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Gabel, P. (1974). Freud's Death Instinct and Sartre's Fundamental Project. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(2):217-227.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(2):217-227

Freud's Death Instinct and Sartre's Fundamental Project

Peter Gabel

I. Introduction

This paper attempts to describe a correspondence between Freud's concept of the death instinct and Sartre's fundamental project. Because it is difficult to write about Sartre without assuming an understanding of his terminology I have included a brief glossary of some central concepts. The definitions themselves derive from hundreds of pages of analysis and are thus oversimplified.

Phenomenology. The phenomenological movement in philosophy attempts to study the structures of Being as they appear or are revealed to consciousness.

Being-in-itself or the In-itself. Non-conscious Being. The world of things (a table, one's body, etc.). The In-itself is a plenitude, entirely whole, a totality in and of itself.

Being-for-itself or the For-itself. Consciousness. Consciousness is empty, an absence, and is always consciousness of something. It is “for” itself because it is a continual projection into the next moment, always trying to complete itself but always remaining incomplete. Sartre calls the For-it self “lack” because the For-itself is precisely a lack of Being-in-itself.

Freedom. Sartre uses the term interchangeably with the For-itself. My consciousness is my freedom.

Being-for-others. A mode of consciousness in which I transform myself into an object for other people. Because this self-objectification is really just a particular mode of the For-itself, Sartre refers to it technically as “Being-for-itself-for-others.”

The Look.

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