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KRONOS Vol IX, No. 1



Editor's Note: This is the final installment in the series "Hegel and Freud", the first part of which appeared in KRONOS IV:4, pp. 75-89, and the second part of which appeared in KRONOS V:4, pp. 70-83. LMG.

It is only recently that Freud's works have been seriously studied by academic philosophy. Yet not enough has been done to set him within the tradition and to see the sources (explicit or implicit) of his more philosophical views. Too often his work is treated not as a genuine philosophy at all, but rather as an outmoded psychology which "lapses" now and again into metapsychology with philosophical overtones.(1) The latter has been especially the view of contemporary academic psychologists, and constitutes a rather perjorative dismissal of Freud. No doubt the same would be said of Aristotle, Hegel or Nietzsche, were they the titular founders of the modern discipline of psychology. Academic philosophy, on the other hand, must be prepared to understand Freud philosophically.

Freud himself, as Emest Jones in his Life tells us, only first became attracted to medicine through an interest in Darwin's theory of evolution and (especially) through Goethe's essay on Nature.(2) Much later, in a letter to Fliess (Jan. 1, 1896) Freud wrote:

I see that you are using the circuitous route of medicine to attain your first ideal, the psychological understanding of man, while I secretly nurse the hope of arriving by the same route at my own original objective philosophy. For that was my original ambition, before I knew what I was intended to do in the world.(3)

And in 1933, at the age of 77, looking back on his life's work, Freud commented to H. D.: "My discoveries are not primarily a heal-all. My discoveries are a basis for a very grave philosophy."(4) A mind of such evident ingenuity, not to say genius, ought to be taken at its word, especially when it is repeated throughout a long career.

With regard to our specific endeavor here to see the Hegelian roots of Freud's social and political philosophy one might suppose at first that we have chosen the wrong philosophical progenitor for Freud. The index to the Standard Edition of Freud's works lists only one reference to Hegel in all of his writings, and there we find Freud quoting Spitta who "quotes Hegel as saying that dreams are devoid of all objective and reasonable coherence" a position with which, of course, Freud is about to disagree.(5) And Jones' Life, too, makes only one reference to Hegel. There, Jones recalls the presentation of Putnam's paper ("The Importance of Philosophy for the Future Development of Psychoanalysis") at the Weimar Congress in September 1911:

His burning plea for the introduction of philosophy butonly his own Hegelian brand into psychoanalysis did notmeet with much success. . . . Freud remarked to me afterwards: "Putnam's philosophy reminds me of a decorative centerpiece: everyone admires it but no one touches it."(6)

Furthermore, Paul Ricoeur in his recent philosophical treatment of Freud observes that Freud insisted upon the distinction between "synthesis" and "analysis" and claimed that psychoanalysis may not be completed by a psychosynthesis.(7) Ricoeur himself seems to agree with this point (at least in principle), and also with de Waelhens claim that, if a philosophical progenitor or counterpart of Freud is to be found, then this role would more likely be filled not by Hegel but by Husserl. It is Husserl's interminable (because always incomplete) analytic and maieutic procedure of phenomenological reflection, they argue, rather than Hegel's synthetic philosophy (resting upon the presumption of an omniscient thinker-interpreter at the end of history), that is closer to Freud's basic philosophical activity.(8)

In response to these preliminary doubts, however, we may note the following. One need not quote extensively from an author in order to have read him or to have been imbued by his thought (and, in fact, Hegel is precisely the kind of philosopher whose works had this indirect yet all-pervasive effect throughout the arts, letters, and emergent social sciences in the 19th Century). Besides, we know from Jones that despite Freud's "strong attraction" to philosophy, Freud always felt compelled "to check ruthlessly" his natural tendency towards "speculation" and endeavored to avoid reading philosophy deliberately.(9) More specifically, though it is true that Freud nowhere sets out to write a systematic social and political philosophy, yet,as we shall see, a system both complete and coherent does emerge through an analysis of those of his works (particularly the later ones) that touch upon the subject.

It is not necessary and, moreover, it is an error - to set analysis and synthesis, psychotherapy and philosophy, in a priori opposition as irreducibles (as Ricoeur does in the case of Freud) - and to fail to make some extremely important distinctions here. Ricoeur's citation of Freud's own claim that psychoanalysis "is not to be completed by a psychosynthesis" is misleading. What Freud is referring to in that context is the treatment of patients by the psychoanalyst. Freud claims that psychosynthesis is "achieved during analytic treatment without our intervention, automatically, and inevitably". Thus, what Ricoeur states as "is not to be" and reads as "must not be". Freud meant as "need not be" - and this with regard to the patient's "philosophy of life" and not with regard to the philosophical foundations of psychotherapy or psychology itself.

Still further, as to Freud's apparent dismissal of Putnam's attempt to provide a Hegelian ground for psychoanalysis apart from Freud's skepticism with regard to speculative philosophy generally we ought first to take this in the context of the therapeutic concerns of the conference itself and second to recall that Freud does not dismiss Hegel, but only Putnam's version of Hegelianism.

Finally, we have Freud's own lifelong claim that his objective and interest was ultimately a philosophy naturally a philosophy of his own, not an imitation of anothers. If he said so, then at least we must be able to read his works philosophically. If, in the long run, Freud indeed made some distinction between psychotherapy and philosophy, we cannot be amiss in looking solely at the philosophical content of his works. It seems far more likely that we are dealing here with an intentional union of the two, a Socratic kind of psychotherapy in philosophy. A severence or dichotomy between the two seems artificial and false.

Ricoeur, in fact, seems to realize this, stating that "Freud's analytic will speak at times in the manner of Hegel". Ricoeur tries to construct what he calls a common homologous "dialectic of archeology and teleology" between them by taking Hegel "as a counterexample . . . in which the same problems present themselves in reverse order". Ricoeur notes that Freud's concepts are dialectical like Hegel's and that the problematic of each is in the other; they are "not external opposites but intrinsically related". Ricoeur, therefore, concludes that Freud's psychoanalysis cannot be understood except through constructing a teleological synthesis to which it can be seen ultimately to refer.(10)

It will be seen that the essential source of agreement (and disagreement) between Hegel and Freud resides in the ultimate subject of all their works - the movement to self-consciousness and to culture and civilization. This, for both, is a process occurring through various mechanisms and stages of consciousness. It is a process realizing itself through the education of desire by the abandonment or transformation of desire's object. It is also the incorporation of the external by its introjection and identification within the subject. It is also the dialectical ambivalence and reversal of paired opposites as well as the duplication of desire in desire and the struggles for recognition in recognition. And finally, it realizes itself through the multifaceted reduplication and enlargement of consciousness itself. In this way, it becomes self-conscious. In this self-consciousness (though an evolutionary result), nothing is ever totally forgotten, lost, disavowed, or obliterated.

Freud's social and political theory, like Hegel's, rests ultimately upon the postulation of an archaic, indeterminate, and immediate will. Hegel's consciousness, which, in its first moment, begins to realize its apartness and seeks to satisfy its need or compulsion to overcome what is external to it, is the source of all the constructions and accretions which come to constitute its fully actualized, concrete life. Similarly, Freud's id (the unconscious and impersonal locus of drives) is the ontogenic origin of all individual and societal constructions. (It is also, as we have seen earlier, the source of the phylogenic origin of the state [KRONOS V:4,pp. 70 ff.].)

Freud calls the id the "oldest of the mental provinces or agencies", a "chaos of seething excitement". It is filled with the energy of the instincts but "has no organization and no unified will, only an impulsion to obtain satisfaction for the instinctual needs". The laws of logic, of time and space, of value and morality are absent from it. Thus, as with Hegel's primeval consciousness, Freud's id has no conflicts - "contradictory impulses exist side by side without neutralizing each other or drawing apart."(11) In fact, nothing can be said about the id strictly, since it only comes to be what it is, after it has begun to become "other".(12)

In order to obtain satisfaction, the id must externalize itself in Nature: and this is the origin of consciousness, or, better, self-consciousness - the ego. It is only by intervening in reality and (through the latter's opposition) recognizing the reality principle - in order to achieve pleasure (by being like, being with, or having) and to avoid pain (by being different, withdrawing from, or abandoning) - that there first arises "a disengagement of the ego from the general mass of sensations" whereby the ego "separates off an external world from itself".(13) It is important to note that it is not by success and satisfaction or by finding its immediate self in reality that the ego is born and grows. This is achieved only by finding itself thwarted by opposition, negation, and antithesis. In an important sense, it is negation and death, then, which ultimately emerge as both the dialectical antithesis of and the impetus to self-conscious life. But it is only the ego, we must remember, and not the id (or perhaps we should say the id become ego-istic), that can fear, keep itself alive, and estimate situations of danger. The id itself, residing in itself, is cut off from the external reality.

It may be observed here immediately that the relation between death and the beginnings of speculative inquiry in man are united in Freud's philosophy as they are in Hegel's. It is not merely by one's own death or the death of another, according to Freud, but essentially by the death of one regarding whom one has the simultaneous and ambiguous feelings of both love and hate, of identity and apartness, that primitive consciousness endeavored to maintain the reality of death in its constant immanence. This made the risk of life real and meaningful, turning, somehow, bare existence into essence. And yet, primitive consciousness equally needed somehow to overcome its apprehension of death, to sublate or (as this Hegelian term may often be rendered in Freud) to sublimate it, through the intellectual generation of moral and metaphysical ideas.(14) Similarly. Hegel speaks of the origins of mind in the "portentous power of the negative", to "keep and hold fast what is dead", for the "life of mind is not one that shuns death and keeps clear of destruction; it endures death and in death maintains its being . . . mind is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and dwelling with it".(15)

Since the id is undifferentiated and severed from reality, in itself, we need to explore in greater detail the nature and function of the ego. The ego needs to be understood as either the fully organized part of the id, or the organization which separates off from the id, or that which has "developed out of it through the influence of the outer world as the bark developed around a tree".(16) The ego endeavors to carry out the demands of the id, while preserving the life of the organism, and to achieve this, it strives for a unification and synthesis which at the same time requires careful differentiation. The ego's "emotional maturity", in fact, is seen as success in the integration of diverse instincts and their tenuous and constant reconciliation with their forces of opposition. It is this activity of differentiation and integration which represents the ego's reason and sanity.

Thus, as in Hegel, we find a description of unconsciousness becoming conscious. We have an image of an undifferentiated unity without contradiction, without awareness of time and space, without any definition or delimitation whatsoever, issuing forth into an external which constitutes its own antithesis and which becomes its own determination. We have here a progressive and dialectical movement towards synthesis and rationality on the part of consciousness. As Freud succinctly puts it: "Where id was, there ego shall be."(17) Let us continue this Freudian version of the ontogenic construction of the self-conscious individual.

This process of finding itself outside itself first becomes manifest in identification. "the most primitive relation" and the "original form of emotional tie with an object".(18) The mechanism is primordially manifest, of course, in the child's identification with external authority (the father). Yet a second manifestation of the relation to externality is what Freud calls "object choice". Freud's name for the interior mechanism of this process is cathexis. Cathexis is the process whereby libidinal energy accumulates in and attaches to some part of the psyche, and subsequently invests itself in an object ("object libido"). Now the ego libido, he claims, can only become manifest if its "energy is invested or occupied (cathexis) in . . . objects; that is, if it becomes object-libido".(19) This melding, this dialectical ambivalence of ego-libido and object-libido, occurs, therefore, between the two self-relational, self-constructional processes of identification and object choice. Thus, though Freud claims that identification and object choice are, broadly speaking. independent of each other" and that "identification is not to be confused with object choice" (the former being "what one would like to be'', the latter, "what one would like to have"), still, in actual fact, one can and does "identify oneself with a person, and alter one's ego accordingly, and take the same person as one's sexual object".(20)

It is not surprising or difficult to understand (given the background of the more comprehensive hermeneutic of the Hegelian dialectic) that, in the quest for satisfaction, for self-consciousness and the emergence of personal identity, being and having are but two sides or the same coin. It is interesting to note, however, though we shall deal with this in greater detail below, that there is at least an important point in making the identification relation prior to the object choice relation. As Rieff has noted, since identification is the primitive mechanism of submission to authority, Freud can claim that this externalization/internalization process (rather than object cathexis) is the ultimate explanation for social cohesion: "By showing that the tie to authority arises prior to relations of desire, Freud ingeniously accounted for social compliance and the formation of moral ideals as well."(21)

In any case, both processes are clearly transformed equivalents of Hegels concept of externalization. Subjectivity, to become definite for itself, must occupy a position external to itself.

Having the external world (or some portion of it) as one`s own is achieved, in the most elementary, primitive, and physical fashion, by eating. We are reminded here of the precise corollary in Hegel where, in the first movement of Objective Spirit within "abstract right", the ego becomes itself by overcoming Natural difference through devouring and thus destroying what is external. But again, this object choice relation or having as one 's own is transmutable into a being-like or identification relation. As Freud expresses it: "identification has not inappropriately been compared with the cannibalistic incorporation of another person."(22) In his Group Psychology, Freud observes the male child's

identification with his father . . . becomes identical with the wish to replace his father. . . . Identification, in fact, is ambivalent from the very first. . . . It behaves like a derivative of the first, oval phase of the libido, in which the object that we long for and prize is assimilated by eating and is in that way annihilated as such. The cannibal, as we know, has remained at this standpoint; he has a devouring affection for his enemies and only devours people of whom he is fond.(23)

After this earliest stage of ingestion wherein the external is physically destroyed as external and is incorporated, Freud, like Hegel, envisages a higher and more permanent stage. This is the institution of property. Property is merely a further means of fulfilling instinctual desires. And like Hegel (and unlike Marx) Freud believes that such an institution (and, along with it, the division of labor and classes) is not something which, once abolished, will result in the transformation of all mankind's social ills. Rather, it is merely a means and a stage in a much larger process the creation and embodiment of personal (and ultimately collective) consciousness.

Like Hegel, too, labor is seen by Freud as a further stage in creative self-consciousness. And, again, it is by no means an immediate satisfaction of desire - as it was earlier in eating - but a delayed process, the result of an inhibition of instinctual satisfaction through its normal (i.e., direct) channels. (Freud even imagines that the first use of fire by primitives and thus the origin of labor's greatest tool was the result of such renunciation: "The first person to renounce this desire [to extinguish by urination] and spare the fire was able to carry it off with him and subdue it to his own use. By damping down the fires of his own sexual excitation, he tamed the natural force of fire. This great cultural conquest was thus the reward for his renunciation of instinct.")(24)

Property (as an externalization of desire in reality) and creative labor (as a concession to the reality principle for the sake of delayed satisfaction) are both the work of deliberative reason. Although labor, in the form of deflection and sublimation (i.e., displacements of libido energy), can also be a palliative measure for the immediate re-channeled release of constrained energy, yet Freud does seem to envision an instinctual basis for the processes of both property and labor. As we have seen, Eros, the love of life principle, is itself an impulse towards synthetic aggrandisement. As the union of Freud's old ego and object instincts, Eros is the instinct to preserve living substance and the instinct to join into ever larger units. And as mediated by narcissism, Eros can be pointed to as the primeval source of the social community made by labor, property, and love.(25) So much, then, for the moment, of the ontogeny of the ego and the various transformations and satisfactions of its desire.

We have so far not touched on the third and last component of our psychic life and the final component in the ontogenic dialectic - the super-ego. As in Hegel, all morality and conscience first appears in the negative mode and emerges from an external state of affairs which becomes internalized in a higher stage as subjective guilt (wrong). Its origin and mechanism is, briefly, as follows: the instincts, seeking satisfaction in the external world, are, in the first instance, inhibited by the ego, whose reason perceives external danger to their satisfaction not in inanimate Nature but in the person of authority (another ego). The desire to externalize the instinct in an object is prohibited by the father. The instinct is frustrated because inhibited; and aggression is felt towards the authority. Originally, however, due to fear of, love for, and especially identification with the authority, such hostility is abandoned or released in some other fashion. Subsequently, however, as the self-consciousness of the ego grows, the authority is internalized through identification. Thus, as Freud describes it:

In the course of the individual development a part of the inhibiting forces in the outer world . . . [parents and educators who superintend the actions of the individual in the first years of life] becomes internalized; a standard is created in the Ego which opposes the other faculties by observation, criticism, and prohibition. We call this new standard the Super-Ego.")

Internalization of these prohibitions is termed "conscience" the "inner perception of objections to definite wish impulses . . . inner condemnation".(27) Guilt, then, which has "its origin in the Oedipus complex", is seen as the consequence of the conscience and as the "tension between the Ego and Super-Ego".(28) Unlike the original case of the conscienceless child, where the prohibiting authority is external, however, the internalized prohibition of the super-ego of the adult not only asks instinctual renunciation but also (even) punishment for the now unconcealable wish for instinctual satisfaction. This is so because the child has now become an adult and consequently identified with and internalized the authoritative love object (which had to be abandoned because of the disappointing relationship with it). Guilt, then, is the introjection of aggression against the ego, as punishment, by the super-ego. And with each progressive instance, guilt and super-ego grow stronger in dialectical reinforcement.

It is important to point out here that, just as the ego evolved from the id through the negative dialectical relations of having and identification, so here too, as Freud puts it, "we were forced to assume that in the Ego itself a special agency has become differentiated, which we name the Super-Ego . . . the precipitate of the Ego's first attachment to objects". The super-ego is an evolution of the ego. Just as in Hegel, then, morality is characterized as nothing but an internalization of the intersubjective "Not". And we are not surprised to find that Freud's various characterizations of the actual workings of the superego (which we find detailed in his case histories and his parallel anthropological, literary, and religious investigations) are patterned after precisely the same machinations of the lex talonis - with the objective cancellation by retribution demanded by the "wrongdoer" himself which Hegel describes in his discussion of morality as a phase of Objective Spirit.

Finally, as Freud goes on to state in The Question of Lay Analysis, it is important that the super-ego, as the reflection and ground of community ethics, marking off the rights of the individual with regard to the society at large, "become sufficiently depersonalized". Justice must be blind; or, to put it in Kantian terms, the categorical imperative which grounds the moral law must be valid a priori and thus universal rather than particular in its rightful application. This depersonalization process of the super-ego creates internal and external disunity, however, and leads to what Freud elsewhere calls "Malaise" (a close equivalent, as Freud intends it, to Hegels "unhappy consciousness' and "alienation").(29)

As Hegel describes it, morality itself is too formal and thus insufficient to account for (i.e., make possible) the concrete communal life of the individual self. And just as Hegel's analysis then moves on to the last phase of Objective Spirit - Sittlichkeit - so Freud, in what perhaps at first appears to be either a tangential or highly speculative account of the phylogenic and ethnogenic origins of social and political life, offers an historical and cultural account over and above the psychological ontogenic account of the growth of the self-consciousness of the individual.

At this point, let us take stock of what has been said so far. We have been analysing the creation of an individual self-consciousness from infancy to adulthood, or, better, from id to ego to super-ego through an analysis which may be called psychological ontogeny. What this has offered us is an explanation of the origin and structure of a person, a personality or character. The person, in fact, is understood in terms of the structuring and fixation, through progressive stages, of the originally amorphous and emergent unconscious. As Freud defines it, character is "composed of impulses fixed since infancy and won through sublimation . . . of such structures as are destined to suppress effectually those perverse feelings which are recognized as useless".(30) That is, what one is, what one can self-consciously apprehend as the totality of one's "I", is the result of the coordination and assimilation into itself of an ego's id, external reality, and super-ego.

However it may come to appear in function, this trio is not given in advance. The super-ego emerges out of the ego in its negative interrelation with reality, just as the ego emerges out of the id through a similar interreaction with external reality. We can easily see this in terms of the Hegelian dialectic. Indeed, without Hegelian dialectic, it would be a process almost impossible to imagine. Hegel's Aufhebung of notions finds its psychological equivalent in Freud's sublimation and deflection of instincts; and just as for Hegel a negation of a negation is not an annihilation, so for Freud no primeval instinct or desire is ever totally abandoned or repressed in the individual psyche. The ego is the immanent consciousness emergent from, and simultaneous with, the first needful stirrings of the unconscious. The ego constitutes the rational coordination of the movement from the in-itself of the unconscious id to the for-itself of externalization in Nature, and culminates finally in the presumed re-in ternalization of the external self (mediated by the recognition of, and identification with, the general impersonal other) in the super-ego. Like Hegel's Spirit, the self-conscious self has no life and no being apart from the evolution of its concretization and myriad re-duplications. It is the individualized process of self-unfolding, the creative life which is thought by self-consciousness in thinking through the dialectical unity of its being in the world. For both Hegel and Freud, self-consciousness is a task, the highest aim of psychology and philosophy, and is necessarily "therapeutic" to the degree that self-consciousness is itself the change of which it becomes conscious.


1. Some notable exceptions are, of course: H. Marcuse, Eros and Civilization (N.Y., 1955); P. Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy, trans. by Denis Savage (New Haven, 1970); P. Rieff Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (N .Y., 1959); P. Roazen, Freud. Social and Political Thought (N.Y., 1970); J. Hyppolite, "Phenomenologie de Hegel et psychanalyse," La Psychanalyse, 3; M. G. Kalin, The Utopian Flight From Happiness (Totowa, 1975).
2. Cited in E. Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (3 vols.; N.Y., 1953),1, p. 28.
3. Cited in W. Gass, "Freud's Fierce Science," The New York Review of Books, Vol. XXII, No. 6 (April 17,1975), p. 4.
4. Ibid.
5. S. Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. by James Strachey (London, 1953), IV, p. 55 (hereinafter cited as SE).
6. Jones, op. cit, II, pp. 85-86.
7. Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy, pp. 460 and 472; he cites "Lines of Advance in Psychoanalytic Therapy" (1918) in SE, XVII, pp. 160-161.
8. Ricoeur, Ibid., pp. 379 and 388. Jones, by the way, notes that Freud attended lectures by Brentano (Life and Work of Freud, I, p. 37).
9. Cf. Jones, Ibid., 1, p. 29.
10. Ricoeur, op. cit., pp. 62, 461, 469, 473.
11. Freud, An Outline of Psychoanalysis, in SE, XIX, p. 25; cf., also, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Ch. 4.
12. New Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis, in SE, XXII, p. 20.
13. Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. and ed. by James Strachey (N.Y., 1961), pp. 14-15.
14. Cf. Freud's "Thoughts for the Times on War and Death" in On Creativity and the Unconscious, ed. by Benjamin Nelson (N.Y., 1958).
15. Hegel, Phenomenology, p. 93. 16. Freud, Moses and Monotheism, trans. by Katherine Jones (N.Y., 1967), p. 30.
17. New Introductory Lectures, in SE, XXII, p. 80.
18. Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, trans. and ed. by James Strachey (N.Y., 1959), p. 39. Cf., also, New Introductory Lectures, Ch. 3.
19. Cf. Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, Ch. 3.
20. Group Psychology, p. 39; and cf. Ibid.
21. Rieff, Freud, pp. 176-177.
22. Cf. New Introductory Lectures, Ch. 3.
23. Group Psychology, p. 37.
24. Civilization and Its Discontents, p. 37, ftn. 1.
25. Cf. Ibid., Ch. 6.
26. Moses and Monotheism, p . 149.
27. Cf. Totem and Taboo, trans. by James Strachey (N.Y., 1950), Ch. 12.
28. Cf. Civilization and Its Discontents, Ch. 7; and New Introductory Lectures, Ch. 3.
29. Cf. The Question of Lay Analysis, Ch. 5.
30. Cf. Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, Ch. 3.

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