INSTINCT. A pre-lingual bodily impulse that drives our actions. Freud makes a distinction between instinct and the antithesis, conscious/unconscious; an instinct is pre-lingual and, so, can only be accessed by language, by an idea that represents the instinct. What is repressed is not properly the instinct itself but "the ideational presentation" of the instinct, which is just another way of saying that our deepest, primitive drives are beyond our ability to represent them. Psychoanalysis seeks to make sense of the unconscious, which is to some extent intelligible and, so, one step removed from instinct. According to Freud, there are two classes of instincts: 1) Eros or the sexual instincts, which he later saw as compatible with the self-preservative instincts; and 2) Thanatos or the death-instinct, a natural desire to "re-establish a state of things that was disturbed by the emergence of life" ("Ego and the Id" 709). The death-instinct, which he theorized, in part, as a response to World War I, allowed Freud to explain man's desire for murder and destruction.
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