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Techniques of self-knowledge in Nietzsche and Freud

Mitcheson, Katrina

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Copyright © 2015 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. Both Nietzsche and Freud believe that our conscious experiences and actions are shaped by the activity of unconscious drives. Despite the significant differences in their understanding of drives and the obstacles faced uncovering them, there is sufficient common ground in their view of drives as multiple, contingent, and historically formed, to compare their methods of investigating them. For Nietzsche, solitude is essential to any project of self-knowledge, while Freud transplants the process of uncovering the activity of the drives from the loneliness of a metaphorical desert to the therapeutic relationship in the consulting room, relying on the effects of transference between analyst and analysand. If drives are relational, then understanding their activity seems to require exploring them in the context of relationships. These relationships, however, may constrain the process of investigation. By contrasting the methods of Freud and Nietzsche, I highlight dangers present in both approaches. Such awareness allows us to find ways to mitigate the inevitable bias that their methods introduce. I conclude that the limitations of a purely solitary or dialogical approach to self-knowledge point to the need to employ both solitude and dialogue to explore our drives, combining a capacity for solitude with a capacity to engage.


Mitcheson, K. (2015). Techniques of self-knowledge in Nietzsche and Freud. Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 46(3), 328-348.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 29, 2014
Online Publication Date Oct 1, 2015
Publication Date Oct 1, 2015
Deposit Date Jul 10, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 13, 2016
Journal Journal of Nietzsche Studies
Print ISSN 0968-8005
Electronic ISSN 1538-4594
Publisher Penn State University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 46
Issue 3
Pages 328-348
Keywords Transference neurosis; Unconscious mind; Solitude; Self knowledge; Psychoanalysis; Will to power; Dialogism; Repression; Self understanding
Public URL
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Final- Nietzsche and Freud.doc (108 Kb)

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