Historian of science Frank Sulloway wrote in the Preface to this 1978 book, "This book, a comprehensive intellectual biography of Sigmund Freud, seeks to bring both Freud and the history of psychoanalysis within the professional boundaries of the history of science... The present work is by no means the first to challenge the Freud legend. Dissident historical voices have been calling for a substantial reinterpretation of Freud and his achivements for many years..." (Pg. xiii)
He states in the first chapter, "it is my contention that many, if not most, of Freud's fundamental conceptions were biological by INSPIRATION as well as by implication. In my historical appraisal, Freud stands squarely within the intellectual lineage where he is, at once, a principal scientific heir of Charles Darwin and other evolutionary thinkers... At yet another level, this book is a case study in the psychology and the sociology of intellectual revolution... the insufficient recognition of Freud's debt to biology stems from ... the truly mythical proportions that Freud's life and achievements have assumed within the subsequent biographical and historical traditions in psychoanalysis." (Pg. 5) He adds, "That Freud was influenced by current evolutionary ideas is not by any means a new insight; but that he... was inspired in the specific manner that I shall describe in the course of this book is by no means sufficiently appreciated." (Pg. 20-21)
Of Freud's 1895 'Project for a Scientific Psychology' (an unpublished paper which only came to light in 1950), he wrote, "Thus, in 1950, a long-established view of Freud's intellectual development was suddenly confronted by a largely unanticipated chapter in the history of psychoanalysis. For there, in the neuroanatomical language of the Project... are the concepts of primary and secondary processes; the principles of pleasure-unpleasure, constancy, and reality testing; the concept of cathexis; the theories of psychical regression and hallucination; the systems of perception, memory, unconscious and preconscious psychic activity; and even Freud's wish-fulfillment theory of dreams." (Pg. 119)
He says, "To be sure, [Wilhelm] Fliess's scientific vision proved far more ephemeral than Freud's. And yet it exerted a lasting influence upon Freud that was second to none in his life." (Pg. 170) He argues, "It was Wilhelm Fliess who first convinced Freud that all human beings are bisexual, and that this physiological fact is of major relevance for the theory of the neuroses... What is perhaps not sufficiently appreciated by most historians of psychoanalysis is just how extensively this notion of bisexuality served to link Freud's psychoanalytic conception of human development to the biological theory championed by Fliess." (Pg. 183)
He states, "In sum, Freud's psychoanalytic theories became MORE biological, not less so, after the crucial years of discovery (1895-1900), just as they became increasingly sophisticated in their psychological content. Nor is it odd that the man who initially placed so much theoretical importance upon infantile prehistory and the primacy of early experience, should have become equally convinced that human prehistory holds the final key to understanding human behavior." (Pg. 391-392)
He concludes, "the myths of the hero and of Freud as pure psychologist are the heart of the epistemological politics that have pervaded the entire psychoanalytic revolution. This interlocking web of legend has been absolutely essential to the strategy of revolution employed by Freud and his loyal followers... And precisely because he and his followers were so personally caught up by the mythical history they sought to invent for themselves, they actually lived this history as subjective reality and allowed it to become powerfully prescriptive of revolutionary deeds. Finally, for Freud, who likened the myths of nations to the inevitable distortions that individuals create about their early childhood... Is it not understandable, then, that he and his disciples should have availed themselves of such a splendid mythology of their own collective making?" (Pg. 488-489) He adds, "what traditional psychoanalytic historians would see as Freud's heroic and ultimately triumphant struggle to cut himself off from his biological past ranks as mythical propaganda in one of its most well-developed forms." (Pg. 496)
This is a creative, thought-provoking and important biography, and will be of great interest to anyone studying Freud's life and thought.