Beyond the Death Drive: Freud’s Engagement with Cell Biology and the Reconceptualization of His Drive Theory

  • Sigrid Weigel


The chapter examines Freud’s conception of drive defined by him as a limit concept (Grenzbegriff) between biology and the psyche. It further introduces this concept as an exemplary topic with which to study the relationship between natural science and cultural topics in Freud’s theory. In analyzing Freud’s reconceptualization of ‘drive’ in the last part of Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), the chapter concentrates on his references to biology and the organic, especially to the debate on the (im-)mortality of the organism in late nineteenth-century cell theory (Weismann et al.). Weigel shows how in Freud’s drive theory the idea of the relation between ‘mortal’ and ‘immortal’ cells (cells of the organism and germ-cells) in biology get transferred into opposing forces, namely the ‘tendency of the organic towards the an-organic’ and the counter activity of Eros, i.e. the tension between death drive and life drive. The chapter concludes in summarizing the complex concept of ‘life’ developed in Freud’s psychoanalysis.


Drive Life Death Biology Cell theory 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung BerlinBerlinGermany

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