Masaaki Hoshina – On Sublimation

THE LETTER 34 (Summer 2005) pages 108-113

Freud pointed many times to the potential limit of psychoanalytic theory for the consideration of aesthetics, but as you know, he did offer us the concept of sublimation. Unfortunately this concept seems obscure with regard to its relation to other psychoanalytic concepts. For psychoanalysis, the main task of which is the therapy and understanding of neurotic patients, the problem of sublimation may be probably secondary. However it seems to me that there are difficulties in the concept of sublimation itself as Lacan states it. Indeed it was sublimation that forced him to look toward the problem of the Real. I would like to trace today developments regarding this concept, from Freud to Lacan, so as to illuminate its inherent difficulties.

When I started this study, I considered sublimation from a Freudian viewpoint, one might say, basically, namely, with reference to the drive (Lacan prefers drive to instinct). I thought that I would treat sublimation in its relation to the drive, that is, to the aims, sources and objects of the drive, terms and methods introduced by Freud in his article of 1915 – Instincts and their Vicissitudes. At that time, Freud counted sublimation as one of the vicissitudes that the sexual drives produce. It is said that he wrote an article on sublimation as one of his metapsychological works as well as articles on instincts, repression and the unconscious, but he destroyed it with other texts. Ernst Jones, author of The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, explains this action in terms of his theoretical modifications produced in the twenties, which would have required a total remake of the destroyed texts. But did Freud judge that sublimation is incompatible with the point of view of metapsychology, that is, of dynamics? I would like to argue that he thought that…

Comments are closed.