Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) [NOOK Book]

Overview


"Beyond the Pleasure Principle" marks a major turning point in the evolution of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic thought. It is at once richly complex, daringly conceptual, and highly controversial. It leads Freud to a restatement of his theory of consciousness and of the "topography" of the human mind. At the same time, it provides a charming glimpse of an intimate family experience with his grandson, supporting the formulation of his new concept of the "compulsion to repeat" which became the basis for his ...
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Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview


"Beyond the Pleasure Principle" marks a major turning point in the evolution of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic thought. It is at once richly complex, daringly conceptual, and highly controversial. It leads Freud to a restatement of his theory of consciousness and of the "topography" of the human mind. At the same time, it provides a charming glimpse of an intimate family experience with his grandson, supporting the formulation of his new concept of the "compulsion to repeat" which became the basis for his radical revision of what he termed his "metapsychology"-the "scientific" foundation for his clinical theory.
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Meet the Author


Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 and grew up in Vienna. He began developing the theory and technique of psychoanalysis when he undertook the study and treatment of patients with neurological and emotional disorders. A master of German prose style and a winner of the Goethe Prize, Freud is the author of Interpretation of Dreams, Three Essays in the Theory of Sexuality, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, and Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. He moved to London in 1938 to escape the persecution of the Nazis, and died the following year, widely celebrated as the founder of the international psychoanalytic movement.
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Introduction

"Beyond the Pleasure Principle" marks a major turning point in the evolution of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic thought. It is at once richly complex, daringly conceptual, and highly controversial. Unlike much of his earlier work, it draws only marginally on his clinical experience and self-analysis, resting much of its argument on speculative elaborations of ideas from a wide range of scientific and intellectual disciplines-philosophy, genetics (as then understood), microbiology, Darwinism, embryology, and mythology, to name a few. It leads Freud to a restatement of his theory of consciousness and of the "topography" of the human mind. At the same time, it provides a charming glimpse of an intimate family experience with his grandson, supporting the formulation of his new concept of the "compulsion to repeat" which became the basis for his radical revision of what he termed his "metapsychology"-the "scientific" foundation for his clinical theory.

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 in Freiburg, a small city in Moravia, the eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and moved with his parents to Vienna when he was three-and-a-half years old. There he lived, obtained his classical Gymnasium education, graduated from medical school, raised his family and, after a period of laboratory research in neuro-anatomy, undertook the study and treatment of patients with neurological and emotional disorders. It was in that setting that, in the waning years of the nineteenth century, Freud began to develop the theory and technique of psychoanalysis, publishing, among other things, such major works as the Interpretation of Dreams, Three Essays in the Theory of Sexuality, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, and Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, as well as a number of extended clinical case studies that served to illustrate his ideas. Initially he worked alone and with little recognition, but gradually he gathered a group of colleagues and students as his writings, always controversial, gained increasing attention, acclaim, and criticism. Like most of his fellow Viennese, Freud suffered significant impoverishment and material deprivation during the European war of 1914-1918, but his literary productivity continued without interruption. A master of German prose style, he was awarded the Goethe Prize in 1930 by the City of Frankfurt for the literary quality of his voluminous writings on the workings of the human mind. Finally, after the German absorption of Austria in 1938, Freud, by then old and ill, was helped by some of his students and followers to move to London to escape the Nazis' anti-Semitic persecution. The next year, after completing his final book Moses and Monotheism, he died, widely celebrated as the founder of what had by then become the international psychoanalytic movement.

Written mainly in 1919, Beyond the Pleasure Principle was powerfully influenced by the bloody carnage of the recently concluded World War I. Apart from his concerns about his sons who served in the Austrian army, Freud was engaged in particular by the problem of the "traumatic neuroses" of war (then often referred to as "shell-shock"). Military psychiatrists (including some of Freud's own students) had succeeded in showing that these conditions were the result not of neurological damage, but of overwhelmingly frightening combat experiences, and that they could be treated with psychological methods. (A compelling fictional account of such treatment forms the basis of Pat Barker's novel Regeneration.) Freud found in the repetitive terrifying dreams of such patients a challenge to his view, enunciated in The Interpretation of Dreams, that dreams were to be understood as disguised wish-fulfillments, and thus as a manifestation of what he called the "pleasure-principle."

In an earlier work (1911), Freud had argued that all of mental life was governed by the "pleasure principle," the aim of which was the reduction of tension through the discharge of "instinctual" energies. Traumatic dreams did not, it seemed, conform to this rule; on the contrary, they showed no pleasurable or wish-fulfilling function, but rather appeared to repeat over and over again the painful traumatic situation or event. From his analysis of such symptoms, Freud concluded that behind and even more basic and primitive than the "pleasure principle" was a "compulsion to repeat." Indeed, he contended, even patients in analysis tended to repeat painful experiences in the relation to the analyst, rather than remembering them in their "free associations."

It was as evidence in support of this proposition that Freud told about his observations of a toddler (obviously his grandson) who repetitively played the game of throwing a spool with string attached over the edge of his crib so that it disappeared, with the accompanying cry of "fort" (away); he then would pull it back with the cry of "da" (there). Freud interpreted this ritual as the child's reenactment of the painful experience of his mother's repeated departures and his joyous response to her returns, exemplifying the "compulsion to repeat" that served, Freud concluded, to help him master the pain and emotional conflict engendered by her absences. Indeed, he proposed that children's play in general served this function, and that it was just this aim of active mastery that led the sufferers from traumatic neuroses to endlessly repeat in dream or symptom their traumatic experiences.

But Freud pressed his argument further. In the service of the need to keep internal tension at a minimum, every organism, from the lowliest protozoan to the human infant, is endowed with or develops a "barrier against stimuli" or "protective shield." Trauma consists of a rupture of this barrier by overwhelming external stresses that it cannot withstand. Since, Freud maintained, the aim of all living organisms is the reduction of tension to its lowest possible level (following the "constancy principle" advanced by the experimental psychologist G. T. Fechner), the ultimate goal of life would seem to be the return to the inanimate state-that is, to death. Where he had previously postulated the duality of the sexual instincts and those of self-preservation (or "ego instincts"), Freud now proposed, following the lead of the biologist Weissman, that it was the sexual drives, or Eros, rooted in the germ-plasm, that were concerned with both the perpetuation of life and that of the species through reproduction, while the ultimate aim of the "ego instincts," rooted in the body or "soma," was individual extinction-or death. Self-induced pain, as in masochism, was now to be understood not as a part of the sexual instinct but as a (probably innate) manifestation of this drive toward death, while sadism and aggression were now to be seen as the outward diversion of this biologically inward-directed drive.

As was often the case with his writings, Beyond the Pleasure Principle served for Freud a polemical as well as a scientific purpose. His dual instinct theory, in which the sexual drive or "libido" was always counterpoised against another system of forces, had been challenged by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, Freud's former junior colleague and chosen successor. Jung sought to minimize the central role of sexuality in psychoanalytic theory and conceived of the "libido" as a general, monistic instinctual force. Freud vigorously set out to refute Jung's effort at revisionism, asserting the necessary dualism of his instinct theory while acknowledging that there remained much to be learned about the relations of the ego to the instincts.

Of course Freud recognized the radical nature of his speculations. In his own defense he wrote, "It may be asked how far I am convinced of the truth of the hypotheses that have been set out in these pages. My answer would be that I am not convinced myself and that I do not seek to persuade other people to believe in them. Or, more precisely, that I do not know how far I believe in them." Still, he asserted as though in self-justification, "It is surely possible to throw oneself into a line of thought and to follow it wherever it leads out of simple scientific curiosity."

Critical responses to Freud's new "metapsychological" postulates were, as usual, varied. Interestingly, reviewing the first American translation of Beyond the Pleasure Principle in 1924, the eminent literary critic John Crowe Ransom found the book "poetic," replete with "vast and brilliant speculations" recalling the philosophy of Schopenhauer. "He has," wrote Ransom, "hazarded these speculations with more than his habitual caution, and the modesty with which he propounds his opinions ought to be an example to the embittered anti-Freudians." Most psychoanalysts found the concept of the "repetition compulsion" of interest since it seemed consistent with their clinical observations. Lawrence Kubie (1939), however, dismissed the idea as simply "a psychoanalytic version of the word 'habit,'" while William Silverberg (1925) objected to the absence of any suggestion of "practical application" of any of the concepts raised in the essay. More recently, I have questioned the validity of the "protective shield" notion in my paper "The 'Stimulus Barrier'-a Review and Reconsideration" (1983).

More problematic, however, was the proposition of a "death instinct." Although the introduction of a drive toward destruction, especially in the aftermath of the Great War, seemed to most of Freud's readers to be not only plausible but useful, the notion that it was fundamentally self-directed appeared fanciful at best, based on ingenious but questionable biological analogies and deeply pessimistic in its implications. Among his closest associates a few sought to adhere to it, but in the main psychoanalysts found it clinically useless and unfounded. They chose instead to accept the idea of a dual-instinct theory encompassing sexuality and aggression in the context of personal relationships and ensuing internal emotional conflicts. Ernest Jones, Freud's friend and biographer, summarized the situation thus: "The book is noteworthy in being the only one of Freud's which has received little acceptance on the part of his followers. Thus of the fifty or so papers they have since devoted to the topic one observes that in the first decade only half supported Freud's theory, in the second decade only a third, and in the last decade none at all" (1957). The child analyst Melanie Klein, however, embraced the death-instinct concept unequivocally, building upon it an intricate theory of infant development and psychopathology that became extremely influential, initially in her adopted home in Great Britain and more recently, though in modified form, in Latin America and the United States as well.

Perhaps the most trenchant critique of the work came much later (1970) from the French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche. Acclaiming the "freedom" and "audacity" of Freud's thought, Laplanche challenged what he saw as failures in logic and a tendency toward biological, even cosmic, reductionism. He demonstrated through a close reading of the text ways in which Freud's "pleasure principle" deviated from or misconstrued Fechner's "constancy principle," as well as his subtle transitions from speculative hypothesis to (despite his disclaimers) dogmatic assertion. And he hints that Freud's well-known concern about his own death and that of those close to him "is deserving of attention even in its slightest details" as a factor in his conception of the "death drive." By contrast, Friedman (1992) in a pair of scholarly papers defends the essay in general and the "death drive" concept in particular, suggesting that Freud's critics have misread his intention, that his reliance on contemporary biological science was ironic, and that the entire speculative work was based on his well-established views about the conservative nature of the instincts.

Beyond the Pleasure Principle stands, then, as a landmark in the construction of Freud's theoretical edifice. It represents a transitional stage in the development of his theory of the instincts, instituting for the first time an innate impulsion toward destruction that evolved, in other hands, into the notion of an independent aggressive drive. It anticipated, in the recognition of unconscious elements in the ego, Freud's formulation three years later in The Ego and the Id of the structural theory that still stands, for many analysts, as the fundamental conceptualization of how the mind is organized. It touches on questions regarding narcissism and masochism that continue to be of clinical concern and remain controversial today. One has the sense in reading the book of a master theoretician struggling with new ideas, recycling old ones, and groping toward a resolution of issues that are still germinating but have yet to come to fruition, employing his extraordinary rhetorical skills and his mastery of literary style in an effort to convince both the reader and himself that he knows just where he is heading. Thus Beyond the Pleasure Principle is an essential document for students both of the development of psychoanalytic thought and of Freud's creative process.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2013

    Ebook impossible to read

    Unfortunately, this ebook cuts off half of each page and so is impossible to read. I do not recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2002

    Nice

    I haven't exactly read the book yet...But I'm terribly excited about it. Freud is an amazing person who I admire greatly. I'm doing a report on him as well...I'll let you know how the book turns out!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 18, 2012

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