The Third Culture
How Is Personality Formed?
A Talk With Frank J. Sulloway [11.24.98]

Frank Sulloway photo

Introduction by
John Brockman

"A few months ago, a group of authors gathered at a country house in Connecticut for a weekend, taking walks in the meadows and woods, dining alfresco and talking about their work. They did not, however, discuss movie rights, the fate of the novel or the current rash of memoirs. They talked about multiple universes, the philosophy of mathematics and the nature of consciousness.
.....This was a pastoral salon in which cosmologists, cognitive scientists, linguists and invertebrate paleontologists could discuss the evolution of the universe and the problem of whether 1 plus 1 equals 2 is a tautology, a logical formula with relevance only to itself, or whether it has a necessary connection with the physical world. It was a meeting at which the authors could consider the question of whether there are questions that are unanswerable, in principle......At the gathering in Connecticut.....were Steven Pinker ("How the Mind Works"), Lee Smolin ("The Life of the Cosmos"), Daniel Dennett ("Consciousness Explained"), Alan Guth ("The Inflationary Universe"), Nicholas Humphrey ("A History of the Mind"), Niles Eldredge ("Reinventing Darwin," "Dominion") and Frank Sulloway ("Freud," "Biologist of the Mind")."

-James Gorman, The New York Times , 10/14/97 -Science Times, p1.

That weekend at Eastover Farm in rural Connecticut was my first opportunity to meet Frank Sulloway, a fascinating character who, while never having held a formal academic position, has had an important impact on contemporary thought.

His first book, a biography of Freud, looked at the legendary figure as a scientist. His landmark study of birth order (Born to Rebel), based on 26 years of research and writing, is perhaps as important for applying the scientific method to the study of history as it is for his insight into the topic of the book. In it, Sulloway brings to bear what he calls "hypothesis testing, which is a method that saves us all from becoming either astrologers or psychoanalysts."

In this way he connects with the others in the third culture, i.e. "those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are."

- JB

The Talk...


Frank J. Sulloway is the author of Freud, Biologist of the Mind : Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend, and Born to Rebel : Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives.