Beyond the pleasure bases

Alberto da Veiga Guignard, Family Party, sd


Preface to the recently released critical edition of Sigmund Freud's work.

oooo! From the! (Ernst Wolfgang Halberstadt)

Fort! From the! (Sigmund Freud)

When the visitor enters Freud's old house, at 19 Berggasse Street, in the ninth district of Vienna, today the Sigmund Freud Museum, in the waiting room, on the right, where visitors leave their belongings, they will see a hanger and, on it, cane and hat. The room is now protected by a glass wall. The hat is the last vestige of fort-da in the posthumous life of Sigmund Freud. At least that is what the late psychoanalyst and historian suggests, who draws our attention to the garments of the illustrious man and his protected situation, stressing that this was not always the case (Marinelli, 2009). Once, a hat and a cane were within reach of the public, who could keep their own hats and canes together with those of the former occupant of the apartment.

It was like that at least until July 31, 1977, when the hat disappeared. When the museum's guardian noticed, horrified, his disappearance, he immediately notified the management of the establishment, and this, the authorities, but nothing more could be done. A visitor, a man – the course of events will show that he was an American – had stolen the hat. At that point, all that remained was to activate the insurance, which promptly, in December of the same year, reimbursed 12 schillings Austrians to the museum, a value well above the price of a similar hat on the local market, but justified because it was an item belonging to its former owner. The moment it acquired value through its absence, the hat ceased to be a banal everyday object and became an icon, a signifier in a chain of other signifiers, a museum piece.

Far, far away, he continued to lead his life wearing a hat, decorating and warming the indelicate head that had committed the crime, with it wandering around New York, as we know it today, where the visitor, an incautious thief, for his solitary and most discreet enjoyment, sometimes he used it, dared to use it. Until one day, she linked the disturbing sensations that arose in her body to the excessive physical intimacy she shared with the deceased owner of the now famous hat. Advised by the analyst to whom he trusted, he prepared a neat package, to which he would also add a letter of explanations, an apology, etc.

Relying on his country's mail, he sent everything to the museum in Vienna, which in the meantime had not ceased to perform its proper function, boasting the loss it had suffered. The missing hat thus returned to its point of origin, this time, however, becoming properly protected. Strictly speaking, the episode does not exactly constitute a theft, perhaps an impolite loan, an unauthorized, unilateral lending, which made the hat disappear and reappear. This brings him closer to other objects that followed similar paths, such as the famous letter whose fate is narrated by Edgar Alan Poe, commented and rewritten by Jorge Luis Borges, before being taken up again by Jacques Lacan (cf. Oliveira, 2019).

In the 100 years since its publication, in 1920, the trajectory of Beyond the pleasure principle has unusual affinities with the history of the hat. The most controversial text in the no less controversial body of work by Sigmund Freud, the  APP – as we will affectionately refer to it in this issue – it was, from the beginning, an object that appeared, that disappeared, even though it was before the eyes of its readers, that reappeared, that was thrown far away or grabbed with force. All these movements were, almost always, accompanied by shouts or whispers, whether they were of joy, rejection, or surprise.

Too speculative, excessively biologizing, contaminated by its author's grief experiences, useless for clinical practice: all this has been said and repeated about the  APP or about his greatest theoretical innovation, the new dualism between Eros and the death drive. Over those 100 years, the text was seen as the turning point of psychoanalytic theory, but also as the “beginning of the end of psychoanalysis” (cf. May, 2013, p. 208), insofar as sexuality, when subsumed under the unifying sign of Eros, would lose its daimonic force, since then relocated under the aegis of the death drive.

Indeed, since its canonical formulation, the death drive has been widely rejected by an entire generation of psychoanalysts, including some of the members of Freud's closest circle, before being enthusiastically incorporated by psychoanalysts such as Melanie Klein, later rejected again - for reasons opposites – by Erich Fromm or Herbert Marcuse, removed by Heinz Hartmann, reformulated and elevated to a model of the drive itself by Jacques Lacan, disqualified by Donald Winnicott, before being resexualized by Jean Laplanche or even critically absorbed in the philosophy of authors as diverse as Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Slavoj Žižek or Judith Butler, among others.[I]

The sinuosity of this path would already justify the comparison with the shuttle, with this fort-da, from Freud's stolen hat. But that is not all.


“Anxiety as such must be examined from the point of view of instinctual life. There are no isolated impulses. The sexual drive always appears accompanied by two other drives: life and death. The life drive and the sexual drive are often identified with each other (enjoying life)” (Checchia, 2015, loc. 3431). The contemporary reader would have no difficulty in stating that this passage is certainly after 1920, as he knows the birth certificate of the death drive. What text would it be? Inhibition, symptom and anxiety, from 1926? The malaise in culture, from 1930? O psychoanalysis compendium, from 1939? Perhaps he will discover to his surprise that what he has just read is the minutes recorded by Otto Rank of the meeting held at Berggasse 19, on the night of April 24, 1907, at the famous Wednesday meetings.

That night, Dr. Wilhelm Stekel would present the conference “Psychology and Pathology of Anxiety Neurosis”. As the competent secretary notes, Stekel “starts from the dream of a patient in which sexuality and death are clearly merged; there appears a man who is Eros e Thanatos in one person. We have to accept the thesis that all anxiety is anxiety about death” (Checchia, 2015, loc. 3400). In conclusion, Stekel states that “anxiety neurosis is the game between the life drive and the death drive [Todestrieb]” (loc. 3434). In the warm discussion that follows, Paul Federn ponders: “the death drive is not something original; rather, it is an escape from anguish: the desire for death [Todeswunsch] is a consequence of anxiety related to death [fear of death]” (loc. 3434).

In turn, Hitschmann confesses that the intervention had messed up everything he knew and adds that the death drive was incomprehensible to him, being followed by others. Wittels adds that “the idea that the death drive accompanies love is as old as the world” (loc. 3477). Distinguishing between normal anxiety and neurotic anxiety, Freud, notes Rank, “invalidates the claim that all anxiety is related to death [fear of death]” (loc. 3512). In the end, Stekel backs off, admits contradiction and attributes it to the “unfortunate choice of word”, although he maintains that “the concept is not so unjustified” (loc. 3460).

It is quite likely that this is the first explicit occurrence of the term “death drive” in the history of psychoanalysis. At least, it is the first recorded textual occurrence that we have news of. But she won't be the only one. Before receiving your standard theoretical elaboration in Beyond the pleasure principle, the death drive, or its close cognates, moved back and forth significantly more frequently than the official history of psychoanalysis would consecrate.

“Aggression drives”, “death drive”, “death instinct” were frequently debated terms, proposed mainly by Alfred Adler, August Stärcke or Sabina Spielrein. In general, they responded to theoretical needs posed by phenomena linked to anguish, aggressiveness, feelings of guilt, etc. But these discussions were not restricted to the famous meetings of the “Wednesday Psychological Society”. Just remember what Lou Andreas-Salomé records in his daily, on the night of September 10 to 11, 1913. Under the heading “With Ferenczi”, she writes three times the word “Todestendenz” (death tendency): “Basically, our conceptions are so opposed that they almost come together. Everything that Ferenczi calls a 'tendency towards death' within his conceptions can also be called a 'tendency towards life', without changing anything from a personal point of view” (Andreas-Salomé, 1970, p. 402-404 ).[ii]

Not infrequently, Freud and his small psychoanalytical community sought to explain such “anomalies” within the metapsychological “paradigm” prevailing until then, emphasizing the prevalence of sexual etiologies for psychic conflicts, thus preserving the primacy of the principle of pleasure-unpleasure in the functioning of psychoanalysts. psychic. Everything seemed to work according to the “normal” dynamics of scientific communities: debate of clinical cases, objections and answers, disputes, accommodations, consensus, games of strength, mastery, etc. At the same time, Freud and Ferenczi shared the common fantasy they dubbed the “Lamarck project,” which consisted of an attempt at the psychoanalytic conquest of biology.

Specifically, Freud commissioned Ferenczi to review cutting-edge scientific works of the time, which, by the way, constitute some of the main references mobilized in the famous chapter VI of the  APP. But none of this detracts from the innovative character of the conception presented by Freud in 1920, which was quite different from most of those proposed by his precursors. None of this detracts from the originality of the death drive. Freudian, only empties the heroic narrative that surrounds it.

O concept Freudian theory of death drive is introduced, in 1920, in chapter VI of  APP. From the beginning, its reception was, to say the least, controversial. Did not take too long. In a biography published in 1924, Fritz Wittels inaugurated the controversy: mourning the premature death of his daughter Sophie and still haunted by the horrors of war, Sigmund Freud, when formulating the concept of death drive, allowed himself to be contaminated by the hardships he had suffered.

Freud himself writes to Wittels contesting his interpretation and suggesting corrections: “No doubt, if I myself had been analyzing another person under such circumstances, I should have assumed the existence of a connection between my daughter's death and Freud's train of thought. Beyond the pleasure principle. But the inference from such a sequence would have been wrong. The book was written in 1919, when my daughter was still in excellent health. She died in January 1920. In September 1919 I had sent the manuscript of this short book to be read by friends in Berlin. It was finished, except for the discussion about the mortality or immortality of protozoa. What seems true is not always the truth (Freud, [1924] 1961, p. 287).

Freud's claims are true, but only partially. After all, it is not always death that triggers grief. Or the separation of his daughters, Mathilde and Sophia, did not accompany him during the writing of The reason for choosing piggy banks ([1913] 2015), determining “their subjective condition”?[iii] Also, what manuscript is this that would have been read by friends in Berlin? Which friends would those be? What did the unfinished manuscript actually contain before Sophie's death, and what was added later? To what extent could the elaborations after January 1920 be attributed to mourning or invalidated by it? All these questions remained open for decades, producing all kinds of speculation about them. But the manuscript was gone: oooo! At least that's what it looked like.


Searching the archives of the Library of Congress in Washington DC, Ilse Grubrich-Simitis discovered not one, but two versions of the manuscript by Beyond the pleasure principle. The story of this discovery was reported by the author in 1993, in her famous Back to Freud's texts (1993; ed. bras. 1995). The library catalog, now accessible Online, defines both items precisely: “holographic manuscript"and "holograph and typewritten script, bound".[iv]

The first contained six chapters, spread over 34 double sheets, with all the formal characteristics of a finished text by Freud, including “festive typography” in the titles and fermata at the end; the second, bound in brown couché paper, contained the typewritten transcription of the first text, plus “numerous corrections written by hand, in notes and additional pages” (Grubrich-Simitis, 1993, p. 190), already with seven chapters.

The additional chapter was handwritten and inserted in the typewritten version, interspersed between chapters 5 and 6 of the first version. The additions of the second version are substantial, making the essay nearly double in length.[v] Everything indicates that the process of writing the text was carried out in at least two stages, extending from March 1919 to July or August 1920 (May, 2015). The manuscript version was written in a few weeks, between March and April 1919; the re-elaborations of the material, in turn, seem to have lasted for about a year, discontinuously, from July 1919 to July 1920. Comparing the first two versions, we can draw some conclusions.

The first handwritten version already contained the main game description of the fort-da,[vi] but it contained neither the death drive nor Eros. Furthermore, Ulrike May highlights two other important features of the first manuscript. First, Freud is alone, on his own (May, 2015, p. 223). There are no greater resources for philosophy or biology. Only a few names are mentioned.[vii] There are no mentions of Plato, Schopenhauer, Fechner, Weismann, Lipschütz or Fließ (May, 2015, p. 223), all added a posteriori.

But the most important thing is this. The metapsychological foundation of what would become the turning point of the drive theory is presented as such from the first version, ie, the pleasure-displeasure principle is no longer sufficient to explain the regulation of the psychic apparatus, it is necessary to go beyond. In other words, Freud abandons, from the first manuscript version, one of the premises accepted until then by metapsychology, that the functioning of the psychic apparatus is presided over by the principle of pleasure-displeasure (May, 2015, p. 223).

The problem posed by the clinic of the repetition of unpleasant events implies that the compulsion to repeat “seems more original, more elementary and more drive than the pleasure principle that it leaves aside”. What is at stake, therefore, is not only the reformulation of the new drive dualism, but also the reformulation of the drive concept itself. In the manuscript of the first version, we still do not have the “death drive”, but we already have its regressive character.

As summarized by May (2015, p. 233): “in the first version of the  APP, Freud still does not use the term “death drive”, but introduces a new definition of drive, its central definitional characteristic being the need to return to a previous state, and he already speaks at length about drives whose objective is to lead the organism to its death . In this sense, I consider his answer to Wittels to be accurate: that he already had the most important ideas of the  APP while her daughter was still "healthy and thriving". On the other hand, Eros is not present in the first version, neither as a word nor as an idea”.

The hat returned to its original place. Problem solved?

None of that. What to do, for example, with the demonic and selfish character of sexual satisfaction, one of the most important characteristics of the sexual drive within the first drive dualism, and which seems to be diluted with the postulation of Eros? What to do with the strikethrough (or would it be better to write “shave”?) of the radical thesis, present only in the draft of the first version, according to which the drive, as such, would tend to death? What to do with the initial steps of the drive theory? Merely replace them with the new version? As if we could erase the tracks, as if, when returned to its original place, the hat had never been stolen?

When Freud returns to the death drive, at a meeting of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, on March 20, 1930, he says: “My book comes from the realization that our theory of drives is insufficient. They said I was trying to impose the death drive on analysts. But I'm just like an old peasant who plants fruit trees, or like someone who has to leave the house and leave a toy for the children to play with while I'm away. I wrote the book with purely analytical intentions, based on my existence as an analytical writer, in a dark meditation and concerned to develop the concept of guilt until the end. The abandonment of aggression creates feelings of guilt. Now it's up to them to playto play] with this idea. But, for me, this is the most important advance of the analysis”.[viii]

we will do  APP a museum piece, separated by a glass wall and exposed to our gaze as tourists, who should contemplate, who knows, venerate? Is that the purpose of a critical edition, intended only for highly specialized readers?

“No, a philologically sophisticated edition of Beyond – and a number of other writings by Freud, such as The interpretation of dreams and os three essays – is not just a matter for specialists in their texts, but affects the very center of our reception of Freud. This makes Freud stand out as a thinker who was in constant dialogue with others, who, depending on the case, let the public participate in his thought process or even erased the traces of this process, who experimented with ideas and continually fought for his ideas. concepts, which followed their development with surprising leaps, reversals, breaks and self-contradictions and, mainly, which were fundamentally developed in close relationship with clinical practice. Should we not give due consideration to this “conqueror”, as Freud once called his most outstanding characteristic as a researcher, and prevent him from becoming an icon, the author of a canonized work?” (Schröter, 2013, p. 798).

Will we decorate and warm our well-thinking psychoanalysts' heads with their intricate articulations? Will we restore its true meaning or will we abandon it to a naive and uninformed reading? Or will we let it continue its winding course, its own fort-da?

* Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira, psychoanalyst, he is professor of psychology at Université Paris-7 – Denis Diderot. Author, among other books, of L'invention de la psychanalyse: Freud, Rank, Ferenczi (Campagne Prem).

*Gilson Iannini He is a professor at the Department of Psychology at UFMG. Author of Style and truth in Jacques Lacan (Authentica).


Sigmund Freud. Beyond the pleasure bases. Edition: Gilson Iannini. Translation: Maria Rita Salzano Moraes. Translation review: Pedro Heliodoro Tavares. Belo Horizonte, Autêntica, 2020, 510 pages.

Cited Works

ANDREAS-SALOME, L. Correspondance with Sigmund Freud 1912-1936. Journal d'une année 1912-1913... Paris: Gallimard, 1970.

BENVENISTE, D. The Interwoven Lives of Sigmund, Anna and W. Ernest Freud. Three Generations of Psychoanalysts. The American Institute for Psychoanalysis: IPBooks, 2015.

CHECCHIA, M.; TORRES, R.; HOFFMANN, W. (Ed.). The first psychoanalysts: Proceedings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society 1906-1908. Trans. Marcella Marino Medeiros Silva. São Paulo: Scriptorium, 2015. v. 1. Kindle edition.

FREUD, S. (1913) The reason for choosing piggy banks. In: Art, literature and the artists. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, 2015. p. 167-182. (Incomplete Works of Sigmund Freud).

FREUD, S. (1924) Extracts from a Letter to Wittels. In: The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, v. 19. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1961. p. 286-288.

GRUBRICH-SIMITIS, I. Zurück zu Freuds Texten. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Verlag, 1993. [Brazilian edition: Back to Freud's texts. Trans. Ines Lohbauer. Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1995.]

MARINELLI, L. Fort, Da. The Cap in the Museum. Psychoanalysis and History, v. 11, no. 1, p. 116-120, 2009.

MAY, U. Freud's “Beyond the pleasure principle”: The End of Psychoanalysis or Its New Beginning? International Forum of Psychoanalysis, v. 22, no. 4, p. 208-216, 2013. DOI: 10.1080/0803706X.2012.74368.

MAY, U. The Third Step in Drive Theory: On the Genesis of Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Psychoanalysis and History, v. 17, no. 2, p. 205-272, 2015. DOI: 10.3366/pah.2015.0170.

NUNBERG, H.; FEDERN, E. Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. New York: International Universities Press, 1962.

OLIVEIRA, LEP La lettre volée, moments de l'histoire de la psychanalyse: Poe, Borges, Lacan, Derrida, Johnson, Irwin, etc. eres, Figures of Psychanalyse, no. 38, p. 239-252, 2019.

SCHRÖTER, M. Jenseits des Kanons Eine Erwiderung auf Ilse Grubrich-Simitis' Kritik an der Neu-Ausgabe von „Jenseits des Lustprinzips“. Psyche: Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse und ihre Anwedungen, v. 67, p. 794-798, 2013.


[i] Subtle way of disqualifying the psychoanalytic relevance of the  APP is to value exclusively its philosophical interest, diluting its pertinence as a contribution to “continental philosophy”, as Todd Dufresne does in his edition. Which in no way detracts from the merits of the edition, competently translated by Gregory Richter, and which also includes, as appendices, extracts from texts by authors such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Fromm, Lacan, Deleuze, Derrida, Laplanche, Butler or Žižek, among others. . Dufresne dedicates his part of the work to Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen: at least it is not a bona fide mistake, which would be harder to forgive (Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Ed. and intro. T. Dufresne. Trans. G Richter. Peterborough: Broadview Books, 2011).

[ii] For more details on all these discussions, consult the corresponding entries in this volume. The discussion about the passage of daily by Lou Andreas-Salomé is found in the entry on Ferenczi.

[iii] According to a letter to Ferenczi, dated July 9, 1913.

[iv] Sigmund Freud Papers: Oversize, 1859-1985; Writings; 1920; “Jenseits des Lustprinzips” [g]; Holograph manuscript [Manuscript/Mixed Material]. Available from the Library of Congress: It is .

[v] May (2015, p. 207) calculates accurately: the first version contains around 740 characters, while the second contains close to 120.

[vi] The game of fort-da is described in  APP in four different versions, as noted by Daniel Benveniste (2015), two of them in footnotes added later. Cf. the entry prepared by Prado de Oliveira (in this volume, p. 247-255).

[vii] Namely: the authors of the collective work Psychoanalysis and the War Neuroses (Ferenczi, Abraham, Simmel and Jones); in addition to Pfeifer, Jung and Breuer (MAY, 2015, p. 223, n. 38).

[viii] Written between 1906 and 1915 by Otto Rank, the Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society they were given by Freud to Paul Federn as they left Vienna. After an attempt at publication in India in 1947, they were published in the United States and in English between 1962 and 1975. Only then were they published simultaneously in Germany and France. Note that they were never published in Austria. The editors, Herman Nunberg and Ernst Federn, demanded that the German edition mention the original publication in the United States and in English. Behind all these decisions, there are political choices of countless kinds. In general, if psychoanalysis was born in German, it grew, matured and spread throughout the world in English. The first psychoanalysts knew this and insisted on it, Freud included. The present minutes referred to here were drawn up in English by Richard Sterba, who recorded his remarks at the March 20, 1930, meeting of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

See this link for all articles


  • João Cândido and the Revolt of the Whipwhip revolt 23/06/2024 By PETRÔNIO DOMINGUES: In the current context, in which there is so much discussion about State reparations for the black population, the name of João Cândido cannot be forgotten
  • Fear and HopeJoao_Carlos_Salles 24/06/2024 By JOÃO CARLOS SALLES: Against the destruction of the public university
  • The collapse of Zionismfree palestine 80 23/06/2024 By ILAN PAPPÉ: Whether people welcome the idea or fear it, Israel's collapse has become predictable. This possibility should inform the long-term conversation about the future of the region
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Return to the path of hopelate afternoon 21/06/2024 By JUAREZ GUIMARÃES & MARILANE TEIXEIRA: Five initiatives that can allow the Brazilian left and center-left to resume dialogue with the majority hope of Brazilians
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Theological manual of neoliberal neo-PentecostalismJesus saves 22/06/2024 By LEONARDO SACRAMENTO: Theology has become coaching or encouraging disputes between workers in the world of work
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones