For a Philosophical Reading of Freud


Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 in Moravia, Austrian Empire (now the Czech Republic). Between the ages of four and eighty-two his home was in Vienna; in 1938 Hitler’s invasion of Austria forced him to seek asylum in London, where he died in the following year. His career began with several years of brilliant work on the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system. He was almost thirty when, after a period of study under Charcot in Paris, his interests first turned to psychology, and another ten years of clinical work in Vienna (at first in collaboration with Breuer, an older colleague) saw the birth of his creation, psychoanalysis. This began simply as a method of treating neurotic patients by investigating their minds, but it quickly grew into an accumulation of knowledge about the workings of the mind in general, whether sick or healthy. Freud was thus able to demonstrate the normal development of the sexual instinct in childhood and, largely on the basis of an examination of dreams, arrived at his fundamental discovery of the unconscious forces that influence our everyday thoughts and actions. Freud’s life was uneventful, but his ideas have shaped not only many specialist disciplines, but the whole intellectual climate of the last half century.

The Standard Edition | 24 Volumes


The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud is a complete edition of the works of Sigmund Freud. It was translated from the German under the general editorship of James Strachey, in collaboration with Anna Freud, assisted by Alix Strachey and Alan Tyson. The Standard Edition (usually abbreviated as SE) consists of 24 volumes, and it was originally published by the Hogarth Press in London in 1953–1974. Unlike the German Gesammelte Werke, the SE contains critical footnotes by the editors. This editorial material has later been included in the German-language Studienausgabe edition of Freud.

Please note that The Standard Edition of Freud’s works in English confuses two terms that are different in German, Instinkt (“instinct”) and Trieb (“drive”), often translating both as instinct; for example, “the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state”. This equating of instinkt and Trieb has created serious misunderstandings.

Key Works

Introducing Freud

The primary short text recommended in order to get a general sense of Freud’s writing itself are his Three Essays on The Theory of Sexuality.

Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, published in 1905. It underwent numerous rewritings and addition.

Three Main Works

I. Interpretation of Dreams

Die Traumdeutung, published in 1900. Revised at least seven times, also appearing in an abridged form titled On Dreams.

II. Psychopathology of Everyday Life

Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens, published in 1901, as a book in 1904.

III. Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious

Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten, published in 1905.

Other Texts

Civilisation and it’s Discontents

Beyond the Pleasure Principle

Major Concepts

The Unconscious

Freud as Philosopher

There have been numerous works already published which have made this same attempt to conduct a specifically philosophical reading of Freud’s writings. This section is here to provide an overview of these works.


Freud‘ by Jonathan Lear

See the reading being conducted HERE.

Freud, the Reluctant Philosopher‘ by Alfred I. Tauber

Freud, the Mind of a Moralist‘ by Philip Rief

Freud and Philosophy‘ by Paul Ricœur

Lacan accused Ricœur of stealing his ideas in the publication of this book.

Other Texts

‘The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud’ by Jacques Lacan

L’instance de la lettre dans l’inconscient, originally delivered as a talk on May 9, 1957 and later published in his 1966 book Écrits.

‘Freud’s Papers on Technique’ by Jacques Lacan

Les écrits techniques de Freud, the first seminar by Lacan delivered in 1953 – 1954.

The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis‘ by Jacques Lacan

Le moi dans la théorie de Freud et dans la technique de la psychanalyse, the second seminar by Lacan delivered in 1954 – 1955.

Freud Lives!‘ by Slavoj Žižek

Published in London Review of Books in 2006, available HERE.

Hegel and Freud‘ by Mladen Dolar

Published in e-flux in 2012, available HERE

Philosophy or Psychoanalysis? Yes, Please!‘ by Alenka Zupančič

Published in Crisis and Critique in 2019, available HERE

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