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Therapeutic philosophy/philosophical therapy: a series of persuasive popular essays on the old paradox that fate without freedom and freedom without fate are equally meaningless. May starts out from the Romantic-existential premise that freedom is the source of all values. But the only real freedom comes from facing destiny (what Freud would have called Anankë) and enduring the anxiety and despair it gives rise to. In this context May views psychoanalysis as a tool fox liberation and a weapon against the narcissism and self-deception of contemporary American culture. At the same time he admits that psychoanalysis is also a symptom of our narcissistic condition, and he lashes out against the mushy-mindedness epitomized by the ""growth center"" (a booming industry in and around Marin County, where he lives). Such centers promote escapism and egocentric complacency. They fiddle with the psychic thermostats of individuals while ignoring the often frightful social climate outside. May also finds evidence of pseudo-freedom in the cult of promiscuous sex without intimacy (""Sleep with a stranger tonight""), which he damns as just another way of trying to evade human limits, and hence sick. On the other side of the fence May attacks the determinists, especially B. F. Skinner (a friend of his). May labels Skinner a modern-day Grand Inquisitor, except that Skinner outdoes Dostoyevsky's tragic character: he thinks freedom is not just dangerous but nonexistent. This, May argues, is yet another flight from the pain of freedom, but into rigid dogmatism instead of aimless egotism. May could have made his case more briefly, but as a literate humanistic psychologist he's a rare bird on the American scene and definitely worth listening to. Solid, as usual.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1981
ISBN: 0393318427
Publisher: Norton