Free Heidegger and Freud: Philosophy of Death Essay Sample

Since ancient time, death has been considered as an unidentified and unexplained phenomenon, which goes beyond comprehension; the essence of death shocks a man and undermines the picture of the holistic world and the central position of a human as the crown of creation of nature or God. The stoics have highlighted that death is the most significant event of life and have learned that worthy life involves worthy death. In fact, death is uncontrollable; however, death can be alienated or brought closer but it can never avoided. For this reason, the existentialists consider the tragedy of life and human nature in order to find alternative ways of realization of human freedom and the ways to overcome fear and loneliness. Heidegger was the first to examine the death in the scope of ontology by defining it as the being-towards-death and a part of Daisen, - a particular human’s being, - which could be experienced by someone, to whom the death regards.

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The Philosophy of Being-towards-Death in Heidegger

The German philosopher, Heidegger, was one of the founders of existentialism in the early twentieth century. This philosophical direction (existential is the Latin term) is considered as one of the biggest trends in the world of philosophy. Actually, existentialism reflects a reaction to the instability and tragedy of life, the vulnerability of a human in social storms and upheavals that increase alienation among people. For Heidegger, the primary task of resolving the issues of human existence is the creation of a foundation for the understanding of the surrounding space. The understanding comes thanks to ontology based on listening to the world and the development of the relationship to the existence in accordance with the signals provided by the existence. The philosopher seeks to find a consensus between the environment and a person on the background of the human mind enriched by the knowledge of a harmony of the world.

The general essence of his philosophy determined the relation of Heidegger to death. According to his considerations, the existing being is Dasein (being-there or being-here). Heidegger considers the human mortality as the core way of being. Thus, the entire life of a person fits into the concept of being-towards-death, which could be experienced. By accepting death, the individuals admit that they cannot be the ones that they could be without death. A person can only experience his own demise. If a human rejects and despises death, he/ she consciously agrees to the defective attitude toward the being.

Based on the information mentioned above, it is possible to emphasize that the starting point of the Heidegger philosophizing is subjectivity of human sensations. Actually, its key is the awareness of living here and now - it is Dasein. Heidegger supposes that the reality that is given to people existing in Dasein (otherwise, nothing can exist) consists of existentials. Besides, Heidegger recognizes such social structures as the Mitsein and Das Man (one), which measure and complement Dasein of a particular person. Thus, it ensures the integrity of being, where the death represents a key component that determines its meaning.

The Concept of Life-for-Death in Freud

In fact, psychoanalysis was considered and developed along with existentialism in the twentieth century. Unlike Heidegger, Freud’s approach to the understanding of death has been conducted through psychoanalysis, which is based on the functioning of the uncontrolled part of human nature. Freud does not consider the human being to be coherent. Moreover, Freud did not believe that the being could be determined as the individual and holistic Dasein because the balancing forces must be present. In contrast, the philosopher admits an existence of the desires of life (Eros) and death as two opposing concepts. The conflict between the concepts is responsible for neurosis and other mental disorders. According to Freud’s position, the core transitions happened - from the philosophical concept of death as a drama of consciousness to the meaning of death as an instinctive process; the transitions also happen from the metaphysics of anxiety to the metaphysical desire.

The philosopher highlights that the demise acquires the status of an objective ultimate purpose as the energy of the death drive or the principle of the psychic apparatus. When becoming a drive, it does not cease to be a goal, as its target character becomes deeper that fits into the framework of the unconsciousness. In fact, death becomes the sole aim and it extremely simplifies all the target systems, since even Eros is subjected to it.

Freud concludes that the primary drive contains the polar pair of creative love and desire for destruction. Such considerations lead to the creation of the concept that human activity is characterized by the interplay of two forces – the life instinct (Eros) and the death instinct. At the same time, Freud uses the term Trieb instead of an instinct. These polar forces represent the primary unconscious drives, which predetermine all the human activity. What is important, the death drive and Eros do not exist independently, even if they conflict with each other. The thirst for life seeks for the expansion and preservation, and the death drive tends to the self-destruction.

If Eros is seen as a life-giving force, the death drive is a less understandable phenomenon. The assumption of the existence of such a human tension to destruction is based on the Freud’s observations. Thus, the philosopher has brought out the evolution of all the living things, which have reached a maximum of organic life, then begin to reverse the path, and return to the inorganic state through dying as a result. Under Freud's hypothesis, the attraction to the preservation of life provides a living organism with its own path to death, which is formulated by Freud in the proposition that the purpose of all life represents death. At the same time, Freud has suggested that the unconsciousness does not possess knowledge about death because it is an abstract concept with a negative content. Additionally, the philosopher argues that people recognize only the death of strangers and enemies. In other words, a person eliminates all the undesirable people from his/ her life. The unconscious perceives it as their death. However, the unconscious is ambivalent because, the unconscious does not accept such demise in the case of the death of a loved one and continues to perceive him/ her as a living person. Moreover, Freud maintains that humans recognize only the fear of death, which is usually the result of guilt.

The early twentieth century was marked by the wars and the total destruction. The social institutions were opposed to the individual as a deterrent by trying to regulate social relations in order to maintain society stabilization. It is obvious that Freud considered the cultural development of the discussed period as the social struggle with the destructive tendencies of the individual and the continuously flowing confrontation between the two basic drives.

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In addition, by considering the philosophy of Freud as an element of psychoanalysis, Carel believes that the death drive has two opposing concepts - the principle of Nirvana and aggression. Additionally, the philosopher stresses that both principles have the same general tendency to collapse. Thus, Carel tries to restore the death drive by refusing the nirvana principle and defining it as aggression with a special emphasis placed on self-destruction (destroying aggression). However, Carel realizes that the death instinct cannot lead only to aggression because the aggression is perceived to be outward, and the core target of the aggression in Freud’s view is a personality.

The Denial of the Subconscious and the Possibility of Two Philosophies Conjunction

Despite such an argumentation, Freud’s philosophy has caused confusion of the theory provided by Heidegger. Heidegger was decisively against abstract subconscious. Moreover, the philosopher has denied the fact that life is an arena of struggle between the two Triebs - life and death. The very Dasein concept eliminates the presence of two drives. The meaning of Dasein is filled to resonate with the environment or to being-in-the-world with Mitsein (being-with). Mitsein is an indicator of capacity to Dasein, which manifests itself in communion with other people. Actually, Das Man is the ability to control the relationship of the common norms and conventions of Dasein in the world: Das Man controls the Dasein by complementing its structure. Due to the existence of Das Man, a person is divided because it is impossible to remain holistic under the impact of the external rules and doctrines. Consequently, Dasein acts in accordance with Das Man and does not occur on its own because it is a result of humans’ interaction with the world. Therefore, Dasein cannot represent something abstract like the Freud’s unconscious.

Moreover, Heidegger made the following conclusions. The authenticity is openness, through which a person can fully enjoy the world. A man is authentic and sincere, while he also experiences depression and accepts mortality. However, the inaccuracy has a deeper meaning because it bears consolation. In fact, inaccuracy removes fear and guilt by providing rest to a person, which has been moving towards death from the very first days of his/ her life. Thus, a person can overcome the fear of death, which is the only real experience of an individual, according to Freud.

In addition to consolation, the very death exists in the theory of Heidegger as well. The philosopher does not agree with the fact that a person may experience only the demises of other people because the death is very individual. In other words, death belongs to a particular Dasein. Heidegger explains that only an individual death is significant. Therefore, Carel, for example, suggests that the only way to explore death is to perceive the demise of another person as the personal experience. Thus, in Heidegger, the person perceives death as something unknown because it is impossible to experience the demise and explain it, when a person thinks about the death of other person. Nevertheless, the death of another person can draw attention to the personal one. Thus, Mitsein (being-with) and the authenticity can be compatible.

By trying to combine the two theories, Carel highlights that the potential of authenticity may be in the unconscious and could respond to the call of the conscious if the ordinary consciousness is false. Additionally, a common component of the two philosophies can represent a sense of guilt. Actually, it is a part of Dasein and Freud’s subject. In other words, both items of being are tortured inside. In Heidegger, ontological guilt originates in invalidity (a substantial groundlessness of their identity), which belongs to the Dasein structure. However, according to Freud, the unconscious recognizes the fear of death that is usually the result of guilt. The philosopher believes that the fear of death happens between the ego and the superego. Thus, the two philosophical approaches could be measured and compared in order to find the principal and the combining features. However, the philosophies are too different to be closely connected.


The philosophical approaches discussed above seem to be incomparable. Nevertheless, both thinkers believe that the death is a driving force of the life and a part of being, rather than an anomaly. However, Heidegger, who ignored the significance of psychoanalysis, was the first to examine death in the scope of ontology and defined it as the being-towards-death. In contrast, Freud studied death as a part of the unconscious and identified it as one of the key drives together with Eros. Thus, the psychoanalysis argues that the death is an abstract phenomenon, which is associated with the unconscious and the personal attitude towards its acceptance. Nevertheless, Heidegger’s position seems to be more reasonable, since he considers the being, - Dasein, - as a whole and private phenomenon for each person. The philosopher identifies it as the being-in-the-world and explores the death as a part of Dasein and its core purpose. Since Dasein exists, the demise is also available. Thus, death is not abstract and it could be explored through the lives of other people, but not through the personal experience because it is not accessible.


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