Psychoanalysis: Adam Phillips

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Are you fulfilling your potential? Or is it OK to be "Missing Out"?

Are you fulfilling your potential? Or is it OK to be "Missing Out"?

The current February 25, 2013, issue of The New Yorker contains a review of UK psychoanalytic-writer Adam Phillips’s latest book Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life.

The always-interesting Joan Acocella gives and takes in her notice regarding Phillips’s “invitation” to consider Freud as a philosopher. “Phillips loves Freud. He cites him again and again. But his Freud sometimes doesn’t look much like the Freud we knew….’Freud’s work is best read as a long elegy for the intelligibility of our lives. We make sense of our lives in order to be free, not to make sense.’…Phillips’s condescension to the anti-Freudians has not endeared him to them. Symmetrically, he is also unpopular with the Freudians, who feel he has blurred the great man’s principles and dishonored them.”

(Phillips was a literary scholar, lured into analysis by the work of D. W. Winnicott; and is the editor of Penguin Modern Classics’s 2002-06 edition of Freud, intended to supersede James Strachey’s “Standard Edition” in twenty-four volumes [1953-74], even though Phillips does not have a grasp of German.)

Acocella’s ambivalence again breaks thro her closing observation. “[Phillips] wants us to be more childlike, in a way, almost pre-moral. He wants us to be more impressionable, curious, naive. This is not a world-shaking philosophy of life. It is pretty modest, but, again, he tries to be modest.”

AMHF applauds the discovery of any thoughtful, mainstream writing (and reviewing) on psychoanalysis. Phillips, a facile writer, scholar, and speaker, is the author or editor of some twenty-five books.

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