Today’s radio interview with Fred Crews on his new Freud book

If you’re interested in Freud, and want to know what a charlatan he was, you couldn’t do better than listen to Fred Crews on public radio today. Fred, as I’ve mentioned recently (see also here), is the author of the new book Freud: The Making of an Illusion, which shows that from the very outset of his career Freud was a desperately ambitious man, determined at all costs to become famous. To do that, he simply made up stuff (his “theories”) without scientific foundation (e.g., psychoanalysis, including the dogmas of repression, the Oedipus complex, etc.), lied in his works about his “cures”, and engaged in various unsavory practices like giving cocaine to his patients.

Crews, former chair of English at the University of California at Berkeley, will be interviewed from 10-11 a.m. (Pacific time), which is 1-2 p.m. Eastern time, on Michael Krasny’s “Forum” show on KQED radio, a public-access station in Northern California.

Reader JJ, who sent me this notice, said that there is a “listen live” link here, and then the interview will be archived and put here.

Crews is quite eloquent, and though I won’t be around to hear it live, I’m certainly going to listen to the archived version. I recommend you have a listen one way or the other, especially if you are under the delusion that Freud was a revolutionary thinker who created a “scientific” system of curing mental disturbances.



  1. Nicholas K.
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I don’t know that giving cocaine to patients should be described as an unsavory practice for Freud. Wasn’t it a standard medical practice? People did think it had medicinal value.

    • Posted August 30, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      No, Freud was instrumental in developing its use for psychiatric patients, and for other uses as well. The only valuable use it had in medicine, for anesthetizing the eye for eye operations, wasn’t suggested by Freud.

  2. Richard Jones
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    He was a charlatan, his son Lucien has given us some of the greatest art of the 20th century.

    Funny how it turns out!

    • MKray
      Posted August 30, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Grandson Lucien.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 30, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      An interesting observation, given that Camille Paglia has written
      “Freud has no rivals among his successors because they think he wrote science, when in fact he wrote art.”

      (She also regards him as Nietzsche’s heir, a title that has also been confirmed on Heidegger and Ayn Rand.)

    • BJ
      Posted August 30, 2017 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      He was an incredibly intelligent and capable man. The fact that he was wrong in 90% of what he said doesn’t really diminish that. I prefer to see him more as a philosopher than a scientists (though he obviously claimed the latter, and should be held accountable for it).

      The word charlatan implies that someone is knowingly peddling false knowledge, and I’ve never had the impression that Freud was peddling his falsities knowingly. I’m not attempting to rehabilitate Freud’s image when it comes to the fitness of his work, but I don’t think he was attempting to defraud through his endeavors.

      • BJ
        Posted August 30, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Plus, without him, we wouldn’t have the wonderful film, The Seven Percent Solution!

  3. Merilee
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Just read a good review/article on Crews and his book in the latest New Yorker.

  4. Frank Bath
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    The Freud Museum, where he lived in London’s leafy, fashionable, Hampstead, has always been somewhere I meant to visit, yet never quite have – there was always something off putting about the man and his theories. Now I can steer well clear of the place.

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Crews is not the first Freud debunker, but seems to be among the most famous.

    Earlier Freud debunking books include 1985
    “Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire” by Hans Eysenick and 1995 “Why Freud Was Wrong” by Richard Webster.

  6. Posted August 30, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Crews has been doing good work on this for decades now – unfortunately to no avail, because Adolf Grunbaum and others have also done the same. (G. is a philosopher of science.)

    I once asked my sister, a clinical psychologist, what was sufficiently true and sufficiently new in psychoanalysis to see if my conclusion that Freud’s only contribution was on how to create an empire of pseudoscience and pseudotechnology. Her answer, unfortunately, betrayed mild philosophical ignorance: the unconscious (her answer) is also found in Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and even in a way in Leibniz.

  7. Liz
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I just tried to listen and I don’t believe it’s up yet. I’m definitely looking forward to listening to this.

    • Liz
      Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Try not to listen to while driving. I am very excited to look into some of the names mentioned at the 9 minute mark about pioneers, more than Freud was, on sexuality.

  8. Posted August 30, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    That was a well conducted interview.

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