Sigmund Freud was by all accounts a difficult man who tended to be rather dogmatic about his ideas. At the same time, his ideas about the ways in which the mind is organized evolved throughout his life. He remains a giant because his attempts to understand and characterize the structure and workings of the mind continue to yield fruit long after his death, even though many of his original theories are now seen to be incorrect, incomplete, and overly simplistic.
Yesterday, Ronald W. Dworkin wrote a review of Peter Kramer's new book, Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind. In his New York Sun piece, Freud's Will to Power, Dworkin focused heavily on what he understood to be flaws in Freud's methodology and conclusions. Dworkin, according to the information on the Amazon site for his book, Artificial Happiness: The Dark Side of the New Happy Class, is an Anesthesiologist, not a Psychoanalyst, but that does not stop him from commenting on Freud's theories and Freud's psyche:
Legend has it that Freud, although educated in the philosophies of his day, studiously avoided the work of Nietzsche to preserve the originality of his ideas against external influence. Nietzsche's analysis of the human psyche, how values were supposedly projections of people's unspoken jealousies and fears, ran dangerously close to Freud's idea (still a work in progress at the end of the 19th century) that the roots of conscious behavior lay in unconscious desires.
But after reading Dr. Peter Kramer's outstanding new biography of Freud (HarperCollins, 213 pages, $21.95), one wonders if Freud feared something else, not influence but self-knowledge, for Dr. Kramer's Freud is practically the living embodiment of Nietzsche's will to power. It's not simply that Freud was incredibly ambitious. (At age four, after soiling a chair, he reassured his mother that he would grow up to be a great man and buy her another.) Rather, it was Freud's determination to systematize the world, to bring order to chaos, and to impose his theory of life on life itself — a determination so intense that one of Freud's colleagues called it a "psychical need."