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date: 31 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the gradual emergence of the notion of the unconscious as it pertains to the tradition that runs from Arthur Schopenhauer via Eduard von Hartmann and Philipp Mainländer to Sabina Spielrein, C. G. Jung, and Sigmund Freud. A particular focus is put on the popularization of the term “unconscious” by von Hartmann and on the history of the death drive, which has Schopenhauer’s essay “Transcendent Speculation on the Apparent Deliberateness in the Fate of the Individual” as one of its precursors. In this essay, Schopenhauer develops speculatively the notion of a universal, intelligent, supraindividual unconscious—an unconscious with a purpose related to death. But the death drive also owes its origins to Schopenhauer’s “relative nothingness,” which Mainländer adopts into his philosophy as “absolute nothingness” resulting from the “will to death.” His philosophy emphasizes death as the goal of the world and its inhabitants. This central idea had a distinctive influence on the formation of the idea of the death drive, which features in Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

Keywords: unconscious, nothingness, death drive, nothingness, pleasure principle, Freud, Hartmann, Mainländer, Freud

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