Life and Death in Freud and Heidegger

Life and Death in Freud and Heidegger

Life and Death in Freud and Heidegger

Life and Death in Freud and Heidegger

Synopsis

"Life and Death in Freud and Heidegger" argues that mortality is a fundamental structuring element in human life. The ordinary view of life and death regards them as dichotomous and separate. This book explains why this view is unsatisfactory and presents a new model of the relationship between life and death that sees them as interlinked. Using Heidegger's concept of being towards death and Freud's notion of the death drive, it demonstrates the extensive influence death has on everyday life and gives an account of its structural and existential significance. By bringing the two perspectives together, this book presents a reading of death that establishes its significance for life, creates a meeting point for philosophical and psychoanalytical perspectives, and examines the problems and strengths of each. It then puts forth a unified view, based on the strengths of each position and overcoming the problems of each. Finally, it works out the ethical consequences of this view. This volume is of interest for philosophers, mental health practitioners and those working in the field of death studies.

Excerpt

This book aims to show that mortality is a fundamental structuring element in human life. It examines this structuring by looking at different ways in which the relationship between life and death may be thought about. The ordinary view sees life and death as dichotomous: death is the external endpoint of life and therefore life and death are completely separate. On this view, death is a negation of life and therefore contains no positive attributes. Against this stance that sees life and death as completely separate, this book explores views that see them as interlinked. Because they are interlinked, death can play an active role within life (this claim shall be explained in detail) and because it has a role in life it is not simply a negation of life. This position provides a robust view of death as something more than mere negation, as well as an account of how death is active in life and how it structures life and our conception of it.

Since the explanatory onus of this position is higher than that of the ordinary view, why should we adopt it? The answer is that on the ordinary account, death becomes a brute fact, devoid of all philosophical and existential significance. Contrary to that, I argue that death is not merely an external endpoint about which we can say nothing, but a structuring force that shapes life ontologically and influences our understanding of it every living moment. Within a view of the human being as finite, the question of our attitude towards death becomes a crucial factor, and whether we acknowledge this fact or remain oblivious to it, the ontological demand remains constantly active. This affects our view of ourselves, our choices and capacity to plan the future and relate to the present. In short, the requirement that we understand ourselves as finite structures human existence far more than the ordinary view allows. It is this continuous and significant moulding that I want to bring out by developing a new account of the relationship between life and death.

I focus on two conceptions of this relationship: the psychoanalytic conception of Sigmund Freud and the philosophical conception of Martin Heidegger. Both thinkers emphasise the extensive influence death has on everyday life and give an account of its structural and existential significance on both a personal and a metaphysical level. Freud's death drive and Heidegger's being-towards-death are two accounts of how death operates within life. By bringing the two together, this work presents a reading of death that establishes its significance for life, creates a meeting point for philosophical and psychoanalytical perspectives, and examines the problems and strengths of each. It then puts forth a unified view, based on the strengths of each position and overcoming the problems of each.

The question of finitude is philosophical and personal, conceptual and existential, and a central issue for human psychology. Every form of life is . . .

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