Open Minded p.180

We are motivated to discover an explanation of eruptions of human destruction… In postulating a purely biological force, Freud is in effect admitting that there is a limit on any such attempt… As a brutely biological force, the death drive will lack a logos from the perspective of psychoanalysis – that is, it will be unalterable by any talking cure – but presumably it will have a biological account. There would still be the hope of understating it from a biological point of view, and perhaps of altering it via biological intervention… 

The point of postulating a biological death drive rather than a minded Strife is that, from the point of view of psychological motivation, there is nothing to be said about it. To understand it would be to bring it within the domain of logos, and it is of the essence of the death drive to attack any attempted assimilation. On this view, it remains a permanent possibility for human destructiveness to catch us by surprise; for there must be an element in human violence which remains inevitably absurd. These are the moments when we suspect that all this carnage has happened for no reason at all.

These thoughts represent a challenge to psychoanalysis. For it is a regulative principle of psychoanalytic practice that it is possible, though perhaps only in the long run, to give a logos to the apparently disparate flotsam and jetsam which emerge from attempts to free associate. Interpretation is, by its nature, an organizing  and unifying activity. On Freud’s mature theory of the drives, it makes sense that psychoanalysis should be especially successful in interpreting sexual motivation. For sexuality, on the mature theory, is a manifestation of eros, a unifying and organizing force, which has, as other important manifestations, interpretation, understanding, logos. Sexuality may be repressed, it may be confusing, and it may fuel the intrapsychic civil wars we call “neurosis,” but it is comprehensible. As psychoanalysis has moved ever more toward the analysis of aggression, violence, and destructiveness, however, it becomes less clear that what it is analyzing is analyzable. There are certainly intimations in Freud’s later writing that, in attempting to analyze human destructiveness, analysis is bumping up against its own limits.


Jonathan Lear – Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul p.180

Why Gender Matters p.51

Male chimpanzees are about twenty times as likely to fight as females are, but the fights don’t last more than a few minutes and rarely result in major injury. Two male chimps who fight each other this morning may be grooming each other this afternoon. According to Frans de Waal, a primatologist at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, “Picking a fight can actually be a way for [male chimps] to relate to one another, check each other out, and take a first step toward friendship.” Female chimps rarely fight, but when they do, their friendship is over. The hostility that results can last for years. Serious injury is also more likely to occur when female chimpanzees fight. Female chimps who have fought each other are “vindictive and irreconcilable, according to Dr. de Waal.

In our species these differences are apparent as soon as children can talk. Boys as young as two years of age, given a choice between violent fairy tales and warm and fuzzy fairy tales, usually choose the violent stories. Girls as young as two years of age most often choose the warm and fuzzy stories. In another study psychologists found that five- and seven-year-old girls who like to make up violent stories are more likely to have significant behavior problems than girls who prefer warm, nurturing stories. However, among boys, a preference for making up violent stories is not an indicator of underlying psychiatric problems. A preference for violent stories seems to be normal for five- to seven-year-old boys, while the same preference in five- to seven-year-old girls suggests a psychiatric disorder.


Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.51