Sigmund Freud Quotes on Instinct (4 Quotes)


    Sublimation of instinct is an especially conspicuous feature of cultural development it is what makes it possible for higher psychical activities, scientific, artistic or ideological, to play such an important part in civilized life. If one were to yield to a first impression, one would say that sublimation is a vicissitude which has been forced upon the instincts entirely by civilization. But it would be wiser to reflect upon this a little longer. In the third place, finally, and this seems the most important of all, it is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built up upon a renunciation of instinct, how much it presupposes precisely the non-satisfaction (by suppression, repression or some other means) of powerful instincts. This cultural frustration dominates the large field of social relationships between human beingswe know already that it is the cause of the antagonism against which all civilization has to fight.

    We have to distinguish two classes of instincts, one of which, the sexual instincts or Eros, is by far the more conspicuous and accessible to study.... The second class of instincts was not so easy to point to in the end we came to recognize sadism as its representative. On the basis of theoretical considerations, supported by biology, we put forward the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state on the other hand, we supposed that Eros ... aims at complicating life and at the same time, of course, at preserving it. Acting in this way, both the instincts ... would be endeavouring to re-establish a state of things that was disturbed by the emergence of life. The emergence of life would thus be the cause of the continuance of life and also at the same time of the striving towards death and life itself would be a conflict and compromise between these two trends.

    We believe that civilization has been created under the pressure of the exigencies of life at the cost of satisfaction of the instincts.

    It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.


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