Philosophy of the Unconscious

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Philosophy of the Unconscious
The Philosophy of the Unconscious.jpg
AuthorEduard von Hartmann
Original titlePhilosophie des Unbewussten
TranslatorW. C. Coupland
SubjectUnconscious mind
  • 1869 (Duncker, in German)
  • 1884 (in English)
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)

Philosophy of the Unconscious: Speculative Results According to the Induction Method of the Physical Sciences (German: Philosophie des Unbewussten) is an 1869 book by the philosopher Eduard von Hartmann.[1] The culmination of the speculations and findings of German romantic philosophy in the first two-thirds of the 19th century, Philosophy of the Unconscious became famous.[2] By 1882, it had appeared in nine editions.[3] A three volume English translation appeared in 1884.[4] The English translation is more than 1100 pages long.[5] The work influenced Sigmund Freud's and Carl Jung's theories of the unconscious.[4][6]


Philosophy of the Unconscious was translated from German into French and English, and went through many editions in all three languages, exerting a great influence on European culture and helping to make the idea of the unconscious familiar and accepted by the close of the 19th century.[7] The work was widely read.[8] Philosophy of the Unconscious received a critical discussion in the philosopher Franz Brentano's Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1874); Brentano commented that Hartmann's definition of consciousness perhaps referred to "something purely imaginary" and certainly did not agree with his definition of consciousness.[9]

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche described Hartmann's book as a "philosophy of unconscious irony", in his On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, one of the essays included in Untimely Meditations (1876). In Nietzsche's words: "Take a balance and put Hartmann's 'Unconscious' in one of the scales, and his 'World-process' in the other. There are some who believe they weigh equally; for in each scale there is an evil word—and a good joke."[10]

Hartmann's work has been seen as preparing the way for Freud's later theory of the unconscious.[4] Freud consulted Philosophy of the Unconscious while writing The Interpretation of Dreams (1899),[6] in which he called Hartmann the firmest opponent of the theory that dreams are wish fulfillments.[11] The philosopher Hans Vaihinger was influenced by Philosophy of the Unconscious, relating in his The Philosophy of 'As if' (1911) how it led him to Schopenhauer.[12] The psychiatrist Henri Ellenberger writes in The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970) that the main interest of Hartmann's work is not its philosophical theories, but its wealth of supporting material.[2]

The psychologist Hans Eysenck writes in Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire (1985) that Hartmann's version of the unconscious is very similar to Freud's.[5] The philosopher Roger Scruton described Philosophy of the Unconscious as the "first major treatise" about the unconscious in Sexual Desire (1986). He credited Hartmann with offering a "canny and vigorous" description of sexual desire, but nevertheless considered him unsuccessful in explaining its intentionality.[13] John Kerr writes that Hartmann's ideas about "destruction and transformation" parallel those of psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein.[14] The Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli was influenced by Philosophy of the Unconscious in his poetics program, "Il fanciullino" ("The child", 1897).[15]

English translation[edit]

The first English translation by W. C. Coupland[16] was published in 1884, with the title Philosophy of the Unconscious, a literal translation of the German title. It is currently available as a reprint with the same title.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Full title "Philosophie des Unbewussten: Speculative Resultate nach inductiv-naturwissenschaftlicher Methode (speculative results according to the inductive method of physical science) (original sub-title in 1st edn 1869: Versuch einer Weltanschauung): cited by Sebastian Gardner, "Eduard von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious, chapter 7 of "Thinking the Unconscious, Nineteenth-Century German Thought", ed. Nicholls and Liebscher, Cambridge University Press, 2010.[1]
  2. ^ a b Ellenberger, Henri F. (1970). The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. New York: Basic Books. pp. 209–210. ISBN 0-465-01672-3.
  3. ^ Dufresne, Todd (2000). Tales from the Freudian Crypt: The Death Drive in Text and Context. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 88. ISBN 0-8047-3885-8.
  4. ^ a b c Stack, George J. (1999). Audi, Robert (ed.). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 363. ISBN 0-521-63722-8.
  5. ^ a b Eysenck, Hans (1986). Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 33. ISBN 0-14-022562-5.
  6. ^ a b Sulloway, Frank (1979). Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend. London: Burnett Books. p. 253. ISBN 0 233 97177 7.
  7. ^ Stevens, Anthony (1991). On Jung. London: Penguin Books. p. 12. ISBN 0-14-012494-2.
  8. ^ Smith, Roger (1997). The Norton History of the Human Sciences. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 401. ISBN 0-393-31733-1.
  9. ^ Brentano, Franz (1995). Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint. London: Routledge. p. 104. ISBN 0-415-10661-3.
  10. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, trans. (revised edition 2010) by Ian Johnston.[2]
  11. ^ Freud, Sigmund; Robertson, Ritchie (1999). The Interpretation of Dreams. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 106. ISBN 0-19-210049-1.
  12. ^ Vaihinger, Hans (1968). The Philosophy of 'As If'. Fakenham: Cox & Wyman. p. xxviii.
  13. ^ Scruton, Roger (1994). Sexual Desire. London: Phoenix. pp. 194–195. ISBN 1-85799-100-1.
  14. ^ Kerr, John (2012). A Dangerous Method. London: Atlantic Books. p. 590. ISBN 978 0 85789 178 5.
  15. ^ Elio Gioanola, Giovanni Pascoli: sentimenti filiali di un parricida, Jaca Book, 2000, p.18.
  16. ^ Author of The elements of mental and moral science as applied to teaching, by W. C. Coupland, published London, 1889 [3]
  17. ^ Such as published by Routledge, 2010, ISBN 9780415613866, and by Nabu Press, 2010, ISBN 1146864655

External links[edit]