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Schmidt-Hellerau, C. (1997). Libido And Lethe : Fundamentals Of A Formalised Conception Of Metapsychology. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:683-697.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:683-697

Libido And Lethe : Fundamentals Of A Formalised Conception Of Metapsychology

Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau

On the basis of a chronological review of some of Freud's principal metapsychological writings, the author inquires into the logical consistency of the theoretical foundations of psychoanalysis. Particular attention is devoted to the functions ascribed by Freud to the two basic axioms of his model of the psyche, namely the two antagonistic drives (originally called the sexual and self-preservative drives and ultimately the life and death drives) on the one hand, and a principle (inertia, constancy, pleasure or Nirvana) on the other. The author adopts a formalised view of these concepts, considering the drives as vectors and concentrating on their directionality. The psychical apparatus as modelled by Freud is then seen to be constructed along homoeostatic lines, the dynamic stability of the psyche as a system being assured by the combination of, firstly, a (+)-drive and a (-)-drive as variables and, secondly, a structure, in accordance with the relevant regulating principle. She shows that Freud remained faithful to this basic idea throughout his career notwithstanding all the changes in his theory. Preserving this consistency and with a view to the exploration of a fresh dimension of the mind, the author suggests the introduction of a new concept, lethe, for the energy of the death drive.

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