Nineteenth Century Philosophy

Sigmund Freud

What are some details of Sigmund Freud’s life that led him to his work?

Freud was born in Freiberg, Germany, but raised in Vienna, Austria. He studied medicine at the University of Vienna, specializing in neurology. In 1886, Freud married Martha Bernays. They had six children, and the youngest, Anna, herself became a noted psychoanalyst. Freud’s youngest son, Ernst, was the father of Lucien Freud, the celebrated twentieth century portrait painter. Biographers of Freud assess his family life as happy and stable, providing much needed support for the controversy that swirled around his startling and original psychological theories.

Freud’s mentors J.M. Charcot and Josef Breuer investigated hysteria, and Freud became interested in the psychological aspects of this disorder because hysterical patients have physical symptoms without underlying disease. Freud and Charcot published their clinical findings of how talk can change patients’ ideas, as a treatment for hysteria, in their Studies in Hysteria (1895). As Freud developed a sexual interpretation of the causes of hysteria, Breuer distanced himself from him.


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