Freud and Neuroscience: A Return to Origins

A chapter I wrote with that title appears in the recently published book Disciplining Freud on Religion: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences, edited by Gregory Kaplan and William B. Parsons (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010).  Here is the abstract: “Freud developed psychoanalysis on the basis of a neurological model of human mental functioning. Scholars and clinicians who value Freud’s theories but disagree with his materialist reductionism have generally tried to downplay the neurological roots of psychoanalysis by suggesting that his scientific rhetoric merely reflects a nineteenth-century worldview that Freud’s own ideas were destined to transform. Meanwhile, critics of psychoanalysis have insisted on the inseparability of Freud’s later theories from their earlier medical context, the better to reject psychoanalysis as outmoded pseudoscience. In neither case are Freud’s original interests in the neural underpinnings of psychological life examined with a fair and respectful eye. This chapter aims to recover and update the neurological foundations of psychoanalysis, with a special focus on the implications for Freudian theories and methods in the study of religion.”