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03 Jun

Ought Tolstoy Have Been Cured?

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There is an amusing but I think significant story which Ernest Jones records about Freud. At the time when the relations between Freud and Jung were almost at breaking point, Jung was still secretary of the psycho-analytical association. He sent Jones an announcement of the next meeting but made an error in the date, so that if Jones had not had other information he would have missed the meeting entirely. Jones knowing Freud’s interest in these slips of the pen and tongue showed the letter to him. But Freud was neither interested nor amused. No gentleman, he said, ought to have an unconscious like that.

Ought? Ought? Ought? What is that ought doing there on the lips of a psycho-analyst? Of course, we like Freud all the better for this human touch. You see, however much we may exclude oughtness from our theories, we cannot get it out of our lives. Ought-ness is as much an original datum of consciousness as the starry vault above. Both should continue to fill us with constant amazement. “

Quote from The Danger of Words, by Maurice O’Connor Drury. In this essay, “Madness and Religion”, Drury reflects on some patients he has treated. In the past some with similar experiences became religious leaders or writers such as Leo Tolstoy. Would it have been right to have cured Leo Tolstoy? Is that a question a psychiatrist should ask?

Drury reflects on this philosophical and ethical dilemma, arguing that defining religion as “racial psychosis” ignores the ethical aspect.

Also note the echo of Kant in the last two lines.

One thought on “Ought Tolstoy Have Been Cured?

  1. Mary Rockafeller McCormick cancelled a stipend she bestowed on Jpyce when in 1919 he declined her advice to be analyzed by Jung. The urge to probe and shine bright light of the dark corners of the mind and take away the potent power of art.

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