). Sigmund Freud: Life and Work. Volume 1. London: Hogarth Press, p. 289
  6. Gay, Peter (1988). Freud: A Life for Our Time, Norton, page 96.
  7. Popper, Karl R.: 'Science as Falsification', Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (London, 1963)
  8. Grünbaum, Adolf, Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis (pp 320-321)
  9. Eysenck, Hans Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire Transaction Publishers page 14
  10. (Pope, K.S., Tabachnick, B. & Keith-Spiegel, P. (1987). Ethics of practice: The beliefs and behaviors of psychologists as therapists. American Psychologist, 42, 993-1006).
  11. Different types of therapy
  12. "We are bringing them the plague." -Freud on his way to America in 1909. Quoted in Richard Noll, The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 47.
  13. Jerry Adler (March 26, 2006 7:00 PM). Freud in Our Midst. Retrieved on December 25, 2013.
  14. Sigmund Freud
  15. The oral cancer of Sigmund Freud, Clinical Plastic Surgery. 1983 Oct;10(4):709-14.]
  16. Sigmund Freud: smoking habit, oral cancer and euthanasia by Adeyemo WL. Nigerian Journal of Medicine, 2004 Apr-Jun;13(2):189-95.
  18. 18.0 18.1 McGrath, Alister (February 28, 2005). "The twilight of atheism". Christianity Today website. Retrieved on May 23, 2015.