Idealistic Studies

Volume 44, Issue 2/3, Summer/Fall 2014

New Directions in the Thought of Leo Strauss

Stephen L. Salter
Pages 313-323

Between Freud and Sublimity
A Straussian Critique of Psychoanalysis

This paper introduces Leo Strauss’s thematic question, “Progress or return?” to the context of psychoanalysis. the conversation within psychoanalysis. Progress signifies development or advancement, a mode that Freud embraced wholeheartedly. Strauss’s pursuit of a return questions the presumption of the goodness of progress. Freud’s thinking forecloses critical considerations within religion and metaphysics, circumscribing his consideration to adaptation within a given particular time and place. By contrast, a return transcends the particular setting. I address the question, “Progress or Return?” to historical and individual development. If a life of progress points away from nature toward civilization, the life of return points away from civilization and toward nature. Freud epitomizes the idea of progress and pathologizes the notion of return, consequently foreclosing the questioning of authority as well as the quest for a natural law that would supersedes authority. True progress, I argue, is not linear but dependent on return.