CriticaLink | Freud: On Narcissism | Terms


In his Discourse on Method, the philosopher René Descartes "as I observed that this truth, I think, therefore I am (cogito ergo sum), was so certain and of such evidence that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle of the philosophy of which I was in search."

In twentieth-century theories of the human subject, the Cartesian cogito has been the target of rigorous criticism. Freud is viewed as of the central figures in this attack on Descartes's image of a self-aware, centered, location of consciousness. What "I think"--the full contents of my thoughts, their motivations, their meanings--is, according to Freudian psychoanalysis, never completely transparent to me. My unconscious wishes, fears, and aggressions, in addition to the pressures to conformity stemming from the superego, condition my thoughts and actions in ways that I cannot control.