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Freud: the last great Enlightenment thinker

Sigmund Freud is out of fashion. The reason? His heroic refusal to flatter humankind

By John Gray   January 2012

Sigmund Freud contemplates a bust of himself, sculpted for his 75th birthday by Oscar Nemon

Writing to Albert Einstein in the early 1930s, Sigmund Freud suggested that “man has in him an active instinct for hatred and destruction.” Freud went on to contrast this “instinct to destroy and kill” with one he called erotic—an instinct “to conserve and unify,” an instinct for love.

Without speculating too much, Freud continued, one might suppose that these instincts function in every living being, with what he called “the death instinct”—thanatos—acting “to work its ruin and reduce life to its primal state of inert…

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