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It consists in the attempt to code and circumscribe certain aspects of man’s being as “animal.” This conception is heavily marked by Freud’s adherence to a certain modality of evolutionary biology and may be summed up, using Philip Armstrong’s term, as “therio-primitivist” (Armstrong 142ff.).That is to say that while Freud, good Darwinian that he is, readily and repeatedly acknowledges that man is just another animal, when he invokes the putative “animality” of the human he does so in a tendentious way, .
The real theoretical value of these notes has tended to be overlooked.
In them, it is not this or that conception of the human/animal relation that is at stake.
It is an argument whose apparent obviousness, even banality, bothers Freud, who remarks several times on just how self-evident are the claims of his first five chapters, before he tackles the more novel theme of the death drive.
117), the place of animals and animality within its exposition introduces latent complications that risk putting this “common knowledge” into question.
However, a “desire for freedom” may also arise ] by civilization and may thus become the basis in them of hostility to civilization.
The urge for freedom, therefore, is directed against particular forms and demands of civilization or against civilization altogether.However, at the core of this initial engagement with the central problematic of the book an unacknowledged yet critical tension arises between two competing conceptions of animality.The first conception, while it is initially broached in this chapter, goes on to have a pervasive presence throughout the rest of the text and as others have shown.But it is also an attempt to give Freud his due: to acknowledge an impulse in his thinking which is nascent and not systematically integrated, yet which is, I suggest, strikingly progressive; which not only recognizes but also labours to theorize in an affirmative, critical manner the powerful determinations underlying that very conflictuality.Individual freedom and the community: therio-primitivism which must be repressed, sublimated or introverted in the service of collective human progress.Mewling and puking in this unacculturated state, man’s ontogenic infancy, no less than his phylogenic prehistory, is fundamentally “animalistic.” It is in line with this developmental conception that the text’s most pervasively recurrent means of figuring the restraint continually imposed by civilization upon the drives is as a process of ]” (ibid.).Without such civilized restraints on his instinctual life, Freud indicates — in a term whose significance we will return to — man is, or remains, “beast”-like (112).In taking up these concerns my purpose is not to try to identify in a single or univocal Freudian position on the so-called human/animal relation, which could then be applauded or condemned depending on its relative anthropocentricity.On the contrary, what I am concerned with examining in are precisely the underlying variances and tensions that mark Freud’s thinking in this regard.Freud only begins to tackle in depth the struggle between civilization and the drives in the third chapter.Here, he elaborates what he sees as civilization’s key characteristics, finishing up his exposition with an initial reflection on man’s supposedly unique cultural disaffection within it — owing, Freud argues, to man’s tendency to cling to individual freedom against the demands of collective living.