Philosophy is not opposed to science, it behaves like a science and works in part by the same methods; it departs from it, however, by clinging to the illusion of being able to present a picture of the universe which is without gaps and is coherent, though one which is bound to collapse with every fresh advance of our knowledge. It goes astray in its method of over-estimating the epistemological value of our logical operations and by accepting other sources of knowledge such as intuition. (Freud 1933, 160-61)
My interest, after making a lifelong detour through the natural sciences, medicine, and psychotherapy, returned to the cultural problems which had fascinated me long before, when I was a youth scarcely old enough for thinking…. [T]he events of human history, the interactions between human nature, cultural development and the precipitates of primaeval experiences (the most prominent example of which is religion) … [are] studies, which, though they originate in psychoanalysis, stretch far beyond it, [and] have perhaps awakened more public sympathy than psycho-analysis itself. (Freud 1935, 72)
I thereby seek to replace the endless discussions of Freud’s epistemology with a description of psychoanalysis as a moral philosophy. By means of this recontextualization, Freud’s project assumes its just standing as an enduring achievement of redefining Western consciousness in its full deployment: Who am I? and What am I to be?
By placing the unconscious in the body, and the knowing, deliberating ego in the rational mind, Freud understood Reason just as Kant had originally configured his own transcendental project: An autonomous rationality allows the mind to examine nature independent of natural cause; and the selfsame autonomy of reason confers on humans their sovereign free will, which in turn establishes their ethical standing, namely the ability to assume responsibility for their actions. This conception offered Freud’s patients the option of exercising interpretative reason, coupled to affective recognition,...