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Wisdom, J.O. (1945). The Unconscious Origin of Schopenhauer's Philosophy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 26:44-52.

(1945). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 26:44-52

The Unconscious Origin of Schopenhauer's Philosophy

J. O. Wisdom


Will, the fundamental force in the world, is sexual drive, and it is eternal. Death, which means both castrated living and excrement, is the reward of sexuality; guilt feels it to be just. Conflict is overcome not by defying death but by acquiescing in it: castration is accepted; a return is made to nothingness, to the womb, in the form of excrement. Beauty and philosophy are the forms in which this resolution manifests itself. With beauty this is because the feeling for it is based upon repression of its opposite, ugliness and dirt. With philosophy, in which the process is more complicated, there is the highest manifestation of will, i.e. sublimated sexuality, expressed by the archetype; and this at the same time acts as a quieter of the will and is outside space and time and the course of life, so that it expresses castration—the archetype fuses lust and castration. Thus philosophy's muse is death.

The forms of the Principle of Sufficient Reason mean the origin of babies, unsanctioned knowledge about the process, desire to produce them, and living in the child. The Principle in general means the way of gaining knowledge of the archetype. The fourfold scheme of philosophy signifies creation, the urge to it, the resolution of conflict in the archetype, and renunciation.

The archetype is the child intellectually born of parents consisting of sexual premisses. A real child is impossible because he felt the blindness of love hides the evil nature of women. This means Schopenhauer hated women because he felt himself deceived by them, and this because he felt castrated and womanlike. The evil was his own sadism.

Philosophical genius is the capacity to apprehend the archetypes; the value of it lies in its making possible a painless castration. It is allied with madness, which is due to a break in the memory. Sounds disturb and smell is the sense of memory; sounds and smell are attributes of defæcation; therefore sounds would reawaken interest in this, make the memory recover, remove the power of genius, and abolish the archetypal resolution of castration. Thus at the root of castration lay repudiated coprophilia—which, however, was satisfied in another form by death in the sense of excrement. Hence death, as castration and as excrement, is to be understood as a compensation for inhibited coprophilia.

Mourning refers to the father, and mourning means the incorporation of the dead or fæcal. It therefore signifies coprophagia.

Schopenhauer's fierce sadism was directed against himself and he could not direct it outwards. The affect was depression. He also had a strain of near-normality and a capacity for joy—there was a necessary connection between joy and depression. Thus he manifested the full cycle of manic-depressive psychosis.

Most important in this was the incorporation of his father and the coprophagia, showing a cannibalistic impulse. Sexuality is made parallel to vomiting. That is, semen was unclean—and it was inherited from the father. Thus sexuality was condemned because of the basic cannibalism and coprophagia.

Parallel to his savage attitude to his ego was his narcissistic over-valuation of it. His ego was subject to ambivalence, narcissistic love and oral-sadistic attack. His case seems to fit the structure of manic-depressive psychosis as described by Abraham. Homosexuality was stimulated by failure to satisfy narcissism.

Schopenhauer might have been expected to commit suicide. That he did not was because of the identity of will throughout nature, involving a realization of his identity with the introjected bad object, because of the introjected presence of a soothing mother, because of homosexuality, and because of his narcissism. The four are connected but the narcissism was basic. In certain conditions it can prevent suicide.

His philosophy is to be understood as a defence against conflict.

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