e International Journal of

Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92:149–169 doi: 10.1111/j.1745-8315.2010.00378.x

Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism
Robert Grimwade
630 First Avenue Apt. 18L, New York, NY 10016, USA – rjgrimwade@gmail.com
(Final version accepted 7 July 2010)

It is a matter of common knowledge that Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) shared a common worldview. Everyone familiar with the works of these two thinkers should recognize their general philosophical affinities. Both men were pessimistic about the power of human reason and attributed human behavior to powerful unconscious forces and, as a result, both were deeply skeptical about the future of human society. Drawing from previous literature, this essay compares the philosophical theory of Schopenhauer with the psychoanalytic theory of Freud. We find that, while Schopenhauer and Freud share a common philosophical orientation and diagnosed the same fundamental problems with life in civilization, they proposed some ostensibly similar, yet ultimately very different solutions. Focusing on each thinker’s respective notion of sadism and masochism, this paper tries to understand and come to terms with the dimensions of this radical pessimism.
Keywords: history of psychoanalysis, interpretation, metapsychology

Introduction
Everyone familiar with the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) and Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) should immediately recognize their philosophical affinity. Many obvious parallels strike even the casual reader. Both thinkers conceived that sexuality played an enormous role in human behavior, far beyond the limited area granted it by their respective contemporaries. Both believed that the vast majority of mental activity proceeds unconsciously and that the role of the conscious mind had been greatly overestimated by the philosophical tradition. Both men understood human behavior as the product of powerful and often conflicting drives. Each thinker held that mental illness involved a disorder of memory. And perhaps most importantly, they shared a pessimistic view of human nature, which required them to confront the complexities of human aggression and the problems of life in civilization. The first section of this essay focuses on the many structural similarities of their general theories and the second attempts to examine their respective theories of human aggression. The problem of sadism and, perhaps most importantly, masochism consistently occupied both thinkers throughout their intellectual careers. These theories allow us to see the underlying reasons for their pessimistic view of human life in society, which is little more than a fraught and tenuous alliance generated by the forced repression and sublimation of our dark essential nature.
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R. Grimwade The large extent to which psycho-analysis coincides with the philosophy of Schopenhauer – not only did he assert the dominance of the emotions and the supreme importance of sexuality but he was even aware of the mechanism of repression – is not to be traced to my acquaintance with his teaching. I read Schopenhauer very late in my life. (Freud, 1925, pp. 59–60)

With any study that compares the thought of two monumental figures, there inevitably arises the question of influence. It is certain that Freud read Schopenhauer as he readily admits to having done so. It is not a matter of if Freud read Schopenhauer, but when. While Freud claims that he read Schopenhauer ‘‘late in life’’, many authors, including, notably Young and Brook (1994), have questioned Freud’s claim. In this essay, I refrain from any speculation as to whether Freud took his ideas directly from Schopenhauer, as my intention is not to undermine Freud’s originality, but to advance our interdisciplinary understanding of sadism, masochism, and human aggression. In my view, even if Freud gained his initial orientation directly from Schopenhauer, Freud’s dynamic and novel insights into the human mind and his singlehanded invention of psychoanalytic method go far beyond what Schopenhauer could have ever conceived. Thus I leave the question of Schopenhauer’s influence on the father of psychoanalysis to the educated reader.

1. Some notable similarities 1.1 The will and the id
As R. K. Gupta (1975) pointed out in her essay, Freud and Schopenhauer: ‘‘There is a striking similarity between Schopenhauer’s view of the will and Freud’s concept of the id’’ (p. 721). Both Freud and Schopenhauer saw unconscious drives as the real motive force behind all human behavior. Schopenhauer used the German term ‘Wille’ to represent the dark unconscious striving at the heart of the universe that is indivisible, timeless, irrational, and absolutely amoral. Schopenhauer’s metaphysics, explicated rather consistently throughout his philosophical works and personal journals, is an Eastern-inspired strain of Kantian idealism. For Schopenhauer the empirical world, of sense perception, is ‘appearance’, ‘illusion’, the ‘veil of Maya’, mere ‘representation.’ He accepts this, for the most part, as proven by Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787) but Schopenhauer, unlike Kant, understood the world of experience as illusory. Like many influential philosophers of his time, Schopenhauer was not content within the epistemological limitations established by Kant. Schopenhauer was convinced that, while Kant was right about the limits of knowledge, he had missed something very important about human experience: that it is embodied.1 Our embodied nature, Schopenhauer claimed, gives us privileged access to the ‘inside’ of a phenomenon: we know
1

See The World as Will and Representation, I, paras 6, 18 (Schopenhauer, 1818) for a discussion of the body as the ‘immediate object of experience.’ The extent to which Schopenhauer follows Spinoza on this point is of interest, but unfortunately beyond the purview of this essay. Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis

Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92

through plants and animals. in modern vernacular. is what must be behind all the phenomena in nature and. all the phenomena in reality. This will to life manifests itself into two basic drives and a series of lesser drives that are subordinate to these. is bellum omnium contra omnes. and is therefore singular and indivisible. This is what all the forces of the universe must feel like from ‘the inside’ in. yet in its phenomena this ‘will’ takes on a different character as a ‘will to life’ [Wille zum Leben]. appears whole in each individual who strives with the entire force of the world for its continued existence. everything in the universe is the representation of one indivisible will. p. some dull degree. gullet. Only in representation is there difference and multiplicity. the two most basic and important of these are ‘hunger’ and the ‘sexual drive’ [Geschlechtstrieb]. 108). Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 . 45 (Schopenhauer.’ This. and the various affects that arise from this want or need. Nature as the objectification of will entails that. in his parlance ‘the principle of individuation’. ch. Thus ‘will’ as the thing-in-itself is the singular totality and primal unity of all that exists in representation. at least. Even a river gushes with the same vehemence as animal and human desires because it is the objectification of unconscious impulse. (Schopenhauer. For Schopenhauer. the genitals are objectified sexual impulse [Geschlechtstrieb] …’’ (Schopenhauer. is confirmed and demonstrated by empirical observations of nature. Schopenhauer declares. a representation of the world will. 1818. 484–5) The will to life2. where it appears as ‘blind striving’. As Kant’s ‘thing-in-itself’ it is absolutely the same in everything that exists and only receives its difference via the subject who brings space and time as a priori conditions of the understanding. manifests itself as a multiplicity of drives. pp. and intestinal canal are objectified hunger. This vital impulse. which reveal that all of nature.) Here Schopenhauer moves directly into what shall become the territory of Freudian psychoanalysis. II. furthermore. desire ‘comes before’ the organ: ‘‘Teeth. The will is a ‘blind striving’. a ‘drive’. ‘the will’. including human life. as sexual impulse and passionate care for the offspring. Schopenhauer believed. a ‘blind impulse’ of which we are the mere ‘objectification.Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism 151 what it feels like to be a representation from the inside. The most immediate and direct feeling of our body is desire. as a will to will. The will-in-itself is free as there is nothing to limit or determine it. see The World as Will and Representation. in reference to the species. The will as ‘will in itself’ [noumenon] is not subject to the principle of individuation. as the in-itself they both are the will to life. a ‘striving for X’. 2 Schopenhauer sometimes called the will to life ‘the drive for self preservation’ [Trieb zur Selbfterhaltung]. This impulse. Schopenhauer recognizes the objectifications of this ‘will’ as a continuous line of development from the ‘blind impulse’ of nature. The will-to-live manifests itself in reference to the individual as hunger and fear of death. for example. 1844. In nature the will. as the indivisible thing-in-itself. all the way to human bodies. (It is important to bear in mind that these are separated in representation alone. 1844). is not subject to time and space.

and Young and Brook (1994) – Schopenhauer anticipates Freud’s expanded conception of sexuality. For Freud the drive is a process on the border of psyche and soma. 512–3) Schopenhauer. which always serves as its guiding metaphysical thrust. He states: ‘‘It is really the invisible central point of all action and conduct’’ (Schopenhauer.. 1. Freud also understood sexual desire as the primary stimulus in human life. and as soon as he has provided for that. Schopenhauer. it is the desire that constitutes even the very nature of man. he aims at the propagation of the race. (Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer anticipated Freud’s early (pre-1923) distinction between sexual drives and self-preservative drives and understood that sexuality underlies most. The id is responsible for all the basic functions of the mind and contains the drives for sex. it is utterly determined. p. thus for Freud the id is not free. In conflict with it. Grimwade Freud’s ‘id’ [das Es] (part of the structural model of the psyche) is strikingly similar to Schopenhauer’s will. understood love as entirely sexual in nature: ‘‘All amorousness is rooted in the sexual impulse alone’’ (ibid. pp. further anticipating Freud. 533). with his predilection for metaphysics. he understood sexuality to be the most powerful of drives: Sexual desire bears a character very different from that of any other. Gupta (1975). it is not only the strongest of the desires. p. including psychological development. but is even of a more powerful kind than all the others are . Freud understood the ‘id’ as issuing from mechanical and chemical processes of the body. 329) As many authors have noted – including Bischler (1939). completely irrational.. Freud. and amoral. however. Like Freud. p. The id is a mass of unconscious drives which act according to the pleasure principle to discharge tension. animal and man undertake every peril and conflict.. 1818. is spurred on and defined by erotic charge. Proctor-Gregg (1956). ultimately based upon entirely biological processes. all of life. and other basic necessities.152 R.. unlike Schopenhauer. is concerned with empirical verifiability not metaphysical speculation. no motive is so strong as to be certain of victory … for its sake moreover. Wisdom (1945). 1844. It is a dark and inaccessible part of the mind that strives for expression. The salient difference between Freud’s and Schopenhauer’s view of sexuality is the absence of the metaphysical ‘will’ in Freud’s model. Self-preservation and maintenance are his first aim.2 The role of sexuality The sexual impulse is proved to be the decided and strongest affirmation of life … it is his [humankind’s] life’s final end and its highest goal. connected sexuality to the ‘will-of-the-species’. But Freud does not attribute this dark unconscious striving to the whole universe as Schopenhauer does. So while Schopenhauer understood all the perceived world as the manifestation of the ‘will’. It is without a sense of time. the organ is the source [Quelle] of the drive. 513). Since all desire is libidinal in Freud’s view. in fact. (ibid. Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis . hunger. For Freud the drive does not precede the organ. if not all. human behaviour.

the philosopher. when he wished to create the world’’ (ibid. p. or. 1924. ‘‘lord of the world’’ (1844.4 While Schopenhauer had a conception of Eros. following Spinoza. 5 See Spinoza’s Ethics Book III. p.. 1818. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud states: ‘‘We have unwittingly steered our course into the harbour of Schopenhauer’s philosophy. While Schopenhauer often makes statements such as: ‘Birth and death belong equally to life. 49–50). he certainly accounts for some of its outward manifestations. outwardly aggressive and destructive behaviors are the result of the struggle for continued existence. p. a prominent feature of Freud’s later works. Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis . 1920. as a scientist. pp. in congruence with the early views of Freud. preferred purely biological explanations to metaphysical ones. The will in itself is entirely indifferent to the death of a single individual. the instinct for mastery. 1677). as Young and Brook (1994. further than anyone before him by expounding: ‘‘It is the ultimate goal of almost all human effort’’ (ibid. 134). 275). Schopenhauer had extended the concept of sexuality. showed mankind the extent to which their activities are determined by sexual impulses – in the ordinary sense of the word’’ (Freud. 330). this will-to-live is. For Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer’s use of ‘sexual impulses’ was certainly not ‘ordinary’. 163). if the expression be preferred. appears by name in Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation to describe the will-to-live as sexual impulse (Schopenhauer.Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism 153 As we have seen above. Freud himself acknowledged this in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality: ‘‘For it is some time since Arthur Schopenhauer. the expansion and growth of each individual and the species. Freud’s death drive is a multifaceted concept which explains many behaviors. 1905. are bound to struggle against anything and everything to the utmost extremity of their power to persevere in being and expand themselves. Although Freud was correct about the sexual instinct being the embodiment of the will-tolife.’ while the sexual instinct is the embodiment of the will to live’’ (Freud. Nevertheless. Freud’s death drive [Todestrieb] is a unique and unprecedented theory in the history of ideas. For Schopenhauer the will always wills itself: it wills life. Freud. or the will to power’’ (Freud. While Schopenhauer does not account for the death drive proper. All living things. projected inwardly it is masochistic. The collision of these 3 4 As we shall see. 533. 106–107) suggest. outwardly it is sadistic: ‘‘the destructive instinct. pp. primarily a selfpreservative instinct.). He attributes the etymology of the word and the concept to Hesiod and Parmenides and provides a beautiful and insightful quote by Pherecydes: ‘‘Zeus transformed himself into Eros. he was incorrect about death being the ‘purpose of life’ for Schopenhauer. as manifestations of will. 5–7 (Spinoza. p. as poles of the whole phenomenon of life’ which ostensibly accord with Freud’s depiction. p. each individual being naturally strives for life and resists death. 1818.5 In Schopenhauer’s view. p. he had no explicit notion of Thanatos. Schopenhauer did not view death as some ‘final cause’ (Schopenhauer. For him death is the ‘true result and to that extent the purpose of life. emphasis mine). On the level of the individual. and hold the balance as mutual conditions of each other. pp. 513).3 The concept ‘Eros’.

1915b. 186). thriving intellects not yet dominated by the sexual impulse. 478) For Schopenhauer it is the absence of the role of the ‘will-to-live of the species’ (i. following Kant. Here Schopenhauer stands in direct opposition to Freud. p. As Young and Brook (1994) suggest. p. Accordingly.154 R. Schopenhauer understood the intellect as secondary to the will much as Freud understood the relation between the ego and the id. against which the intellect can do nothing’’ (ibid. (Schopenhauer. He considers the will to be an irrational striving. Both thinkers understood these amoral and irrational unconscious drives as the motor behind most if not all human behavior.e. Grimwade individuated wills inevitably ensues. mates. As Young and Brook (1994) note. but often speaks of its aims. irrational and characterized by a blind striving. As is well known. p.. Freud recognized the unconscious as a separate psychic system from the conscious system mediated by a preconscious. 227). As we have indicated above. the world will is eating itself alive and he is profoundly disturbed by the thought that millions upon millions of creatures are being torn apart incessantly in an eternal cycle of anguish. Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 . For Schopenhauer. 1851b.3 The unconscious and the role of the intellect Schopenhauer and Freud both recognized unconscious processes at the heart of human life. time is a form of intuition. their categories as it were. 1. Furthermore. 6 Schopenhauer is not always clear on this matter. but understood the profound significance of childhood experiences for later life and development: The experiences and acquaintances of childhood and early youth afterward become the regular standing types and rubrics of all later knowledge and experience. disregard for reality. Schopenhauer asserts ‘‘the master is the will the servant is the intellect’’ (Schopenhauer. Freud’s early discovery of infantile sexuality was an entirely original and pivotal part of his theory that he never abandoned. the sexual impulse) in childhood that allows the intellect to thrive. p. although we are not always clearly conscious of so doing. It has no regard for phenomena (Schopenhauer’s equivalent to what Freud is calling ‘reality’) because it is the Kantian thing-in-itself. And ‘‘the will shows itself as that original force. Schopenhauer’s notion of ‘will’ has similar characteristics: it is atemporal. says it has no aims. For Schopenhauer children are little philosophers. 1844. The unconscious is characterized by timelessness. as.6 In Freud’s structural theory the id is timeless. In his early works. and other resources necessitate a world full of profound conflicts and eternal strife. The fight for space. and irrationality. it is inherently irrational since reason is a faculty of the thinking subject that only applies itself in conscious thought. Schopenhauer did not recognize infantile sexuality. the solid foundation of our view of the world and thus its depth or shallowness are formed in childhood. 208). to which we subsume everything that comes later. In The Unconscious Freud describes some features of what he then understood as the system Ucs: The ‘nucleus’ of the unconscious ‘‘consists of instinctual representatives which seek to discharge their cathexis’’ (Freud.

As is clear from the above quotes. tormented so greatly. Expansion of the intellect by rigorous acetic denial of the will-to-live allows one to escape suffering. p. II (Schopenhauer. 175). and consequently everything genuine. but it was rare and advanced intellects that made civilization possible. while both theorists give the ego limited powers. who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse. p. with this difference. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle. As a result of these conversations Schopenhauer discovered the role of repressed memories in ‘madness’: If such a sorrow. Civilization and Its Discontents and other works Freud notes that all of civilization is characterized by repression of the id. is obligated to guide it where it wants to go. In The Ego and the Id he provides us with the following analogy: The functional importance of the ego is manifested in the fact that normally control over the approaches to motility devolves upon it. see Schopenhauer’s fourth section of The World as Will and Representation.7 After this turning point a noteworthy similarity emerges. 1989. fills up the gap with fictions. and thus seeks refuge in madness from the mental suffering that 7 The ascetic ‘denial of the will’ is one of the central tenets of Schopenhauer’s moral philosophy. such painful knowledge or reflection. and repression play a significant role in ‘madness’. For more on this. Throughout his works. and go back again and again to talk to those that interested him’’ (Magee. 1923.4 Mental illness Wisdom (1945). to protect the deeper layers of the organism (Freud. Schopenhauer proposed that trauma. so in the same way the ego is in the habit of transforming the id’s will into action as if it were its own. 19) In Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud presents consciousness as a ‘‘protective shield’’ which developed to resist outside stimuli. he obliges the reader to deny the will-to-live and thereby the role of the intellect shifts into a more commanding position. (Freud. Schopenhauer virtually condemns it: ‘‘Everything primary.). Vol. When Schopenhauer begins to advocate a strong ethical position rather than merely stating the facts.Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism 155 Freud understood the ego as representing ‘reason’ and ‘common sense’ and the id as a bundle of unconscious drives. 226 n. is so harrowing that it becomes positively unbearable. then nature alarmed in this way seizes on madness as the last means of saving life. 1818. Schopenhauer understood the intellect as an organ of the will. destroys as it were the thread of its memory. that the rider tries to do so with his own strength while the ego uses borrowed forces … Often a rider. 152). p. if he is not to be parted from his horse. 1851a. p. and Young and Brook (1994) rightfully notice that Schopenhauer’s conception of mental illness anticipates many of Freud’s early concepts and theories. The mind. p. and the individual would succumb to it. Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 . Gupta (1975). 1920. 1. It is a little known fact that Schopenhauer ‘‘was a frequent visitor to insane asylums where he would hold long conversations with the inmates. memory. 1818) and the corresponding sections in Vol. in man works as the forces of nature do. Proctor-Gregg (1956). unconsciously’’ (Schopenhauer. as these ‘knowing subjects’ regulate and channel the striving of the will (Schopenhauer. 18). I (Schopenhauer. 1844). Thus in relation to the id it is like a man on horseback.

48). 1893. or are only present in a highly summary form’’ (Breuer and Freud. we are able to approach the topic proper: the comparison of Freud’s account of sadism and masochism with Schopenhauer’s. 269). 1893. Sadism and masochism Now that we have compared some of Schopenhauer’s major anticipations of Freud’s theory. emphasis mine). Schopenhauer states that there is ‘‘resistance on the part of the will to allow what is contrary to it to come under the examination of the intellect’’ (Schopenhauer. 1894. in cases of hysteria (and other neuroses) the memory or its affective trace ‘‘cannot be eradicated’’ (Freud. p. Freud discovered that: ‘‘The patient’s ego had been approached by an idea which proved to be incompatible. repression. This defence was in fact successful. In The Neuro-Psychoses of Defence Freud (1894) describes ‘defence’ as an effort to ‘push away’ an experience that the conscious mind cannot handle. As his ideas matured so did his conception of sadism and masochism. or defense. 9). p. on the other hand. While Schopenhauer’s speculative account is less sophisticated than Freud’s technical one. must receive a place in the system of truths connected with our will and its interests’’ (Schopenhauer. and trauma play a significant role in mental illnesses. unlike other memories of their past lives. On the contrary. would eventually lead to Freud’s discovery of the unconscious.. The idea in question was forced out of consciousness and out of memory’’ (Breuer and Freud. Compare Freud’s more advanced conception of defense with that of Schopenhauer quoted above. however. it nevertheless indicates that Schopenhauer understood that the ‘broken thread’ of memory. p. Schopenhauer. these experiences are completely absent from the patients’ memory when they are in a normal psychical state. Compare this with Schopenhauer’s novel idea: ‘‘Every new adverse event must be assimilated by the intellect.156 R.). p. p. treatment involved bringing these repressed memories into the conscious mind. 400. 1893. wrote the World as Will and Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis . Allowing these memories into the intellect is often ‘‘very painful’’ and if this does not occur. 10). Further. 1844. just as a limb affected by mortification is cut off and replaced with a wooden one … (Schopenhauer. are not at the patients’ disposal. in other words. In Studies on Hysteria Freud discovered that he had to ‘‘to overcome a psychical force in the patients which was opposed to the pathogenic ideas becoming conscious (being remembered)’’ (Breuer and Freud. 268). At this early stage in Freud’s work. which provoked on the part of the ego a repelling force of which the purpose was defence against this incompatible idea. p. We have seen above that Freud’s meta-psychological theory was constantly evolving and expanding. then the gaps are ‘‘filled up’’ with fictions and ‘‘we have madness’’ (ibid. Grimwade exceeds its strength. Freud states that these repressed memories ‘‘correspond to traumas that have not been sufficiently abreacted’’ (ibid. 2. This force of resistance is a defense. p. 1818. This force of repression. 1844. 193) Compare this with the following passage from Freud and Breuer’s Preliminary Communication: ‘‘These memories. p. 400).

I shall then give an account of Schopenhauer’s understanding of sadism and masochism while unearthing relevant similarities and differences.Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism 157 Representation. and A child is being beaten (1919) and then present his later account of a ‘primary’ sadism–masochism presented in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920). the ‘problem of masochism’ was often on Freud’s mind as evidenced by his various correspondences. and his sexual object is the person to whom these acts are done. pp. A notable example is Freud’s statement in a 1911 letter to Ferenczi: ‘‘I hardly know a more deceptive and Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 . The sexual aim of the sadist is overstated acts of mastery. This understanding of sadism revolved around Freud’s new insights into the functions of the sexual drive. Vol. In masochism. the biological significance of it seems to lie in the need for overcoming the resistance of the sexual object by means other than the process of wooing. Freud notes: ‘‘Cruelty in general comes easily to the childish nature. which thus. by inversion. At this point sadism is clearly an innate and primary manifestation of libido.. 2. since the obstacle that brings the instinct for mastery to a halt at another person’s pain – namely a capacity for pity – is developed relatively late’’ (ibid. 1905. the aim of sadism is sustained but. to begin with. Civilization and Its Discontents (1930). at the age of 31. 158). In this early model. by displacement. The economic problem of masochism (1924). 1931. In the Three Essays. The sexual aim is ‘‘the act to which the drive is driven’’ and the sexual object is that person. and stood by the philosophical views presented in this work until his death in 1860 (McGill. 1905. Thus sadism would correspond to an aggressive component of the sexual instinct which has become independent and exaggerated and. 156–7) Freud initially understood sadism as the manifestation of an overstated aggressive component drive of the sexual drive (as indicated in the above quote). cruelty. or thing. Instincts and their vicissitudes (1915a). In the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality Freud (1905) combined his theory of sexuality with his theory of the neuroses and gave his first account of sadism and masochism.) I shall begin with Freud’s initial account of a ‘secondary’ masochism presented in The Three Essays on Sexuality (1905). animal. masochism ‘‘is nothing more than an extension of sadism turned round upon the subject’s own self. has usurped the leading position. p. p. p. and violence toward the sexual object. part-person. 1 (his major work) in 1818. Freud decomposed the drive into two separable dimensions. the aim [Ziel] and the object [Objekt]. After his account of a primary sadism and secondary masochism in the Three Essays. takes the place of the sexual object’’ (Freud. 304). In this early account masochism is understood as secondary: an inversion of sadism. The Ego and the Id (1923).1 Freud on sadism and masochism The sexuality of most male human beings contains an element of aggressiveness – a desire to subjugate. towards which the drive is directed. the object becomes the subject himself. 192). (The second volume published in 1844 was only an expansion and deepening of the views presented in volume one with no significant structural changes. (Freud.

. for he is beating me. for he is beating it. tortured.’ As Freud states: ‘‘This being beaten is now a convergence of the sense of guilt and sexual love. ‘He loves only me. (b) This object is given up and replaced by the subject’s self. written while Freud was working on Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Brabant et al. ‘A child is being beaten’: A contribution to the study of the origin of sexual perversions (Freud. a sense of guilt is invariably the factor that transforms sadism into masochism. and mastered by another person with whom he identifies. while he found a satisfactory explanation for this occurrence. 189). (Freud.. has to take over the role of the subject. This. is the essence of masochism. p. in consequence of the alteration which has taken place in the instinctual aim. namely that ‘a child is being beaten. The ‘death drive’ allowed for a primary destructive Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis . he was painfully aware that this was only part of the story. This guilt about the incestuous oedipal object choice of early childhood inevitably leads to repression which transforms the sadistic fantasy. (c) An extraneous person is once more sought as object. Grimwade more complicated problem in our field than that of masochism’’ (Brabant et al. Secondary masochism issues from a repressed sadistic fantasy: ‘‘So far as I know. 1919) is essentially an essay on masochism. 127) If the aim of the sadist’s exaggerated aggressive drive – to conquer. which is an inverted sadism: In the case of the pair of opposites sadism–masochism. While Freud clarified his understanding of secondary masochism in A child is being beaten. this is always so. and not the other child.’ into a masochistic one. 1994). Thus he derives a sadistic pleasure from being dominated. 1915a.158 R. he does not love me. With the turning round upon the self the change from an active to a passive instinctual aim is also effected. In Instincts and their vicissitudes Freud (1915a) again presents the theory of a secondary masochism. this essay adds ‘guilt’ issuing from the ‘critical conscious over against the ego’ (what will later become the superego) as playing a significant role in the creation of masochism. p. 1994). It is not only the punishment for the forbidden genital relation. 1919. In this essay Freud discusses a common fantasy shared by many of his patients. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud (1920) speculatively introduced his new ‘dual drive’ theory. Freud tells us. ‘No.). master. and control the sexual object – cannot be achieved then he unconsciously replaces his sexual object with himself: He becomes his own sexual object.’ Freud analyzed this phenomenon in terms of its relation to the oedipal complex and. but also the regressive substitute for that relation’’ (Freud. While affirming the secondary nature of masochism. the process may be represented as follows: (a) Sadism consists in the exercise of violence or power upon some other person as object. he remained doubtful as to whether it was purely sexual or purely sadistic. this person. But this is certainly not the whole content of masochism’’ (ibid.

. p. much to his surprise. which at this stage was not yet fully articulated by Freud. creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. when this drive is ‘deflected’ by Eros. The striving for rest he coined the ‘nirvana principle’ and the underlying drive. feminine. Masochism. and moral. Thanatos itself represents a primary masochism and. Freud discovered this primal instinct through the phenomenon of traumatic repetition in the dream and fantasy content of his patients. ‘the death drive. but Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 . it becomes outwardly manifested as ‘‘the destructive instinct.. 54–5) By the time he published The economic problem of masochism Freud (1924) was certain that there was a primary masochism. 163). or the will to power’’ (ibid. ‘demonic.’ He speculatively suggests that this traumatic repetition can be explained by biological and psychic entropy and that his theory of ‘tension reduction’ can be explained by this ‘backward pull’ of the drives.’ Note this climactic section of the text where Thanatos and the nirvana principle give rise to the possibility of a primary masochism: Clinical observations led us at that time to the view that masochism. 1920. (Freud. He explains that masochism appears in three forms: erotogenic. As a result. The account that was formerly given of masochism requires emendation as being too sweeping in one respect: there might be such a thing as primary masochism – a possibility which I had contested at that time. says Freud. p. masochism is incomprehensible’’ (Freud. the death drive is essentially the drive of living things to dissolution. a secondary masochism that can occur: ‘‘In certain circumstances the sadism. But there is no difference in principle between an instinct turning from an object to the ego and its turning from the ego to an object – which is the new point now under discussion. Thus sadism is the outward manifestation of the death drive. and death. can be once more introjected.. that the compulsion to repeat can override the pleasure principle. 1924. the instinct for mastery. would in that case be a return to an earlier phase of the instinct’s history. Men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved. 161). As discussed above. but that the erotogenic lies at the bottom of the others (ibid. or instinct of destruction. turned inwards’’ (ibid. Freud describes this phenomenon. pp. p. In this paper he states: ‘‘If mental processes are governed by the pleasure principle in such a way that their first aim is the avoidance of unpleasure and the obtaining of pleasure. Further exploration of these forms leads Freud to formally assert a primary sadism and masochism that issue from the death drive. a regression. which has been projected. death. 159). destruction. tends toward the inorganic. on the contrary. and masochism the inward. using what is for him an uncharacteristic adjective. and who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked. as evidenced by patients who relive traumatic events day after day and night after night. in addition. must be regarded as sadism that has been turned round upon the subject’s own ego. Organic life.Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism 159 masochism. There is also. p. they are. the component instinct which is complementary to sadism. which is the inward manifestation of the death drive. their neighbour is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object. 164). the turning round of the instinct upon the subject’s own ego. He discovered.

It is this destructive instinct which ‘twists’ Eros.). civilization is itself repressive. p. Homo homini lupus.160 R. But man’s natural aggressive instinct. After personally witnessing the atrocities of World War I. The student must submit to the teacher. 81). This aggressive instinct is the derivative and the main representative of the death instinct which we have found alongside of Eros and which shares world-dominion with it. and destruction. Since civilization is inherently repressive. tramples over the individual who is forced to play the ultimate masochist. the citizen to the police. p. 1930.’ For the author of Civilization and Its Discontents. (Only in society where authority is internalized. sadism and masochism are merely a result of the great struggle between Eros and Thanatos. It Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis . 1930. Necessity alone. a place where aggressive drives are inverted. mastery. to humiliate him. to exploit his capacity for work without compensation. the hostility of each against all and of all against each. The satisfaction of the destructive instinct is ‘‘accompanied by an extraordinarily high degree of narcissistic enjoyment. enjoying the repression of our primal instincts by an overactive superego. and we are the active and passive victims of this endless war: [C]ivilization is a process in the service of Eros. Grimwade also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him. the unity of mankind. and after that families. the work of Eros is precisely this. whose purpose is to combine single human individuals. Freud became convinced. in the face of all his experience of life and history. Why this has to happen. does the super-ego torment the ‘sinful’ ego. In almost every human relationship sadism and masochism are at play. between life and death. between civilization and chaos. creating sadism and masochism. pp. the meaning of the evolution of civilization is no longer obscure to us. 1930. owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfilment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence’’ (ibid. Freud sees the state as having a monopoly on aggression as aggression is ‘‘the greatest impediment to civilization’’ (Freud.’ Aggressiveness is unquestionably understood as part of human nature even ‘seen in the nursery. we are. opposes this programme of civilization. Who. a society of masochists repressing our aggressive and sexual instincts. into one great unity. even when completely detached from Eros. the advantages of work in common will not hold them together. 67–8) It is not until Civilization and Its Discontents that Freud (1930) turns his undivided attention to the outward manifestation of the death drive and develops his theory of aggression. In Freud’s final analysis. to torture and to kill him. And above all these particular social relations the state or civilization. to seize his possessions. we do not know. to use him sexually without his consent. will have the courage to dispute this assertion? (Freud. or sublimated. then races. It provides immense satisfaction to release this primal drive for destruction. I think. like Schopenhauer before him. and the child to the parent: We all dominate some and prostrate ourselves before others at different points in our lives. And now. repressed. in a loose sense. These collections of men are to be libidinally bound to one another. Many of us are masochists in the true sense deriving pleasure from controlling ourselves. in some sense the ultimate sadist.) Others are sadists indulging in positions of power and acts of mastery over others. 112). to cause him pain. peoples and nations. Anticipating Foucault. that ‘instinctual passions’ are stronger than ‘reasonable interests (Freud.

the will-to-live manifests itself as our desire for our own preservation and expansion and secondarily for the preservation and expansion of the species. p. Thus in the fierceness and intensity of its desire it buries its teeth in its own flesh. The role of the intellect. not knowing that it always injures itself.. cruelty arises out of the extreme pressure of the will which can never be satisfied: ‘‘[T]he subject of willing is constantly lying on the revolving wheel of Ixion. 1930. the will here fails to recognize itself. we can clearly see that he was thinking of what would be later called ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’.’ In this sense the willto-live always gives rise to what Freud would recognize as ‘sadistic’ phenomena.. 354) For Schopenhauer. and obvious. explains the extreme cruelty of man and the dominion of the strong over the weak. our Schadenfreude. our pleasure in acts of other directed cruelty. When two individuals meet who are both striving after the same resources. pleasure in the pain of others and in one’s own pain are both rooted in the will-to-live. ‘‘In other words. that variance of the will with itself.Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism must present the struggle between Eros and Death. Schopenhauer. similarity between the two theories is that sadistic acts are understood as the manifestation of an overwhelming instinct. we destroy everything and anything in our path. For Schopenhauer. between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction. seeking enhanced well-being in one of its phenomena. 122) 161 Schopenhauer on sadism and masochism Deceived by the knowledge bound to its service. and the evolution of civilization may therefore be simply described as the struggle for life of the human species. 1818. And it is this battle of the giants that our nurse-maids try to appease with their lullaby about Heaven. cruelty becomes an ‘end in itself. Combined with the narcissistic pleasure involved with the expression of power. man is a cruel beast: ‘‘[The] human race reveals in itself with terrible clearness that conflict. the will-to-live necessitates a clash. as it works itself out in the human species. it produces great suffering in another. The will creates a frustration of instinct. This struggle is what all life essentially consists of. like Freud after him. For Schopenhauer. he tries to mitigate his own suffering by the sight of another’s. 1818. When we are successful. p. 196). conceived of Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 . 147). and at the same time recognizes this as an expression of his own power’’ (ibid. and we get homo homini lupus’’ (Schopenhauer. Thus the will-to-live accounts for his understanding of a form of primary sadism. revealing in this form through the medium of individuation the conflict with itself which bears its inner nature. (Freud. p. The inherent inability to escape this miserable fate and achieve the aims of the will-to-live causes deep inner suffering that is then projected onto the external world. always drawing water in the sieve of the Danaids. as a survival tool of the will. Tormentor and tormented are one. which then must be projected outward. of fulfilling the primal urges of the will-to-live of the individual. p. (Schopenhauer. or drive. As we have seen above. While Schopenhauer never knew these terms. p. 364). The important. and is the eternally thirsting Tantalus’’ (ibid. This pleasure in the pain of others is the pleasure of being and expanding. like the young Freud.

compassion is based on self-identification of will when the barrier between ‘ego and non-ego’ is broken. on the level of the noumenon of the will-in-itself there is something akin to the death drive. an indivisible (and unconscious) primal striving.162 R. However. Schopenhauer acknowledged that man is also capable of compassion and this notion is rooted in a phenomenon responsible for another form of masochism. For Schopenhauer. Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis 9 Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 . In Schopenhauer’s view. and thereupon 8 Schopenhauer. on the noumenal8 level. things as they are themselves. is so terrified by this that it gradually moves toward instead of away from the snake. everything arises from the will-to-live which is an unconscious desire and striving for self-preservation and expansion. that is. and finally throws itself into the open jaws. In some sense. intelligible phenomenon there is no equivalent in Schopenhauer’s philosophy to the death drive. Due to egodissolution one will often engage in what appear to be masochistic behaviors. The noumena lie behind the mind as imposed forms of space. The squirrel’s instinct for self-preservation has succumbed to an ecstatic participation in the object of the snake’s own appetitive nisus. risking or subjecting oneself to harm in order to help others with no material advantage to be gained. For Schopenhauer the noumenon is the single world will. In On Feeling. Freud’s bizarre and astute conception is his own. and the phenomenal world is the individuated world of sense experience. either of the species or of the individual. on the snake’s part). things as they are for us. or whether it may not also involve a hypnotic narcosis. and Valuing Scheler describes Schopenhauer’s recounting of the ensuing observation by an ‘English officer in the Indian jungle’: [A] white squirrel. The phenomena of will act like Eros and Thanatos. a conflict between life-giving forces and destruction.9 This destruction of the barrier between ‘ego and non-ego’ also indicates a primary masochism. Yet. but the will as thing-in-itself is the ultimate cause of everything experienced in the phenomenal world. having met the gaze of a snake. the most salient difference is that Schopenhauer had no concept equivalent to Freud’s death drive.’ The squirrel identifies in feeling with the snake. the de-individuated world will and only individuated by experience (as phenomena). following Kant. of course. Grimwade destructiveness and mastery as arising from essentially self-preservative instincts. and causation. This allowed Schopenhauer to account for the motives behind self-sacrifice. in themselves. Knowing. a notoriously difficult problem for him. the phenomena of the will are collectively. hanging on a tree and showing every sign of a mighty appetite for its prey. and noumena. namely ‘swallowing. time. In other words. As discussed above. The objectified phenomena of the will are always striving for life. In some ways this distinction is comparable to the psychoanalytic distinction between ‘drive’ and ‘wish’. Each individual is. divides the world into phenomena. acts of selfless compassion. In the first volume of The World as Will and Representation Schopenhauer describes the ‘self-mortifying’ efforts of the will. In some ways this is akin to the unconscious instinctual death drive. even this interpretation of will does not account for Freud’s death drive proper. As an individuated. It is of no consequence whether this be a case of conscious suggestion alone (quite involuntary. the will is a blind striving on the noumenal level whose turmoil is experienced as endless conflict in the phenomenal world.

the egoism resting on it’’ (Schopenhauer. p. 62)10 163 This ‘primary masochism’ is the enjoyment of being an active participant in the process of the other’s will-to-live. to a state of ‘primal oneness’ as the world will.’ Since this process occurs to varying extent in each individual. See The Birth of Tragedy (Nietzsche. is exposed in all its glory. 253). It is simultaneously horrible and wonderful. It is the prey’s identification with the powerful will of the predator. The very act of being dominated. by which the infantile ego defines. 1930. If we compare this notion with Freud’s discussion of the ‘oceanic feeling’ in Chapter One of Civilization and Its Discontents we can almost feel Freud addressing the Schopenhauerian notion expressed above. Scheler does not cite his source. 62).11 For the sadist. The protagonist is sacrificed to the chorus and the eager audience. Sexuality as the ‘lord of the world’ is the secret motivator behind all actions that go beyond mere self-preservation. Witnessing the dissolution of the ego succumbing to its tragic fate. sadism. Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis . In this state of pure terror the ego is paralyzed. 12 This friend was apparently the famous French novelist. Romain Rolland. namely the deep pleasure that results from losing our individuality. Yet this is merely a portent of the most significant and primary masochism for Schopenhauer. The denial of the will-to-live and the dissolution of the individual into the world will is the essence of tragedy. everything ‘internal’ and ‘external. Overextended ego 10 Unfortunately I was unable to locate the source of this account in Schopenhauer’s works. even being eaten or destroyed is inherently erotic. or distinguishes between. The ego is caught up in the erotic expression of will and now de-individuated it enjoys unrestrained participation in the world will devouring itself. pleasure is derived from watching Oedipus tear out his eyes. p. the principium individuationis. and vicarious masochist. The chaotic blind striving of the will. the establishment of ego boundaries. and even its will-to-live is forced to submit to the overwhelming dominion of the world will. ecstatic submission. Freud’s friend12 expressed this oceanic feeling as ‘‘an indissoluble bond. from self-dissolution. 11 Schopenhauer’s notion of tragedy would influence the young Nietzsche. It lures its participants into abysmal. whether of the gross or refined type. 1992. p. (Scheler. The tragic hero’s dissolution is our own as we are all united by the overwhelming seductive power of the world will. 12). pleasurable and painful. ‘‘It sees through the form of the phenomenon. enchanting and terrible. As Scheler puts it: ‘‘Masochism. like the squirrel caught in the gaze of death. the thing-in-itself buttressing the phenomenal world. resembles its opposite.Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism spontaneously establishes a corporeal ‘identity’ with it by disappearing down its throat. We indulge in the vicarious sadistic and masochistic pleasure of ego dissolution. Freud explains this feeling by referring to the process of individuation. This de-individuation is the essence of the poetic art of tragedy for Schopenhauer. of being one with the world’’ (Freud. p. in being simply a (twofold) manifestation of the erotic power’’ (Scheler. 1992. its effects can be felt to a greater or lesser extent in later life. 1818. 1872).

(Schopenhauer. Freud states. to overcome the will itself and be free of suffering. Finally when grief no longer has any definite object. of the will-to-live. a mild foretaste of the death that claims to be the dissolution of the body and of the will at the same time. p. and resigned. noble. which he sometimes refers to as ‘the joy of grief.14 The only way to truly deny the will is to engage in traditional ascetic practices. explanation of the phenomena of ego-dissolution. A secret joy therefore accompanies this grief . however. a gradual disappearance of the will. the masochism of the ascetic. but is extended over the whole of life. this masochistic practice is the way to ensure that one escapes desire. so that the person feels a certain loosening of his bonds. Since in Schopenhauer’s system. for the constant mortification of the will … For only in the case of a few is knowledge sufficient to bring about the denial of the will … (Schopenhauer. 14 There is one notable exception to Schopenhauer’s general position on suicide: ascetic suicide by starvation. a withdrawal. not a denial. para 69 (Schopenhauer. 392) This form of masochism. For Schopenhauer.. See The World as Will and Representation I. and finally the character shows itself as mild. it is then to a certain extent self-communion.13 It is also pointless. albeit less mystical. he claims. sad. the visibility of which. He does not advocate this action directly but he claims that it can be a true denial of the world will. much in the spirit of Buddhist and Christian asceticism.. as killing oneself has no effect on the world will.’ denying the will through ascetic practices is a pleasurable activity: If the will is to a certain extent broken … then practically nothing more is desired. Freud has offered us an alternate. Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis . In Freudian terms it would be a severe sanction prescribed by the superego against the id resulting in the punishment of an unduly masochistic ego. in his view. namely the body.’ Schopenhauer absolutely idealized the ascetic who denies the will-to-live and all its phenomenal manifestations: By the expression asceticism … I understand in the narrower sense this deliberate breaking of the will by refusing the agreeable and looking for the disagreeable. the joy of grief. to abstain from ‘plea- 13 Schopenhauer’s position on suicide is interesting. while directed at the will. 396) Strangely. 1818). He does not advocate suicide but he believes that it should not be illegal for a number of reasons. is manifested in the phenomenal world as a masochistic ego. 1818. p. one of which is that the state is punishing someone for failing at their attempt. Grimwade boundaries cause an individual to feel at one with or overwhelmed by the world. Nevertheless. Most suicides. are simply due to an acknowledgement of one’s lack of ability to achieve the goals of the will and are therefore essentially an affirmation. the cause of suffering. like Freud’s. pleasure is ‘un-pain.164 R. that he has never felt this oceanic feeling and sees it as a form of puerile mysticism. Schopenhauer recommended this ascetic masochism as a method of destroying desire. the voluntarily chosen way of life of penance and self-chastizement. is imperceptibly but inwardly undermined by it. 1818. suicide is not a valid option in Schopenhauer’s system. There is another form of masochism in Schopenhauer’s philosophy.

This was something that Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer advocated a complete withdrawal from social and political life. According to Schopenhauer’s famous simile of the freezing porcupines no one can tolerate a too intimate approach to his neighbour’’ (Freud. But they soon felt the effect of their quills on one another. offers us another solution: to regulate our instincts and live in a tenuous and fraught alliance with other people in civilization. p. it is true. 205). In Civilization and Its Discontents Freud addresses this issue directly. to cut it off at the source. of avoiding pain. Whoever does not keep to this is told in England to 15 This is in complete opposition to Schopenhauer. Their striving for ‘the happiness of quietness. to protect the individual from external enemies. In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego Freud said: ‘‘Let us keep before our eyes the nature of the emotional relations which hold between men in general. Thus the need for society which springs from the emptiness and monotony of men’s lives drives them together. with his faith in the solitary and self-sufficient individual. his reality principle. the drawback of the quills was repeated so that they were tossed between two evils. is unavoidably characterized by suffering and a life of isolation. rather forlornly. Schopenhauer’s fable of the porcupines appears in Volume Two of Parerga and Paralipomena: One cold winter’s day. the state. It is loosely based on his morality and mentioned only rarely in his works. he has once more only achieved the happiness of quietness’’ (Freud. the kind of life Schopenhauer advocates. If it succeeds. is not properly speaking. which made them again move apart. 29). will find his own way of seeking pleasure or. more precisely. but their many unpleasant and repulsive qualities and insufferable drawbacks once more drive them apart. should serve three essential functions. Schopenhauer’s political philosophy is negligible. to deny desire in order to annihilate it. then the subject has. internal enemies.Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism 165 sure’ of any kind. by another path. In these individuals Thanatos has overcome Eros. The mean distance which they finally discover. Freud. 1921. as long as it must exist. If the state stretched itself beyond serving these basic functions. He acknowledges the methods advocated by Schopenhauer: ‘‘The extreme form of this is brought about by killing off the instincts. a life. 101). 1930. and general disposition.15 This is Freud’s implicit challenge to Schopenhauer’s pessimism: a life worth living. given up all other activities as well – he has sacrificed his life. draws them from a life of futile striving to what is not properly a life. guided by the pleasure principle. He discusses various possible ways of contending with suffering. For him. Now when the need for warmth once more brought them together. as is prescribed by the worldly wisdom of the East and practised by Yoga. p. p. a life with emotional attachments to others. and. Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 .’ the nirvana principle. like Schopenhauer. a number of porcupines huddled together quite closely in order through their mutual warmth to prevent themselves from being frozen. to beat it out of oneself. is politeness and good manners. acknowledges the inherent discomfort and unease which characterize engaged life. and from the state itself (Magee. saying that each person. Schopenhauer saw it as unwelcome interference. and which enables them to endure being together. But Freud. 1989. As we have seen. He says that if one wants to take on the ‘dreaded external world’ alone he can only defend himself by turning away from it. until they had discovered the proper distance from which they could best tolerate one another. could simply not accept. For Schopenhauer social life was a burden.

pp. each of them thinks itself superior to or of better birth than the other. It seems that. on the other hand. even in the slightest respect. The same thing happens when men come together in larger units. such as the Gallic people feel for the German.) We accounted for the Schopenhauerean equivalent to erotogenic masochism with his notion of ego-dissolution. 1921. and the white races for the coloured. and we have accounted for a form of moral masochism in his notion of the ascetic denial of the will. 101) As we have noted above. (This is a complex topic that has been treated extensively elsewhere. society essentially involves a masochistic binding and sadistic splitting. the Spaniard despises the Portuguese. (Freud. the relations between parents and children – contains a sediment of feelings of aversion and hostility. Perhaps. the existence and nature of which (unfortunately) both theorists Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis . but. By virtue thereof. We must repress our natural aggressive and sexual drives. it is true that the need for mutual warmth will be only imperfectly satisfied. This is less disguised in the common wrangles between business partners or in the grumbles of a subordinate at his superior. Yet whoever has a great deal of internal warmth of his own will prefer to keep away from society in order to avoid giving or receiving trouble and annoyance. emphasis mine) For Schopenhauer. every little canton looks down upon the others with contempt. for every blow thrown. And our sadistic tendencies. (Schopenhauer. Grimwade ‘keep his distance’. In our comparison of Freud and Schopenhauer’s views of sadism and masochism. Our masochistic tendencies and identifications are essential parts of the glue that binds us together. Of two neighbouring towns each is the other’s most jealous rival. p. Perhaps. For our purposes a few remarks will have to suffice. the prick of the quills will not be felt. Perhaps this ‘social’ masochism serves Eros in its civilization-building activity by drawing the masochists together with the sadists that oppress them. violently separate us. these two impulses – drive for individuation and the drive for unity – are incompatible. 651–2. we have thus far accounted for all three forms of masochism Freud presents in The economic problem of masochism but one: the feminine. aversion and hostility characterize almost every relationship: The evidence of psycho-analysis shows that almost every intimate emotional relation between two people which lasts for some time – marriage. masochistic tendencies and practices are essential to life in society. We are no longer astonished that greater differences should lead to an almost insuperable repugnance. following Schopenhauer. According to him. our fear and hatred for what is other. To live in society we must submit to the laws of the state. there is someone only too willing to turn the other cheek. friendship. Every time two families become connected by a marriage. those with ‘internal warmth’ will avoid society altogether. Freud too recognized the delicate balance of life in civilization. which only escapes perception as a result of repression. the South German cannot endure the North German. Closely related races keep one another at arm’s length. while the rest of us oscillate between a state of empty longing and the sting of each other’s quills in a desperate but futile attempt to find a balance between our unachievable desires and our pain. the Englishman casts every kind of aspersion upon the Scot.166 R. 1851c. the Aryan for the Semite. All that remains is feminine masochism.

83. and should be. their fealty to Eros. that the complete denial and suppression of instinct was necessary to alleviate suffering. is in complete opposition to Freud’s view. 106). 1919. not in arrogant haughtiness. the biological significance of it seems to lie in the need for overcoming the resistance of the sexual object by means other than the process of wooing’’ (Freud. 1970. At the end of our inquiry it is prudent. p. The male aggressor has a biological drive to dominate and subdue a female. the father of psychoanalysis and the great pessimist were not radical and revolutionary in every respect. to briefly return to one of the most over-discussed questions in the Schopenhauer–Freud literature.Between the quills: Schopenhauer and Freud on sadism and masochism 167 agreed upon and for which both have been. and how each theorist tried to solve this problem. Conclusion We have seen how Schopenhauer and Freud understood human life as a sadistic–masochistic relation fundamentally characterized by suffering. Freud emerged from the intellectual background Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 . women are merely the ‘passive’ objects of ‘active’ male desire. Schopenhauer portrays a masculine activity as the desire and subsequent striving for a domination and mastery. In his infamous remarks on women. For Schopenhauer. Instead. pp.. and as we might expect he has a much stronger view of the natural feminine passivity and submissiveness. women ‘‘as the weaker sex . no shared joy was worth the pain of life in civilization. despite my earlier rejection of the question. pp. Freud offered us an alternative to Schopenhauer’s life denying worldweary pessimism: the good life. 1851a. ‘what was Schopenhauer’s influence on Freud?’ My response. a life of rewarding emotional attachments inevitably involves a certain amount of suffering. 87). but on cunning’’ and ‘‘what there ought to be is housewives and girls who hope to become housewives and therefore educated. are driven to rely not on force. women are ‘biologically’ sexually passive or submissive and as such they have an innate masochism. In his view.. 156–7). In A child is being beaten Freud acknowledges there are men who enjoy a ‘feminine’ form of masochism. p. Schopenhauer could not accept this fragile and uncomfortable balance. In his words from Three Essays: ‘‘The sexuality of most male human beings contains an element of aggressiveness – a desire to subjugate. The so-called ‘natural’ sexual masochism of women is evidenced throughout the works of both Freud and Schopenhauer. The obvious inverse assumption is that women lack this aggression and instead are passive recipients and have an inherent sexual masochism. For Schopenhauer. but in domesticity and submissiveness’’ (Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer’s infamous views on women are well known. Schopenhauer’s fundamental theoretical assertion. As Greer states in The Female Eunuch: ‘‘[Freud] did not suggest that one way Eros could recruit his forces would be by re-endowing women with their sexuality. For Freud. 161). Unfortunately. he and his followers elaborated the concept of female masochism as divinely ordained by biology’’ (Greer. is to take Freud at his word. but the feminine form itself is ‘‘characteristically female’’ implying a ‘natural’ feminine masochism (Freud. namely. as writing this essay has made clear to me. 1905. held accountable.

p. Schopenhauer could never have imagined what Freud would later do with these vague and general notions. Now it is time to finally move past this distracting question and listen to Freud: You may perhaps shrug your shoulders and say: ‘That isn’t natural science. dennoch letztlich sehr unterschiedliche Lçsungen vorschlugen. Schopenhauer. Grimwade of a Germany still recoiling from the influence of Kant. ambos eran profundamente escØpticos acerca del futuro de la sociedad humana. Jeder. proponen soluciones ostensiblemente similares pero. simply lacked Freud’s extensive and nuanced understanding of mental phenomena but was able to infer many psychological truths by the sheer force of his genius. while Schopenhauer anticipated some early psychoanalytic notions. Todo aquØl que conoce la obra de estos dos pensadores debería identificar sus afinidades filosóficas generales. was die Zukunft der menschlichen Gesellschaft betrifft. Centrµndose en la noción de sadismo y masoquismo de cada uno de estos autores. Ladies and Gentlemen. dass – obwohl Schopenhauer und Freud eine gemeinsame philosophische Orientierung hatten und die gleichen grundlegenden Probleme des Lebens in der Zivilisation diagnostizierten – sie vordergründig ähnliche. ce qui fait qu’ils Øtaient terriblement sceptiques concernant l’avenir de la sociØtØ. Encontramos que. kann ihre allgemeinen philosophischen Affinitäten erkennen. les solutions qu’ils Int J Psychoanal (2011) 92 Copyright ª 2011 Institute of Psychoanalysis . Gestützt auf frühere Literatur vergleicht diese Abhandlung die philosophische Theorie Schopenhauers mit der psychoanalytischen Theorie Freuds. en fflltima instancia. why should not a bold thinker have guessed something that is afterwards confirmed by sober and painstaking detailed research? (Freud. Tous deux portaient un regard pessimiste sur le pouvoir de la raison humaine et attribuaient le comportement humain à des forces inconscientes puissantes. Indem wir den Blick auf die jeweilige Auffassung der beiden Denker über Sadismus und Masochismus konzentrieren. Los dos eran pesimistas respecto del poder de la razón humana. as a child of his age. Schopenhauer. Esist allZwischen den Stacheln: Schopenhauer und Freud u gemein bekannt. l’auteur de cet article Øtablit une comparaison entre la thØorie philosophique de Schopenhauer et la thØorie psychanalytique de Freud. muy diferentes. Beide Männer waren pessimistisch im Hinblick auf die Kraft des menschlichen Verstandes und schrieben das menschliche Verhalten machtvollen unbewussten Kräften zu. Nietzsche and others. der mit den Arbeiten dieser beiden Denker vertraut ist. Quiconque connaît leurs œuvres respectives saura reconnaître sans difficultØ leurs affinitØs philosophiques. und infolgedessen waren beide hçchst skeptisch. ` propos du sadisme et du masochisme. 1933. y atribuían la conducta humana a fuerzas inconscientes poderosas. Es comfflnmente sabido que Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) y Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) compartían una visión de mundo. 107) Translations of summary ¨ ber Sadismus und Masochismus. Como resultado. versuchen wir in diesem Essay.168 R. este ensayo intenta entender y asumir las dimensiones de este pesimismo radical. Chacun sait Entre les plumes: Schopenhauer et Freud a que Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) et Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–18860) partageaient la mÞme vision du monde. S’inspirant d’Øtudes antØrieures. Il consid›re que bien que Schopenhauer et Freud partagent la mÞme orientation philosophique et le mÞme diagnostic quant aux probl›mes fondamentaux inhØrents à la vie dans la civilisation. he only lay some of the basic groundwork for Freud. si bien ambos comparten una orientación filosófica y diagnostican los mismos problemas fundamentales de la vida en la civilización. este ensayo compara la teoría filosófica de Schopenhauer con la teoría psicoanalítica de Freud. it’s Schopenhauer’s philosophy!’ But. Was there a German intellectual who escaped the influence of the great pessimist whose World as Will and Representation lay on every bourgeois coffee-table? It seems that. die Dimensionen dieses radikalen Pessimismus zu verstehen und zu akzeptieren. A partir de la literatura preexistente. Wir kommen zu dem Ergebnis. dass Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) und Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) eine gemeinsame Weltanschauung teilten. Freud was certainly influenced by Schopenhauer early in his intellectual life regardless of whether he read him then or only later. Entre las plumas fuentes: Schopenhauer y Freud sobre el sadismo y el masoquismo.

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