Sunday, August 17, 2008

Freud, Marx, and Hegel: where have they gone?

How is it that Freud is not taught in psychology departments, Marx is not taught in economics, and Hegel is hardly taught in philosophy? Instead these masters of Western thought are taught in fields far from their own. Nowadays Freud is found in literature departments, Marx in film studies, and Hegel in German. But have they migrated, or have they been expelled? Perhaps the home fields of Freud, Marx, and Hegel have turned arid. Perhaps those disciplines have come to prize a scientistic ethos that drives away unruly thinkers. Or maybe they simply progress by sloughing off the past.

A completely unscientific survey of three randomly chosen universities confirms the exodus. A search through the philosophy-course descriptions at the University of Kansas yields a single 19th-century-survey lecture that mentions Hegel. Marx receives a passing citation in an economics class on income inequality. Freud scores zero in psychology. At the University of Arizona, Hegel again pops up in a survey course on 19th-century philosophy; Marx is shut out of economics; and, as usual, Freud has disappeared. And at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Hegel does not appear in philosophy courses, Marx does not turn up in economics, and Freud is bypassed in psychology.

The divorce between informed opinion and academic wisdom could not be more pointed. If educated individuals were asked to name leading historical thinkers in psychology, philosophy, and economics, surely Freud, Hegel, and Marx would figure high on the list. Yet they have vanished from their home disciplines. How can this be?

—Russell Jacoby, The Chronicle Review


Jason Goroncy said...

David. Thanks for this post. Sadly, as 'completely [an] unscientific survey' taken in Australia or the UK yields much the same result. And we could add more: you're more likely to encounter Augustine in the Classics Department, and Calvin in the History Department, than you are to find either in a Theology Department. A final year undergraduate theology student at the University of St Andrews (which really has quite a conservative Theology Department) recently boasted to me that he had managed to get through the entire course without having to read any Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin or Luther. This is a worrying trend.

Christian Collins Winn said...


I've encountered this problem at Bethel as well. Most students wind up reading Augustine, Athanasius, Calvin, Luther, etc. only in the general education classes, and the readings there are quite slim. In history of theology courses, we of course talk through these figures in much more depth, but there really are not that many seminar courses in which to expose them to the great luminaries. I have also noticed a disturbing trend among evangelical "philosophers" in that they tend to be dominated by analytical philosophy and simply don't have much interest in Hegel, though I know that trend is changing. In fact, students learn more about Hegel in my history of theology, part 2, than they do in any general studies courses and in very few philosophy courses. The irony in all of this, is that in the seminar courses I have taught, in which we read primary texts, students express a real appreciation for having the chance to actually read the sources, rather than to simply read about them. Was it similar at Wheaton?

epiteleo said...

Freud and Marx are key pieces in my Theories and Methods course in Religious Studies at the University of Kansas. However, Freudian and Marxist critiques of religion have, for the most part, passed from the scene.

We've also discussed Hegel, from time to time. But again, these discussions have taken place within courses that explore Talmud and philosophy. They are courses offered in the Religious Studies department.