Freud three essays on the theory of sexuality standard edition


An outline of Freud’s theory of sexual excitement and sexual drives

Just as with sexuality, the ego should not be understood from a functional and more particularly adaptive point of view. Even if the ego informs us about the reality in which we live and allows our adaptation to it, this is not the perspective according to which Freud wants to understand and conceptualize the ego at this stage of his thinking. Or, more concretely, just as sexuality in the early texts is rethought as a conflictual field of opposing forces in contradistinction to a function with a clear and determined goal , so the ego now appears to be essentially built up by conflicting identifications, so that it can no longer be reduced to an adaptive function.

Freud writes, for example:. There comes a time in the development of the individual at which he … begins by taking himself, his own body, as his love-object, and only subsequently proceeds from this … half-way phase between auto-eroticism and object-love … to heterosexuality. This passage can teach us many things. First, it clearly indicates in what respect the introduction of narcissism is meant to show infantile sexuality its way to the object.

As a result, infantile sexuality is no longer without an object. Second, this introduction goes along with a developmental perspective that was almost completely absent from the edition of the Three Essays. The only thing Freud now needs to explain is how the homosexual position gives way to a heterosexual one.

This is the role of the Oedipus complex. Freud introduces the Oedipus complex for the first time in his study on the Rat Man in One no doubt remembers the fits of anger that structure the history of the Rat Man from his early childhood onwards. Anger is an affect that can occur whenever one feels treated unjustly or when we cannot have something we think we are entitled to. This anger can be abreacted against any object that is at hand. Anger is an acute condition that passes once it has been abreacted. Its object — just like the object of the sexual drive? It can easily be replaced by another.

The object has no value in itself. This is not the case with hatred or with love for that matter. Hatred is a passion that has a permanent object that cannot easily be replaced by another one. The hatred against one person cannot be satisfied by destroying an object or another person, as is the case with anger. But this obvious difference does not prevent Freud in the theoretical part of his case study on the Rat Man from re-qualifying what he first called anger in terms of sadism and hatred.

So Freud writes, for instance, [T]he sadistic components of love have, from constitutional causes, been exceptionally strongly developed, and have consequently undergone a premature and all too thorough suppression and … the neurotic phenomena we have observed arise on the one hand from conscious feelings of affection which have become exaggerated as a reaction, and on the other hand from sadism persisting in the unconscious in the form of hatred.

The reasons for this confusion between hate and anger should not occupy us here, but it is clear that it has important consequences. As long as Freud considered infantile sexuality as essentially autoerotic, the Oedipus complex, as the formative complex of subjectivity in early childhood, was literally unthinkable.

The study of psychosis made Freud give up the idea that infantile sexuality has no object. His problematic interpretation of obsessional neurosis taught Freud, in addition, that the father and the parental figures in general plays a crucial and predominant role in the development of the infantile libido towards its objects. From now on, all elements are in place to understand psychopathology and the construction of subjectivity for that matter as intrinsically dependent on the libidinal relations of the little child with its parents — the Oedipus complex.

There is not enough space to articulate all the consequences, on both a metapsychological and a clinical level, of this change in perspective. I will limit myself to a general hypothesis instead: from onwards the sexual body as a constitutive field of forces with an ever-changing strength and intensity, which in principle never gives us any rest, becomes progressively inscribed in an Oedipal logic that concretizes the reference to the law of the father just mentioned. The partial drives, for instance, are now thought of as phases in a development that — at least ideally — aims at their integration in a again ideally heterosexual relation which is, furthermore, claimed to be based upon the evolutionary history of humankind.

The different psychopathologies, including hysteria, are conceived as failed attempts to overcome the Oedipal problematic. It is not always clear whether this failure has a structural or a contingent character, but, whatever the case may be, the problematic of the Oedipus complex shows us the ideal heterosexual outcome of our psychosexual development.

In this way, Freud reintroduces a normative element, which was not present in his theories between and Freudian psychoanalysis is not Oedipal in its very nature. Is there a Freudian escape — that is an escape that remains not so much within the Freudian orthodoxy, but at least within its inspiration — from this impasse? There is. Freudian psychoanalysis is a pathoanalysis. According to Freud, we can only understand the human being through the study of psychopathology.

Indeed, according to Freud psychopathology shows us in an exaggerated way the fundamental problematics — one can think here of the hysterical and obsessional dispositions discussed above — that characterize human existence as such. This idea implies, at least in principle, that different pathologies illustrate different problematics.

But Freud does not remain really faithful to this idea. Over and over again, Freud privileges one particular pathology, in order to understand human existence in general and human pathology in particular. The fundamental elements of the hysterical disposition became redefined and neutralized in the process: the partial drives and erogenous zones are reintegrated in a developmental scheme and the bisexuality that was crucial to the understanding of hysteria re appears in the positive and negative versions of the Oedipus complex that is itself supposed to install a heterosexual relationship.

As a result, hysteria itself became progressively understood according to an Oedipal — that is obsessional — paradigm. If Freud had stuck to his original pathoanalytic credo, he would have realized that the problematic that is at the basis of obsessional neurosis — important as it may be — is only one among others and that it only plays a predominant role in one particular pathology.

At best it is this pathology, and this pathology alone — obsessional neurosis — that can be understood on the basis of our relation to the law and hence, at least according to Freud, in Oedipal terms. The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman. SE 18, Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego.


  1. Sigmund Freud.
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A Seventeenth-Century Demonological Neurosis. SE 19, The Economic Problem of Masochism. A Note upon the "Mystic Writing-Pad". Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety.

References

SE 20, The Question of Lay Analysis. Dostoevsky and Parricide. SE 21, Civilization and its Discontents. New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. SE 22, A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis. Analysis Terminable and Interminable. SE 23, Freud explains this shift in sexual object from oneself to others by mentioning how as children, our caregivers especially our mothers - which once more emphasizes Freud's focus on male sexuality touched and caressed us, and how we found this sexually very satsifying.

Without our caregivers observing this, by the way.

See a Problem?

But if childhood sexuality is autoerotic, if we are only satisfied by and through our own bodies, how does this leave room for external sexual causes i. This would mean that childhood sexuality includes an external sexual object our parents , which refutes Freud's own theories on sexual development in puberty. Freud needs this last part on pubertal sexual development , because it is only here that the sexual object changes from oneself to other people - and hence it is only here that later perversions originate.

A second problem is the problem of incest.

If we are so sexually satisfied by our parents, how does this prevent incest later on life? And since our parents already have a partner: how does this not lead to family strife? Now we see why Freud, during his career, re-wrote this book four! The original work, published in , was updated continuously and the final version, published in , was totally different than the first one.

Sex is a Basic Instinct - Sigmund Freud l HISTORY OF SEX

The main thing Freud added to his theories on sexuality is the Oedipus-complex. This theory is a necessary bulwark to the second problem mentioned i. Since I read the original first edition, I do not know how Freud solved the first problem. The introduction by Van Haute and Westerink - two modern-day Dutch professors - explains how with each new edition, Freud dug a deeper hole for himself. His theory on human sexuality is full of internal contradictions, which weren't solved but were rather broadened and deepened by his attempts to alleviate the problems contained in the original work.

And just like in Studies on Hysteria and The Interpretation of Dreams , Freud offers scientific theories, but bases these on anecdotal evidence and personal subjective investigations. After reading these three major works by Freud, I can definitely see the bigger picture.

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The problem with his 'science' is that it's all subjective, and based on a very limited amount of data, let alone reliable data. His technique of psychoanalysis is interesting as a historical phenomenon; his theories were never scientific, mostly well-informed essays; nothing more, nothing less.

Freud isn't science - I can vouch for this. Karl Popper put Freud in the category of 'pseudo-science', based on the fact that Freud's theory explained everything, and because of this, explained basically nothing. According to Freud, every psychological phenomenon is ultimately grounded in our unconsciousness, but this is - by definition - not testable. Freud claims he can discover unconscious ideas and affects, but all he really does is let some person, suffering from something, freely associate; ask provoking questions; take the most shocking events experienced as causes for this particular set of symptoms from this particular person; and then exclaim he has discovered unconscious wishes, drives, urges, etc.

If this is science, so is the lady who reads your future by picking Tarot-cards.

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Sigmund Freud - Google Scholar Citations

Or reading a horoscope, for that matter. Anyway, Freud is interesting to read; his books are funny to read, to observe him groping for something he can't reach; his works make for a good read.


  • Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality!
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  • Reading the Freudian theory of sexual drives from a functional neuroimaging perspective.
  • Read this book - it's well worth it - but read it with a critical view. Dec 04, Sidharth Vardhan rated it it was amazing Shelves: europe , non-fiction , philosphy , list-le-monde , bestest. The two books though require a certain degree of intellectual courage in reading.

    ISBN 13: 9780465097081

    An act of brutal honesty The reason why this book suffers such bad reputation is because it says things people in their narrow mindedness find difficult to accept. And given the costs society has to pay for holding on to beliefs; it is small price to pay — though it needs to be paid in lump sum.

    Not First One Freud though is not the first one to come up with all those ideas. His genius lies in putting all those fragments into a single theory running over the three essays and thus providing a comprehensive framework for future studies on the subject. Not a Book of Truth This is just a theory and an out-dated one at that.

    Moreover, Freud himself complains of lack of data. Sex was a taboo in his time; people, especially women, were too reluctant to talk openly and at times dishonest on the subject. And whatever data Freud had come from his patients; not exactly a normal sample space. I shall add to this my personal beliefs that Freud, at times seems to suffer from overcorrection and self-projection fallacies. Perhaps a fresh edition needs to be published which also encompasses the developments ever since his death in form of comments of different psychologists. Yet, even in its present form it is a great read.

    It takes a great amount of intellectual courage merely to sit through the book and many times more to accept it as a possible truth.

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