Freud is comparable only really to Marx among the thinkers discussed in this volume; his ideas have not only influenced those in his own discipline, he did in fact found a discipline, and he has influenced thinkers across all the social sciences and humanities, medicine and biology. More than this, however, he has changed our common-sense understanding of vital aspects of our lives; it is not just that his most crucial ideas are present in our everyday references to ‘Freudian slips’, but our views about sexuality, childhood, mental health and illness and psychological therapy have been permeated by his thought to the point where even those who regard themselves as critical of, or opponents of, psychoanalysis, do not realise how profoundly they have been influenced by his ideas. Like Marx he changed the world, and like Marx, a century after his ideas were formulated, he is subjected not only to intellectual criticism but also to personal vilification — he was a cocaine addict, dishonest, he was scared of making public what he knew about incest, he developed an essentially fraudulent treatment for which gullible people pay large sums of money. A good rule of thumb in intellectual life is that somebody who comes under such sustained personal attack for a century or so probably has something important to say.
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