The course of artistic development described up to this point attests to the
formative process of a new paradigm governing the self-concept of human beings
and their understanding of the world. This is expressed most obviously first in
the paintings of CÚzanne and van Gogh, and later in those of Mondrian and
Kandinsky: the unity of all existence assumes a completely new artistic form,
distinguished by surface, rhythmization, purity of color and transparency in the
deployment of artistic means. Form, color and meaning combine into an integrated
statement, at once general and unique, and revealed through a previously unknown
totality and immediacy, laying claim to universal validity. Things rational and
irrational, sensual and intellectual-imagination and reality-are no longer
separable from one another. The degree to which these artists broke new mental
ground with their painting can today be recognized only by comparing their work
with the art of their contemporaries.
People have always tried to combine the diverse components and aspects of their experienced reality into a coherent image of themselves and the world. From the interchange and the results of such efforts come the guiding ideas and ordering principles, the ideals and ambitions that press their seal upon each culture and each era. In this way, Greco-Roman antiquity was shaped by the awakening of the individual consciousness. The Christian era was under the sway of the immortal soul and the heaven-sent Son of God who became a man. The Early Modern era was defined by the idea of the god-man who sets out to comprehend natural laws, and to use these to rule over the world.
This last paradigm-with its separation of body and soul, object and subject, human and world-defined the spirit of Early Modernity from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment and gives way in the Modernist era to the idea of a scientifically substantiated unity of all being. This is not based on a common divine origin of humankind and the world, but arises instead from insights into the effects of anonymous forces acting according to natural laws; anorganic, organic, psychic and mental forces, seen as differing manifestations of an ultimately incomprehensible but indivisible existence. This holistic vision infuses into all the progressive tendencies of the new era. It is as manifest in the "unified reality" that finds form and expression in the painting of an emerging Modernism as it is in the pathbreaking scientific discoveries, by means of which Albert Einstein placed the view of the world on an entirely new basis, and which Sigmund Freud drew on to do the same for our view of the human being.
These discoveries, despite their epochal importance, are truly familiar only to a few readers. To show the significant correlations that exist, as I see it, between the scientific and the artistic creations of the Modernist era, I shall therefore endeavor to present the most important concepts of the new physics and psychoanalysis as briefly and as clearly as possible. Then I shall outline in broad strokes the onset and course of the social revolution with which the new paradigm also begins to establish itself on the political and social level.
1. The World-View of Modern Physics
It is of great importance that the general public be given an opportunity to
experience-consciously and intelligently -the efforts and results of scientific
research. It is not sufficient that each result be taken up, elaborated, and applied by
a few specialists in the field. Restricting
the body of knowledge to a small group deadens the philosophical spirit of a people and leads to spiritual poverty.
Foreword to Barnett, 1948, p. 9
Macrocosm and microcosm, the depths of outer space and the realm of atoms, form the outer and the inner horizons of our physical view of the world. At these frontiers of our knowledge, scientists at the turn of the century encountered a series of baffling facts that radically shook the belief in the smooth and logical functioning of the mechanistic universe as it had been drawn up by Newton. To describe these phenomena quantitatively and to supply a solution to the riddles they posed, two great theoretical systems were developed in the period between 1900 and 1927: quantum theory, which deals with fundamental concepts of matter and energy, and the theory of relativity, which is preoccupied with space, time and the structure of the entire universe.1
In their efforts the creators of these theories were forced to throw overboard both the terms of everyday experience and the traditional metaphors of classical physics. The newly discovered connections could only be expressed and comprehended mathematically. That is one reason why, more than a half-century after their publication, even the basic principles of the two most important scientific theories of our era, besides psychoanalysis, are by no means a matter of common knowledge, even among well-educated lay persons. (A prime cause lies in the failure of our educational institutions to convey to their graduates a clearly structured and generally comprehensible overview of the decisive intellectual achievements of our era.)
Fortunately, prominent physicists have repeatedly attempted to explain the results of their science to a broader public. My remarks are based on popular scientific publications of this kind,2 but above all summarize the book Albert Einstein himself recommended, that of his colleague Lincoln Barnett.
With the establishment of quantum theory, in 1900 the German physicist Max Planck took the first step away from the mechanical conception of the physics of the past towards mathematical abstraction.
1. Wave and Particle
In his work on determining how the amount of radiant energy given off by a
heated body varies with wavelength and temperature, in 1900 Planck found-by
mathematical means-an equation that correlated fully with the experimental
results; however, it could only be interpreted as signifying that radiant energy
is emitted not in continuous amounts, but in discrete bits or portions.
Radiation therefore consists of particles, which Planck termed quanta.
The far-reaching implications of this discovery first became apparent when Albert Einstein (1879-1955) showed in 1905 that while all forms of radiation (light, heat, x-rays, etc.) spread out through space as waves, it could at the same time be demonstrated that all light consists of single particles or granules of energy-so-called photons.3
Einstein's equations and the results of his experiments confronted the physicists of that time with an alarming dilemma, for they contradicted the well-rooted theory that light consists of waves. According to the experimental and theoretical work of more than two centuries, light must consist of waves. From Einstein's 'photoelectric law' it was just as obvious that light consisted of photons. The basic question of whether light is made of waves or particles cannot be answered. The double character of light has turned out to be yet another aspect of the deep and remarkable dualism that pervades all of Nature.4
This view only began to gain acceptance in the 1920s. Quantum theory, which had been refined constantly since its beginnings, had by then developed very precise ideas on the nature of matter. The atom was understood as a kind of solar system. It consisted of a nucleus surrounded by varying numbers of electrons (1 for hydrogen, 92 for uranium). Experiments had shown that all electrons have the same electrical charge and the same mass. They were pictured as tough, elastic and indivisible spheres, and there was an initial tendency to view them as the smallest building blocks of the universe.
But this view became increasingly untenable as investigations progressed. Electrons behaved in ways that were too complex for mere particles of matter. That led the French physicist Louis de Broglie to the conclusion that they also display the characteristics of waves. Soon thereafter his Viennese colleague, Erwin Schr÷dinger, developed the same thought in mathematical form. He worked out a system to explain quantum phenomena by attributing specific wave functions to protons and electrons. His so-called 'wave mechanics' were finally corroborated experimentally in 1927 when two American physicists managed to prove in the laboratory that electrons do have wave characteristics.
Gradually all the basic units of matter-what James Clerk Maxwell had called "the imperishable foundation stones of the universe"-lost their obviousness and substance.
2. Probability Waves and the Uncertainty Principle
In the meantime the paradoxes of matter waves and of light particles had been
"solved." The German physicists Werner Heisenberg and Max Born had invented a
mathematical apparatus that allows an exact description of quantum phenomena,
regardless of whether the preferred model is of waves or of particles.
According to their view, the terms 'wave' and 'particle' were incomplete, and thus were inadequate as analogies for processes and phenomena that cannot readily be described. Now it is obvious, as Heisenberg wrote in a 1930 publication, that a thing cannot be a form of wave motion and composed of particles at the same time-the two concepts are too different. It is true that it might be postulated that two separate entities, one having all the properties of a particle, and the other all the properties of wave motion, were combined in some way to form 'light.' But such theories are unable to bring about the intimate relation between the two entities which seems required by the experimental evidence. As a matter of fact, it is experimentally certain only that light sometimes behaves as if it possessed some of the attributes of a particle, but there is no experiment which proves that it possesses all the properties of a particle; similar statements hold for matter and wave motion. The solution of the difficulty is that the two mental pictures which experiments lead us to form-the one of particles, the other of waves-are both incomplete and have only the validity of analogies which are accurate only in limiting cases. It is a trite saying that "analogies cannot be pushed too far," yet they may be justifiably used to describe things for which our language has no words. Light and matter are both single entities, and the apparent duality arises in the limitations of our language.5
The terms used here go back to the experiences of everyday life and so fail to describe processes that cannot be captured in any mental image. A mathematic aggregation of such phenomena is nonetheless possible. Heisenberg and Born did not concentrate solely on the properties of a single electron. They maintained that in practice electrons only appear in bundles of billions of single particles or waves, and these mass phenomena are subject to the laws of statistics or probability. Thus it plays no role if the single electron is a particle or a wave; electron masses can be described both ways. It makes no difference how we visualize an electron, an atom or a probability wave-Heisenberg's and Born's equations are applicable to each of these images.
Modern physics underwent a further relativization of its ability to explain phenomena when the famed Heisenberg uncertainty principle was developed and publicized in 1927 by Heisenberg together with Niels Bohr. Heisenberg argued that there is an essential indeterminacy to all atomic phenomena that no refinement of observation and measurement-no matter how extreme-could possibly overcome.
To illustrate his thinking, Heisenberg described an imaginary experiment in which a physicist attempts to determine the position and velocity6 of a moving electron using an infinitely powerful super microscope. Since an electron is smaller than a light wave, the physicist can "illuminate" it only by using radiation of shorter wave length; here even x-rays are useless. The position of an electron can only be rendered "visible" by very shortwave gamma rays of radium. But that reveals a new difficulty. The higher the frequency of light necessary for the experiment, the stronger the force that the bombardment of the radiation particles, the photons, will exert on the electron. Gamma rays with their extremely high frequency would knock it about most roughly. Thus it is absolutely and forever impossible to determine at the same time both the position and velocity of an electron. By determining its position, we change its velocity, and by determining the velocity, we change the position. The more accurately we measure one aspect, the more indefinite the measurement of the other becomes.
With his uncertainty principle Heisenberg in a sense confirmed experimentally a philosophical insight: the process of observation distorts the observed phenomenon. Objective and at the same time complete knowledge of the facts is simply not achievable.
The relativity principle as such has long been known and is familiar to all
of us. Everyone has at some point experienced how a train can start moving out
of a station so slowly that the passengers feel no jolt. If we look out the
window and see another train moving slowly past us on the next track, we are
suddenly uncertain: Are we already moving, with the other train standing still?
Or are we standing, with the other train just coming in? A passenger's only
chance of judging this would be to look out the other side of the car at a fixed
point like the platform, a signal light or a building. In other words, the
passengers can only judge their motion by using the earth as a frame of
In exactly the same way most physical investigations use the earth as a fixed system of reference. But one could, since all movement is relative, take any other body as the object of reference and relate all other motions to it.
Any passengers who move towards the dining car during a train ride may, in that moment, view the train as being at rest, and judge their motion in relation to the train. But when they think of the journey they assume the earth is at rest, and say they are traveling through the countryside at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour. Meanwhile, the astronomer thinking at that moment of the solar system sees the sun as standing still, with the train passengers and the earth turning on the earth's axis, even as it orbits around the sun. No one can say that one of these ways of determining the passengers' motion is more correct than another. Each is completely right with regard to the body of reference given in each case.
Now the goal of the natural sciences is to explain not just our immediate environment, but also the universe in its parts and as a whole. It therefore demands a frame of reference that is universally applicable.
Let us recall Newton's attempt to solve this problem. Since he could not find a heavenly body in an absolute state of rest, he declared space itself to be a fixed frame of reference. As he imagined it, space was a stationary and immovable physical reality, and for two centuries it seemed as though his conception of it would prove right. That changed in 1905, when Albert Einstein, who was then 26 years old and an engineer at the Swiss patent office in Bern, published a thirty-page paper, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies," his first work on the special theory of relativity.
1. Space and Time
Einstein discarded Newton's concept of space as a fixed frame of reference in
an absolute state of rest. In his view it was useless to keep looking for such a
frame, because the universe, as he argued, is a restless place. Stars, nebulae,
spiral arms and all the mighty clusters of galaxies in the universe are
incessantly in motion. But their movements can only be described in relation to
one another, for in space there are no preferred directions and no boundaries.
Nature offers no absolute measuring rods for comparison; space is nothing more
than the order or relation of things among themselves. Without things occupying
it, space is nothing.
Along with the idea of absolute space, Einstein discarded the idea of absolute time, i.e. of a steady, never varying, universal time-flow streaming from the infinite past into the infinite future. In the same way that space is simply a possible order of material objects, so time is a possible order of events.
Thus the individual experiences that we can recall appear to us arranged as a series of events. The position that we assign to each event in this series is ordered according to the criteria of 'earlier' and 'later'. In the same way, every individual has his or her own, subjective 'I-time', but this is in itself not measurable. Time only becomes an 'objective' term when we measure its course with the help of a clock or a calendar.7
But the time intervals on which the clock or the calendar is based are not at all absolute quantities with universal applicability. Originally, every clock was calibrated to the solar system. What we call an hour corresponds to a measurement in space of 15 degrees in the (apparent) daily rotation in the vault of the sky. And what we call a year is the measure derived from a full revolution of the earth around the sun. There is no fixed interval of time independent of a frame of reference. There is no simultaneity, no 'now' without relation to a system.
The physicist reflecting upon the complex apparent motions of celestial mechanics or of electrodynamics must place the magnitudes found in one system in relation to those of other systems. The mathematical laws to show such relations are known as 'laws of transformation'. Their principle is illustrated in the example of a man who is strolling on the deck of a ship. If he walks at 5 kilometers per hour in the direction of the ship's motion and the ship moves through the sea at 20 kilometers per hour, then the man is moving at 25 kilometers per hour with respect to the sea. If he walks on the deck against the ship's direction through the sea, then his velocity relative to the sea is only 15 kilometers per hour.
These rules of transformation are derived from the simplest of notions and have been applied usefully to the problems of compound motion since Galileo's time.
Their limits were revealed only in 1881, when it was realized that the principle of addition of velocities could not possibly be applied to the movement of light. In that year two American physicists, Albert Abraham Michelson and E.W. Morley, demonstrated undeniably in a sensational experiment that the velocity of light is fundamentally different from every other form of movement in the universe. The velocity of light will not be affected by the motion of the source or the motion of the receiver; it always remains constant.
It is not easy for the lay person to readily understand how completely this fact contradicts "common sense." Therefore Einstein in his first paper on relativity attempted to illustrate the contradiction by using a simple example. He describes a railroad-crossing marked by a signal light that flashes its beam down the track at 300,000 kilometers per second (the velocity of light, denoted in physics by the symbol c.) A train approaches the signal light at a given velocity q. According to the addition of velocities, the velocity of the light beam relative to the train should equal c plus q as long as the train is approaching the signal, and c minus q once it is moving away from the signal.
This self-evident result is in conflict, however, with the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment, which found a constant velocity of light. Even if we imagine the train racing towards the signal light at a speed of 15,000 kilometers per second, an observer aboard the train measuring the velocity of the arriving light beam will, due to the constancy of the speed of light, get a result of 300,000 kilometers per second-no more and no less.
The problem presented here is fundamental. It consists in the irreconcilable conflict between the belief in the constancy of the speed of light and belief in the principle of the addition of velocities. While the latter rests on the ideas we derive from everyday experience and on what we call common sense (according to which two plus two equals four), Einstein recognized in the former a fundamental law of Nature.
He therefore concluded that the addition of velocities had to be replaced by a new law of transformation, one that enabled calculations of the relative movements of systems while agreeing with known facts about the constancy of the speed of light. For this purpose Einstein presented a revolutionary theory, arguing that the old principle of addition had been based on two false conclusions. First, it had been tacitly assumed that the duration of an event is independent of the state of motion of the system of reference; second, it had been assumed that the measurement of the distance traveled would be the same whether one measured on the train (the system found in motion) or outside (on the track), in a stationary system. But length, just like time, is a relative concept-there is no spatial interval independent of the state of motion of the system of reference. Therefore the physicist who wishes to describe natural phenomena in terms consistent for all moving systems in the universe must regard time and distance as variable quantities.
The corresponding laws of transformation were discovered by Einstein in a series of equations already developed as an explanation of the Michelson-Morley results by the Dutch physicist Hendrick Antoon Lorentz (in connection with another theory that had by then been refuted). Later known as the Lorentz transformation, the equations set measurements of distance and time in moving systems in relation to stationary systems so as to keep the speed of light always constant at c but allow variable values for the distances and times.
The meaning and significance of these equations can be seen most readily when one applies them to the world of the laboratory, where abstractions like space and time are translated into the concrete language of clocks and yardsticks. It turns out that a clock attached to a moving system runs at a different rhythm from a stationary clock; and a yardstick in a moving system changes its length according to the velocity of the system. The clock slows down as its velocity increases, while the yardstick shrinks (and this only in the direction of its motion).
These are not mechanical phenomena. An observer who moved forward with the clock and the rod would not notice the described changes. Only an unmoving, stationary observer would find that the moving clock slows down in comparison to his or her own, or that the moving yardstick contracts in comparison to the stationary yardstick.
This peculiar behavior of moving clocks and yardsticks reveals the secret of the constant velocity of light. Now we know why all observers regardless of their state of motion always find that light strikes their instruments and departs from their instruments at precisely the same velocity. As their own velocity approaches that of light their clocks slow down and their yardsticks contract, so that their measurements are reduced to those obtained by a stationary observer.
The degree of these contractions is defined by the Lorentz transformation. A yardstick moving forward at 90 percent the speed of light would shrink to about half its length; if the stick could attain the speed of light, it would shrink to nothing at all. Similarly a clock traveling at the speed of light would stop completely. From this it follows that nothing can ever move faster than light, no matter what forces are applied. The velocity of light is the top limiting velocity in the universe.
In our day-to-day experience we of course never encounter velocities high enough to make the changes described above manifest. Even in a rocket, the slowing down of a watch is immeasurable. Only at speeds approaching that of light will the relativistic effects become drastically plain. At normal speeds the change in space and time intervals is practically zero. Relativity theory therefore does not contradict classical physics; it simply regards the old concepts as limited cases that apply only to our familiar experiences.
2. Mass and Energy
With the relativization of the concepts of time and space, Einstein created
the theoretical framework for the equation of mass and energy. The mechanical
description of Nature employs three magnitudes: space, time and mass. Since
space and time are relative magnitudes, one may assume that the mass of bodies
also changes in accordance with their state of motion. In classical physics the
mass of every body is a fixed and immutable quantity. But according to
relativity theory the mass of a moving body is not at all constant but increases
with its velocity.
Barnett describes the considerations that led from this basic discovery-the principle of increasing mass-to the most spectacular and momentous aspect of relativity theory. Einstein's reasoning was roughly as follows: since the mass of a moving body increases as its motion increases, and since increased velocity is nothing more than an increase in a body's kinetic energy,8 the increased mass comes from the increased energy. In short, energy has mass. By way of a simple mathematical series Einstein found the unit mass m corresponding to each unit of energy e, and thus arrived at one of the most important and best known equations in physics: E = mc2.
Most readers are certainly aware of the role played by this equation in the making of the atomic bomb. It states the following: the energy (in erg) of each particle of matter is equal to its mass (in grams) multiplied by the square of the velocity of light (in centimeters per second). That means concretely that a kilogram of coal would, if converted entirely into energy, yield about 25 billion kilowatt hours of electricity-as much as all of the power plants in Switzerland in 1988 generated within five months.
This equation explains how radioactive substances like radium and uranium are able to emit radiation for millions of years, and it explains how the sun and all the stars can go on radiating light and heat for billions of years to come. If this radiation were the product of an ordinary process of combustion, the sun would have been cold and extinguished long ago.
Einstein's equation, Mass = Energy, leads to a fundamentally new understanding of the physical world. In the pre-relativistic era one pictured the universe as containing two clearly distinct elements, matter and energy; the first inert, tangible and containing a constant mass, the second active, invisible, and without mass. Einstein did away with this antinomy. According to him mass is simply concentrated energy. Matter is energy, and energy is matter; the distinction, as in the case of wave and particle, lies entirely in its temporary manifestation.
Now we understand the baffling dualism of the microphysical world, such as the dual character of light, which appears sometimes in the form of waves and sometimes in the form of particles. At the very least, these phenomena have become less contradictory. The various concepts simply describe different manifestations of the same reality, and it makes no sense to ask which of the building blocks "really" exists. If matter sheds its mass and travels at the speed of light we call it radiation or energy. If energy congeals and becomes inert and we can measure its mass, we call it matter.
As is well known, the interchangeability of matter and energy was also confirmed practically on 16 June 1945. At the testing grounds of Alamogordo, human beings for the first time transmuted a substantial quantity of matter into the light, heat, sound, and motion that we call energy.
The General Theory of Relativity
The special theory of relativity covers the basic concepts of relativity such
as space, time, and matter, and draws logical conclusions from these basic
concepts (such as the equation of mass and energy). The general theory of
relativity (1915) reinterprets the Newtonian concept of gravitation to draw a
new picture of the general architecture of the universe. The key concepts of the
new theory are the "four-dimensional time-space continuum" and the
"electromagnetic force field." The principle of a continuum is known to us all
from experience. A continuum is a section of reality that is continuous. A
ruler, for example, may be understood as a one-dimensional space continuum.9
Most rulers are divided into centimeters and millimeters, but we can imagine a
ruler with calibrations to a millionth of a centimeter, because in theory we can
divide the distance between two points into as many steps as we like. This
division enables us to set every position on the ruler unmistakably. That
possibility is the defining quality of a continuum.
In the same way one can define a railroad track as a continuum: the engineer of a train can describe his position by citing a single coordinate (a station or a milestone). A sea captain however has to worry about two dimensions. The surface of the sea is a two-dimensional continuum, in which position is defined by latitude and longitude. The pilot flies through a three-dimensional continuum, and must also take the plane's altitude into account.
To describe precisely any event involving motion, however, we must also state how position changes with the passage of time. In the case of the train, one must also mention the times at which it arrives at the stations along a particular route. That can be done using a timetable or a diagram. In the chart on the next page (fig. 155) the diagonal line illustrates the progress of a train in a two-dimensional space-time continuum.
To illustrate a flight from London to Paris, however, we need a four-dimensional diagram, one that specifies the three spatial dimensions (latitude, longitude, altitude) as well as the time coordinate. Time is the fourth dimension. If we wish to envision the flight as a whole, as a physical reality, we must imagine it as a curve running unbroken within a four-dimensional space-time continuum.
But it would be wrong to understand the space-time continuum simply as a mathematical construction. The world is a space-time continuum; all reality exists in space as in time. The two are indivisible.
The equivalence of space and time becomes most obvious when we contemplate the stars. When the astronomer peers through his telescope, he looks not only outward in space but backward in time, Barnett writes. His sensitive cameras can detect the glimmer of island universes 500 million light years away-faint gleams that began their journey at a period of terrestrial time when the first vertebrates were starting to crawl from warm Paleozoic seas onto the young continents of Earth. His spectroscope tells him, moreover, that these huge outer systems are hurtling into limbo, away from our own galaxy, at incredible velocities ranging up to 35,000 miles a second. Or, more precisely, they were receding from us 500 million years ago. Where they are 'now,' or whether they even exist 'now,' no one can say.10
This unmistakably raises the question of the unseen force that holds the universe together and steers the courses of stars, comets, meteors and spiral nebulae through the immeasurable emptiness of the universe. Newton had recognized in it the same force that draws the falling apple to the ground, and derived from that his general law of gravitation, according to which every body in the universe attracts every other body with a force proportional to the mass of each body and inversely proportional to the distance between them.
Einstein's law of gravitation differs in essential ways from that of his great predecessor in the exploration of the universe, for it describes the behavior of objects in a gravitation field, such as planets, not as an 'attraction' that these bodies express on each other but as a series of paths that they follow. While the Newtonian equations work with dynamic concepts like 'force' and 'mass', Einstein uses geometric descriptions. The difference may be illustrated in the example of a bar magnet.
To classical physics a magnet attracts a piece of iron by a mysterious action at a distance. The physicist today instead says that the magnet creates a certain physical condition in the space around it, and describes that condition as a magnetic field. We can easily render visible how this field acts upon the iron and makes it behave in an exactly predictable fashion by shaking iron filings over a magnet, making the structure visible (see fig. 156). Magnetic and electric fields are physical realities. They have a definite structure which is described mathematically by the field equations of James Clerk Maxwell.
Just as a magnet creates certain properties in the space surrounding it, every celestial body in Einstein's view affects the geometric properties of the space around it. Just as the movements of an iron filing in a magnetic field are determined by the structure of that field, so is the path of any celestial body in a gravitation field the direct result of the geometric properties of that field.11
The immutable space of Newton's view of the world, in which matter, existing in itself, is kept in a container, gives way in the general theory of relativity to an amorphous continuum without a fixed architecture, one that is subject to a constant process of transmutation. Wherever there is matter and motion, the continuum is disturbed; every celestial body and every galaxy cause distortion in the geometry of a section of the space-time continuum, like the ripples around an island in the sea. In this way meteors, comets and billions upon billions of solar systems create-through the interlocking of the geometric structures of their gravitational fields-the star structures, galaxies and supergalactic systems that make up our universe.
But what is the form of this geometric design in the space-time continuum, through which all of these great star systems move? More simply, what is the structure and size of the universe?
In the past, the universe was imagined as a matter-island swimming at the
center of an infinite space-sea. This universe could only be infinite, because
as soon as one assumed that space had a boundary, the question arose: And what
is beyond that? Classical physics proceeded from the natural but scientifically
unnecessary assumption that the geometry of the universe had to follow Euclidian
laws. It was certain that in space a straight line was the shortest distance
between two points. Einstein instead recognized that the universe is neither
infinite nor Euclidian, as most scholars had assumed, but instead something that
no one had ever until then imagined in physical terms.
It is easy to see that, on the surface of the earth, the shortest distance between two points, such as Rome and Paris, is not at all a straight line as we mark it on a map, but an arc. Analogous deviations from Euclidian geometry would arise if we drew giant squares, triangles or circles on the surface of the earth (fig. 157). Euclidian geometry cannot be applied to curved surfaces.
For Einstein the same is true of the universe. To the earthbound human it may seem as though a beam of light moves along a straight line into infinity, but this idea is shaped by the limits of our sensory perceptions, for there are no straight lines in the universe. Since light (in the form of photons) also possesses mass, light beams are influenced when crossing a gravitational field by the structure of the field, and this allows no straight lines. The shortest path that light can describe is a curve.12
Since the geometry of a gravitational field is determined by the mass and velocity of the gravitating celestial body, the geometric design of the universe as a whole must be influenced by the totality of its material content. Every cluster of matter in the universe corresponds to a change in the form of the space-time continuum. The larger the cluster of matter, the stronger the curvature in space-time that it causes. The combined effect of the changes in form produced by all of the masses of matter in the universe is thus a total curvature of the space-time continuum, which bends back on itself in a great closed cosmic curve.13
Einsteinian space is both, finite and without boundaries. Its geometric character is difficult to describe in words. In the language of mathematics, it is that of a four-dimensional counterpart to a spherical surface. The lay person may prefer the formulation of the English physicist Sir James Jeans: A soap bubble with corrugations on its surface is perhaps the best representation, in terms of simple and familiar materials, of the new universe revealed to us by the Theory of Relativity. The universe is not the interior of the soap-bubble but its surface, and we must always remember that while the surface of the soap-bubble has only two dimensions, the universe bubble has four-three dimensions of space and one of time. And the substance out of which this bubble is blown, the soap-film, is empty space welded onto empty time.14
Which proves what the reader has already surely guessed: that Einstein's curved space, like most of the concepts in modern physics, cannot be visualized. However, a mathematic description is possible. Using Einstein's field equations we can even calculate the size of the universe: Einstein's universe, while not infinite, is nevertheless sufficiently enormous to encompass billions of galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of flaming stars and incalculable quantities of rarefied gas, cold systems of iron and stone and cosmic dust. A sunbeam, setting out through space at the rate of nearly 300,000 kilometers per second would, in this universe, describe a great cosmic circle and return to its source after a little more than 56 billion terrestrial years.15
Philosophical Aspects of the New Physics
Even the first of the Greek philosophers, the so-called pre-Socratics, attempted to place the apparent diversity of natural phenomena on a uniform basis-i.e. to trace it back to a few simple ideas and basic relations. Thus Democritus wrote around 400 bce: Sweet and bitter, cold and warm as well as all the colors, all these things exist but in opinion and not in reality; what really exists are unchangeable particles, atoms, and their motions in empty space.16
Christendom replaced this bold speculation on the final unity of all existence with the belief in divine revelation; but since the Renaissance, the rebirth of Antiquity, the idea of a final substance underlying the world of appearances has again become one of the guiding ideas of occidental science and philosophy. Two thousand years after Democritus, Galileo Galilei, who founded physics as an exact science through his combination of theory and experiment, once again pointed out the purely subjective character of sensory properties such as color, smell, taste, and sound, saying that they can no more be ascribed to the external objects than can the tickling or the pain caused sometimes by touching such objects.17 Analogous views were presented by many important philosophers of the Early Modern era, notably Locke, Hume, Leibniz, Berkeley, Kant, and Schopenhauer.
In the course of the development initiated by Galileo, the many things of which the world consists were reduced to today's 98 natural elements, and the various forces that appear in the world came to be seen as the changing effects of the electromagnetic force and of gravitation. Finally all physical phenomena were traced back to a few basic variables such as space, time, matter, and energy.
Despite its tendency towards unity and reduction, the scientific thinking of the Early Modern era during this entire time was influenced by a dualist understanding of the world. The clearest formulation of it was found in the French philosopher and mathematician RenÚ Descartes, a contemporary of Galileo's, who explained everything in existence as an irreducible duality of intellectual-spiritual thinking substance (res cogitans) as opposed to material, extended substance (res extensa). This dualism was also reflected in the diverse antinomies underlying the Newtonian view of the world, specifically in the incompatible opposites of god / world, space / time, energy / matter. Newton had taken these antinomies as self-evident and did not dream of scientifically refuting them. The last unity of all existence in his view of the world was not immanent, but founded in the omnipresence of God.
The new physics dispenses with these crutches. It makes do without faith and is based entirely on experiment and the functioning of human reason. It declares that the effects of Nature are directed in mysterious fashion according to mathematical principles, and hopes one day to be capable of depicting the ultimate unity of the universe in the form of a mathematic equation (the so-called original or world equation).
In their striving towards this goal, physicists translated the great philosophic insights of the Early Modern era into the language of the exact sciences. Einstein's equations confirmed Kant's dictum that space and time are a priori perceptual forms of our reasoning. The equation of mass and energy and the associated complementarity of wave and particle supply the mathematic counterpart to Schopenhauer's concept of the "world as will and idea": mass and energy, wave and particle are but different manifestations (thus "ideas") of a common, in itself however incomprehensible substrate (Schopenhauer's "will").
The concepts of the four-dimensional space-time continuum and the geometry of its force field fundamentally alter traditional notions of the world's design. The last building blocks of the universe can no longer be understood as isolated material particles existing in themselves, because as the German mathematician Hermann Minkowski said, space and time separately have vanished into the merest shadows, and only a sort of combination of the two preserves any reality.18
All being is motion. A particle can only be defined by its place in space and time. The thing thus defined is an event-the ultimate building blocks of the universe are 'event-particles'. In their entirety, these connected and interdependent event-particles form the universe of the new physics-finite and yet without boundaries, subject to a constant process of transmutation. This theory alters not only our spatial but also our temporal understanding of reality. Together with space, time is also finite and yet unlimited, because it also bends back into itself in a closed cosmic curve. Past, present, future, and thus the criteria of 'earlier' or 'later' are no longer absolute concepts. Apart from human consciousness and its subjective idea of time, the universe, objective reality, does not 'happen,' it merely exists.19
Einstein correctly said of his discoveries that they were purchased at the price of emptiness of content.20 But this is also true of the Christian idea of an absolute creator-god, or of the assumption of an immortal soul; reality is not graspable in its ultimate essence. At best we can use symbols and signs to in-terpret it, to read its meaning into it.
Modern physics has, on one hand, revealed the limits and shortcomings of human imagination, finally destroying the illusion of the god-man. On the other hand, it also created mathematic tools for finding a rational formulation of something basic to any human view of the world-the overarching idea of a pervasive unity of all things-bringing it into harmony with our ego-structures and thus integrating it into our rational consciousness. Physics has not yet succeeded in combining quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity into a unified theory, in which both the manifestations of the subatomic world and those of the heavens are described by the same means;21 but the achievement of this goal is now imaginable for the first time. The same is true of the theoretical combination of intellectual-spiritual substance and material substance, the res cogitans and the res extensa. Ever since the founder of wave mechanics, Erwin Schr÷dinger, became one of the first to apply the discoveries of the new physics to biology in his 1944 book What Is Life?, advances in neurology and modern molecular biology and the most recent research into the physical structure of 'genetic information' have brought closer the possible achievement of that goal, too.
Every all-encompassing world-view that earns that description is based on its own idea of what it is that makes up the unity of all existence. The leading British mathematician and philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) distilled the corresponding idea of the new physics, the paradigm of the Modernist era, to a single sentence: The event is the unit of things real.22
A similar paradigmatic change occurred around the turn of the century in the area of the human sciences. In 1900, in the same year that Max Planck introduced a new age in physics with the presentation of quantum theory, Sigmund Freud presented, with his Interpretation of Dreams, the first outline of a new, comprehensive and rationally substantiated view of the human being.
2. The Psychoanalytic View of the Human Being
In his important work on the theory of neurosis, the psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel (d. 1946) describes how, with the passage of time, scientific thought step by step established itself against magical thinking. The natural sciences faced stubborn resistance which increased in intensity as the questions posed by a given science hit closer to the personal concerns of human beings. Physics and chemistry were freed before biology; biology before anatomy or physiology; anatomy and physiology before psychology. Of all the sciences, the last remained the most interlarded with magical thinking.
For centuries psychology was considered a special field of speculative philosophy, far removed from sober empiricism. If one considers the more or less metaphysical questions that used to be of paramount importance, it is easily recognized that the problems discussed continued to reflect the antithesis of 'body and soul,' ''human and divine,' 'natural and supernatural.' Everywhere valuations influenced, unfortunately, the examination of facts.23
A general scientific understanding of ordinary human psychological life first began to take hold around the turn of the century, when Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) derived the theory of psychoanalysis from his insights into the cause, course and therapy of neuroses, thereby laying the foundation for a general psychology of the human being that encompasses normal and pathological behavior. In this way he provided a theoretical framework within which complex psychic processes could be described and interpreted.
The theoretical structure of psychoanalysis is based on three fundamental axioms or theses: on the assumption of the thoroughgoing determinism of psychic occurrences, the assumption of a meaningful unconscious mental life, and the assumption of an elementary psychic energy, described as drive, that underlies all human activity and all human behavior.24
1. Psychic Determinism
Freud was convinced that, just as with physical processes, nothing in
the realm of the psyche happens by coincidence (i.e. without a reason);
meaning that every human behavior is causally determined, effected and
formed by a variety of different natural factors. With his groundbreaking
work on The Interpretation of Dreams (Die Traumdeutung,
1900)-in which he drew upon a rich store of observations in demonstrating
for the first time the pervasive determination of all psychic events-he
became the true founder of scientific psychology.
The principle of psychic determinism had already been recognized by other psychologists, but they only saw it as applying to conscious and intentional behavior. Freud by contrast extended it to every psychic event, however unimportant it may have seemed; he was in fact convinced that a study of the causal determination of seemingly meaningless psychic phenomena, such as were until then ignored by science, would lead to a deeper insight into the inner life of human beings.
2. The Unconscious
Freud's first discoveries-for example his insight into the sense (and hidden
intention) of seemingly coincidental mistakes (slips of the tongue, minor
embarrassments, forgetting, etc.), or his insight that during sleep our psyche
displays a significant and intense level of activity despite the paralyzation of
comprehension and motor function-led him to believe that, in addition to the
conscious psychic realm and the preconscious (the content of memory that
normally can enter consciousness), there is a subconscious psychic life, which a
person may or may not be able to raise into conscious awareness, although it
will still have an effect. From that, around 1900 Freud developed a first model
of the psyche that distinguishes three systems of psychic qualities,
specifically 'unconscious,' 'preconscious' and 'conscious.'
The assumption of unconscious psychic processes was nothing new in itself. Earlier psychologists had also examined conditions that apparently went unnoticed by the subject, and they had explored the seemingly unperceived or imperceptible processes that underlie human behavior. The Freudian thesis of the unconscious differed from the corresponding ideas of his predecessors and contemporaries in three ways:
a) it conceptualized imperceptible behavior in psychological terms;
b) it attributed to such behavior intention and purposefulness;
c) it associated it with motivations, affects and thoughts.25
To Freud unconscious psychic processes were not just an "addition" to conscious psychic life; they formed its actual basis.
3. The Drives
The observation that behavior is not triggered exclusively by external
stimuli but often occurs without these, as though spontaneously, and that all
behavior is characterized by a manifest or latent, conscious or unconscious
intent and purpose,26 led Freud to assume the existence of an unknown energy
that underlies all human activities, which he called drive.
The drives, according to Freud, represent the physical demands on psychic life. They differ from outer stimuli in that they originate from sources within the body, and have the effect of a constant force that the ego cannot escape through flight. As in the case of other natural forces such as electricity, it is impossible to state in the case of the drives what exactly this force is; at best we can describe how it behaves, or the form in which it appears. Psychically, on the level of consciousness, the drives manifest themselves through striving and through aims, i.e. through the rise or retreat of emotional tensions that can be generated either through somatic stimuli within the body, or through outer influences motivating the drives.
The psychoanalytic concept of drive often has been misunderstood, in fact in two ways. The first misunderstanding arises from the terminology used, and consists in the way that drive is falsely equated with instinct.27 Under instinct we normally think of an inborn mechanism found primarily in animals, one that reacts to given stimuli in a stereotype or nearly identical fashion; an 'instinct' encompasses motor reaction to a given stimulus. The term Trieb (drive) as Freud uses it instead describes only the conscious or unconscious dynamic process of inner arousals or tensions that appear in humans in reaction to specific exterior stimuli (or as a result of other determinants) and which drive outward in search of discharge.28
The motor discharge of this arousal, meaning the actual 'drive behavior', is not determined by the drive alone, but also by the functioning of an extremely complex psychic organization that in psychoanalytic theory is defined by the concept of ego, and which we shall more completely describe below. Drive thus does not include the motor action that it causes; despite the manifold correspondence, it should not be simply equated with animal instinct.
The second misunderstanding is all too well known: that psychoanalysis claims all behavior is determined by sexuality. It is true that the sexual drive and its partial drives were the ones that psychoanalysis most closely studied. But psychosexuality was so broadly defined that it was never a synonym for 'sex'; beyond that, survival and ego drives were also included in the theory right from the outset.29
Although Freud never brought his theory of drives to completion, despite several reformulations, and although there is still disagreement today about how many and what kinds of drives should be assumed, psychoanalytic research nonetheless gained enough insight into the nature of drives and into their motivating role to develop a coherent theory of drives. In a drive Freud distinguishes the source, object, and aim.
By source he means the somatic moment, the largely unknown physical process of stimulation represented in mental life by the drive. Freud explains: The study of the sources of instincts [drives] lies outside the scope of psychology. Although instincts [drives] are wholly determined by their origin in a somatic source, in mental life we know them only by their aims.30
As the aim of a drive, Freud defined satisfaction of the ultimate goal-meaning the elimination of the state of stimulation at the source of the drive-and the various steps leading towards that satisfaction. In this regard, the aim of a drive is also fully subject to modification: But although the ultimate aim of each instinct [drive] remains unchangeable, there may yet be different paths leading to the same ultimate aim; so that instinct [drive] may be found to have various nearer or intermediate aims, which are combined or interchanged with one another.31
The satisfaction of a drive always comes by or through an object. The object is what is most variable about instinct [drive] and is not originally connected with it, but becomes assigned to it only in consequence of being peculiarly fitted to make satisfaction possible. The object is not necessarily something extraneous: it may equally well be a part of the subject's own body. It may be changed any number of times in the course of the vicissitudes which the instinct [drive] undergoes during its existence.32 As in the case of love or hate, an entire person can even become the object of a drive. And finally, concrete or abstract ideas can also form the object through which a drive attempts to reach its aim.
In this mobility of behavior and in the variability of the human choice of objects, we see the decisive difference between drive and instinct. In animals, behavior and the coordination of behavior with its object are determined largely by genetics, and controlled by so-called "inborn behavioral mechanisms." The human being by contrast possesses autonomous ego functions that command and control voluntary muscle movements. Beyond these, a person can individually direct his or her behavior to the extent that he or she is empowered-through the specific human capacity for creating symbols-to replace a drive object, i.e. the ideas representing this drive object, with other drive objects.
In place of instinctual control we see in humans a complex individual psychic control that consists in the interchange of three fundamental psychic functions. Starting from this functional classification Freud developed a broad structural model of the psyche.
Around 1915 Freud outlined his second and certainly best known model of the
psyche: that of the 'psychic apparatus'. It combines three psychic 'agencies'
that may almost be understood as actual beings with their own striving and own
principles of regulation: the id, the ego, and the super-ego. This division into
systems, or into agencies characterized in terms of different qualities or
functions, should not be mistaken for an attempt to anatomically localize these
functions. The model of the psychic apparatus has nothing to do with brain
anatomy, but is solely designed to order theoretically the observed psychic
phenomena-the impulses and regulations of human behavior-on the basis of their
qualities and of their defining conformity to natural laws; and to place them in
a meaningful relation that also conforms to experience.
The most concise description of the three agencies may be found in Freud's late, unfinished paper, "An Outline of Psycho-Analysis" (1938). He begins by introducing the id: It contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, that is laid down in the constitution-above all, therefore, the instincts [drives].33
The second agency of the psychic apparatus is the organization of the ego, which acts as an intermediary between the id and the external world. In consequence of the pre-established connection between sense perception and muscular action, the ego has voluntary movement at its command. It has the task of self-preservation. As regards external events, it performs that task by becoming aware of stimuli, by storing up experiences about them (in the memory), by avoiding excessively strong stimuli (through flight), by dealing with moderate stimuli (through adaptation) and finally by learning to bring about expedient changes in the external world to its own advantage (through activity). As regards internal events, in relation to the id, it performs that task by gaining control over the demands of the instincts [drives], by deciding whether they are to be allowed satisfaction, by postponing that satisfaction to times and circumstances favorable in the external world or by suppressing their excitations entirely.34
As the final agency of the psychic apparatus Freud describes the super-ego, in which our conscience and our ideals are located: The long period of childhood, during which the growing human being lives in dependence on his parents, leaves behind it as a precipitate the formation in his ego of a special agency in which this parental influence is prolonged. It has received the name of the super-ego. In so far as this super-ego is differentiated from the ego or is opposed to it, it constitutes a third power which the ego must take into account.
An action by the ego is as it should be if it satisfies simultaneously the demands of the id, of the super-ego and of reality-that is to say, if it is able to reconcile their demands with one another. The details of the relation between the ego and the super-ego become completely intelligible when they are traced back to the child's attitude to its parents. This parental influence of course includes in its operation not only the personalities of the actual parents but also the family, racial and national traditions handed on through them, as well as the demands of the immediate social milieu which they represent. In the same way, the super-ego, in the course of an individual's development, receives contributions from later successors and substitutes of his parents, such as teachers and models in public life of admired social ideals. It will be observed that, for all their fundamental difference, the id and the super-ego have one thing in common: they both represent the influences of the past-the id the influence of heredity, the super-ego the influence, essentially, of what is taken over from other people-whereas the ego is principally determined by the individual's own experience, that is by accidental and contemporary events.35
Thus the mind covers much more than the self-aware ego; that is but one part of the psyche, specifically the organ responsible for adapting to reality and for balancing out the internal forces. As such, the ego attempts to bring the needs and aims of the two other agencies into harmony with the conditions and demands of reality; but the opposing orientations of id and super-ego place narrow limits upon this reconciliation. The drive energy originating from the id expresses itself constantly in wishes, in thoughts and ideas that contradict the valuations of the super-ego (and those of the environment), and that therefore remain unconscious or, once they become more or less fleetingly conscious, are either suppressed by the ego or repressed into the unconscious. In the attempt to achieve its goals by circumventing the control of the ego, the drive fixates on such wishes, thoughts, and ideas expresses itself through mistakes (forgetting, slips of the tongue, embarrassments, etc.), in dreams, and, in extreme cases, in psychological and psychosomatic disruptions. In any case, it is stronger than the ego, and determines its behavior from within the unconscious in manifold ways.
The same is true of the power of the super-ego. Contrary to widespread opinion, it is not just drive stimuli and drive aims that are repressed from consciousness; the demands of the conscience, the commandments and prohibitions of the super-ego often run into the same fate.
The manifest psychic life, i.e. everything people know or believe they know about the motives underlying their own behavior, is thus in most cases just a veiling and distortion of the true motives behind their feelings and actions.
Every human behavior is defined among other factors by a particular formation of the internal psychic, structural conflict, and represents an attempt to solve this conflict. Psychoanalysis is thus always also a psychology of conflict.
We have thus arrived at the so-called 'metapsychology', meaning the systematic and comprehensive study of human behavior and its essential determinants.
Metapsychology regards human behavior as a multilayered but unified process.
Freud defines it as a mode of observation in which psychic phenomena are
studied and described from various psychological points of view simultaneously.
As he wrote in 1915, I propose that when we have succeeded in describing
a psychical process in its dynamic, topographical and economic aspects,
we should speak of it as a metapsychological presentation.36
In the course of its later development, psychoanalytic theory added to these three aspects a whole series of further determinants of human behavior.37
The first systematic portrayal of psychoanalytic metapsychology may be found in David Rapaport's standard work on The Structure of Psychoanalytic Theory (1960). Therein Rapaport formulates the determinants defined until that time as so-called metapsychological points of view, from which psychoanalysis proceeds in studying human behavior.38
The genetic point of view: All behavior is part of a genetic series, and through its antecedents, part of the temporal sequences which brought about the present form of the personality. In this way all behavior is determined by that which preceded it.39
The topographic (or topical) point of view: The crucial determinants of behavior are unconscious.40
The dynamic point of view: The ultimate determinants of all
behavior are the drives. While early psychoanalysis actually maintained,
without reservation, the thesis of 'ultimate drive determination,'
Rapaport writes, the increasing evidence for the 'indivisibility of
behavior' led to the realization that behavior, in so far as it can be
said to be determined by drives, must also be said to be determined by
defenses and/or controls. [...]
Thus the thesis of the ultimate determination of behavior by drives, while it remains valid in psychoanalysis, must be regarded in the context of the other theses here discussed, which qualify it and limit its scope.41
The economic point of view: All behavior disposes of and is
regulated by psychological energy.42
As a quantity of energy that pushes in a given direction, drive can be observed not just in dynamic but also in economic terms. Freud in this regard speaks of stimulation quanta or stimulation charge, or the intensity of drive or of drive arousal. The economic relation of the drive to its aims and objects is denoted by the term cathexis (Besetzung). This denotes how psychic energy is connected to or invested in an idea or an idea group, i.e. an object. We can differentiate between weaker and stronger cathexis, speak of cathexis energy, and describe the process by which drive energies exchange one object for another (for example, when we get angry and break a plate instead of physically attacking an opponent). In economic terms, the achievement of the drive aim leads to a kind of emptying of energy, which is called discharge (Abfuhr). This can occur partly or completely and normally leads to the elimination of a particular cathexis and is felt by the ego as pleasure.
Although the psychic energy expresses itself in phenomena that seem to obey the physical laws of energy exchange, it cannot be expressed in the mathematic equations with which physics defines its concept of energy. It is neither implied nor ruled out, Rapaport writes, that biochemical energy exchanges may eventually be discovered which correspond to the exchanges of psychological energy inferred from behavior by psychoanalysis.43
The structural point of view: All behavior has structural determinants.44 In other words: all behavior is determined by conflict, wherein the structural conflict, the inner-psychic conflict between id, ego, and super-ego, is understood as the core of the conflict concept.
The adaptive point of view: All behavior is determined by reality.
In psychoanalytic theory, the term reality designates external reality,
including the subject's body, but excluding the somatic sources of drives
and affects. This external reality poses the antithesis to psychological
reality. Like the latter it is a determinant of human behavior.
In this sense Freud also distinguishes, in his 1911 work Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning, between the pleasure principle and the reality principle. The pleasure principle dominates in all primary psychic processes and in their effects upon the ego. The activity of the ego is, as we have already seen, guided by its attention to internal tensions connected with the drives. Their intensification is generally felt as unpleasure, their reduction as pleasure. The ego strives for pleasure and wants to avoid unpleasure. Therefore it must take reality seriously. From this contingency there develops, as a modification of the original, solely dominant principle of pleasure, a second regulatory mode of psychic processes known as the reality principle.
The beginnings of this development reach back into a person's infancy. Freud's thinking is that if an infant's needs are not directly satisfied, it will first attempt to discharge the resulting arousal of drive by simply hallucinating the satisfaction of its needs, just as adults do every night with their dreams. It was only the non-occurrence of the expected satisfaction, the disappointment experienced, that led to the abandonment of this attempt at satisfaction by means of hallucination. Instead of it, the psychical apparatus had to decide to form a conception of the real circumstances in the external world and to endeavour to make a real alteration in them. A new principle of mental functioning was thus introduced; what was presented in the mind was no longer what was agreeable but what was real, even if it happened to be disagreeable.45
The reality principle subjects the psychic apparatus to a whole series of modifications. It leads to the development of conscious functions (attention, judgement, memory) and to the origin of thought. The transition from pleasure principle to reality principle does not mean that the first is switched off. Both equally define the activities of the ego, which has the task of bringing the demands of id, super-ego, and reality into harmony with each other. In this way, the ego represents a cohesive organization that co-determines all behavior, together with the drives, and is responsible for the coordinated and organized character of all behavior. The ego is accordingly organized around the system of perception and consciousness, i.e. around the tools for dealing with reality.46
The psychosocial point of view: All behavior is socially determined.47 In the final analysis this point of view is a special case of the adaptive point of view.
The seven48 metapsychological points of view represent the actual
axioms of the theory. They are supplemented through three further points
of view, by which psychoanalytic theory defines its object of observation.
These also merit a brief summary.
The empirical point of view: The subject matter of psychoanalysis is behavior. Behavior is broadly defined and includes feeling and thinking as well as overt behavior, 'normal' as well as 'pathological' behavior, frequent as well as unique forms of behavior.49
The gestalt point of view: Every behavior is integrated and indivisible. The concepts constructed for its explanation pertain to different components of behavior and not to different ways of behaving. In concrete terms, no behavior can be described as an id behavior or an ego behavior. Every behavior has conscious, unconscious, ego, id, super-ego, and reality components. In other words, all behavior is multiply determined.50
The organismic point of view: No behavior stands in isolation. All behavior is that of the integral and indivisible personality.51 In other words, all behavior is determined by the psychic conditions and structures of the total personality and to be completely explained must be viewed in its place within the total personality.52
We can see here the extent to which psychoanalysis differs from all pre-analytic psychology in the very definition of its object of study, the human psyche. The static understanding of the soul as a given quantity gives way to the idea of a complex and indivisible dynamic process. The former antinomy of body and soul is replaced by a firm sense of their essential connection, and of their mutual interdependence. Therein we may recognize the same paradigmatic shift that also took place in physics at the beginning of our century, and that found artistic form and expression in painting.
After the theoretical foundation for psychoanalysis was in place, Freud began
to apply the insights thus gained into the individual psyche to relations in the
social realm. From the wealth of these works I shall pick out those that stirred
worldwide attention almost as soon as they were published: these are "Totem and
Taboo" (1912), "The Future of An Illusion" (1927), and "Civilization and Its
The essay "Totem and Taboo" traces the origin of the cultural regulative principles of primitive societies back to the supposed ancient uprising of the young men of a clan against the power of the tribal father. The phenomena of totem and taboo are thus based on the repressed and unconscious memories of archaic patricide.
"The Future of An Illusion" shows the correlations between religious rituals and neurotic symptoms and interprets the idea of an all-powerful God as a collective exaltation of the individual father image.
In the famous writings on "Civilization and Its Discontents," Freud treats the origins of this discontent and the widespread yearning for more primitive cultural conditions. But he explains this yearning and discontent as consequences of the denial of drives forced on people through living as part of a society.
Thus Freud understands the great cultural achievements of humanity, such as art, science, and religion, as expressions of the same conflicting and largely unconscious drive energies that also underlie individual behavior. Both individual and collective behavior as it is embodied in cultural development stands in the service of conflict solving. All culture is in its essence a compromise; all culture demands sacrifice.
The psychoanalytic view of the human being, and the theory's relativization
of the highest cultural values did not mix well with the self-concept of the
educated elites at that time. The enormous progress in science and technology
meant that the nineteenth century was positively euphoric in its enthusiasm for
'reason' and rational thought. Every day the intellect seemed to celebrate new
victories, the omnipotence of the human mind seemed to gain its latest
confirmation. Slowly but surely darkness gave way to light, chaos gave way to
order; human beings seemed to be on the verge of assuming ultimate sovereignty
over the world and Nature.
This scientistic cultural optimism was not shared by all. It was even emphatically rejected by many artists and followers of esoteric secret doctrines, but only because of its materialist orientation. Otherwise the opponents of technological-scientific progress held to the belief in a god-like human being meant to lead a purely spiritual existence. The thought of an unconscious life of the mind, of a hidden life related to that part of the psyche capable of consciousness like the hidden part of the iceberg is related to its visible tip, was, perhaps, tolerable to them, assuming certain caveats. But the denial of the supernatural and the attribution of all human behavior to the effects of anonymous, biologically determined drives, especially to that of the powerful tides of sexuality, was something they could never accept.
Thus psychoanalysis in its early stages was confronted nearly everywhere with incomprehension and rejection. All the same its influence began to take hold, albeit slowly, in the most diverse of realms.53
Nowadays psychoanalysis does not just form the theoretical backbone of nearly all psychological schools and psychotherapeutic procedures. It also defines the human sciences in a fashion that can hardly be underestimated. Without its contribution to the understanding of the human psyche, sociology, anthropology and history would hardly be conceivable in their present form. The influence of psychoanalysis on art, on economics and politics, on criminal law, pedagogy and educational institutions is no less direct and no less momentous.
Psychoanalysis placed the human self-concept of the Modernist era on a new foundation just as physics did with the general view of the world. It is remarkable that the revolutionary concepts of the two sciences show such obvious similarities. Despite the manifold correlations between the discoveries of psychoanalysis and those of the new physics, we dare not forget, however, that the former was still a very young science, which could hardly be measured against quantum theory or the theory of relativity with regard to its theoretical coherence and consistency or its practical successes. The process proceeding from the interplay of observation and theory is always a slow one. Quantification and strict methodology are late products in any science. Thus the systematization of psychoanalytic theory still remains in its beginnings, while physics can look back upon millennia of continuous research work.54
All the same, psychoanalysis plays as important a role in the self-concept of the Modernist era as does the theory of relativity. As did Einstein in physics, in psychology Freud removed the antinomies inherited from the nineteenth century and replaced them with a comprehensive, dynamic and holistic view of his object of study, the human mind. The human mind is for the first time treated not as a fixed quantity, but as a dynamic process. In analogy to the universe of the general theory of relativity, psychoanalysis posits the psychic universe-the conscious and unconscious, variously interconnected and mutually contingent stimuli, ideas and behaviors of one person and of all people-as a multi-dimensional continuum subject to a continuous transformation. Whitehead's conclusion also applies to the psychic world: The event is the unit of things real.
Above all, however, psychoanalysis confronted people with their bodies and their driven nature. It thus took away the illusion of human godliness; but it also connected human beings, in a new and irrevocable way, spatially and temporally, physically and mentally, with all of existence.
This paradigmatic change is reflected, as I have said several times, in the artistic expressions of Modernism. The turning away from external appearance and visible reality, the return to the elementary and the driven, the use of largely unbroken colors, the thorough rhythmization of the pictorial surface, the equal valuation and mutual contingency of all elements forming the work, the equivalence of form and expression, the transparency of the pictorial means and the claim of the universal validity of the artistic expression signal a new consciousness, signal the self-concept and the world-view of Modernism.
3. The Social Revolution
The holistic view of the world and of the human being which found its form
and expression in the artistic and scientific achievements of the dawning
twentieth century was limited to a narrow circle of artists, scientists and
intellectuals. The thinking of the great majority of people was by comparison
still influenced by the old paradigm, that is to say, by the values and ideas of
the nineteenth century, and that began to change only once these were radically
undermined by the outbreak, the course, and the consequences of the First World
The development of technology and industry had opened entirely new opportunities for economic expansion, and consequently pressed the governments of the European countries to extend their power over as many areas as possible, above all overseas. The scramble for markets, military bases, trade concessions and spheres of influence charged the already precarious international relations with additional tensions. A general feeling of economic and political insecurity and danger led to the ever accelerating stock-piling of military and psychological armaments. National and imperialist groups and associations as well as a press that glorified war and violence brought forth the atmosphere of blind war enthusiasm that would discharge as the greatest catastrophe in European history until that time.55
The assassination of the Austro-Hungarian crown prince and his wife by a
Serbian nationalist on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo sparked the explosion of the
powder keg that Europe had become. Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire, the
so-called Central Powers later joined by Turkey and Bulgaria, attacked Belgium,
France, Russia and Serbia, the countries which formed the 'Entente' together
with their later allies Great Britain, Japan, Italy and Romania. In 1917 China
and the United States also joined the war on the side of the Entente.
In the European cities the outbreak of war in August 1914 was greeted with joyful excitement and enthusiasm. In a truly celebratory atmosphere, the mustered soldiers were convinced that they were fighting for the "highest good" of their nations and that they would quickly achieve victory. Concrete war goals were considered to be of subordinate importance. Only the unexpectedly long duration of the war and the ever mounting numbers of casualties revived the question of what the murderous struggle was for. Behind the propagandistic catchwords and endurance slogans, the consistently identical motives of the great powers became obvious. The First World War was purely a power struggle, not waged like the Second World War over political ideologies or ordering principles, but simply for the sake of the economic and political domination of Europe and the world.
Militarily the war brought great innovations. Cannons of unprecedented range, warplanes, steerable airships, submarines, armored vehicles (so-called tanks), flame-throwers and poison gas, automobiles, radio and field telephones fundamentally altered the waging of war.
Although the hostilities extended to Africa, the Middle East, the Dardanelles and Greece, it became clear after the Russian defeat in 1916 that the final decision would necessarily be reached on the Western Front running through France. Once the successful early German advances at the start of the war were over, the Front itself rigidified into a war of attrition. Two uninterrupted trench lines, at many points just a few hundred meters apart, extended from the Swiss border to the North Sea. The two armies faced each other from their positions and even slight gains were possible only at the cost of monstrous losses. On each homefront almost the entire population worked to supply the frontlines with food, clothing, weapons and ammunition. Industry employed almost exclusively women. It did not take long before everything that could serve in reinforcing the armies was declared a target for attack. The increasingly frequent aerial attacks stretched the war out to the territories behind the lines, bringing death and destruction upon the civilian population.
Civilian transport broke down, food production was ever more sparse, education ground to a virtual halt, medical care was limited to absolute necessity. People were torn out of their daily lives and gripped by mounting disorientation: everywhere people were being uprooted, nowhere with more lasting effect than in Russia.
The Russian October Revolution
Already before the war the arbitrary rule of the Czar, a severe agrarian
crisis and the massive exploitation of the working class had undermined the
social order and given rise to the formation of revolutionary movements. The
negative course of the war reinforced the acute sense of dissatisfaction. Mass
demonstrations by the working class and the mutiny of isolated groups of
soldiers in February 1917 initiated a period of revolutionary turmoil. The
rebellious workers and soldiers, who were led by councils called Soviets, forced
the Czar's abdication and the creation of a provisional government-which in turn
provided amnesty to all political prisoners, guaranteed political freedom, and
was supposed to eliminate all legal differences between classes, religious
communities and nationalities.
But these reforms came too late. By this time Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, had returned to Russia from his exile in Switzerland with the intention of commandeering the course of the ongoing revolution. He rejected the transition to parliamentary bourgeois democracy, which had been supported until then by his own followers, demanded all power for the Soviets (which had by then been constituted throughout the empire), called for an immediate end to the war, and declared an unconditional struggle against the government. After the Bolsheviks gained the majority within the Petrograd Soviet, they toppled the provisional government on 25 October 1917. In rapid succession a "council of the peoples' commissars" under Lenin's leadership issued a series of decrees that dispensed at a stroke with the old social system. The big landowners were expropriated without compensation, large-scale land reforms distributed the land to the peasants. The management of industrial enterprises was taken over by councils of workers; the banks and all factories, companies and workplaces were later nationalized. The party banned private commerce and installed state organizations to take over the distribution of goods and food.
These measures plunged Russia into a devastating famine, Harro Brack writes. Only through force could the peasants be made to provide supplies. The searches for hidden food were the beginnings of an organized terror. Freedom of the press was revoked, due process in court ceased to be in force. The courts were expected in their decisions to execute the decrees of the Soviet government, or in the absence of such to deliver verdicts based on the Socialist sense of the law. Every act of resistance against this new order was put down brutally.56
The new rulers were not supported by the majority of the people. In elections to the national constitutive assembly the Bolsheviks had received only 28 percent of the votes. Lenin thereupon ordered troops to disperse the national assembly in January 1918 and in place of a missing societal mandate declared that only the Bolsheviks were capable of creating a true popular democracy. This action in fact did not meet with any resistance worth the name.
After their seizure of power the Bolsheviks invited the German government to negotiate peace. The peace treaty was signed in March 1918. Relieved of the pressure to its east, Germany now attempted to gain a military victory with a final, overpowering effort on the Western Front, which failed despite initial successes. While the armies of the Entente were reinforced continuously by the arrival of fresh American troops, the Central Powers reached the end of their reserves. By the end of the year their armies were retreating on all fronts. Turkey capitulated in late October, Austria-Hungary on 2 November. Germany signed the armistice on 11 November 1918. The war was over.
The war had lasted four and one-half years. Ten million people were killed in
the hostilities, further millions had perished from war-related sufferings and
privations. The survivors stood numb before the ruins of their world. They had
two hopes: an international world order that would make a repetition of the
recent catastrophe impossible, and a new social order that would guarantee
greater human dignity and true political co-determination for the working
The European peoples invested their hopes in the person of the American president, Woodrow Wilson, for, since the United States' entry into the war, he had made a series of speeches and proclamations presenting his ideas of a future international order. Wilson's public statements, for a time delivered over the heads of the governments and directly to the people, met with an enthusiastic response.
During the last years of the war and in the period that followed, Wilson was viewed as the spokesperson of a new age: He unfolded a conception of international relationships that came like a gospel, like the hope of a better world, to the whole Eastern hemisphere. Secret agreements were to cease, "nations" were to determine their own destinies, militarist aggression was to cease, the sea-ways were to be free to all mankind. These commonplaces of American thought, these secret desires of every sane man, came like a great light upon the darkness of anger and conflict in Europe. At last, men felt, the ranks of diplomacy were broken, the veils of Great Power "policy" were rent in twain. Here with authority, with the strength of a powerful new nation behind it, was the desire of the common man throughout the world, plainly said.57
Wilson proposed the creation of a higher authority, which would act as a representative of a "league of nations" to maintain free and peaceful relations between the peoples of the world and serve as a kind of appeals court for international questions. His famous Fourteen Point Program, which covered the intentions and principles that he thought to represent on behalf of the United States at the peace conference in Paris, met with worldwide agreement. Despite this, he was unable to win support for it from other leaders.
The greatest part of humanity was ready to make any sacrifice to avoid further wars. But among the governments of the Old World not a single one was prepared to surrender even the slightest part of its sovereign independence. Wilson was capable of inspired visions of the future, but he proved unable to put through their practical realization. The enthusiasm that he had awakened disappeared, its force went unused.
Even within the United States, Wilson failed to gain sufficient support. The United States did not join the League of Nations because in the course of the founding negotiations Wilson's original concept suffered too many concessions. With its complicated charter and manifest limitations on its power, the League of Nations could hardly contribute anything to a true reorganization of international relations.
But the idea was born. The enthusiasm with which the entire world had greeted Wilson's plans suggested the awakening of a new hope and a new ideal. A fundamental transformation had occurred in the public consciousness. Whereas until 1914 war had been viewed as a legal means of politics, as entirely allowable and normal, now there was a radical shift in public opinion: the intentional causation of war was henceforth regarded as a crime against humanity. With the idea of a peacefully co-existing family of nations, the new paradigm had found its first, fundamental expression in political thought.
The Search for a New Social Order
The hopes of the working people for a more just and free social system were
neither fulfilled in the capitalist West nor in communist Russia. At first the
Bolshevik leaders proclaimed the world revolution, called upon the workers of
all countries to unite, to topple the capitalist system and bring about the age
of Communism. This approach understandably gained them the enmity of all
existing governments. In the following years Russia had to defend itself against
the attacks of British, French, American, Japanese, Romanian, Polish and
Estonian forces and against armies of Russian "reactionaries," the so-called
White Russians. Following the surprising victories of the Red Army, in 1921 the
Western powers were finally prepared to recognize the Bolshevik government and
resume trade relations with it.
Russia went through indescribable suffering. The many wars and communist economic mismanagement sapped it of its last energies. The countryside was ruined, industrial production was nearly at a standstill, and hundreds of thousands fell victim to starvation. This situation began to improve after the 10th Party Congress in 1921 when Lenin introduced his New Economic Policy (NEP), which conceded greater freedoms to private initiatives in commerce and trade. The peasants were allowed to sell their surplus, small private merchants were reauthorized to do business on a limited scale, and graduated wages replaced the leveled income. These liberalizations were accompanied by a return to a modicum of rule of law. Despite a terrible famine that killed millions of people, the new policy led to a substantial increase in production, and the material living conditions of the population began to improve.
After Lenin's death in 1924 the Russian Revolution, now led by Joseph Stalin, entered into its second stage, in the course of which the NEP gave way to authoritarian, planned and centrally steered state capitalism. This was characterized by the forced collectivization and mechanization of agriculture and the nearly exclusive promotion of heavy industry and armaments to the detriment of consumer goods production.
The old Bolsheviks, who-after the conclusion of the first Five-Year Plan-demanded a limitation to police power, an end to the terror, and a slowing in the feverish pace of industrialization, were largely eradicated. Stalin, who felt his power threatened by their opposition, ordered the execution not just of his opponents, but of all independent elements within the leading strata of Communists. According to modern-day estimates at least 800,000 party members were killed. A completely new "elite" emerged from this "purge." The idealistic revolutionaries, often intellectuals and educated writers who believed in the victory of Communism and the creation of a better, more just world, were supplanted by the so-called apparatchiki, scheming bureaucrats who used their high incomes and special privileges to establish themselves as a class above the common folk of peasants and workers. Stalin's revolution had established a "socialist"-conservative and reactionary-class society. The dream of the workers' paradise was over.58
The hopes of the common people for a better future were also disappointed in
On the social level the war had raised hopes insofar as it had not only brought horror but also the experience of shared efforts and shared sacrifices. For four and one-half years, all of society's energies were directed towards a single, shared-unifying-aim, that of victorious survival.
In all of the war-waging countries steps had been taken towards mobilizing economic reserves. During this time, transport, heating fuels, food supply and industrial production all stood under public control. Imports and exports were regulated, the production of luxury goods was suspended. Even before the war was over the British Government had set up a Ministry of Reconstruction, which was charged with creating a new social order and educational system, and with improving labor and housing conditions. Similar agencies had been set up in other countries.
The end of the hostilities brought disillusionment. With demobilization came inflation, unemployment, and a housing shortage, while governments set about reversing the war-related collectivization of the economy and placing companies back into private ownership. By mid-1919 it was clear to most workers that the promises of reform would go unfulfilled; but they were not ready to accept the reconstitution of the old order without resistance. The European masses had been uprooted by the war and alienated from their traditional values; in the process they had also cast aside their hitherto resigned attitude to their collective lot.
Strike activity rose throughout Europe; in Germany and in Italy radical forces began to stir to the left and right of the political spectrum. In November 1918 a revolution broke out in Germany, and the workers movement under the leadership of Communists and Social Democrats fought successfully for parliamentary democracy and gained far-reaching political and social rights. But within a short time the old ruling classes succeeded in reversing the concessions that had been forced from them. In mid-1920 a new bourgeois government was formed, whereupon the lower income groups split into two camps. The majority of workers turned to the left and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), while most of the salaried employees, craftsmen and small business people went to the right, where their votes helped to bring Hitler to power after the outbreak of the economic crisis (1929-1932).
In Italy, too, large parts of the suffering nation turned against the ruling classes and the prevailing system of ownership. The peasants occupied the largely fallow estates belonging to the big landowners and worked the land themselves; the workers took over control of many factories and started to run these under their own direction. The unsuccessful attempts, by five successive governments, to mediate social peace and political stability finally ended in 1922 with the seizure of power by Mussolini and the erection of a fascist dictatorship.
Although bitter labor struggles broke out in Britain, France and the European mini-states, and although those countries also saw unemployment, inflation and economic crises plunge their populations into desperation, the democratic governmental structures there were preserved. The class struggle was carried out through the confrontation between trade unions and employers over wages and living conditions, and, on the parliamentary level, between conservative and socialist parties vying for the votes of the electorate.
With the end of the First World War the progressive forces and ideas that are
to shape the era of Modernism begin to manifest on the political, economic, and
social levels. They are all linked by a "revolutionary" tendency in the most
literal sense. Everywhere, whatever had been suppressed and ignored until that
time made its way up to the surface; everywhere primary, deep-rooted forces and
movements freed themselves from the authority of their previous ideological
This process, which the conservative intelligentsia regarded as an "uprising of the masses," was not limited to political and economic developments, but also related to the change at that time in the view of the human being. This was manifested among other things in a changed attitude towards the body and towards sexuality, and in the new role in society of women.
Their war-related employment on the homefront and the absence of the men for years, in many cases permanently, had left traces behind. A new, self-confident woman made her entrance into society. She worked in offices and factories, found her way into the universities, and had the same constitutional rights as men. Her attitude to marriage, motherhood, and sexuality had also been transformed. In the Soviet Union there was a radical liberalization of sexual legislation and of the laws governing marriage. It was accompanied by a broad-based educational movement that spread to the Western countries, especially Germany. Everywhere sexual counseling centers were established (there were 400 in Germany by 1932), which next to medical and psychological education also offered means of contraception and help with unwanted pregnancies.
Women's clothing went through a remarkable transformation. The damaging corset had disappeared and with it the stress on curves in the silhouette. The waistline slid down; the hem rose up above the knee, entailing the unthinkable: women showing their legs! With the so-called bobbed hair
and the page-boy cut the hair also fell away. The 'garšonne', boyishly lean,
flat-chested and long-legged, became the new female ideal.59
The transformed attitude to one's own body and to sexuality was also manifested after the war in the dance craze that caught on especially among young people. The syncopated rhythms of the rumba and the fox-trot bore witness to a new attitude to life that would later find its expression throughout the industrialized world in the form of jazz. And finally sports and hiking began to enjoy ever greater popularity, especially among the working classes. All of these developments led to an equalization of men and women; they suggest a reconciliation between mind and body, a new view of the human being that integrates the sensory dimension of life, and an unprecedented claim to self-determination. This change in consciousness is reflected in the most important social and political demands of modernist times: rational legitimation of the exercise of power, universal voting rights for men and women, the separation of church and state, the protection of the private sphere, and the right to education and information. The partial achievements of these demands were the first steps towards establishing the so-called open society of our age, in which individual and collective action is no longer oriented by traditional group patterns, but substantiated instead in universal standards of behavior. [ů] In applying these properly, the individual is forced
to take over for himself the function of interpretation and the responsibility.60 This universal orientation reflects fundamentally the same paradigm that found expression in the new physics, in psychoanalysis, and in the art of Modernism.