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Hegel, Nietzsche, and Freud on Madness and the Unconscious


Source: The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, New Series, Vol. 5, No. 3 (1991), pp. 193-213
Published by: Penn State University Press
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Hegel, Nietzsche, and Freud

on Madness and theUnconscious

theory of insanity or madness (Verrucktheit)has been largely ne
glected. This is partly due, no doubt, to the facts that his one detailed
discussion of the topic is confined to a few pages inhis Encyclopaedia,1 and


that he makes only passing reference to insanity inhis other works. And yet
many of the themes Hegel develops inhis anatomy ofmadness are mirrored
inhis phenomenology of the healthy or rational mind.2 Madness is inmany
respects the invertedmirror of the developed consciousness, incorporating
the structures of rationality within a different construction of the relation

between the self and itsworld. By occupying in thisway a sort of "negative

space" relation to the healthy mind, insanity provides us with an intriguing
point of access to the study of themes that occur inHegel's largerphilosoph

ical project.
One such theme, which will serve as the focus of the present article, is
the role of the unconscious inmental life.As in the case ofmadness, Hegel
does not often directly refer to the unconscious inhis writings, and does not
explicitly develop this concept as a central principle of his phenomenology.

We might therefore think that Hegel is simply one more of "the philoso
phers" so frequently criticized byNietzsche and Freud, who, as Freud says,
"protest that they could not conceive of such a monstrosity as the uncon
scious, and are thus doomed to a fundamental misunderstanding of human

(AS 31).3 Nietzsche

writes in a similar vein:



1991 The


State University,


Park, PA.

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The unconscious disguise of physiological needs under the [philoso

pher's] cloaks of the objective, ideal, [and] purely spiritual goes to
often I have asked myself whether . . .
frightening lengths?and
[thewhole of) philosophy has not been

body.(GS Pref?2)

yet it is simply not true that Hegel

. . the

as one

... a
misunderstanding of the

"totally lacked the Freudian






does emerge, albeit infrequently, at several junctures of Hegel's phenome

nology of the developed consciousness?for
example, inhis doctrine of the
List der Vernunft, and in his theory of guilt and intentionality.5 More
importantly,however, the unconscious plays a central role inhis portrait of
insanity, and it ishere that a comparison ofHegel with Nietzsche and Freud
becomes particularly interesting.
In this article I will seek to clarify Hegel's

theory of the role of the

general features ofNietz
sche's and Freud's thoughts. By allowing Hegel to enter into dialogue with
the more fullydeveloped theories of Nietzsche and Freud, we may gain a



clearer sense of his own contributions.

Iwill show that while in important

offer competing psychologies, there are sub
respects these three
well. For example, we will see that all three propose an
stantial parallels
understanding of illness as essential for an appreciation of health.

Further, all three regard the unconscious as crucial to the development of

a decisively new orientation for psychology. Finally, all link this new
psychological orientation to the need for a "physiology": The unconscious

points towards the domain of the body, nature, instinct. As Nietzsche says,
the new psychology will be a "physio-psychology, . . . daring to descend to
the depths," and will "translate man back into nature," into the "eternal
basic text of homo natura" recovering the biological roots of human

from their exile by the puritanical,

philosophy.(BGE ?? 23, 230)

spiritualistic tradition of

just as Freud adopts as the motto for his InterpretationofDreams

move the
Virgil's dictum that "if I cannot bend the higher powers, I will
infernal regions"?the
higher powers being the sphere of consciousness
and rationality, whose structures cannot be fullyunderstood without trac

ing them back to the "infernal regions" of the unconscious?Hegel
ofmadness as a reversion to the unconscious, where "the earthly elements"
of the body have theirhome, and "the dark, infernal powers of the heart are
set free." (PM ? 408 6k Z) Only a phenomenology of these infernal regions

will allow for a full explanation

of mental


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There are, of course, important and far-reaching differences between the

theories of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Freud on illness and the unconscious,
and I will especially stress three such oppositions in this article. First,
Nietzsche and Freud both effect a reversal of the values Hegel assigns to
and the unconsciousness, or rationality and instinct. Con
sciousness is a mere surface, a disguise, parable, and facade covering over
the true depth of the psyche, the unconscious. Thus Freud:


is the surface of the mental apparatus. (EL 19)

It is essential to abandon the overvaluation of the property of being
. . .The unconscious is the true
psychical reality. (ID



And Nietzsche:
The world of which we can become conscious

sign-world.(GS ? 354)

isonly a surface-and

All our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commen

taryon an unknown, perhaps unknowable, but felt text. (D ? 119)
For Hegel,

on the other hand,

the unconscious

is the merely "immedi

ate" stage of spirit, spirit asleep, the inarticulate voice of nature awaiting
education into the language of rationality which is itsdestiny and truth. In
this sense it is the unconscious which isa mere surface, and consciousness or
rationality which is the genuine text of the psyche. And yet while Hegel
would reverse Nietzsche's view (shared by Freud) that "thoughts are the

shadows of our feelings" (GS ? 179), he would still agree on the intimate
connection between thought and feeling, consciousness and the uncon
scious. Nature, the domain of spirit sleeping and hence unconscious to
itself, is a "riddle," Hegel says, since while it appears alien to spirit, it is

spirit's presupposition. (PN Intro)

A second difference is that the line of demarcation between madness and
health ismore clearly drawn by Hegel than it is by either Nietzsche or
Freud, forwhom this line is at best tenuous. Third, Nietzsche must be
distinguished fromHegel and Freud in terms of his evaluation of illness.
In speak
Specifically, illness isnot necessarily pathological forNietzsche.
ing of his own illness, he writes that "even in times of grave illness I did not

become pathological."6
Indeed, we will see thatNietzsche views a certain
formof illness as essential to health. Further, Nietzsche tends to locate the
source of disease not in the unconscious, as Hegel and Freud do, but in
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itself is often described as a disease and a
will often stand as counterpoint
to Hegel and Freud in their thoughts on illness.

state.7 As

rather than companion


Hegel defines madness as "a state inwhich themind is shut up within itself,
has sunk into itself,whose peculiarity . . . consists in itsbeing no longer in
immediate contact with actuality but in having positively separated itself
from it." (PM ? 408 Z) Freud's definition of neurosis is a very close echo of
Hegel's view.8 He speaks of "the low valuation of reality, the neglect of the
distinction between

[reality] and phantasy" (IL 368), and the "path of

regression" taken by the libido which has been "repulsed by reality" and
must seek satisfaction through a "withdrawal from the ego and its laws." (IL
359) In both accounts, two points are stressed: a regressive withdrawal or
"sinking back" of the developed mind, and a resulting separation from

We will elaborate on these two essential features of illness shortly, but

should clarify here that the movement of withdrawal is a retreat to a

basically pre-rational, pre-conscious level ofmental life,what Hegel calls

the "life of feeling" (Gefiihlsleben). Like Freud, Hegel associates the domain
of feeling with the unconscious, the body, nature, instinct. In undertaking
this regressive path to the world of the unconscious, the mind severs its

connections with reality?becomes

"self-supporting and independent" of
the "threads ... of interconnection between [the] self and the . . . external
world" (PM ? 406)?and
adopts an essentially new form of discourse,

displacing the centrality of the reality principle and the "laws of the ego" by
a more primitive language of fantasy.
Hegel's and Freud's definition ofmental illness as a regression shows that
they both see madness as presupposing a healthy consciousness (see PM ?
408 Z). Insanity is a response to the developed mind's encounter with an
experience of pain that it cannot cope with. In this sense, madness
ironically a therapeutic attempt, an effort to heal what Hegel calls the
"wounds of spirit" through a self-protective gesture of retreat.9
But there is an even stronger relation between the mad and healthy
selves than the fact that madness presupposes health: Insanity and ra

tionality share some of the same basic underlying structures. For both Hegel
and Freud the basic desire of all mind is to achieve a reconciliation and

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unity between the inner and outer worlds, subject and object, self and
other, and yet all mind is perpetually confronted with the experience of
disunity and contradiction. This iswhy for Freud ego development "con
initial state of unity of
sists in a departure from primary narcissism"?the
self and world in the infant, prior to the "cathexis" or "binding" of an

gives rise to a vigorous attempt to recover that state."

(Nar 100) As such, the impulse towards withdrawal and regression that
characterizes neurosis isalso a basic drive of all ego development. So too for
Hegel, all mind, and not only the deranged mind, engages in a recurring
cycle of withdrawal from the world of suffering,followed by the attempt to
external other?"and

project a unity from out of itself.

This parallelism of the structures of madness and health is important,
and calls for some further elaboration. A helpful point of departure is to
look at the basic duality of instinct in Freud and desire inHegel.10 Freud's
final theory of the instincts, developed in the 1920s, proposes a conflictual
relation between the two primary instincts of Eros and Death. Eros is the

instinct of life,of growth, the drive toward union with the other, while the
death instinct is regressive and destructive, the urge to recreate and restore
a primal sense of unity and rest, "to return to the quiescence of the
inorganic world." (BPP 62)
There is a quite similar duality inHegel's portrait of desire. While Hegel
ismost known forhis emphasis on the progressive, evolutionary character

of desire, there is also what Ihave called elsewhere a "second face of desire"
in his dialectic, which is retrogressive and nostalgic, calling consciousness

to a past


it yearns

for as a scene

of peace



In madness,

the power of the death instinct, or Hegel's second face of desire, becomes
dominant, leading the rational consciousness back to the archaic world of
the unconscious. As for the life instinct, inmadness it isdisplaced from its
search for unity in the external world and now assumes the function of

projecting itsdesires in fantasy.

The firstpoint to emphasize is that all instinct is animated bywhat Hegel
calls a "craving ... for unity." (PM ? 379) This is exemplified in the first
shape of self-consciousness inHegel's Phenomenology, the standpoint of the
'I am I,' the self's sense of certainty which recognizes no challenge to its

autonomy. (PS 1040 While Hegel shows that this desire to completely
coincide with oneself is inherently unstable, the condition of the 'I am V
remains a continuing object of nostalgic desire in all the subsequent shapes
of consciousness, a sort of seductive siren's song promising a sense of


security and primordial peace from the toils of existence.

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Freud also sees the goal of the instincts to be the attainment of unity.
the "oceanic feeling" of "being one with the external world as a
whole," is explained by Freud as a nostalgic vestige of the firstperiod of


infancy,when the ego does not yet distinguish anything outside itself. (CD
117ff)Our instincts reflect the universal human desire to recover this state

of primary narcissism, the original state of unity.

Both Hegel and Freud see consciousness as delivered over to a fundamen
tal experience of anxiety in its inevitable encounter with discord and

estrangement. (PS 51; ISA passim)12 The starkwords of Freud's Civilization

and itsDiscontents, that "all the regulations of the universe run counter
to. .. the intention thatman should be 'happy'" (CD 76), echo the famous
Hegelian characterization of history as "the slaughter-bench at which the
. . . [is] victimized." (RH 27) Anxiety
explains the
happiness of peoples
presence within consciousness of the nostalgic yearning for an idealized
past, the sense of the ego being haunted by the (at least unconscious)

can never entirely

of its primary narcissism. Consciousness
itsdesire for a recovery of its lost primordial unity.
This is the paradox at the heart ofHegelian desire and Freudian instinct,
that while we can never achieve a permanent state of happiness, "yet we
must not, cannot, give up our efforts" to achieve it. (CD 83) What results is
a continually renewed temptation to withdrawal, the gesture of retreat
from the disheartening world of external reality to the internal world of the
serves as the
mind. We see this inHegel's account of Stoicism?which
of withdrawal in further
paradigm for all of the successive
recover the standpoint of
the stoic seeks
shapes of consciousness?where
the 'I am P through a retreat from the world which causes it somuch pain.
And we see it in Freud's hypothesis of a "compulsion to repeat," which
animates the instincts with a retrogressive urge to recover the "ancient


(BPP 12ff,38)
goal" of quiescence.
This basic structural dynamic of the mind, the desire for unity which
leads to themovement of withdrawal, is, again, precisely the fundamental
structure of madness. Nostalgia, whether qualified as madness or not, is
always on the borderline of disease,
sion to a more primitive condition

luring consciousness towards a regres

and a corresponding rejection of the

world we actually live in.

A question that both Hegel and Freud must face, given their view of the
overlapping of the formal structures of mental disease and health, is just
how distinct these two states are. In his Encyclopaedia discussion of mad
ness, Hegel gives the appearance of not really taking this question seriously.

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occurs when the rational mind has reverted to the lifeof feeling,
and when the connections to reality have been severed, while the healthy
mind retains these rational threads of association with reality. But Hegel
should have considered this question more carefully,13 since his phenome
nology of the developed, rational consciousness is so strongly committed to


showing how the connections between self and world are never stable.
The goal of the unity of consciousness and reality is constantly under
mined, beset again and again by the essential "negativity" of lifewhich

entails an "infinite pain." (PM ? 382) The path of consciousness seeking its
reconciliation with reality is a road of loss, a "pathway of despair," to use
Hegel's well-known image.We need not go as far as Jean Hyppolite, who
sees this essential negativity of life as itself entailing that "the essence of
is to be mad [forHegel]."14 It does seem plausible, however, to assume
that the struggle of the rational mind with its experience of despair will
constantly threaten consciousness with the possibility of becoming radi
cally dislocated from itsworld, and beckon the mind to "sink back" into



Freud takes the question of the distinction between health and disease
more seriously than Hegel, and tends to see the substantial mirroring of the
formal structures of these states as blurring the line of demarcation. The
difference between madness and health is essentially a practical rather than
a theoretical one, having to do simplywith a matter of degree: "If you take
up a theoretical point of view and disregard thismatter of quantity [degree],

is, neurotic." (IL 358)

you may quite well say that we are all ill?that
It is at this juncture, where the line separating illness from health has
become obscure, that we must turn toNietzsche.
If anything, Nietzsche's

as such does not exist. It isyour goal that determines what

health ought to mean even for your body. . . . The concept of
normal health . . .must be given up.15
By now we have learned better than to speak of healthy and sick

as of an antithesis.(WP ? 812)

and sickness are not essentially different. (WP ? 47)

I have delayed Nietzsche's entry into the dialogue with Hegel and Freud
until this point because, typically, he ismuch more elusive inhis definitions
of health and illness.16 One might try to discover similarities with Hegel's
and Freud's characterizations

of mental


in terms of the double

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of withdrawal and separation from reality. For example, Nietz

sche is grateful to his own experience with illness for its reinforcement of
his tendency towards isolation and solitude?his
"pathos of distance" from
others, his dislocation from the human-all-too-human world of conven
illness allows for a new form of experience; he lives in a
differentworld, "an as yet undiscovered country whose boundaries nobody
terrible . . . that [his]
has surveyed yet, . . . [so] strange, questionable,
craving to possess ithas got beside itself." (GS ? 382)
What complicates the comparison with Hegel and Freud is that Nietz
sche also calls this "illness" his "great health" (diegrosseGesundheit; see GS
tional values. His

? 382,HH Pref? 4,GM II ? 24,WP ? 1013).The greathealth is"a new

(GS ? 382), quite different from the common concept of health

which essentially sanctifies the status quo and regards as sick "any inconve
nient disturber of the peace."17 The great health isone "that one does not
merely have but also acquires continually, and must acquire because one

gives it up again and again, and must give it up." (GS ? 382)
By this valuation, genuine health incorporatesdisease as itsclosest com
panion, its secret sharer, itsnecessary other. The great health sees disease as
necessary for self-transcendence, as an education into new ways to see and
create: It is a "health which cannot do without even illness itself, as an
instrument and fishhook of knowledge, . . .which permits paths tomany
opposing ways of thought." (HH Pref ? 4) Disease is the descent or going

under (Untergang) that is necessary for health: Only "from such abysses,
from such severe sickness," is one able to "return newborn, having shed
one's skin." (GS Pref ?4)
thus revalues the opposition between health and disease,
reconstructing the pedestrian definition of health as herd morality, and
disease as any way of thinking that calls the common value of "rationality"

into question. Nietzsche's revalued disease, the disease that is essential to

the great health, allows a closer contact with the depths, an Untergang into
the domain of nature, where we may shed the skin of conventional mores

and tap the source of a more elemental creativity. That which is truly sick
seeks to repress nature, the body, the unconscious world of instinct; of these
our rational, logical schemes are merely epiphenomenal
The common ideal of health, which forNietzsche is pathology, is a sort of

will, instinct, pas

"vampirism," sucking the lifeblood of the body?the
sion, feeling?and
"pure spirit," a sheer surface
leaving only
without depth, a hollow husk of consciousness that has utterly repressed its
darker but more vital unconscious origin.

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in fact replaces the age-old motivating drive of philosophy, the

will-to-truth, with the will to health (e.g. GS Pref ?? 2-3, EH 1, ? 2), and
calls for a "philosophical physician" to replace the metaphysician
? 2)
logician. (GS
fantastic falsification of the essential subjectivity of
the will-to-truth
reality.Metaphysical Weltanschauungen, the constructs of thewill-to-truth,

are no more than projected wish-fulfillments of the philosophers' yearning

forultimate answers in a world that remains mockingly silent.18We must,

as Freud says, "transform metaphysics into metapsychology"

(PEL 259),
the "true
philosophic Weltanschauungen
the pri
psychical reality"

ority of the physician over the philosopher, and the deposing of the pursuit
ofTruth with the agenda of diagnosing the causes of cultural pathology, the
sources of decadence, weariness, nihilism, ressentiment, and guilt.

Hegel, of course, has gone down in the annals of the history of philoso
the pursuer of Absolute
phy as the consummate Weltanschauung-builder,
Truth in the grand style.And as such he is seen as the archetypal opponent
of the Nietzschean
and Freudian critiques of philosophy. Yet we must be

cautious, forHegel also effects a revaluation of Truth.19 Truth no longer

resides in the serene immobility of Platonic forms, nor in the cosmic
eternity of the rationalists' eye of God, nor in the brute givenness of the
empiricists' Nature. Truth is a becoming, with an intrinsic historicity. And
it is just this dynamic, bacchanalian character of truth that results in the
essential negativity of human history, the perpetual loss and death of our


of reality.

Human existence is a pathway of doubt and despair, a theater of suffer

ing, a slaughter-bench of happiness, a constant reopening of the "wounds
of spirit."We would surely need to look much more closely at Hegel's
phenomenological method to determine towhat extent it could be seen as
thework of a "philosophical physician." But however we finally decide this

question, Hegel's interest in the darker side of the human spirit?spirit in

its negativity, dismemberment, and infinite pain?positions
him more
closely with Nietzsche's
too hasty caricature.20

and Freud's concerns than might be supposed by a


Let us turn to a closer examination of what Hegel calls the "life of feeling"
intowhich themind withdraws inmadness. In insanity,Hegel writes, there

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is a "reversion to mere nature" in which "the natural self . . . gains the

mastery over the objective, rational. . . consciousness." (PM ? 408 & Z) In
nature, the self is "mastered" by, "imprisoned" in, and becomes "fixed" to
feeling states. This language foreshadows the Freudian analysis of the
regressive turnof neurosis, with the resulting fixation of an archaic content
that gains mastery over the ego and its laws.21 For both Hegel and Freud
this reversion and imprisonment in nature is linked to the body.22
Just as Freud constantly reminds us that the neuroses have an "organic

foundation" (e.g. IL 389), Hegel repeatedly insists that "mental illness is

not merely to be compared with physical illness, but ismore or less bound up
with it." (PM ? 406 Z) Further, the body is the domain of the unconscious.
The feeling soul "is the stage of [mind's] darkness," where the "light" of
is not yet explicit. (PM ? 404) Gefuhlsleben is the "dull
stirring, the inarticulate breathing, of the spirit through its unconscious
and unintelligent [pre-rational] individuality (in seiner bewufit-und ver

(PM ? 400)23

The language of darkness with which Hegel characterizes feeling and

nature and the body points to another close parallel with Freud: Both see

dreams, the projected images of "the night of themind," as central symbols

of the unconscious, and as presenting important clues to our understanding
of illness. Freud's use of dreams as a paradigm forhis study of the neuroses is
well known. Dreams are themselves often described as neurotic symp
substitute formations of underlying unconscious drives
and wishes. Hegel holds a similar position, and proposes as one of the
central analogies of his discussion ofmadness that illness is to health as the
dream is to waking life: "Between . . . the self-possessed and healthy
. . . and insanity the difference is like that between
waking and
dreaming; only
waking limits."

whileawake. (PM ? 408 Z)

(PM ? 408) Madness isa dreaming

like the dream, entails a form of flightor escape, a withdrawal

from the external world: "The soul immersed in its inwardness," Hegel
writes, "contemplates its individual world not outside, but within itself."
(PM ? 406 Z) There is a fundamental rupture of the relation to reality.As
Freud says, when I dream "I want to know nothing of the external world."
(IL 88) With thismovement of withdrawal and rupture, the language of
rationality is replaced by amore primitive, archaic discourse of unconscious
wishes, fantasies, and drives, which, inmadness as indreams, are projected
onto reality as substitutes.
In at least one place Nietzsche also links "the fantasizing of dreams and

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insanity" together. (D ? 312) But more usually, he effects a reversal, so

typical of his thinking, whereby the reality projected by dreams in no way
stands in a less privileged position than the reality of waking life.Thus in
his Daybreak he writes that "there isno essential difference between waking
and dreaming . . . [since even] our moral judgments and evaluations are
only images and fantasies based on a physiological process unknown to us."
(D ? 119) Once themyth of a Reality in itselfhas been put into question?
or actually "abolished"
projected by the mind.

(Tl p. 486)?there

remains only dream, reality as

claim that there is no clear distinction between dreaming

and waking directly mirrors his view that "health and sickness are not
essentially different." Unlike Hegel and Freud, then, dreams will not hold

any straightforward explanatory value for illness. A more subtle typology of

dreams isneeded, just as we must distinguish between illness that accom
panies the great health and the neurotic illness of, for example, religion. In
an analogous way, we may make value judgments between different types of

to be sure, by appealing to the standard ofReality, but on an

basis. "It isonly as an aesthetic phenomenon that exis
tence and the world may be eternally justified,"Nietzsche writes. (BT ? 5,
and cf.GS ? 107) As creative projections of values, all dreams are aesthetic
phenomena, and the question then becomes whether our dreams are a form
of self-affirmationor self-denial, and whether they appropriate and express
the "eternal basic text of homo natura" or seek an escape from it.24

last point ismade clear inNietzsche's Birth of Tragedy, where he

art holds the power to heal and redeem us from the "horror
and absurdity of existence" (BT ? 7), but only ifdream is united with

nature, Apollo with Dionysus, the "beautiful illusion of the inner [dream]
world of fantasy" (BT ? 1) with the primal unconscious force of nature
which is the heart of all great art. Nietzsche argues that art becomes sick
when dream is detached from nature, as occurred inGreek tragedy with

Euripides, who purportedly substituted an "aesthetic Socratism" forDiony

sian nature, a glorification of rationality, logic, and the "cool clarity of
consciousness11 (BT ? 14) for the bacchanalian
forces of the unconscious.

(See BT ?? 10-15)

Nietzsche's distance fromHegel and Freud on the nature of illness comes

into further focus when we look at the way "nature," "feeling," and
"instinct" are described. All three associate the domain of the unconscious
and instinctwith the particularityof human lifeopposed to our social being.
It is true that both Freud and Nietzsche recognize a collective character of

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our unconscious?both,

forexample, speak of our dreams as expressing the

phylogenetic prehistory of human instincts.25And forHegel too there are
certainly universal features of feeling.
The point is that these features express our private interests, the laws of

the individual heart: Feeling is the terrain of seclusion, subjectivity, isola

it speaks
tion. As such, feeling precludes community and communication;
a private, pre-rational "language." The lifeof feeling is in thisway a sort of

instinct" of
pre-historical way of being, as the "innermost, unconscious
(RH 30)
genuine history to
of 'We', which
requires, Hegel insists, that the purely private, isolating language of feeling
be sacrificed, renounced, surrendered, (see PS 136-39, 212f) Similarly,
regression from reason to feeling, fromhistory to fantasy, is the emergence
of disease.26
At least at firstglance, itwould seem that Freud and Nietzsche depart
fromHegel on this point, and would see his call for the sacrifice of the
particularity of feeling as simply a call for repression, and hence as an
invitation to disease itself. For Nietzsche, the "slanderers of nature" (GS ?
294) who sacrifice the body and fightagainst instinct as a sickness, are the

heralds of decadence, weariness, ressentiment, neurosis. Their "priestly

is a disguised "lust for nothingness" that is itself the greatest
illness of all. (GM 1 ? 6) If "nothing else [is] 'given' as real except our world
of desires and passions" (BGE ? 36), then to renounce this reality is to
repress life itselfand become sick. And Freud sees the essential neurosis of
civilization as resulting from the "psychologically unrealistic" demands of
the social repression of our instincts. (CD 86, 111, 143-44)
There is a real difference between Hegel, Nietzsche, and Freud here, but
it is not as simple as itmight seem. For Hegel's recurring claim that a

sacrifice and renunciation of particularity and "the heart" is necessary in

order for universality and reason to emerge is not in fact a call for the
annihilation of nature, but for itsAufhebung and sublimation.27 Again,
nature is the "presupposition" of spirit, and as such must be preserved, or
incorporated, or "taken up" (auf-gehoben) in the transition from feeling
reason. "Everything spiritual, every content of consciousness, anything
that is product and subject of thought. . .must also, and originally does,
exist in the mode of feeling." (RH 17) The "sacrifice" of feeling is thus in
fact its sublimation. Feeling isdethroned but not destroyed, nor can it ever
be destroyed except in the illusions of ascetic self-mortification. This is just
as ill forHegel as it is forNietzsche and Freud: Asceticism, Hegel says, is a

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"self-deception" that pursues a "false tranquility," but "sinks into helpless

ness, anxiety, and self-distrust, a psychical state that often develops into
madness." (PCR ? 29)28
The fact is that all three writers insist on the need for a sublimation of
feeling. For Hegel, this isperhaps seen most clearly inhis aesthetics. Art is

the expression of the human "impulse to produce [irjself," to find itself

"reduplicated" or mirrored in the external world. (A 401) This expression
is the representation of human feelings and passions, but not through any
direct discharge?not
through what John Dewey calls "an instantaneous
seething" and inchoate "babbling."29 Rather, art
is the objectification and reconstruction of passion, which allows for its
"purification" or sublimation. (A 419)
What was previously shut up in the privacy and subjectivity of the
unconscious becomes an "address" or "summons" or "question" posed to the
conscious mind (A 427), "calling forth a response and echo in the mind
from all the depths" of the unconscious.
(A 409) Passion unsublimated
he has no will outside this
madness we are "imprisoned" in the
particular passion" (A 419), just

lifeof feeling. By sublimating passion, art frees us from the enslavement to

not by eliminating the body but by transfiguring it.To
the body?again,
quote Dewey again, aesthetic "expression is the clarification of turbid
emotion; our appetites know themselves when they are reflected in the

mirror of art, and as they know themselves they are transfigured."30

Freud also sees art as the sublimation of instinct. The artist "knows how
to link so large a yield of pleasure to [the] representation[s] of his uncon
scious [that]. . . repressions are outweighed and liftedby it." (IL 376) More
generally, sublimation is the only healthy alternative to repression and
neurosis, effecting a "deflection" of instincts from their originally egoistic
and often destructive aims.

Finally, Nietzsche
regards the sublimation of passion and instinct as
well. And like Hegel and Freud, he looks to art as a
paradigm of sublimation. "Every artist knows how far from any feeling of

lettinghimself go his 'most natural' state is"?the goal isnot a "laisser aller"
but rather an "education" and "discipline" of the passions; not a crude
reveling in nature but self-conquest, self-elevation, self-transcendence.
(BGE ? 188) "In man creature and creator are united: in man there is
material, fragment, excess, clay, . . . chaos; but inman there is also creator,
form-giver," the artistic force by which the chaos of nature is "formed,
broken, forged, torn, burnt, made


and purified." (BGE

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225) Sublimation is the refinement, cultivation, assimilation, channeling,

integration, and "spiritualization" (Vergeistigung)of nature. It is contrasted
with repression in that sublimation is a form of "employing" and "econo
mizing" "those impetuous torrents of the soul that are so often dangerous
and overwhelming,"

rather than "enfeebling" them and "wanting tomake

themdryup." (WP ?? 382, 383-84)

Hegel is reallymuch closer toNietzsche and Freud in his interpretation

of the feeling soul than appears at firstglance: For all three, sublimation is a
middle path between the laisser aller of nature and its repression, and to
leave this path in either direction is to risk illness. The real differences lie
elsewhere. First, while Hegel sees the sublimation of feeling as entailing a

away from the particularity and privacy of the heart, Nietzsche's

psychology of sublimation is committed to preserving and nourishing this
privacy. Nietzsche idealizes the hermit, who lives in "the desolate regions,"

who needs his masks and concealments, his "citadel of secrecy," who prizes
interiorityover community and silence over language. (BGE ?? 26, 289)
"All community makes men?somehow,
somewhere, sometime 'com
mon,'" "unclean," unhealthy. (BGE ? 284) Nietzsche's great "nausea" is in
fact his "nausea over man," which can be cured only by solitude, a "return

tomyself."(EH I ? 8)

idealization of the
Second, while Freud does not share Nietzsche's
of a genuinely
individual is
instinct is inherently unstable, precisely because it demands so much by
way of sacrifice. (IL 23) Hegel ismore optimistic here, seeing the human
struggle forcommunity and social synthesis as a genuinely achievable goal,
and indeed as a goal that has been achieved in every great epoch of world

We must be careful, however, not to reduce Hegel to the sort of cartoon
image that compares his optimism to that of "Voltaire's Doctor Pangloss
[who] sees only the harmony of all things."31 Hegel isnot ignorant of the
force of the death instinct, the destructive power that lies so close to the

insists on the contrary that history is the slaughter

bench of happiness, that spirit exists only in "the power of the negative"
whereby itmust confront itselfagain and again "in utter dismemberment."
(PS 19) Our social being isnot easily won, and Hegel knows fullwell the
in the
possibility of pathology arising in civilization, as, for example,
French revolution. There the desire
heart of desire. He

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of the people



resulted in the law of the guillotine and the reign of terror

whichhe explicitlydiagnosesasmadness. (PS 355-63; PM ? 408 Z)


Hegel's and Freud's basic characterization ofmental illness as a withdrawal

or retreat into the lifeof feeling and the unconscious, and a resulting sever
ing of the connections to reality, leads to a view of madness as entailing

what Hegel calls a "double center" of reality.The mad self is "driven out of
its [rational] mind, shifted out from the center of its actual world and . . .
has two centers"?the displaced, decentered, lost but still recollected trace
(as in a dream) of its rationality, and the new center constructed by the life
of feeling. It is in this sense that Hegel refers to madness as a double
personality: "The insane subject is therefore in communion with himself in
a subject
the negative of himself, . . . but knows himself [only as] ...
Freud also sees mental

illness as situated within a doubled center of

the ego has withdrawn but still retains a
tenuous relation to, and the substitution formations enacted by the projec
tions of unconscious wishes. Similarly, Freud compares the neurotic to the
dreamer: Both are like "two separate people," the one representing the

wishes of the unconscious

and the other thewishes of the censoring agency

of consciousness and the reality principle. (IL 216; ID 561)
Nietzsche, as we should expect, holds a more ambiguous position. On
the one hand, since he effects an erasure of the distinction between waking

and dreaming, and between reality and appearance, the idea of a double
center of reality becomes questionable. The objective, external reality of
which Hegel and Freud speak so confidently, which is displaced by the
fantastic realities ofmadness, is "abolished" byNietzsche and can no longer
serve as a standard by which tomeasure its "other," the reality projected by
the mind. On the other hand, Nietzsche partly restores the distinction
two centers of reality in his diagnosis of neurotic illness. For
anticipates themajor features of Freud's analysis of religion as a
neurosis, which seeks to replace the reality of the earth with the myth of

the reality of the body with the illusion of the eternal soul, the
reality of thisworld with the superstition of another world. Thus there are
certain givens of reality forNietzsche,
against which a kind of mental
language ofmyth, illusion, superstition.
But there is an even deeper sense in which Nietzsche may be seen to


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share the Hegelian and Freudian notion of a double center of reality as a

for understanding illness. When he turns to a description of the
dialectical relation between his own health and illness, Nietzsche directly
appropriates the language of a "dual series of experiences" and a corre


sponding double personality:

For a [truly]healthy person, . . . being sick can even become an

energetic stimulus for life, for livingmore. ... A long, all too long,
series of years signifies recovery forme; unfortunately italso signifies
. . .
relapse, decay, the periodicity of a kind of decadence.
from the perspective of the sick toward healthierconcepts and values

and, conversely, looking again from the fullness and self-assurance

of a rich life down into the secret work of the instinct of deca
this I have had the longest training. . . .Now I know
to reverseperspectives. ... I have a subtler sense of smell for
the signs of ascent and decline ... I know both, I am both. . . .This
dual series of experiences, this access to apparently separate worlds,
is repeated inmy nature in every respect: I am aDoppelganger, Ihave
a 'second' face in addition to the first. (EH I ?? 1-3)

intimate interweaving of health and illness, this double strand of

two faces, double perspectives, and separate worlds of
both Nietzsche's closeness to and his departure
fromHegel and Freud. Like them, Nietzsche sees a double center of reality

as entailed by the descent into illness. But while Hegel and Freud diagnose
this as pathology, Nietzsche sees it as the potentiality for a great health.
Illness that isnot simply a neurotic denial of instinct brings us closer to the

world of the body and nature and also to the source of all human creativity.
iswhy it is "impossible to be an artist and not to be sick." (WP ? 811)
Neither Hegel nor Freud denies an essential ontological duality of
consciousness, nor sees health as an overcoming of this duality. Freud's
whole psychoanalytic theory insists on a basic doubleness of the lifeof the
mind, a dynamic interplay between conscious and unconscious structures,
and defines neurosis as the repression of instinct. And Hegel's phenome
a "notwendige
nology is committed to what Friedrich Grimmlinger calls
The self

discovers itselfonly in its relation to itselfas other ; it is in the gesture of self

externalization, Enuau$erung
becoming-other, and the subsequent doub
experience, that the self exists.
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is one of the central elements of the selfs

Further, the unconscious
is for Nietzsche
and Freud. Unconscious
intentions?the motive forces of our desires, passions, and instincts?are
interwoven with conscious intentions in every human action, as the warp
and woof of our history. (RH 26-31) There is always a "latent, uncon

scious" feature of action (RH 35) that accounts for the "double meaning" of
the deed with the result that the self "become[s] a riddle to itself." (PS 220)
The unconscious, nature, isour internal riddle, and Hegel no more sees the
than does
solution to this riddle to be the denial of the unconscious
Nietzsche or Freud.33 We cannot remove the warp of history from itswoof:

Feeling must be integrated into rationality, nature must be sublimated into

the lifeof spirit.
What Hegel and Freud both deny is that the reversion or Untergang into
nature is the key to genuine health. Nietzsche sees this going-under as the
to a casting off of the constricting shackles of
necessary propaedeutic
socially constructed norms and a revaluation of decadent values. Hegel and
Freud, on the other hand, see our social being as our trulyhuman essence,
so that a reversion to the domain of instinct will be an imprisonment in a

pre-rational, pre-social, and hence essentially pre-human level of life.The

person who "makes his appeal to feeling," Hegel writes, "is finished and
done with anyone who does not agree; he only has to explain that he has
nothing more to say to anyone who does not find and feel the same in

himself."(PS 43)

In comparing Hegel's theory ofmadness and the unconscious with those

ofNietzsche and Freud, we certainly must not minimize the differences?
for example, Nietzsche's and Freud's reversal of the values of consciousness

the unconscious, Nietzsche's

revaluation of the relation between
illness and health and his idealization of seclusion, and Hegel's relative
optimism about our social being. Still, such a comparison shows thatHegel
anticipates many of the themes thatwere to occupy Nietzsche and Freud in
their new psychologies of the depths: the view ofmadness as a response to

the essential negativity of life, the characteristics of withdrawal and the

decentering of reality, the conflictual duality of instinct or desire, the
structures of nostalgia, narcissism, and the death instinct, the importance
of dreams as a model forunderstanding the unconscious and illness, and the
crucial role of sublimation.
Hegel does not explicitly integrate his theory of Verrucktheit into the
larger project of his philosophy, nor does he give his theory of the uncon
scious the central place it is accorded in the works ofNietzsche and Freud.

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And yet a close reading of his largely overlooked thoughts on madness and
the unconscious shows that these themes are more important than the
space he allots to them might suggest.We get a good sense of the impor
tance of an understanding of madness when we read that "insanity [is] a

necessarily occurring form or stage in the development of the soul." (PM ?

408 Z) Hegel's point isnot, of course, that we will all necessarily become
insane, but rather that the possibility of a pathological reversion to nature
is constantly prepared forby the encounter with the essential negativity of
lifeand the presence in consciousness of the nostalgic face of desire. Hence
also the importance of a knowledge of the "infernal regions" of the uncon
scious, where madness has its origin.

Bard College

1. In the anthropology section of the Phibsophy ofMind, section 408, and Zusatz (122
translation: see fh 3 below).
139 inMiller's
one of the very few scholars to have written on Hegel's
2. Darrel Christensen,
theory of
and the Role
Verrucktheit, makes this point as well. See "The Theory ofMental Derangement
in Hegel,"
The Personalist 49 (1968): 433-53,
and "Hegel's
and Function of Subjectivity
International Philosophical Quarterly
Analysis and Freud's Psychoanalysis,"
between Hegel's
I have explored a number of the connections
8, no. 3 (1968):
project in a recently completed companion
theory of madness and his larger philosophical

of Reason:
to the present essay, "The Decentering
Hegel's Theory of Madness,"
forthcoming in International Studies in Philosophy.
and Freud will be given parenthetically
3. References to the works ofHegel, Nietzsche,
the text and abbreviated. Works cited are as follows:



to the three volumes of the Encyclopaedia

(SL, PN, SL)
additions (Zusatze) to the original text.

are to sections

(?), and

'Z' designates
A Selections

in J.Glenn Gray, ed., On Art, Religion,

from Hegel's
lectures on aesthetics,
LL Hegel's Science of Logic ("larger" Logic), tr.,A. V. Miller, New York: Humanities


PCR The Positivity of theChristian Religion, inHegel's Early Theological Writings, ed., T. M.
Press, 1977.
Knox, Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania
Oxford: Clarendon
PM Hegel's Philosophy ofMind,
Press, 1978?
tr.,William Wallace,
vol. 3 of the Encyclopaedia of thePhilosophical Sciences.
PN Hegel's Phibsophy ofNature,
Press, 1970?vol.
tr.,A. V. Miller, Oxford: Clarendon
of the Encycbpaedia.
PS Phenomenology of Spirit, tr.,A. V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

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inHistory, tr., R. S. Hartman,

to the Lectures on thePhilosophy ofHistory.

SL Hegel's Logic ("shorter" Logic),

vol. 1 of the Encyclopaedia.



IN: Bobbs-Merrill,





references are to sections

(?) unless otherwise noted.

Beyond Good and Evil, in The Basic Writings ofNietzsche,
York: Random House,



ed. W.


BT The BirthofTragedy,inThe BasicWritings.

D Daybreak,
tr., R. J.Hollingdale,
in The Basic Writings.
EH Ecce Homo,
in The Basic Writings.
GM The Genealogy ofMorals,





The Gay Science, tr.,W. Kaufmann, New York: Random House,

HH Human, All Too Human,
tr.,Marion Faber, Lincoln NE: University ofNebraska Press,
Tl Twilight of the Idols, in The Portable Nietzsche, ed., W. Kaufmann, New York: Viking
Press, 1966.
to Power, tr.,W. Kaufmann
WP The Will
New York: Random
and R. ]. Hollingdale,



references are to the Standard Edition of theComplete Psychological Works
Freud, 24 vols., ed., James Strachey, London: Hogarth Press, 1953fY.
AS An Autobiographical
Study, 1925, SE vol. 20.
BPP Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1920, SE vol. 18.



and itsDiscontents,

1923, SE vol.

EI The Ego and theId, 1923,SE vol. 19.

FI The Futureofan Illusion,1927,SE vol. 21.

of Sigmund


ID The Interpretation of Dreams,

1900, SE vols. 4, 5.
IL Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis,
SE vols. 15, 16.
ISA Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, 1926, SE vol. 20.
Nar On Narcissism: An Introduction, 1914, SE vol. 14.
NIL New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis,
1933, SE vol. 22.


and Religious Origins,

1919, SE vol.

PEL The Psychopathology

Life, 1901,SE vol. 6.


IN: Indiana University

4. Clark Butler, in his edition of Hegel's Letters (Bloomington
Press, 1984), 407.
5. For Hegel's
theory of the List der Vernunft, see LL 746, RH 44, PS 33, SL ? 209. On
"The Ethical World; Human
and Divine
guilt and intentionality, see especially PS 267-289,
Law: Man
and Woman,"
and "Ethical Action; Human
and Divine Knowledge;
Guilt and
in intentionality, see PS
Destiny." For more general passages on the role of the unconscious

220f,249,RH 26-36.

6. This citation is taken from Karl Jaspers'sNietzsche: An Introduction to the

ofHis Philosophical Activity, tr., C. F. Wallraff and F. J. Schmitz (Chicago: Henry Regnery,
1965), 115. The translators omit all of Jaspers's references, and in the original German
de Gruyter
(Nietzsche: Einfuhrung in das Verstdndnis seines Philosophierens, Berlin: Walter
1936), Jaspers refers to the early edition of the collected works prepared by Nietz
sche's sister Elizabeth
16 vols., Leipzig: Kroner Verlag,
(the so-called Kleinoktavausgabe,


I have

been unable

to locate. Since

Jaspers nowhere

specifies which

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Nietzsche's works correspond to the different volumes of the collected works, Iwill refer the
reader to pages in Jaspers's text, and, for those more fortunate in their search for Elizabeth's
to volume and page numbers of that edition. The present citation is from

vol. 15, 47.

7. See, e.g, BGE ? 354: "Whatever

becomes conscious
becomes by the same token
thin, relatively stupid, general, sign, herd signal, . . . falsification, reduction to
. . .
the growth of consciousness
becomes a danger; and anyone
who lives among the most conscious Europeans even knows that it is a disease." Also BGE ?
constitutes only one state of our spiritual and psychic world
357: "What we call consciousness
state). ..."
(perhaps a pathological

8. Christensen

also argues that Hegel's

theory of Verrucktheit is substantially paralleled by
is particularly
interested in
("Hegel's Phenomenological
illness (see PM ? 408 Z) anticipates
threefold typology of mental
showing how Hegel's
similar typology in Freud (hysteria, obsessional
neurosis, psychosis), and in demonstrating


that Hegel and Freud offer shared analyses of such themes as anxiety and guilt, projection,
dreams, and transference.
9. See Freud's notion of "secondary gain" and the "need for illness," IL 382ff, EL 49, ISA
10. Nietzsche
also often presents a basic duality of instinct, described variously as the will

its repression, the will to health and the will to nothingness,

affirmation and
the will to life and the "will to death" (GS ? 344). We will see,
growth and decadence,
however, that Nietzsche
develops his view in a significantly different way than do Hegel and
inHegel's Theory of Desire,"
11. See my "Evolution and Nostalgia
forthcoming inClio.
to power and


view of anxiety is very similar to Freud's notion of

12. Christensen
argues that Hegel's
"free-floating anxiety," which sees anxiety as more basic than its attachment to any particular
object of fear. "Hegel's Phenomenological
Fialko is getting at the same point when he writes that "the very
13.1 believe thatNathan
since the rational, developed
fact of the existence of insanity [is] a great problem forHegel,"
ismeant to be entirely "free and . . .not subject to disease." That is, the line of
is too strictly drawn to account for the motivation
of the developed
on Mental
ness to give up its rationality and sink back into madness.
"Hegel's Views

Journal ofAbnormal and Social Psychology 25 (no. 2), 1930, pp. 259f.
and Psychoanalysis,"
tr.,Albert Richer,
14. Jean Hyppolite,
"Hegel's Phenomenology
Warren E. Steinkraus, ed., New Studies inHegel's Philosophy (New York: Holt, Rinehart and
1971), 64.
vol. 5, p. 159.
15. Jaspers, 112; Kleinoktavausgabe
16. One
factor is that when Nietzsche

has mental

speaking of purely physical pains.

or spiritual factors inmind.

refers to his own illness he is

I have been careful to select passages where he

vol. 1, p. 193. Note the similarity between Nietzsche's

17. Jaspers, 112; Kleinoktavausgabe
view and those of such modem writers as Thomas
Szasz, R. D. Laing, and Michel
illness for the "medical model":
who substitute a "labelling
theory" of mental
illness" isnot a medical condition but a socially constructed label for deviance from accepted

"The delusions of paranoics

18. Freud in fact compares metaphysical
systems to paranoia:
an . . . internal kinship to the systems of our philosophers."
(PA/RO 94) Both the
events in the world
philosopher and the paranoid schizophrenic share "the belief that the real
take the course which our thinking seeks to impose on them." (NIL
165f) Compare
description of philosophy as the "tyrannical drive" to "create the world in its

image."(BGE ? 9)

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19. For a fuller discussion

of Hegel's


of truth, see my Hegel's Grand

Synthesis A

StudyofBeing,Thought,andHistory (Albany:SUNY Albany Press, 1989),Chapter Two:

"Hegel's Theory of Truth."

20. Fialko goes so far as to say that "the system of Hegel
modern psychiatry has evolved."
21. Timo Airaksinen
gives a nice analysis of Hegel's


in fact, all the ideas that

view of "fixation"
in his article
Social Theory and Practice 15 (no.
"Insanity, Crime and the Structure of Freedom inHegel,"
2), 1989, 156-58.
22. See Fialko, 262: "It is the moment
of corporeity, in which
the spiritual is still
that constitutes the domain where insanity is generated [forHegel]."
23. See Hyppolite's
24. See Nietzsche's



of what

he calls Hegel's

idea of an "ontological


notion of "the artists of decadence."

(WP ? 852)
HH ? 13: "Dreams take us back again to distant conditions of human
25. See Nietzsche,
culture and put a means at our disposal for understanding
them better." And D ? 312: "In the
fantasizing of dreams and insanity, a man rediscovers his own and mankind's
on many occasions.
Freud speaks of the archaic phylogenetic
heritage of the unconscious

See, e.g., IL 179-81, 199,210-11, 213, 226; EL 36-38, 48-49, 55; FI17; CD 13f;and ID

See also Robert Herrera's "Freud on

548f (where Freud refers to his debt to Nietzsche).
Fantastic Commentary?"
1985, 341.
Philosophy Today, Winter
26. See Hyppolite's
that "withdraws to itself
analysis of the position of the consciousness
as the
and rejects all communication,"
of relationship,"
initiating a "total breakdown

epitome of the death instinct (70).

shows how Hegel's key concept of the Aufhebung "is compatible with the
27. Christensen
in something like the Freudian way." "Theory ofMental
notion of an unconscious
28. Similarly, in his analysis of the "Unhappy Consciousness,"
Hegel describes ascetic
"a personality brooding over itself, as wretched as it is
mortification as a will to nothingness,

impoverished."(PS 135f)

29. John Dewey, Art as Experience, inA. Hofstadter and R. Kuhns, eds., Philosophies ofArt
and Beauty (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1976), 604-6.
30. Dewey, 614.
31. This quotation
Chase Greene,
appears in an otherwise splendid book byWilliam
Moira: Fate, Good, and Evil inGreek Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 96.
32. Friedrich Grimmlinger,
"Zum Begriff des absoluten Wissens
in Hegels Phanomeno
logie," in Geschichte und System: Festschrift fur Erich Heintel zum 60. Geburtstag, hrsg. von


und Erhard Oeser

(Miinchen: R. Oldenbourg
1972), 29If.
a similar point when he argues that "the unconscious
is the
is potential for the individual,"
and that Hegel
subjective ground of the integrity which
would entirely agree with Freud's view of the unconscious
having "a continuing function in
even the normal and mature consciousness."
444, 440.
"Theory of Mental Derangement,"
33. Christensen

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