Freud and Schopenhauer

Unlike the cases of Poe and Melville, Schopenhauer‘s influence on later scientific thinking is clear and well established. The new disciplines of the human sciences, particularly psychology, are developed from his philosophy.

Freud, in particular, was a close reader of Schopenhauer. There are striking parallels between their two systems. Even their German prose styles have some affinity.

Freud was extremely well read. Any well read Viennese at the time would be swimming in Schopenhauer and his influence. Even more, it is hard to convincingly argue that you have never read someone when you directly quote them in your writings. Freud’s celebrated use of Schopenhauer’s porcupine metaphor is just one example.

Freud rather famously claimed that he did not read Schopenhauer until late in life.

“The large extent to which psychoanalysis coincides with the philosophy of Schopenhauer–not only did he assert the dominance of the emotions and the supreme importance of sexuality but he was even aware of the mechanism of repression–is not to be traced to my acquaintance with his teaching. I read Schopenhauer very late in life.”
Sigmund Freud, An Autobiographical Study

But this is clearly not true. Perhaps Schopenhauer was such an integral part of his thinking that he forgot where it came from. Interpretation of Dreams was a fairly early work from 1900 written when Freud was in his forties but before the development of psychoanalysis. In this book he refers to Schopenhauer several times and Parerga and Paralipomena is listed in the bibliography.


~ by severalfourmany on March 24, 2013.

2 Responses to “Freud and Schopenhauer”

  1. Freud sure was prickly about acknowledging his influences. Schopenhauer pursued a rational analysis of the (according to him) irrational forces that impel us forward. In that sense, he pursued a science of the irrational. That’s one Schopenhauerian theme that’s everywhere in Freud’s work.

  2. […] Freud and Schopenhauer ( […]

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