chapter  2
30 Pages

Freud’s unconscious ontology

Freud never actually used the words ‘ego’ and ‘id’ in his German texts; these are English translations into Latin, taken from one of his most famous works, Das Ich und das Es . When Freud spoke of the Ich , he was referring to the personal pronoun ‘I’ – as in ‘I myself’ – a construct that underwent many signifi cant theoretical transformations throughout his lifetime. By the time Freud (1923) advanced his mature model of the psyche, concluding that even a portion of the ‘I’ was also unconscious, he needed to delimit a region of the mind that remained purely concealed from consciousness. This he designated by the impersonal pronoun es , which he used as a noun – the ‘It’ – a term introduced by Groddeck, originally appropriated from Nietzsche. The translation ‘ego’ displaces the deep emotional signifi cance tied to personal identity that Freud deliberately tried to convey, while the term ‘id’ lacks the customary sense of unfamiliarity associated with otherness, thus rendering these concepts antiseptic, clinical and devoid of all personal associations. The ‘I’ and the ‘It’ express more precisely the type of antithesis Freud wanted to emphasize between the familiar and the strange, hence the dialectic of the life within.