ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER AND SIGMUND FREUD
Written by Christopher Young & Andrew Brook
A close study of Schopenhauer's central work, The World as Will and Representation, reveals that a number of Freud's most characteristic doctrines were first articulated by Schopenhauer. A thinker always expresses something of his culture, of course, but the parallels to be found between Freud and Schopenhauer go well beyond cultural influence. Schopenhauer's concept of the will contains the foundations of what in Freud became the concepts of the unconscious and the id. Schopenhauer's writings on madness anticipate Freud's theory of repression and his first theory of the etiology of neurosis. Schopenhauer's work contains aspects of what became the theory of free association. And most importantly, Schopenhauer articulates major parts of the Freudian theory of sexuality. These correspondences raise some interesting questions about Freud's denial that he even read Schopenhauer until late in life. "For the Zeitgeist of every age is like a sharp east wind which blows through everything, you can find traces of it in all that is done, thought and written, in music and painting, in the flourishing of this or that art: it leaves its mark on everything and everyone." Arthur Schopenhauer
In the nineteenth century, certain general themes occupied much of the German-speaking world, none more so than the will and the unconscious. These themes may well have reached their highest development in Freud, as many have suggested, but they did not begin with him, or even with Nietzsche. To find their origins and first clear articulations, we have to go back at least as far as the strange misanthropic philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. In the latter we find not only an anticipation of some of Freud's most characteristic ideas but a surprisingly complete articulation of them. It is general knowledge, of course, that Schopenhauer anticipated Freud to some extent (we examine some discussions of the link below). Indeed, Freud himself acknowledged this, though with a curious ambivalence to which we will return later. However, the correspondences are far more extensive and far more detailed than is generally known. The reason they are not generally known may be that it takes a thorough and careful reading of Schopenhauer's texts to reveal them, and so far as we can discover, no one has done such a study. We aim to do at least some parts of one in this article.
When we recall that Freud denied that he even read Schopenhauer until "late in life" (1925a, p. 29), such a study takes on added interest (The evidence suggests that he probably had 1915 in mind; he was 59 years old at that time). Freud could easily have acquired the general shape of Schopenhauer's ideas in other ways in his youth, of course -- in Freud's youth, Schopenhauer was the most widely discussed philosopher in the German-speaking world -- but the extent of the correspondences between their views would lead one to wonder. In any case, as we were surprised to discover, writings from long before Freud claims here to have read Schopenhauer contain detailed references to him!
For example, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) refers to a work of his three times. Schopenhauer certainly defined the Zeitgeist that, in the words of his own aphorism, blew "like a sharp east wind" through Freud's time, but the evidence suggests that Freud was more directly influenced by him than that -- whatever he said later.
We will limit ourselves to correspondences in psychological doctrine between the two thinkers, though there are other similarities in their views, too, for example in their ethics and aesthetics. We look first at Schopenhauer's concept of the will. Though a metaphysical concept, aspects of it had a profound influence on his psychology. Metaphysical language notwithstanding, Schopenhauer's 'will' is strikingly similar to aspects of Freud's early endogenous stimuli or later id. Moreover, Schopenhauer's doctrine contains a clear anticipation of the primary process, and sexuality is as central as it is in Freud's later doctrine of the id. In addition, Schopenhauer also identified a process that is not only similar to Freud's later concept of repression but is even expressed in similar language, and he attempted to trace the etiology of madness. Though his attempt is flawed, it foreshadows Freud's first theory of neurosis; Schopenhauer also saw madness as far more similar to mental health than was customary at the time. Finally, Schopenhauer's concept of the thread of memory and his notion of association as a means of recovering lost memories and dreams anticipate aspects of Freud's later doctrines. Before we examine these correspondences, let us look briefly at what others have done.
As we said earlier, many writers have noted broad parallels of outlook between Schopenhauer and Freud, especially in their ethical and aesthetic outlooks. Their common pessimism is a well-known example. Bischler (1939), one of the earliest studies, is typical in this regard -- he restricted his comments to similarities in the two thinkers' pessimism and in their aesthetic and ethical positions. For him the important similarity is that one finds in both of them "the same sombre realism which traces human spirituality back to the workings of obscure primitive and instinctual forces." (1939, p. 88). However, he largely passes over similarities in their psychology, except for some comments on their theories of love, where he focuses on the divergences, not the similarities. There are a few studies of the similarities in their psychology specifically. Proctor-Greg (1956) is the only early one. She noted similarities in their treatment of mental illness, though only briefly, and remarked on certain correspondences between features of Schopenhauer's psychology and Freud's topographical model. Like Bischler, she also noted the parallels in aesthetic and ethical outlook.
The first significant study was done by Ellenberger, in his classic 1970 history of dynamic psychology. He remarks on Schopenhauer's psychological doctrines several times, crediting him for example with recognizing parapraxes, and urges that Schopenhauer "was definitely among the ancestors of modern dynamic psychiatry." (1970, p. 205). He also cites with approval Foerster's interesting claim that "no one should deal with psychoanalysis before having thoroughly studied Schopenhauer." (1970, p. 542). In general, he views Schopenhauer as the first and most important of the many nineteenth-century philosophers of the unconscious, and concludes that "there cannot be the slightest doubt that Freud's thought echoes theirs." (1970, p. 542). However, Ellenberger tries to cover the whole nineteenth century, so his treatment of any given thinker is fairly cursory.
Gupta's 1980 essay is also a notable contribution. He claims that "n Schopenhauer's writings are to be found many of the piercing insights which were later developed and elaborated by Freud." (1980, p. 226). On psychological matters, Gupta observes the similarities between the two with respect to Schopenhauer's will and Freud's id (1980, pp. 226-8), and between Schopenhauer's pioneering ideas on sexuality and Freud's later ideas. He also notes that "Schopenhauer comes close to Freud's theory of rationalization" (1980, p. 226), points out that Schopenhauer anticipated the notion of repression, and makes the penetrating observations that "both considered excessive repression damaging to human personality." (1980, p. 231). He further observes that they both held childhood to be central to the formation of later personality (1980, pp. 231-2). Important though these observations are, they by no means exhaust the topic. In addition, Gupta offers little evidence even for the claims he does make.
Remarks on the relationship to Freud have also been made by writers on Schopenhauer. Gardiner (1963) contains brief references to Schopenhauer's description of repression and to the similarities between the will and Freud's unconscious, for example.
He also touches on the relation of Schopenhauer's doctrine of sexuality to Freud's. Similarly, in a 1989 book on Schopenhauer, Magee notes several similarities between Schopenhauer and Freud, observing that "many of the ideas that constitute the core of Freudianism were set out fully and clearly by Schopenhauer." (1989, p. 283). He also expresses the opinion that it would have been impossible for Freud to have been as independent of Schopenhauer's influence as he claimed to be, an issue we will examine later.
Finally, Thomas Mann once made some trenchant observations on the subject. In his view, Schopenhauer, as psychologist of the will, is the father of all modern psychology. From him the line runs, by way of the psychological radicalism of Nietzsche, straight to Freud and the men who built up his psychology of the unconscious and applied it to the mental sciences [1968, 408]. Mann observed many points of correspondence between Schopenhauer and Freud, ranging from similarities in their general psychological outlook to similarities between Schopenhauer's will and intellect and Freud's id and ego. Mann made these comments, interestingly enough, in a speech on Freud's eightieth birthday.
One purpose of our paper is to provide some foundation for the kind of claims we have just sketched. We turn now to Schopenhauer's notion of the will. As we will see, his psychology grows directly out of that notion, especially his doctrines that sexuality is pervasive in all human motivation and that intellect is secondary to the will. For Schopenhauer, the will is fundamental. It underlies and animates everything phenomenal -- everything we can observe or what we call the objective world. According to Schopenhauer, we can know something of the will through awareness of our own volition; individual volition is merely a limited manifestation of the same will from which the entire objective world arises. In Schopenhauer's view, the will is endlessly striving and all its teeming manifestations in this world are forever beyond the reach of any satisfaction, the foundation of his pessimism. Setting aside the broader metaphysical functions Schopenhauer assigns the will, let us examine how he saw it in its manifestations in the volition of individual human beings. Schopenhauer thought that the will itself is unconscious, but that it manifests itself in sexual desire and the 'love of life' in human beings. The latter are both manifestations of an underlying will to live. Freud took over this whole picture of dual instincts rooted in a single will to live and preserved it unchanged until at least 1923. For both of them, the sex drive was by far the stronger of the two, "the most perfect manifestation of the will to live" (1844, 2, p. 514). (1) Indeed, Schopenhauer went so far as to claim that man is concrete sexual drive; for his origin is an act of copulation, and his desire of desires is an act of copulation, and this impulse alone perpetuates and holds together his whole phenomenal existence [1844, 2, 514].
Again: "The sexual impulse is the most vehement of all craving, the desire of desires, and the concentration of all our willing." (1844, 2, p. 514). Like many of his ideas, Schopenhauer's insights on the power of sexual desire are expressed in metaphysical language. In fact, he viewed his claims about sexuality as simple inferences from the metaphysical construct of the will. When the will manifests itself in the form of a living creature, it aims to perpetuate itself according to the reproductive means of the creature. Thus sex is basic to the will perpetuating itself. It is "the most complete manifestation of the will-to-live, its most distinctly expressed type." (1844, 2, p. 514). For Schopenhauer, we know sex to be the "decided and strongest affirmation of life by the fact that for man in the natural state, as for the animal, it is his life's final end and highest goal," (1819, 1, p. 329). Because the sexual drive is the strongest affirmation of life and the most complete manifestation of the will-to-live, Schopenhauer refers to the genitals as "the real focus of the will" (1844, 2, p. 514), that is, the clearest physical manifestation that the will manages to achieve in the physical world. The sexual drive "springs from the depths of our nature." (1844, 2, p. 511).
These doctrines anticipate Freud's ideas on sexuality in a most striking way. Like Freud's theory, they emphasize the importance and the universality of the sexual drive; for Schopenhauer, sexuality is a part and the most powerful part of virtually all human motivation, and his illustrations of the manifestations of this drive read like a summary of Freud's theory. Indeed, Schopenhauer even expanded the domain of sexuality before Freud, stretching it far beyond procreation and even beyond orgasm and genital pleasure. Indeed, they both come close to using the term to describe virtually all pleasure-seeking of any sort, though Freud went further than Schopenhauer, as we will see. Schopenhauer found manifestations of the sexual impulse where they had never before been thought to exist. Consider this remarkable passage: To all this corresponds the important role which the sex-relation plays in the world of mankind, where it is really the invisible central point of all action and conduct, and peeps up everywhere in spite of all the veils thrown over it. It is the cause of war and the aim and object of peace, the basis of the serious and the aim of the joke, the inexhaustible source of wit, the key to all allusions, and the meaning of all mysterious hints, of all unspoken offers and all stolen glances; it is the daily meditation of the young and often the old as well, the hourly thought of the unchaste, and even against their will the constantly recurring imagination of the chaste, the ever ready material for a joke, just because the profoundest seriousness lies at its root. (1844, 2, p. 513, translation slightly modified).
This passage is not unique.
Here is another.
Next to the love of life, [sexual love] shows itself ... as the strongest and most active of all motives, and incessantly lays claim to half the powers and thoughts of the younger portion of mankind. It is the ultimate goal of almost all human effort; it has an unfavourable influence on the most important affairs, interrupts every hour the most serious occupations, and sometimes perplexes for a while even the greatest minds. It does not hesitate to intrude with its trash, and to interfere with the negotiations of statesmen and the investigations of the learned. It knows how to slip its love-notes and ringlets even into ministerial portfolios and philosophical manuscripts [1844, 2, 533].
Thus Schopenhauer traces the ubiquitous manifestations of the sexual instinct. Even the most sublime love is essentially sexual: "in every case of being in love, however objective and touched with the sublime that admiration may appear to be, what alone is aimed at is the generation of an individual... ." (1844, 2, p. 535). Similarly, all amorousness is rooted in the sexual impulse alone, is in fact absolutely only a more closely determined, specialized, and indeed, in the strictest sense, individualized sexual impulse, however ethereally it may deport itself [1844, 2, 533].
The above passages are so completely in line with psychoanalysis that it is difficult to believe that their author was dead by the time Freud started school! Indeed, without the clinical and theoretical backing that Freud first provided many decades later, they must have seemed quite incredible to most readers.
As we just said, like Freud later, Schopenhauer covered a much broader range of phenomena by the term 'sexuality' and its cognates than the term covers in ordinary discourse. In drastically broadening range of motive and activity called 'sexual', motive and activity where nothing sexual in the ordinary sense could be found, Schopenhauer at least kept some link to the orgasmic, the genital -- to sexuality in its common sense. If the will is the ground of everything, including all instincts and therefore something much broader than normal sexuality, at least its manifestations are sexual in the ordinary sense. Freud went much further; he not only expanded the range of the sexual, he expanded the concept itself, calling many things sexual that have no obvious link to orgasmic or genital pleasure at all. As he admitted: "psychoanalysis is commonly reproached with having extended the concept of what is sexual far beyond its usual range. The fact is undisputed; ... ." (1910b, p. 222).
In fact, Freud's expansion of the concept of sexuality is altogether more complicated than Schopenhauer's. A number of ideas from a number of different sources contended for control of Freud's use of the term 'sexuality'. As a result, he used the term 'sexuality' at least three different and incompatible ways. Sometimes by 'sexuality' he meant the ordinary notion, to do with genital pleasure and orgasm, activities related to genital pleasure, and the alternatives to or alternative avenues to genital pleasure. This is the narrowest of his three usages and is the notion of sexuality at work when he speaks, for example, of the loss of the sensual interests that castration induces as "obliterating the sexual characters" entirely (1920, p. 214). However, he also used the term in two very different extended ways. In one, he treated all sensual pleasures as sexual because of their link to genital and/or orgasmic pleasure (1916- 1917, pp. 323-5), even the "affectionate current" of tenderness in us (1925a, p. 38), viewing the latter as the residue of infantile sexual pleasure (1905, p. 200)). Here he explicitly divorces the sexual from the genital, or greatly loosens the links between them (1905, p. 180; see 1913, p. 323; 1925a, p. 38). In this sense of 'sexual', there are many sexual pleasures that castration would not remove, so many that Freud could be puzzled about how to tie them all together (1905, p. 233). In the broadest of his three usages, the term 'sexual' refers to what Plato calls Eros: all the forces that seek life, build structure, and synthesize psychic material.
These competing conceptions confront one another in the last paragraph of the well-known 1920 Preface to the fourth edition of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). Here Freud also links his view(s) to Schopenhauer: some of what this book contains -- its insistence on the importance of sexuality in all human achievements and the attempt that it makes at enlarging the concept of sexuality -- has from the first provided the strongest motives for the resistance against psychoanalysis. ... We might be astonished at this; ... For it is some time since Arthur Schopenhauer ... showed mankind the extent to which their activities are determined by sexual impulses -- in the ordinary sense of the word. ... And as for the 'stretching' of the concept of sexuality ..., anyone who looks down with contempt upon psychoanalysis from a superior vantagepoint should remember how closely the enlarged sexuality of psychoanalysis coincides with the Eros of the divine Plato [1905, p. 134; 'divine Plato' was Schopenhauer's way of referring to Plato, too (1844, 1, p. xv.)].
Strangely enough, no concept of sexuality anything like as enlarged as this, is to be found anywhere in the Three Essays themselves. There is a great deal more to be said about Freud's conception or conceptions of sexuality, of course, but even our cursory examination is enough to show that Schopenhauer anticipated Freud's ideas on the topic in some interesting ways. Schopenhauer's claims about the ubiquity of sexuality in human affairs are particularly striking.
On how people cope with the dominating force of sexual desire, Schopenhauer again anticipated Freud. His account of how far human beings will go to deny the power of sexuality is every bit as acerbic as Freud's: This ... is the piquant element and the jest of the world, that the chief concern of all men is pursued secretly and ostensibly ignored as much as possible. But, in fact, at every moment we see it seat itself as the real and hereditary lord of the world, out of the fullness of its own strength, on the ancestral throne, and looking down from thence with scornful glances, laugh at the preparations which have been made to subdue it, to imprison it, or at least to limit it and if possible to keep it concealed, or indeed so to master it that it shall only appear as a subordinate, secondary concern of life [1844, 2, p. 513].
The two agree on another point, too. Like Freud, Schopenhauer treated sexuality from two very different perspectives: the individual, and the species. As he wrote, "It is true that the will-to-live manifests itself primarily as an effort to maintain the individual; yet this is only a stage towards the effort to maintain the species." (1844, 2, p. 514). In Freud the same dual perspective takes this form: On the one view, the individual is the principal thing, sexuality is one of its activities and sexual satisfaction is one of its needs; while on the other view, the individual is a temporary and transient appendage to the quasiimmortal germ-plasm, which is entrusted to him by the process of generation [1915a, p. 125].
Though the two thinkers agree on many things with respect to sexuality, they do not agree on everything. In particular, Schopenhauer did not think that there is any such thing as infantile sexuality. In fact, he attributes the happiness of youth to the fact that the sexual impulse, so "pregnant with evil, is lacking in the child ...; from this arises the character of innocence, intelligence, and reasonableness" which we find in children (1844, 2, p. 395). In response, we might try to say that the sensual zones and pleasures of Freud's theory of infantile sexuality are sexual only in the extended sense of the term we delineated earlier. Freud no more believed that infantile sexuality is aimed at orgasmic release or that it is genital than anyone else -- indeed, his stages of psychosexual development were specifically built on a denial of the latter point. If so, it may sometimes appear as if his infantile 'sexuality' comes down to little more than 'organ-pleasure', bodily sensuality in general (see in this regard the argumentative discussion at 1916-1917, pp. 323-5). Such a minimalist readings would seriously understate the originality of his theory, however; for Freud, the infantile part-instincts and erogenous zones are sexual in a much stronger sense than that -- they are the origins of genital sexuality in the human organism. (2)
In light of this disagreement about infantile sexuality, it is interesting that the two of them did agree on the central importance of childhood to adult life. As Freud put the point, "the child is psychologically father to the adult and ... the events of his first years are of paramount importance for his whole later life." (1940a, p. 187). There are few ideas for which Freud is better known. It is not well-known that Schopenhauer held the same view:
the experiences and acquaintances of childhood and early youth become thereafter the types and rubrics of all later knowledge and experience, ... Thus the firm foundation of our world view is formed even in the years of childhood, together with its shallowness or depth: it is later carried out and completed; yet not essentially altered [quoted in McGill, 1971(3)].
Schopenhauer parallels Freud on some more theoretical issues, too. They both display the same unsettledness about whether he had one fundamental kind of motivator or two, an unease that came to a head in Freud in 1920. Schopenhauer often distinguished the sexual drive from "the love of life" as two drives ("Next to the love of life", he says, sexual love is "the strongest and most active of all motives ..." (1844, 2, p. 533, our emphasis). But he also he often ran them together in an undifferentiated notion of the will. Again like Freud, he saw them even when separated as manifestations of will, as Freud always saw both libido and the self-preservative drive as discharge of endogenous stimuli or avoidance of excessive exogenous stimuli. Strangely enough, the only parallel that Freud ever acknowledged between himself and Schopenhauer on the drives concerned not his pre- 1920 theory of libido and self-preservation as separate drives but his post-1920 theory which merged the two under the concept of Eros and contrasted both with the newly-introduced death drive, the theory of Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Indeed, Freud links both parts of the new doctrine to Schopenhauer there. He treats sexual drives as fundamental to eros ("... the true life instincts" (1920, p. 40)), and then linked this expanded concept to Schopenhauer (1920 Preface to the Three Essays, quoted above). Similarly, when he introduces his controversial death drive later in (1920), he tells us that: ‘we have unwittingly steered our course into the harbour of Schopenhauer's philosophy.' For him death is the 'true result and to that extent the purpose of life', while the sexual instinct is the embodiment of the will to live. [1920, p. 50]
First, Schopenhauer never married sexuality and the urge to self-preservation in the way Freud is now doing. Secondly, he never postulated a positive drive to die. It was bad enough for him that death was the inevitable result of living; he did not think anything actually sought it. In short, Freud first acknowledged the parallels between his drive theory and Schopenhauer's only at the point at which they largely ceased to exist!
Turn now to the relation of the will to the intellect. According to Schopenhauer, the will must objectify itself in the world to satisfy its strivings. To do so, it creates for itself an intellect appropriate to its needs. Thus, he holds that the intellect is secondary to the will, and subordinate to its demands. Being the basis of the intellect, the will rules it, guides it, incites it to further effort, in short imparts to it the activity that is not originally inherent in it." (1844, 2, p. 213, see p. 224). This led Schopenhauer to the idea that the intellect was not as rational as had been previously supposed; the will dictates, unseen, what the mind desires, believes and thinks. Our states of consciousness and our decisions had previously been thought to be the outcome of processes of reasoning. Schopenhauer argues that these states have their origin in the will. We can almost hear Freud: "the ego is in the habit of transforming the id's will into action as if it were its own." (1923, p. 25). Schopenhauer was not the first to part-company with the enlightenment in this way; recall Hume's famous dictum that "reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions." However, Schopenhauer gave the will far greater prominence than any previous thinker. In particular, he built his whole model of the psyche upon it. Freud, of course, shared Schopenhauer's view that the 'intellect is entirely secondary' to the functioning of the mind -- "the ego is not master in its own house," (1917, p. 143, italics in original). Further, they both saw that the intellect promptly takes the demands of the will as its own. Schopenhauer was even aware of the phenomenon of rationalization. He did not explicitly formulate the concept, but it is integral to his view that the intellect takes what is really the will's motive as its own and justifies it as though its own processes of decisionmaking were the author of them.
Schopenhauer's theory of the primacy of the will even contains an anticipation of Freud's notion that infants begin life totally isolated, discharging energy blindly by a wild primary process.
The new-born child moves violently, screams and cries; it wills most vehemently, although it does not yet know what it wills. For the medium of motives, the intellect is still undeveloped. The will is in the dark concerning the external world in which its objects lie; and it rages like a prisoner against the walls and bars of his dungeon. Light, however, gradually comes; at once the fundamental traits of universal human willing, and at the same time their individual modification that is here to be found, show themselves [1844, 2, pp. 234-235]. Compare Freud: The infant betrays its un-pleasure, when there is an increase of stimulus and an absence of satisfaction, by the motor discharge of screaming and beating about with its arms and legs [1911, p. 220n.]. Freud thinks the infant then hallucinates some situation of satisfaction. When the expected satisfaction does not occur, "the psychic apparatus had to decide to form a conception of the real circumstances in the external world and to endeavour to make a real alteration in them." (1911, p. 220). The reality principle, the secondary process, and the ego are born. This too is in line with Schopenhauer. For him, the will creates the intellect, which "is designed merely to prescribe to the individual will its motivations, i.e. to indicate to it the objectives of its desires together with the means of taking possession of them" (1970, p. 59). Again compare Freud: We are bound to suppose that a unity comparable to the ego cannot exist ... from the start; the ego has to be developed. The auto-erotic instincts, however, are there from the very first; so there must be something added to auto-eroticism ... in order to bring about narcissism [1914b, p. 76]. ... We may well ... conclude that instincts and not external stimuli are the true motive forces behind the advances that have led the nervous system, with its unlimited capacities, to its present high level of development [1915a, p. 120].
For Freud, motor discharge is in the service of an (un)-pleasure principle (1895) and he eventually developed a sophisticated account in which discharges are not outwards but at the self, an activity he called auto-eroticism and needed in order to make room for the idea of primary narcissism (1914b, p. 88). So his account goes far beyond anything Schopenhauer wrote. Nevertheless, the two views start from the same picture. Freud adhered to this picture in one form or another throughout his life, from the Project for a Scientific Psychology of 1895 and Chapter VII of the Interpretation of Dreams of 1900 (pp. 565ff, 598ff.) at least to Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920, pp. 10ff.) and even later, with appropriate modifications to accommodate the introduction of the death instinct. As we have seen, the parallels with Schopenhauer are close. They even agree that the "afflux of stimulation" that gets mental life going is "incessant and unavoidable" (1915a, p. 120), and that this is what makes it so demanding and urgent. Nor can it be quieted by fleeing. The only way to stop it is to find some object that quiets its source, something that creates an 'experience of satisfaction', for example food or sexual discharge. Similarly, Schopenhauer's characterizations of how the will operates even anticipate the notion of primary process.
For what the bridle and the bit are to an unmanageable horse, the intellect is to the will in man; it must be led by this bridle by means of instruction, exhortation, training, and so on; for in itself the will is as wild and impetuous an impulse as is the force appearing in the plunging waterfall; in fact it is, as we know, ultimately identical therewith [1844, 2, p. 213]. In fact, in the 1911 work quoted above, Freud actually cites Schopenhauer, one page before the one from which we just quote. However, the citation is on a different topic. Freud never seems to have acknowledged the parallels that we have just discussed.
These parallels even extend to their respective views of pleasure and the way the will operates. Both saw pleasure as merely negative, a removal of an irritant, a direct consequent of seeing the will or id as endlessly striving. For Schopenhauer, pleasure is the momentary cessation of the will's striving, for Freud the discharge or at the very least the achievement of constancy in the flow of stimuli from the drives. "Every un-pleasure," ought "to coincide with a heightening, and every pleasure with a lowering, of mental tension due to stimulus." (1924, pp. 159-60). Only in 1924 did Freud even partially modify this view. Thus, for the first thirty years of his work on psychology, he adhered to the view of Schopenhauer, whether or not he was aware of it. It being transparently obvious that much pleasure is not like this, they're both thinking that it is, catches one's attention.
In one respect, Schopenhauer carried through the implications of the primacy of the will or the id even more consistently than Freud. If Freud was a child of the German romanticism to which Schopenhauer so richly contributed, he was also a child of nineteenth century scientific empiricism. In line with the later, he believed that the inquiring mind could operate rationally and discover truths about the world. If rationality was threatened by the unconscious, it was a threat that could be overcome, at least in science. However, as French analysts demonstrate, his model of the mind can easily be taken to point in exactly the opposite direction. From this point of view, when Schopenhauer said that "[e] very passion, in fact every inclination or disinclination, tinges the objects of knowledge with its colour ... most common of occurrence is the falsification of knowledge brought about by desire or hope," (1844, 2, p. 141), he was perhaps more in tune with this implication of the power of the unconscious than Freud was.
This article was written by Christopher Young & Andrew Brook. It appears in Café Philosophy in two parts. The second part will appear in the next issue of Café Philosophy together with references.