Freud and Nietzsche - An Account For The Role Of Memory In Our Lives

Essay by kuchevCollege, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

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One of the main concerns of contemporary philosophy has been the role of the memory in the life of the individual and the group, or more precisely - the lack and excess of memory. Memory is something very unreliable, because it causes the same kind of decay that invades our physical bodies, undermining the identity of every individual and every society. Even though human identity is based on historical memory, neither individuals, nor societies should be limited in categorical way by it and the importance of forgetting should not be diminished. In consideration of memory, psychoanalysis and history as disciplines may be merged to provide one with a more expansive view of this phenomenon, without reducing one to the other. Reading Freud's account of melancholia in relation to Nietzsche's account of historical illness can help enhance the understanding one derives from each individual discourse, in addition to highlighting an important theme in contemporary philosophy.

In Freud's essay, "Mourning and Melancholia", he considers the act of mourning, which if carried out incorrectly can result in melancholia, a pathological illness. Freud states, "In mourning, it is the world which has become poor and empty; in melancholia, it is the ego itself." An individual suffering with melancholia often cannot pin point what they have lost, as it is often not a person but an abstract concept. Their fixation on this object is intense often due to the narcissistic basis of the attachment, therefore when they lose this object; they lose something more drastic - themselves and their will to live. Symptoms of melancholia are similar to those of mourning; however melancholia is differentiated by "an extraordinary diminution in self-regard" and the absence of shame. Freud believes that a certain period of mourning is necessary when confronting loss; in fact if this process...