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Smith, D.L. (1988). The Ego (And its Superego) Reconsidered. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 69:401-407.

(1988). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 69:401-407

The Ego (And its Superego) Reconsidered

David L. Smith


The term 'ego' can be found in Freud's writings from his earliest psychoanalytic works onwards. Hartmann was the first scholar to suggest a solution to some of the apparent ambiguity in Freud's use of the term by distinguishing the self-representation from the structural ego of the second topography. Ultimately, Hartmann sought to confine the term 'ego' to the designation of a theoretical entity as opposed to an experiential reality. A careful reading of Freud reveals that he used the term 'das Ich' to designate both a set of experiences and the theoretical entity formulated to explain them. On the phenomenological level Freud describes the ego in terms of (a) the self representation, (b) the felt sense of existence and (c) the phenomenon of action. An application of this approach to understanding Freud to his accounts of the superego and ego ideal suggests that there is no inherent antagonism between the two concepts and that the difference between the two is fundamentally one of levels of abstraction. The superego emerges as a phase-specific organization of the ego.

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