Through A Glass Darkly: Freud's Concept of Love#1

KEY TERMS: Irving Singer -- Freudianism -- child development as sexual -- libido -- Eros -- narcissism -- ego instinct -- Vitalism -- dualism -- essentialism -- Romantic Idealism -- "developmentally stable strategy" -- coitus interruptus -- Oedipus Complex -- Copernicus -- Charles Darwin -- free will -- natural selection -- organic (feedback) causality -- teleology -- the dialectic -- "pan-psychism"

"Is all this really necessary?", asked Santayana, after his first in-depth encounter with Existentialism. This rhetorical question occurred to me as I read Irving Singer's meticulous analysis of Freud's sexual theory of love. Surely a century of evidence to the contrary from biology, physiology and experimental psychology should have laid Freud's fanciful speculations to rest by now! On second thought, however, I realized that more than scientific falsification will be required to wrest the roots of Freudianism from the world view dominating modern culture. Thoughtful discussions by philosophers such as Singer -- who share some of Freud's premises and interests -- may have more influence than compelling evidence ever can, on those matters of sentiment, faith and metaphor which, in the end, determine our commitments and beliefs.

THE FOUR FACES OF LOVE

Singer's thesis is that Freud's theory of love, although multifaceted and evolving throughout his lifetime, was of one piece. The implication of this would seem to be that one cannot justifiably select some aspects of the theory while rejecting others, as Freud's followers and intellectual descendants have tried to do. Here Singer seems to be signaling an intent to raise fundamental questions about the entire edifice. He begins by explaining that Freud sought, and believed he had found, a unitary principle determining the entire course of human development. He thought this was a principle springing from deep within the instinctual wellsprings of human nature.

Singer feels that a major source of confusion in Freud's work is the fact that he referred to love in four different ways. He apparently viewed it (1) as a fusion of sexuality with affection or tenderness; (2) as libidinal energy -- both "aim-inhibited" (and thus available for culture-building tasks) and that which is directed towards its original aim of a love object; (3) as Eros (the life instinct driving all humanity) and (4) as the total life force comprising Eros plus an aggressive or death instinct.

Singer then discusses these four senses in which Freud speaks of love. In the first case he notes that Freud attempted to locate the roots of love in the sexuality of the new-born infant, as it suckles at the mother's breast. In the process, the child supposedly attains a confluence of satiation, for both hunger and sensuality are satisfied in that experience. Freud claimed that this initiates the onset of affection toward what is, at one and the same time, the child's first sexual love object and its crucial source of sustenance. All subsequent development is driven and defined by the vain attempt to reunite these twin aspects of love. The child's first sexual satisfactions are therefore experienced in the bodily functions necessary for self preservation, according to the theory. Only eventually -- as the sexual focus turns from the nose and throat to the anal area and then (with puberty) to the genitals -- does the goal of species-reproduction become uppermost.

Singer presents two conclusions regarding this particular aspect of the psychoanalytic model. He credits Freud with the insight that all human attributes (including sex) are in some way developmental, but he disagrees with the entire explanation of the process and of the central, predetermined role of sex within it. He says, "The most that Freud could infer from his scenario of human development is the idea that a great deal of adult sexuality includes traces of affective occurrences that belong to the individual's earlier life."#2

Singer next tackles the notion of love as "libido": a quantifiable energy required to keep the human engine operating. According to Freud, libido "seeks to force together and hold together the portions of living substance."#3 Singer maintains that libido is not at all the same as Bergson's elan vital, in spite of Fromm's opinion to the contrary. He quotes Freud on the organic and adaptive nature of libido, to show that at no time did he forsake his biological model. Singer's conclusion regarding Freud's use of the libido is that it merely amounts to "an 'idealization': a bestowing of importance upon an aspect of life that particularly quickens and enthrals his imagination."#4 He could have added that the problem with an idealized construct masquerading as scientific theory is that it is incapable of generating hypotheses that can be tested by experience; and that it is singularly impervious to the influence of disconfirming evidence in any case.

Freud's subsequent introduction of "Eros" into his theory of love has proven even more confusing to most readers. Singer is no exception, although he correctly recognizes that, for Freud, its source was in the innate sensual/affectional conflict within the very nature of sexual development. Freud had begun to speculate about the phenomenon of "narcissism", and felt the need to make room for it in his theory. He had wondered how exaggerated self-love could be explained solely in terms of the libido's unceasingly unrequited quest for a fusion of the sensual and the affectionate. Clearly the fact of narcissism demanded the existence of a powerful ego instinct as well as a love instinct!

Singer points out that Freud eventually decided that both instincts could be explained in terms of sex -- the difference being that the ego instinct turns inwards toward itself as the sex object, while the other is actually an object instinct. It seeks satisfaction from other objects. According to Singer, at this point in Freud's thinking, he decided that what was by now a considerably enlarged concept of libido would henceforth be designated as "Eros".

Singer notes that Freud acknowledged the apparently mystical overtones of the latter, and its similarity to Plato's original concept. Nonetheless, he concludes that Freud's Eros does not represent a detour into Vitalism, as Fromm and Marcuse have maintained. He would probably agree that Freud's version of Eros resembles some sort of engine of biological life -- fueled by chemically inspired libido energy and nothing more. He concludes: "The universal love that Freud calls Eros does not progress toward stages of greater spirituality."#5

The fourth face of love in Freudian thought involves yet another irreconcilable conflict. This time it is between the twin impulses toward love and hate arising from the libido driving Eros. In later life Freud had reluctantly recognized an instinct for aggression in human beings which he considered at least as powerful as love. In an attempt to incorporate this new instinct into his theory, he suggested that humans, having emerged from inorganic matter, are programmed to return to it. All life (represented by Eros) was now defined in Freud's model by the resulting struggle between the life-urge that strives to maintain the individual and the death-wish seeking to maintain the species at the cost of the individual.

Critics and followers alike have sought to identify in Eros, the notion of a generalized love of humanity. Singer disagrees with this, and rightly so. Freud always claimed that the concept of universal love as a motivating force or realizable ideal was highly dubious. He thought that any culture that encourages the love instinct to operate without restraint is setting itself up for the unbridled reign of hate as well.

In summing up this aspect of the theory, Singer notes what he considers to be Freud's regrettable tendency toward dualism. However, he writes, "What troubles me more is the fact that Freud's speculations about Eros and the death drive are inherently chaotic, even confused."#6

Singer is also critical of Freud's essentialism. There seems to be some confusion on this point. For me, essentialism is indicated by a tendency within the idea system toward reification of descriptive or explanatory categories -- thereby treating these mental constructs as concrete entities and subsequently substituting them for the very things they were originally designed to clarify. They come to be seen as the "essential" aspects of an immutable reality underlying all experienced phenomena. This brings the search for understanding of the subject of inquiry to a crashing halt, while opening the door to endless speculation unhampered by any requirement of objective observation or testing.

Freud was unarguably one of the most striking examples of this tendency ever visited upon an unsuspecting world. To read his letters and many of his works is virtually to step into Looking Glass Land. One is confronted with a darkly mirrored reflection of a territory peopled -- not with descriptions of problems to be solved or regularities documented, but with concrete, living entities locked in endless combat for the soul of man. "Oedipus complex" -- "penis envy" --"castration complex" -- "libido" -- "sadistic-oral fixation" -- "genital phase" -- "narcissism" -- "the death wish": the list seems endless.

Singer, however, does not refer to these things. He goes on to discuss Freud's pessimism, and traces it to the influence of the darker currents within German Romantic Idealism. He describes Freud quoting Schopenhauer's parable about freezing porcupines who shuffled to and fro seeking warmth and comfort until they had achieved some sort of standoff. Singer says that whereas Schopenhauer saw this as an example of the co-existence of love and hate in human nature, Freud extracted a stranger lesson. His conclusion was that humans cannot tolerate too much intimacy.

But why bring love and hate into it at all? Why the unnecessary anthropocentrism? For me, the entire story merely demonstrates how widespread is the lack of understanding of the process of evolution. What about applying the much simpler idea of adaptation to environmental demands -- to the point where a "developmentally stable strategy" has evolved for the porcupines: something that constantly occurs in human sexual behavior as well?

THE IMPACT OF CULTURAL PAROCHIALISM ON FREUD'S CONCEPT OF LOVE

It is somewhat surprising that Singer does not mention the significance for Freud's work on love, of the social environment which formed his world view. It is impossible to appreciate the one-sidedness of Freud's concept of love without recognizing him as quintessentially a creature of the nineteenth century Germanic culture. Like most of his peers, he was paternalistic and authoritarian in the extreme. Typically Victorian in his prudishness, he was nonetheless so obsessed with sex that, in his early practice, he diagnosed every neurosis presented to him as a case of "coitus interruptus" -- invariably attributable to some failure on the part of the woman.

Women's' rightful place in the scheme of things is made clear in numerous passages such as the following in Contributions to the Psychology of Love: "We regard it as a normal reaction to coitus for a woman to hold a man closely in her arms...at the climax of gratification, and this seems to us an expression of her gratitude and an assurance of her lasting thraldom to him."#7 In fact, Freud's strange physics of the libido seems less a human theory than a strictly male one. For example: "Since man has not an unlimited amount of mental energy, he must accomplish his tasks by distributing his libido to the best advantage. What he employs for cultural purposes he withdraws to a great extent from women and his sexual life."#8

Freud meant well, and some of the therapies derived from his model may have been helpful. However, no appraisal of his concept of love can legitimately ignore the crimes perpetrated against females in the name of the theory. Beginning with the botched operation of poor Emma, from whose nose Freud's friend, Fleiss, tried to wrest her sexual demons; through all the desperate women whose complaints about rape were disbelieved; to the legion of dedicated mothers who have been blamed for their sons' homosexuality, neuroses, drug addictions and suicides; to the toddlers accused of seducing their adult abusers: wherever the dark and distorting shadow of the mirror fell, the suffering of women has been incalculable.

It just so happened that Freud's Looking Glass entities had a disturbing way of escaping into the world of human experience. His sexual theory of love plowed a deep and lasting furrow through the currents of Western twentieth century thought, leaving in its wake a society obsessed by sex, ambiguous about love, and newly-armed with a psuedo-scientific justification for bias against women. A major legacy of Freudianism is the belated recognition that ideas do indeed have consequences -- especially those taught as "essential" truths defining an eternal human Psyche.

SINGER'S FIVE CRITICISMS

In the end, Singer seems to have raised five major objections to Freud's theory of love. These are what he perceives to be (1) its empirically and logically unwarranted doctrine of child development as inherently sexual in form and content; (2) its emphasis on a kind of normative essentialism rather than the pluralism that Singer himself prefers in sexual affairs; (3) its dualism; (4) its conceptual confusion; and (5) its inadequacy due to an exclusive focus on "evaluation" to the neglect of the aspect of "bestowal" developed by Singer in his own works on love. I will discuss each of these assessments in turn, indicating the extent of my agreement or disagreement.

Beginning with the last, I believe that Freud did indeed include within his theory something similar to Singer's concept of bestowal. In Civilization and its Discontents, he explained how a small minority of people do, in fact, achieve the ability "to make themselves independent of their object's acquiescence by transferring the main value from the fact of being loved to their own act of loving; they protect themselves against loss of it by attaching their love not to individual objects but to all men equally"#9 This may not quite accord with Singer's concept, but it does seem to describe a human capacity for bestowing love as distinct from either the present sensation of value associated with receiving it, or the valuing associated with selecting a love object.

The conceptual confusion apparent to Singer is considerably obviated once the philosophical premises informing Freud's work are taken into account. There is a logic relating and making sense out of his entire structure, but it is a logic now largely invalidated and (one would hope) increasingly foreign to modern thought. It is the Hegelian logic of the dialectic. I intend to discuss it in some detail a little later.

I think Freud's dualism is likewise more apparent than real. If one means by dualism a belief in the existence of two realms of reality corresponding to the old mind/body and sacred/secular division -- or a belief that human beings are different in kind rather than degree from other animal species -- Freud has to be judged innocent. There are just too many indications throughout his writings of what Singer himself has called his relentless commitment to a "mechanistic" biology.

Singer's accusation of essentialism raises many intriguing questions. In the first place -- as in the case of dualism -- I have a problem with his definition. He writes, "By essentialism I mean the belief that there is a single structure that defines the instinctual being of men and women."#10 He views Freud's idea of a fixed progression of developmental stages programmed within the human instincts as objectionably essentialist. But surely this is an empirical proposition requiring either confirmation or falsification -- not to be written off because one objects to the idea as being too biologically deterministic! It is not simply a matter of aesthetic or political preference; nor does it depend on whether philosophical essentialism or pluralism is the order of the day.

Clearly, Singer prefers an explanation of sexual development and orientation that relies more on environmental than biological programming. He is probably right, but Freud was perfectly justified in presenting his instinct theory as a possible scenario. The problem with Freud's proposition is not its contention. The problem is that he expressed it as a doctrinaire postulate to be proven by circular logic, rather than as a tentative hypothesis requiring confirmation by evidence.

Singer's negative assessment of Freud's exclusive focus on sex as the defining element in human development from infancy onward is scarcely debatable. It is possible, however, to appreciate some of Freud's observations and to recognize behavioral patterns identified by him without accepting his bizarre explanations for those regularities. B.F. Skinner has done a masterful job of giving Freud credit for these while explaining them in a much simpler and common-sense way. For example, he suggested that what Freud called the Oedipus Complex would no doubt disappear with the advent of equality for women. The asymmetrical relation of the female parent was probably at the root of it all, combined with a culture in which punishment was paramount. "Is it possible," asked Skinner, "that the so-called Oedipal relations to mother and father are simply mythical representations of positive and negative reinforcement? The boy longs, not to sleep with his mother, but to be close to the one who positively reinforces his behavior. He longs, not to kill his father, but to escape from or destroy one who punishes."#11

THE NATURE OF HUMAN NATURE

For a number of reasons I am unable to agree totally with Singer's depiction of Freud as a dualist and essentialist. As previously mentioned, it is possible that we attach somewhat different meaning to the two terms. For me, essentialism and dualism are the defining characteristics of a current of thought that was bequeathed by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle -- and reformulated in turn by Descartes, Kant and Hegel. It continues to prevail as the dominant world view, even in modern times. I admit that, to a considerable extent, Freud was, indeed, a captive of this way of thinking.

An example of his peculiarly anthropocentric brand of essentialism is the way he referred to Eros. "In no other case does Eros so clearly betray the core of his being, his purpose of making more out of one."#12 At times it almost seems that Singer, too, has been seduced into the same way of thinking -- as when he writes, in apparent seriousness, "The question that Freud finds most puzzling and therefore most fruitful for analysis is why the two types of Eros fail to cooperate, why...[they] do not jointly create a civilization that provides happiness for those who participate in it."#13 The obvious answer is that they do not exist! Freud created a fictional Janus-faced entity designed to explain the human condition, and then discovered that what was implied by it did not accord with experience. So he struggled with his own imaginary problem in his own imaginary territory. But let us at least refuse to wander with him on the far side of the mirror!

Singer would have been quite warranted in criticizing Freud's propensity for reification as essentialism. But I think that he is not so warranted in the claim that he actually makes. He seems to assign the essentialist label to Freud's attempt to seek commonalities or regularities in human nature. This definition could reduce all the findings of social science to the level of Platonic pronouncements of immutable human essences. Singer may be revealing existential or phenomenological leanings here. Sartre, for example, was so firmly embedded in the essentialism of the very Romantic Idealism he imagined himself to be rebelling against, that he was unable to conceive of any version of human nature other than some absolute picture in the mind of the God he rejected. So he assumed that there could exist no such thing as a nature common to human beings.

But, of course, there is another -- non-essentialist -- way of viewing human nature. Biologists would explain that, while each individual phenotype is indeed unique (because genetic programming and experience differ from person to person) the underlying genotype is relatively stable and amenable to study. Similarly, from the point of view of the social science that Freud was endeavoring to pioneer, psycho-social processes are likely to be the same wherever they occur. We are all aware that digestion and reproduction are similar the world over. Why not certain aspects of sexual development and associated psychic or behavioral complexes?

The problem with Freud is not that he looked for patterns in the words and actions of his patients, and sought to explain them. There was nothing wrong with his objective; it was in the implementation that he went astray. Surely Singer is not suggesting that Freud, as a would-be scientist, was wrong in seeking out regularities that transcend the uniqueness of the individual! With what does social scientific inquiry deal, if not with commonalities in the nature of human nature?

FREUD AS A SOCIAL DARWINIST

It is impossible to understand Freud's concept of love without an awareness of the philosophical systems that both inspired and limited him. We need to know that he considered his instinct theory to be the only credible extension of Darwinism into the realm of psycho-social and cultural affairs. Above all else, he saw himself as an evolutionary theorist: the one destined to complete the Copernican revolution. As he explained it, Copernicus had destroyed geocentrism, and Darwin had done the same for the illusion that humanity was somehow different from, and sovereign over, all the rest of creation. Freud believed that his theory had accomplished a similar undermining of the illusion of "free will", or belief in the sovereignty of the human ego. This was the goal that drove him.

In this claim Freud was demonstrating the extent of his own egoism, for there were others more deserving of the mantle of Copernicus. Nonetheless, in his contribution to our understanding of the motivating power of subconsciously retained remnants of previous experience (if not of race memory) Freud did indeed make a significant contribution to social science.

From the beginning, however, Freud's work was flawed by three serious errors concerning the nature of evolution. Like his contemporary, Herbert Spencer, he never really understood the mechanism of natural selection. A related error involved his captivation with Darwin's notion of sex selection and his subsequent distortion of that aspect of evolution. A third had to do with his failure to recognize the implications of the Darwinian revolution for the concept of organic and psycho-social causality.

Few people even today fully comprehend Darwin's crucial insight about the nature of organic causality -- as distinct from the push-pull (or "mechanistic") operation of cause and effect at the inorganic level. Darwin had demonstrated how, once life emerged, natural selection operated according to an after-the-fact causality, whereby the consequences of the organism's lifetime of environmental forays feed back to shape the species' future -- by determining which organisms will live to reproduce. Freud, intent on applying the rules of Newtonian physics to the contents of the psyche, missed entirely the implications of this revolutionary breakthrough.

He was handicapped as well by the teleological perspective dominant in the culture of his time. The older idea of a Great Chain of Being was still prevalent, even in biology. Non-Darwinian evolutionists still thought that evolution had to be aiming toward some predestined goal and inherently progressive in its unfolding.

In addition, Freud made a fatal error concerning the key evolutionary concept of sex selection. Darwin had suggested that, because reproduction is so crucial to the evolution of the species, the process (as well as appendages and behaviors) by which individuals attract potential mates must be of great significance. Freud transferred this idea from the species to the level of the organism. He postulated that, if sex drives species formation it must be the innate force energizing individual development as well!

Another mistake followed from Freud's failure to understand the nature of natural selection. He was probably influenced here by Herbert Spencer, whose works on biology, psychology, sociology and ethics were widely distributed during the last decade of the nineteenth century. Like Spencer, Freud thought that characteristics acquired during an individual's lifetime are somehow fed back into the evolutionary process, so that aspects of culture (or "civilization") are inherited in some mysterious way along with biological propensities. Spencer developed an extremely sophisticated theory concerning this process, which was later taken up and built upon by Jean Piaget. Compared to these, Freud's model was crude in the extreme. But it had the advantage of being seductively appealing to the human imagination and desire for melodrama!

Freud decided that instincts had to be the repositories of all the past experience of the human race. And, because he saw species-reproduction as the "aim" of evolution, and sex its energizing force, he reasoned that such experience could only be stored in some sort of sexual form. Only sexually relevant bits of species-information would be sufficiently useful to be passed into succeeding human psyches by means of inherited biological instincts.

At this point it was necessary to employ the concept of the "unconscious". Freud knew that the conscious ego had no awareness of much of what actually motivated its actions. He decided that the unconscious layer of the psyche must be a vast storehouse of the earlier defining sexual experience of the human race, and that aspects of this might possibly be revealed to our consciousness through dreams and inadvertent comments and behaviors.

We now understand that there is no possibility for the inheritance of race memory or any messages from an individual's current life experience. It seems that modern biology has demonstrated conclusively that genetic instructions follow a one-way street. But cherished dogma dies hard, and apparently it takes more than scientific knowledge to storm the bulwarks of "true belief".

Two characteristics of the social science of Freud's time also helped to lead him astray. Both were attempts to imitate physics. Today, with our more sophisticated understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry, we would call these "scientisms": procedures with the surface appearance but neither the appropriate conceptual base, rigorous data-collecting methods, nor the disciplined attitude of science. One of these was a widespread tendency to look for universal, immutable laws governing individual development and successive forms of society. This was usually combined with the teleological outlook bequeathed by certain of the Enlightenment thinkers and revived by Kant. The other was a preference for defining social phenomena as discrete categories or as flows of energy: both assumed to be readily quantifiable. Marx's theory demonstrated both of these tendencies. So, too, did Freud's. Both thinkers were convinced that, in adopting these approaches, they were being scientific.

FREUD AS A DIALECTICAL THINKER

There was yet another misleading philosophical premise shared by Marx and Freud: one which the latter never seems to have acknowledged. It was the Hegelian dialectic. Only by fitting Freud's concept of love into a dialectical framework does it begin to assume a sense of inner cohesiveness and logic. In the absence of a recognition of the dialectic as an organizing principle, Freudianism is indeed the confused muddle of discordant ideas referred to by Singer. However, we need to be warned that interpreting Freud's theory in terms of the dialectic does not make it more credible; it merely renders it understandable.

Singer thinks that Freud's propensity for dividing everything in two makes him a dualist. But a passion for dichotomizing is not dualism! In the usual sense of the term Freud was at least as materialistic as Marx. What the famous Freudian dichotomies represent is, instead, the thesis and antithesis of the dialectic. The clue is that, with each, there is the expectation of an inevitable synthesis to a more advanced stage.

Freud began in a fairly traditional manner by recognizing two basic instincts of hunger and love. He eventually came to see these as representing the self-preservative or ego instincts on the one hand, and the sexual instinct -- functioning to reproduce the species -- on the other. He believed both are manifested in a force driven by hunger: for nutrition and for sex. The force energizing and synthesizing these drives, he called the libido.

Freud saw an inevitable conflict between the ego instinct and the sexual one. "For, in human beings, it may happen that the demands of the sexual instinct, which of course extend far beyond the individual, seem to the ego to constitute a danger menacing his self-preservation or his self-respect. The ego then takes up the defensive, denies the sexual instincts the satisfaction they claim, and forces them into those by-paths of substitutive gratification which become manifest as symptoms of a neurosis."#15 Neuroses, then, result from the wrong kind of resolution of the conflict -- rather than from a healthy synthesis of the two opposing forces.

Indeed, the process of child development begins with a condition of synthesis. At the onset of its development, according to Freud, the libido is directed toward itself; it serves the ego. This is the primitive synthesis of egoism or childhood narcissism into which the infant is born. There is a fusion of sensuality and affection as the child satiates both forms of hunger at the mother's breast and in the ministrations of other loving family members. Gradually, as the sexual instinct turns away from its own body for sensual pleasure, and toward other objects, the essential conflict between ego and sexual instincts comes into play.

Freud claimed that, in healthy development, the ego finds it necessary to redirect the operation of the powerful sexual instinct in order to achieve its own goals. It gradually accomplishes this by inhibiting the aim of the sexual instinct and thus directing its energy to other, ego-controlled ends. Affectional and non-sexual family bonds are formed, then these are extended to friendships and to bonding within successively larger communal groupings. Coincident with this, a new and higher-level synthesis is being formed in terms of an encompassing mental form of sexual energy called the libido. The latter comprises both "aim-inhibited" energy and that which is directed toward the original sexual end, in the person of an external sex object.

It is this sublimation of the sexual instinct and the diversion of libido to the service of other goals that makes society and culture possible, according to Freud. All is still not clear sailing, however, for yet another conflict hovers on the horizon, ever ready to assert itself. An opposition emerges to the libido in its task of preserving the organic substance and binding it into ever larger units of organization. Freud explained this as an antithesis to libido which seeks to dissolve all the organic and social units and reinstate their previous unorganized (or inorganic) condition. It is a death instinct -- but whether or not Freud believed it to be anti-evolutionary is not clear. He was ambiguous about the exact nature of this drive towards death. Sometimes he seemed to be viewing it as an essential aspect of the process of evolution, because of its function in removing the individual from the scene once the cause of reproduction has been served. At other times he spoke of it only in terms of the eternal conflict between aggression and bonding, or between love and hate within the human psyche.

Freud rehabilitated Plato's concept of Eros in order to posit a higher synthesis of the instinctual forces driving the evolution of human civilization: an all-encompassing life force capable of enveloping and controlling both the libido and the aggressive or death instinct. He described cultural evolution as "the particular modification undergone by the life process under the influence of the task set before it by Eros and stimulated by Ananke, eternal necessity; and this task is that of uniting single human beings into a larger entity with libidinal attachments between them."#15

Freud's was a vision of hate and love forever in opposition within a temporary cease-fire established by Eros -- and in a psyche that had now expanded to take in the whole of human culture! He died with little confidence in the ultimate achievement of his hoped-for synthesis. Santayana accused him of having moved from the scientific search for objective knowledge to a "pan-psychism" which had rejected, altogether, any attempt at objectivity. In the end, Freud's "psyche" had indeed become the crucial defining essence of all humanity: one giant Eros astride a world forever doomed to "coitus interruptus"!

NOTES:

  1. Pat Duffy Hutcheon, "Through a Glass Darkly: Freud's Concept of Love" in David Goicoechea, ed. The Nature and Pursuit of Love: The Philosophy of Irving Singer (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995), p.183-95.
  2. Irving Singer, The Nature of Love (Chicago, Il: The University of Chicago Press, 1987), p.108.
  3. Ibid., p.111.
  4. Ibid., p.110.
  5. Ibid., p.112.
  6. Ibid., p.119.
  7. Sigmund Freud, "Contributions to the Psychology of Love", in Freud on War, Sex and Neurosis (New York, NY: Arts and Science Press, 1947), p.231.
  8. ------------------, "Civilization and Its Discontents" in John Rickman, ed. Civilization, War and Death (London: The Hogarth Press, 1953), p.72.
  9. Ibid., p.45.
  10. Singer, The Nature of Love, p.130.
  11. B.F. Skinner, in Notebooks, Robert Epstein, ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980), p.353.
  12. Singer, p.142.
  13. Ibid., p.143.
  14. Sigmund Freud, "A Difficulty in Psycho-analysis" in Freud on War, Sex and Neurosis (New York, NY: Arts and Science Press, 1947), p.15.
  15. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, p.72.