Freud:The Mind of the Moralist Summary (8/10)

Sud Alogu
4 min readNov 25, 2022

Phillip Rief’s book, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, is a thorough and well-researched account of Sigmund Freud’s life and work. Rief does an excellent job of highlighting both Freud’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as providing readers with a clear understanding of his intellectual development. While Rief is clearly sympathetic to Freud’s theories, he is also not afraid to admit where they fall short.

For instance, Rief points out that Freud’s theory of repression is often too simplistic and does not take into account the role of forgetfulness in the forgetting process. Rief points out that Freud’s theory of repression is based on a false dichotomy between conscious and unconscious mental processes. Repression, according to Freud, occurs when an experience is too painful to be consciously remembered, and is thus pushed into the unconscious.

However, as Rief points out, many psychologists now believe that there is no such thing as an unconscious mind — that all mental processes are, at some level, conscious. This criticism notwithstanding, Freud’s theory of repression is still considered to be one of his most important contributions to psychology. Freud’s work on repression laid the groundwork for much of the later research on memory and forgetting. Moreover, his theory of repression has been found to be helpful in understanding a wide variety of psychological disorders, such as phobias, anxiety disorders, and depression.

Rief also points out that Freud’s concept of the unconscious is largely metaphorical and that his theory of repression is based on a small number of case studies. When examined from a scientific standpoint, Freud’s theory of repression is often found to be wanting.’

Additionally, Rief criticizes Freud’s reliance on Dreams and slips of the tongue as data, arguing that they are too subjective and can easily be misinterpreted. Rief notes that Freud’s belief that all human behavior is motivated by sexuality is reductionistic and overly simplistic. Freud theorized that all human behavior is motivated by the pleasure principle — that is, the desire to reduce tension and increase pleasure. While it is certainly true that many human behaviors are motivated by the pleasure principle, there are other important motivating factors, such as the need for power, love, and approval. Freud’s failure to take into account these other motivating factors led to some of his most famous errors, such as his claim that women are inferior to men because they do not have a penis. Freud believed this because he failed to take into account the fact that women have other, equally important, sexual organs.

Freud could not find any evidence of a female equivalent to the male Oedipus complex. However, as Rief points out, Freud’s error is based on a false analogy — the Oedipus complex is not an equivalent to the penis, but rather an equivalent to the phallus, which is an abstract symbol of power. In other words, Freud’s mistake was not in failing to find a female equivalent to the Oedipus complex, but in failing to realize that the Oedipus complex is not itself a penis. This error led Freud to mistakenly believe that women are inferior to men because they lack a penis. Further, Rief argues that the Oedipus complex is not a ‘complex’ as Freud described it, but rather a ‘conflict.’

The Oedipus conflict is the conflict between the child’s desire for the mother and the father’s desire for the child. This conflict is resolved in different ways in different cultures. In some cultures, th In others, the child is forced to choose between the two. This conflict is often played out in the child’s mind through dreams and fantasies.

Rief, however, does not believe that this invalidates Freud’s work. On the contrary, he believes that Freud’s work is important because it provides us with a way of understanding our own mental processes. In short, Rief believes that Freud’s work is essential for understanding the human psyche.

Rief begins his book with a brief overview of Freud’s early life and how his childhood experiences shaped his future work. He then goes on to discuss Freud’s most famous cases, including those of Anna O and Little Hans. Rief argues that these cases were integral to Freud’s development as a thinker, and that they showed his willingness to challenge prevailing ideas about human behavior.

Next, Rief delves into a detailed analysis of Freud’s major theories, including the Oedipus complex and the difference between the ego and the id. He provides numerous examples to illustrate these concepts, making them easy to understand for even those with no prior knowledge of psychoanalysis. Finally, Rief discusses Freud’s legacy and how his work has influenced both our understanding of the human mind and our culture at large.

In conclusion, Phillip Rief’s book Freud: The Mind of the Moralist is a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about Sigmund Freud or the history of psychoanalysis. Rief does an excellent job of explaining Freud’s complicated theories in plain language, and he provides ample evidence to support his arguments. This book is sure to leave you with a greater appreciation for both Freud and his work.