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Friedman, J. Alexander, J. (1983). Psychoanalysis and Natural Science: Freud's 1895 Project Revisited. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 10:303-318.

(1983). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 10:303-318

Psychoanalysis and Natural Science: Freud's 1895 Project Revisited

John Friedman and James Alexander


The present study has attempted to demonstrate that, even at the height of his interest in a psychology based entirely on natural, scientific models, Freud was never the servant of the science of his day. While he was conscious and certainly influenced by the reigning, scientific understanding, Freud turned the tradition to his own advantage. Those aspects Freud retained he transformed radically. In the 1895 Project, neurones function as signifiers. Even more, the signification of a particular 'sign' (neurone) is determined through the possibility and presence of verbal expression and the linguistic sign. Throughout his career, Freud will understand signification to arise from and be conditioned by an instinctual force. The notion of 'bound energy', which appears in 1895, will be elaborated to the status of an instinct in its own right. This final step occurs in 1920 with Freud's 'Beyond the pleasure principle'. It is the death instinct that binds energy through 're-presentation' and that forces human discourse and desire to become finite, to become significant, or, expressed in other

terms, to be fated as repetition. This process itself was shown to be the original precondition for memory and judgement and is, in turn, reciprocally related to the development of the ego. In other words, the ego itself, as 'bound energy', lies at the source of the repetition compulsion and the death instinct. In order to travel further along the path Freud cleared, these insights and ideas must once again be part of our common stock as analysts.

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