A review by miguel
Beyond the Pleasure Principle, by Sigmund Freud, James Strachey


"We must be patient and await fresh methods and occasions of research. We must be ready, too, to abandon a path that we have followed for a time, if it seems to be leading to no good end."

In Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle, he advances a comprehensive argument in favor of the notion of a death instinct or death drive that works independently of the pleasure principle as a function of the human mind. Freud brings to bear his formidable reasoning skills and elastic prose in evidencing this view. The contours of Freud's argument cite children's play habits, sadism as a displaced death instinct, and the "compulsion to repeat" as examples of the death instinct which operates both in opposition to and in tandem with self-preservation born of sexual instinct or ego-instinct.

Freud's argument here is self-awarely speculative and hedges its bets quite carefully. Reading Beyond the Pleasure Principle from the tradition of critical theory or philosophy presents unique challenges as a result of the number of psychoanalytic jargon terms that feature into his text. Additionally, Freud is notoriously loose with using various terms interchangeably. To further complicate this, the "Standard" translation authorized by Freud leaves a little to be desired in terms of rendering the nuance of some of Freud's neologism. Still, Beyond the Pleasure Principle is a foundational text, a well-written argument, and an entertaining read.