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Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Norton Library) Paperback – April 17, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0393007695 ISBN-10: 0393007693 Edition: The Standard Edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; The Standard Edition edition (April 17, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393007693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393007695
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is one of the twentieth century's greatest minds and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. His many works include The Ego and the Id; An Outline of Psycho-Analysis; Inhibitions; Symptoms and Anxiety; New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis; Civilization and Its Discontent, and others.

Peter Gay is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the National Book Award winner The Enlightenment, the best-selling Weimar Culture, and the widely translated Freud: A Life for Our Time. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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Brief, but very insightful.
T. Evans
You will not believe how quickly Freud is able to move from topic to topic and the absurd range within which he is able to speculate.
Steiner
A critical text for anyone interested in psychoanalysis and its figurehead author.
mp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 90 people found the following review helpful By mp on February 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Sigmund Freud's "Beyond the Pleasure Principle" is a key text, not only for psychologists, or literary theorists, but anyone who thinks about why our minds work the way they do. If your mind is open to extreme possibilities, give this text a read. It is short, barely 75 pages, but give yourself time to pore over and make notes, as Freud moves very quickly.
In "Beyond the Pleasure Principle," Freud seeks to discover the causes and effects of our drives. To this end, he begins with the pleasure principle, which basically holds that the job of our 'mental apparatus' is to lower tension and move us towards pleasure and stability. Working against the pleasure principle are our baser instincts, which must be repressed by a vigilant brain. The pleasure principle can also be interrupted by the reality principle, which operates in moments when basic life functions are threatened - to wit, when maintaining life is more important than pleasure.
Examining the pleasure principle, Freud looks at scenarios which may shed light on mental processes that seem to challenge it. These include repetition compulsion, wherein adults seem to fixate and reenact moments of trauma. Seeking a more primal cause for repetition instinct, Freud analyses children's games. Interestingly, the further Freud regresses, the more speculative and intense he gets - from childhood, Freud talks about the brain itself, moving back to simple multicellular organisms, unicellular organisms, and ultimately inorganic matter - all the time looking for an explanation of the origin of instincts themselves.
Freud's queries on instinct and repetition compulsion lead him to the darkest possible places - the revelation of the death instinct.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on June 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
This little book is indubitable proof of the breadth and depth of Freud's thinking. It is a fascinating and multi-faceted read, containing elements of psychoanalysis, philosophy, poetry, biology, and the literary theory. You will not believe how quickly Freud is able to move from topic to topic and the absurd range within which he is able to speculate. This is also an extraordinarily challenging read, it requires patience and many re-readings. Freud discusses the compulsion to repeat, transference neurosis, life and death drives, and a number of other cognitive and behavioral topics.Here is a curious quote I adore: "In the last resort, what has left its mark on the development of organisms must be the history of the earth we live in and its relation to the sun" (pg. 45).

Beyond the Pleasure Principle is a seminal component of his expansive corpus, and should be standard reading for psychologists.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Adam Alonzi on March 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
This essay is easily the darkest work of nonfiction ever written and even though some of its claims are based on Freud's interpretations of now antiquated biology, the common assessment of psychoanalysis's scientific merits is a tad harsh. This essay is a rational, non-mystical challenge to the hedonistic imperative, which, utilitarians tell us, is the prime mover of human behavior. Yet, through both simple observation and self-inquiry, we know immediately that this is not the case. People are not rational machines that make rational decisions. We do not strive to maximize utility, consciously or unconsciously. When was the last time you saw someone, pencil in hand, calculate exactly how many drinks they should have? When was the last time you saw someone drink to excess?

Contrary to popular belief, Freud did not simply theorize without evidence; he was the product of a rigorous medical education, an ardent Darwinist and a confirmed atheist; it would be exceedingly difficult to find someone more tough-minded than he. Unfortunately, he was a psychologist when psychologists had to rely upon introspection, case studies, or gross examinations of the brain or skull (no, Freud was not a phrenologist; he was far to clever to fall for that nonsense) to understand the workings of the psyche.

After studying with Charcot Freud independently explored the causes of neurosis and found sexual repression to be a common cause of neurotic symptoms. Based on this discovery, which seems incredibly obvious now thanks to the proliferation of Freudianism and movements partially inspired by it, he deduced that libido is the prime mover of human behavior.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brian C. on March 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is one of Freud's most important, most interesting, most difficult, and most speculative works. It is the book in which he famously offers up his theory of the "death instincts" or the "death drive". Freud was attempting to explain the compulsion to repeat that is evidenced in transference, an essential part of the "cure" in psychoanalytic theory, as well as in the dreams of patients with "war neuroses" and even in children's play. Freud sees the compulsion to repeat, or believes he sees it, in a number of phenomena. The question is, how to explain it? Freud begins by explaining the pleasure principle and the reality principle as mechanisms of mental life.

The pleasure principle attempts to reduce painful tensions and excitations to a minimum. When you are thirsty a painful tension builds up, you feel a "drive" to get some water, you drink, and that restores your equilibrium by releasing the tension. The reality principle places limits on the pleasure principle. If, for example, I am thirsty, and there is someone who is weaker than me with water, the easiest thing to do would be to take it. This might, however, have negative effects in the future (arrest, imprisonment, retaliation etc.). The reality principle allows for delayed gratification but is ultimately in the service of the pleasure principle.

Freud thinks that the experiences that all fall under what he calls the "compulsion to repeat" cannot be explained by either of those principles. This ultimately leads Freud on some pretty wild speculations. Freud makes some pretty speculative guesses about how our mental apparatuses function, and he also follows the trail of the death and sexual instincts all the way back to single celled organisms.
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More About the Author

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is one of the twentieth century's greatest minds and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. His many works include The Ego and the Id; An Outline of Psycho-Analysis; Inhibitions; Symptoms and Anxiety; New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis; Civilization and Its Discontent, and others.

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