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In the history of religion, dualism refers to the eighteenth-century doctrines that see God and the devil as two first principles, irreducible and coeternal. Christian Wolff (1734/1968) classified dogmatic philosophies into dualistic systems, which separated the soul from the body as distinct substances, and monistic systems, both groups being distinct from skepticism. In anthropology, epistemology, and ethics, a theory is dualistic when two irreducible principles can serve as a foundation for the theory.

From "A case of successful treatment by hypnotism" (1892-1893) to his last works, Sigmund Freud envisioned mental processes as resulting from underlying conflicts, fed by opposing forces: "Psychoanalysis early became aware that all mental occurrences must be regarded as built on the basis of an interplay of the forces of the elementary instincts" (1923a). In the first topographic subsystem, these forces arise from the sexual instincts in conflict with the ego, or self-preservation, instincts. Later Freud (1914c) said that they arise from the object libido in conflict with the ego libido, as well as from the pressure of the drives. In the second topographic subsystem (after 1920), they arise from the life and death drives. These forces structure the form and dynamics of the mental processes.

Although Freud emphasized the existence of two types of drives in his dualistic approach, he avoids the word "dualism." Originating in the body, effecting the association of body and mind, and causing physical changes (conversion) or other types of modifications (other defenses), the drives create a dualistic dynamic, though this is not sufficient for saying that psychoanalytic theory is dualistic.

As Freud's research evolved, the essential polarities and the role of instinctual dualism changed as well. When studying the transference neuroses, Freud postulated an "opposition between the 'sexual impulses' directed toward the object and other impulses that we can only identify imperfectly and temporarily designate with the name 'ego instincts' " Freud noted the concordance with the opposition between hunger and love. He added, "In the forefront of these instincts, we must recognize the instincts that serve for the preservation of the individual" (1920g). In the first topographic subsystem, these forces arising from instincts were like vectors applied to quasi points (unconscious representations). In this way they resembled the structures of classical physics (Freud, 1899a).

Freud's introduction, between 1911 and 1915, of narcissism, of the ego as agency, of transference (rather than phenomenological transfer), and of a series of correlative terms of considerable scope shows his dissatisfaction with the former dynamic system. Freud then insisted that antagonistic forces account for morphogenesis, stabilization, and the evolution (in modern terms, structural stability) of large irreducible structures such as the ego, the ego ideal, and certain identifications.

After a period of confusion when Freud replaced the dynamics of conflict with the opposition between object libido and ego, together with the pressure of the drive, Freud proposed the dualism of the life and death drives. A chiasma was introduced, since the sex drive, a disturbing toxic force in the first topographic subsystem, was now integrated in the life drive (germen), while the ego instincts (soma) were partially integrated in the death drive. The difficulty that this chiasma creates can be resolved by assuming that the new dualism, which is more comprehensive, resolves conflicts between tendencies with different degrees of stability. The ego affects its own immediate stability by conflicting with the expression of sexuality, which forces the ego to change. The sexual drive is directed, in the last instance, at the long-term structural stability of the species.

Drive dualism correlates with a number of conflicts. These include the polarities of mental life: the economic polarity of pleasure and unpleasure, the reality polarities of the ego and the outside world, the biological polarities of activity and passivity. This last pair introduces the polarities around which the contrasts between the sexes develop: active/passive, phallic/nonphallic, masculine/feminine. In ambivalence there is movement between love and hate, and ultimately between the life and death drives; or between the pleasure principle and the reality (formerly constancy) principle, and ultimately between the life and death drives.

The dualism of the life and death drives has often been rejected or poorly understood. It has been interpreted in an exclusively realist sense (Melanie Klein and the Paris school of psychosomatics) even though there was also a theoretical component. The repetition compulsion and death drive have been unilaterally interpreted as nondynamic structural formalisms. Freud's requirements for drive theory involve dynamically accounting for the simple stability that repetition implies (for example, in symptoms) while taking into account the structural stability (always deviating in the same way) that the majority of mental structures implement. "But," according to Freud (1920g), "in no region of psychology were we groping more in the dark [than in the case of the drives]." Only Gustav Fechner and his hypotheses of stability were of use to Freud. Contemporary dynamicists provide more refined instruments for plumbing the depths of Freudian drive dualism while respecting its preconditions.


See also: Ambivalence; Beyond the Pleasure Principle; Demand; Destrudo; Ego-instinct; Fusion/defusion of instincts; Libido; Life instinct (Eros); Monism; Psychology of Women. The, A Psychoanalytic Interpretation, The; Psychosomatic limit/boundary. Bibliography

   * Freud, Sigmund. (1892-1893). A case of successful treatment by hypnotism. SE, 1: 115-128.
   * ——. (1899a). Screen memories. SE, 3: 299-322.
   * ——. (1914c). On narcissism: an introduction. SE, 14: 67-102.
   * ——. (1920g). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.
   * ——. (1923). The libido theory. SE, 18: 255-259.