Armand Nicholi Freud and God Book Report

Excerpt from Book Report :

Armand Nicholi's The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life is a downright unusual book. It places in counterpoint the thought and writings of two men who never met, spoke, or engaged in any important way with each other's writings -- in fact they had little in common apart from both living in Great Britain at the same time for a period of about fourteen months. These men are the Oxford don, C.S. Lewis, an authority on Renaissance literature and a novelist and Christian polemicist, and the psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, still famous as a doctor and theoretician who posited the existence of such concepts as the Oedipus complex, the unconscious, and polymorphous perversity. Freud never read a word that C.S. Lewis wrote, and while it is extremely unlikely that Lewis could have escaped exposure to the widely disseminated ideas of Freud, there is also nothing in Lewis's work that indicates the sort of engagement with or critique of Freud's thought that might justify placing the two writers in juxtaposition. Instead, Nicholi's purpose appears to be a consideration of Freud and Lewis as representative twentieth-century thinkers who took opposing views on the existence of God. A cursory examination of Nicoli's view of Freud, however, demonstrates that the intellectual history offered in the book is tendentious at best.

Nicholi claims at the outset of his study that "historians rank Freud's scientific contributions with those of Planck and Einstein" (2). This is something of a bizarre statement, because Planck's and Einstein's scientific discoveries were, of course, verified scientifically, through the experimental method. Freud's science, however, consisted of little more than speculation made by a former cocaine addict with a degree in medicine. Nicholi credits Freud with "terms such as ego, repression, complex, projection, inhibition, neurosis, psychosis, resistance, sibling rivalry, and Freudian slip." Freud would be the first to admit that most of his insights had been made earlier and more memorably in literature, and we may find King Lear musing upon the dynamic that Freud called "projection" when he describes a rascal beadle whipping a prostitute for the sin that he himself most longs to commit, and find that sibling rivalry is as old as Cain and Abel. However the concept of "repression" gives us a better glimpse of the Freudian method, because scientific investigation of the human memory and its…

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Works Cited

Nicholi, Armand. The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

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