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Eros (concept)

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In Freudian psychology, Eros is strictly the sexual component of our life, not to be confused with libido which Freud referred to as our life force, the will to live. It is the desire to create life, and favors productivity and construction. In early psychoanalytic writings, instincts from the Eros were opposed by forces from the ego. But in later psychoanalytic theory, Eros is opposed by the destructive death instinct of Thanatos (death instinct or death drive).

In his 1925 paper "The Resistances to Psycho-Analysis",[1] Freud explains that the psychoanalytic concept of sexual energy is more in line with the Platonic view of Eros, as expressed in the Symposium, than with the common use of the word "sex" as related primarily to genital activity. He also mentions the philosopher Schopenhauer as an influence. He then goes on to confront his adversaries for ignoring such great precursors and for tainting his whole theory of Eros with a pansexual tendency. He finally writes that his theory naturally explains this collective misunderstanding as a predictable resistance to the acknowledgement of sexual activity in childhood.

However, F.M. Cornford finds the standpoints of Plato and of Freud to be "diametrically opposed" with regard to Eros. In Plato, Eros is a spiritual energy initially, which then "falls" downward; whereas in Freud Eros is a physical energy which is "sublimated" upward.[2]

The philosopher and sociologist Herbert Marcuse appropriated the Freudian concept of Eros for his highly influential 1955 work Eros and Civilization.


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