Good and Bad: Love and Intimacy From Plato to Melanie Klein

Abstract

Melanie Klein’s theories on love outline a complex system of relations—an oscillating dynamic of psychical and emotional tendencies following from both actual experience and fantasies produced by the mind. Her insights are often discussed and applied in psychoanalytical contexts, but the philosophical implications of her theory—especially in relation to Platonic thought—have rarely been discussed. In this article, I will attempt to address this gap by setting out some preliminary yet core considerations shared by both Plato and Klein. First, I will describe some structural parallels between Kleinian and Platonic thought, especially in dialectical terms. Second, I will outline Plato’s covert influence on Freud as passing through the teachings of philosopher Franz Brentano. And last, I will discuss intimacy as a struggle between the forces of good and bad, creativity and destruction, and love and hate—suggesting that Klein’s conception of love emerges as a moral exigency.

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Correspondence to David Stromberg.

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Address correspondence to David Stromberg, Ph.D.

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Stromberg, D. Good and Bad: Love and Intimacy From Plato to Melanie Klein. Am J Psychoanal 78, 159–181 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-018-9136-7

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Keywords

  • Klein
  • Plato
  • Freud
  • phenomenology
  • intimacy