I just read this commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education (which, by the way, is a great publication -- I'm even thinking of subscribing after I leave this job where I have free access) called Gone, and Being Forgotten (you probably won't be able to view it without an online subscription, but I'll paste relevant parts). [Edit - I was feeling generous, so I hosted this article on my webspace. - J.D.]
It starts out:
"How is it that Freud is not taught in psychology departments, Marx is not taught in economics, and Hegel is hardly taught in philosophy?"
And immediately I thought, "Because they're not important anymore?"
I know a fair bit about Marx, less about Hegel and far too much about Freud than I would care. As I read along this commentary, I wondered if the author was a psychologist, an economist, a philosopher, or some sort of humanities guy. Well, he turned out to be an historian.
"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?"
Well, it is because learning about the failed lessons of history only helps to an extent. I was frustrated that I had to take a course about "The History of Psychology" for my B.S., but I did recognize the importance of the class. Even though I knew most of it already, I assumed that many others would not be familiar with Freud and B.F. Skinner and all.
But to write an entire commentary about how these thinkers are being pushed into the background? Do you want to know why? Because everyone and their mom went apeshit over these guys, even though their work and theories turned out to be mostly honky.
"Yet, much like psychology, philosophy has proved unwelcoming for thinkers paddling against the mainstream."
Here, the author, Russell Jacoby, seems to suggest that people who support these great thinkers -- Hegel, Freud, Marx -- in their "correct" arenas (philosophy, psychology, economics, respectively) are "paddling against the mainstream" and are thus forced out of the fields into different areas. One philosopher, John McCumber, who loves Hegel "decamped from philosophy to German" so that he could continue to love him.
Give me a break. I realize that it's a tragedy when someone who devotes their entire career to an historic figure must shift gears. But if your selection of choice is taken out of the canon, what better reason to fight for his place in history? Will you just go with the tide and switch to German studies because you find philosophy "too restrictive". Bone up.
It's dumb to keep emphasizing the work of ancient groundbreakers whose work has been overshadowed by new discoveries. Sure, these guys did some great things and deserve recognition. But no, I don't think every person who wants to be educated in psychology should know the complete ins and outs of Freudian psychology. Dreams, sex, a few complexes and move on.
Besides -- isn't it enough that historians and people studying the humanities in general will keep the flames of these three alive? Let the sciences progress and leave the dinosaurs in the history books.