Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend
by Frank J. Sulloway
Basic Books, 612 pp., $20.00
Freud, Biologist of the Mind is not a modest work. With four appendices and a compendious bibliography it runs to over six hundred pages. Nor is its author, Frank J. Sulloway, a modest writer. In the “Preface and Guide to the Reader” he tells how in writing the book he “aspired to mark a watershed in the history of Freud studies.” His ambition has led him to combine four distinct themes.
First the book sets out to be “a comprehensive intellectual biography of Sigmund Freud.” No one would take on such a task if he didn’t think that there was something wrong with the existing literature. But Dr. Sulloway is not one of those historians who are content to put their predecessors right on this or that small or medium-sized point. The book—and this is its second theme—offers a radically new interpretation of Freud. Contrary to “the Freud legend,” Freud was not, Sulloway claims, the solitary inventor of a pure psychology. His work is fundamentally the application to the human mind of nineteenth-century biological ideas. Freud was a biologist who passed as a psychologist. He was, in Sulloway’s words, a “crypto-biologist.”
Thirdly, the book turns to examine the Freud legend itself, and here there is a subtle but significant change of emphasis. For if the legend presents Freud as a hero within the tradition of psychology rather than as a co-worker within the biological tradition, Sulloway is less concerned with the way the legend misidentifies the tradition that is Freud’s, and more concerned with its aggrandizement of his status. This aspect of the legend, he seems to believe, has most to tell us about how we choose to record our past—in particular our scientific or ideological past. And so this leads to the fourth theme in Freud, Biologist of the Mind, which concerns the sociology of historical knowledge. From a proper understanding of the Freud legend the book promises the reader important insights into the mythic ways in which we inscribe intellectual revolutions. There is an evident bonus in all this, and when our author reviews his book as a whole, he does not conceal his satisfaction at the outcome. “I see,” is how he puts it, “that one of the major achievements of this work is the construction of a natural history of history itself.”
Freud, Biologist of the Mind is impressively erudite. Sulloway has read widely in the scientific literature that provides the background to Freud’s thought. He has also read with care much of the polemical literature that surrounded the publication of Freud’s own work. The result is that we can now see Freud against the intellectual thinking of his age; and we no longer have to take on trust Freud’s own rather bitter account of the progress of his influence and reputation. However, on this last point Sulloway is insensitive to the difference between how a man…
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Richard Arthur Wollheim (5 May 1923 – 4 November 2003) was a British philosopher noted for original work on mind and emotions, especially as related to the visual arts, specifically, painting. Wollheim served as the president of the British Society of Aesthetics from 1992 onwards until his death in 2003.
Son of an actress and a theatre impresario, Wollheim attended Westminster School, London, and Balliol College, Oxford (1941–2, 1945–8), interrupted by active military service in World War II. In 1949 he obtained a congratulatory first in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and began teaching at University College London, where he became Grote Professor of Mind and Logic and Department Head from 1963 to 1982. He retired from that position to take up professorships, first, at Columbia University (1982–85) and then the University of California at Berkeley (1985–2002). He chaired the Department at UC Berkeley, 1998–2002. On retirement from Berkeley, he served briefly as a guest lecturer at Balliol College. Additionally, he held visiting positions at Harvard University,the University of Minnesota, Graduate Center, CUNY, the University of California at Davis, and elsewhere. Wollheim gave several distinguished lecture series, most notably the Andrew M. Mellon lectures in Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1984), published as Painting as an Art.
In 1962, he published an article "A paradox in the theory of democracy", in which Wollheim argued that a supporter of democracy faces a contradiction when he votes. On the one hand he wants a particular party or candidate to win, but on the other hand he wants whoever wins the most votes to win. This has become known as Wollheim's paradox.
His Art and its Objects was one of the twentieth century's most influential texts on philosophical aesthetics in English. In a 1965 essay, 'Minimal Art', he seems to have coined the phrase, although its meaning eventually drifted from his. As well as for his work on the philosophy of art, Wollheim was known for his philosophical treatments of depth psychology, especially Sigmund Freud's. His posthumously-published autobiography of youth, Germs: A Memoir of Childhood, with complementary essays, discloses a good deal about his family background and his life up to early manhood, providing valuable material for understanding his interests and sensibility.
For an extensive bibliography of Richard Wollheim's publications by a professional bibliographer, see Eddie Yeghiayan's UC-Irvine site. See also the 'Philweb' listing.
Note: given his unique mind, personality, and distinctive writing styles, along with his curiosity and sociability, many of Richard Wollheim's publications are outside academic categories. Besides books, he published many articles, in journals and edited collections, book reviews, and gallery catalogues for shows. He also left writings in manuscript, letters and recordings of his talks.
- Books and separately published works (selected)
- F. H. Bradley. Harmondsworth; Baltimore: Penguin, 1959. 2d edition, 1969.
- 'Socialism and Culture'. (Fabian Tract, 331.) London: Fabian Society, 1961.
- 'On Drawing an Object'. London: University College, 1965 (long essay). Repr. in On Art and the Mind.
- Art and Its Objects: an Introduction to Aesthetics. New York: Harper & Row, 1968. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970. As Harper Torchbook, 1971.
- Art and its Objects: With Six Supplementary Essays. 2d edition. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980.
- A Family Romance. London: Jonathan Cape, 1969. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1969 (novel).
- Freud. (Fontana Modern Masters.) London: Collins, 1971. Paperback, 1973. American and later Cambridge University Press (1981) eds. titled Sigmund Freud.
- On Art and the Mind: essays and lectures. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,1972.
- 'The Good Self and the Bad Self: the Moral Psychology of British Idealism and the English School of Psychoanalysis Compared' (1975)—repr. in The Mind and Its Depths, 1993.
- 'The Sheep and the Ceremony' (1976)—repr. in The Mind and Its Depths, 1983.
- The Thread of Life. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984.
- Painting as an Art. Andrew M. Mellon Lectures in Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987.
- The Mind and Its Depths. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993 (essays).
- On the Emotions. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999.
- Germs: a memoir of childhood. London: Waywiser Press, 2004.
- Edited books
- The Image in Form: Selected Writings of Adrian Stokes (1974)
- Freud: A Collection of Critical Essays (1974)
- Philosophical essays on Freud, with James Hopkins. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
- R.B.Kitaj : A Retrospective, with Richard Morphet. London: Tate Publishing, 1994.
- Some main articles
- "Minimal Art", Arts Magazine (January 1965): 26–32. Repr. in On Art and the Mind.
- "Nelson Goodman's Languages of Art", The Journal of Philosophy: 62, no. 16 (Ag. 1970): 531.
- "Adrian Stokes, critic, painter, poet", Times Literary Supplement (17 February 1978): 207–209.
- "The Cabinet of Dr Lacan", Topoi: 10 no. 2 (1991): 163–174. 
- "A Bed out of Leaves", London Review of Books 25, no. 23 (4 December 2003). 
- ^For his own account of his service in Europe during the war, see Wollheim, "Fifty Years On", London Review of Books 23 (23 Je 1994): 3–6.
- ^In "Philosophy, Politics and Society", edited by Peter Laslett and W.G. Runciman, published by Basil Blackwell, 1962. Pp. 71-87.
- ^He was also Ernest Jones Lecturer at the Institute of Psychoanalysis in London in 1968.
- ^For excerpts from eighteen reviews, see
- ^Richard Wollheim Bibliography
- ^Richard Wollheim