"This study is concerned with Freud's neurological education as a background of a major part
of his work—psychoanalysis as a more or less comprehensive and unified theory of mental and nervous development and functioning." It "emphasizes that important aspects of his thought were not very original, but [intends] a qualification to, and not a denial of, interpretations which have focused on his originality."
The first three chapters discuss the teachings of three of Freud's influential teachers—Brücke, Meynert, and Exner. An "unrestrained shifting from descriptions in terms of the mind to descriptions in physical terms was characteristic" of their work and is reflected in the work of Freud, in spite of the fact that the Helmholtz school from which they were derived taught that "no other forces than the common physical-chemical ones are active in the organism," leaving no place for the activity of a nonphysical entity such as the mind.