Adam Phillips

Adam Phillips’s most recent books are On Giving Up and, with Stephen Greenblatt, Second Chances: Shakespeare and Freud.

On Getting the Life You Want

Adam Phillips, 20 June 2024

What is the reward for knowing the worst?

Donald Barthelme, Snow White

When Richard Rorty​ wrote, in one of his many familiar pragmatist pronouncements, that the only way you can tell if something is true is if it helps you get the life you want, it sounded either like a provocative assertion or another advertisement, masquerading as epistemology, for consumer capitalism. How one feels about...

On Giving Up

Adam Phillips, 6 January 2022

Our history of giving up – that is to say, our attitude towards it, our obsession with it, our disavowal of its significance – may be a clue to something we should really call our histories and not our selves. It is a clue to the beliefs, the sentences, around which we have organised ourselves. If giving up tends to be the catastrophe to be averted, what do we imagine giving up is actually like?

On Being Left Out: On FOMO

Adam Phillips, 20 May 2021

Being left out begins as tragedy, and tragedy, Freud suggests, is integral to development. So the developmental question – the moral question – is this: is there another and better solution to feeling left out than revenge? If we don’t retaliate, against others and against ourselves, what else can we do? 

Unforgiven: ‘Down Girl’

Adam Phillips, 7 March 2019

Kate Manne knows that a book about misogyny is going to be preaching to the converted, when the converted don’t necessarily know what or how they think; or indeed what to do with their doubts, not least their doubts about the ideology of virtue, about being on the side of the angels. Down Girl rightly insists that misogyny is so all-pervading and so alluring that we are more likely to take it for granted than we are to acknowledge it properly, or want to change it for something better. ‘What could possibly change any of this?’ Manne asks in the conclusion to her book, and it sounds like a cry from the heart.

Early on​ in Emmanuel Carrère’s remarkable novel The Kingdom (2014), about the vagaries of Christian conversion, the narrator tells us that his unhappy mother always knew of the ‘inner kingdom’ – ‘the only one that’s really worth aspiring to: the treasure for which the Gospel tells us to renounce all riches’ – but that she had been...

In 1936 Freud wrote a letter to Romain Rolland, offering him a speculation about a particular memory as a 70th birthday gift. The memory concerned a trip Freud took to Athens with his brother,...

Read more reviews

‘It is, and is not,’ Ezra Pound wrote in a short poem called ‘Sub Mare’, ‘I am sane enough.’ What ‘is, and is not’ is the eerie landscape of the...

Read more reviews

I must be mad: Wild Analysis

Nicholas Spice, 8 January 2004

‘What on earth would possess you to do that?’ This, more or less, is the question anyone who hasn’t ever been in analysis asks of those who have. 

Read more reviews

William Sherlock’s Practical Discourse concerning Death, published in 1689 and known familiarly as Sherlock on Death, was a bestseller in its day and long after. Dr Johnson commended...

Read more reviews

Finding Words

Stanley Cavell, 20 February 1997

Early​ in his lovely and useful book on D.W. Winnicott, published in 1988, Adam Phillips gives a sketch of certain aims and fates of that increasingly treasured figure of British psychoanalysis...

Read more reviews

The Conversation

D.J. Enright, 25 March 1993

This collection of essays by the psychotherapist Adam Phillips is a peculiarly difficult book to review because it reviews itself as it goes along and is hardly to be described in other than its...

Read more reviews

No Trousers

Claude Rawson, 20 December 1990

Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France was published on 1 November 1790. By then, Burke had long ceased to be the dominant intellectual influence in the Whig Party. He hoped the...

Read more reviews

War Zone: In Winnicott’s Hands

Sherry Turkle, 23 November 1989

All his life Donald Winnicott took great pains to present himself as an orthodox Freudian. Yet few ‘Freudians’ have been more radical in their departures from orthodoxy.

Read more reviews

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences