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At various places in , Neu upholds a conditional freedom that is an achievement rather than a given, and he gives great attention to hidden, subterranean forces that influence our choices.Sartre presents a theory of "bad faith" that aims to provide an alternative to psychoanalysis.
Freedom -- from questions about the degree of control we have over our emotions to the psychological conditions for criminal responsibility -- is a pervasive theme (vii).
An important element in Neu's work is his contribution to the philosophical consideration of Freud and of the psychoanalytic method, particularly with respect to ethics.
Neu appeals to Freud throughout the book as a theoretical and methodological inspiration.
Sartre and Descartes appear as opponents in several places, particularly Chapters 3, 4, 7, and also 10.
Is the unconscious simply a mechanism, or does it have perceptiveness and purposiveness? And does the operation of semi-independent systems of reasons and mental causes require the postulation of semi-independent agents of consciousness?
If repression is not purely mechanical, what "selectively directs" the application of the energy of repression? Neu highlights that these questions open up much larger issues: Does purposiveness require consciousness? This is the cluster of issues which reemerges in contemporary debates about the suitability and limits of computer models for the mind. (77) According to Neu, Sartre criticizes Freud in part "to insist that people have choices in many more situations than they acknowledge, and so are responsible for more than they would acknowledge." Neu writes, "I believe this is true, but it is misleading to conclude that people have a choice" (78).
According to Neu, in a Cartesian view of self-knowledge, my mind is known to me directly and incorrigibly, so self-deception on the model of other-deception is impossible (I am suspicious that Neu's account of Descartes' and Sartre's pictures of self-knowledge on 68-69 oversimplifies, but I do not have the expertise to give a sufficient counter-interpretation).
In Freud's understanding of the mind as "split" into conscious and unconscious, "one may on one level (the unconscious) know, while on another level (the conscious) one does not know" (69).
And existentialist that he was, Sartre believed in unconditional freedom.
His position did not allow for hidden, subterranean, forces determining our choices in a way that might leave us without responsibility (67).