Category: Plato in 80 entries

Psychoanalysis and Plato

Basic theories of Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, and of other important figures, such as Jung and more recently Lacan and Kristeva, admit as a source of their inspiration many aspects of platonic philosophy, developing further new means of interpretation of platonic texts.

According to Sigmund Freud, sexuality subordinates to the most significant encompassing forces of the human being that aim at its biological conservation and development: the life drive (Eros). Freud, admitting his debt to Plato, remarks in many of his references that platonic ἒρως in Symposium, the all-embracing world force, coincides with the psychoanalytic notion of libido. Furthermore, the platonic division of the soul in three parts, appetite, spirit and reason in the Republic may have been the inspiration source for the three-partite distinction – albeit not in absolute corresponding – into it (Es), ego (Ich) and superego (Über-Ich). According to Plato’s view, the three parts of the soul not working harmoniously will cause injustice, while in Freud such an effect can be the cause of neurosis.

Carl Jung focused specifically on primordial images and myths of traditions and language that disseminate from collective unconscious and govern from the very beginning individual behaviour. He named these primordial types archetypes and although he acknowledged their origin in the platonic ideas, he simultaneously pointed explicitly their differences: archetypes are not unconscious ideas, nor eternal, transcendent forms, determined in regard to its abstract content. Instead, archetypes are empirical conceptions determined and individualized by their spontaneous manifestation in each personality they may arise.

Jacques Lacan had also pursued platonic dialogues in a multilateral, albeit occasional, way except for Symposium to which he devoted the entire Seminar VIII 1960-1961: The transference (1991). According to Lacan, Symposium describes for first time the transference, the libidinal bond between the analysand and the analyst and Socrates is a quasi-analyst. Finally, Julia Kristeva in her basic study Revolution in poetic language (1974) attempts a psychoanalytic-semiotic interpretation of the platonic chora in Timaeus.

Author: Vassilios Lorentzakis
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