The American Journal of Psychoanalysis

, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 159–181 | Cite as

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

  • David Stromberg


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


Klein Plato Freud phenomenology intimacy 


  1. Angelino, L. (2008). Between phenomenology and psychoanalysis: The meaningful body. Philosophy Today, 52, 63–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Appelbaum, J. (2013). Psychoanalysis and Philosophy: Nurturing Dialogues. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 73, 117–120.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Aristotle. (1987 [c. 335 BCE]). Poetics. (R. Janko, Trans.) Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  4. Askay, R., & Farquhar, J. (2006). Apprehending the inaccessible: Freudian psychoanalysis and existential phenomenology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bach, S. (2006). Getting from here to there: Analytic love, analytic process. Hilldale, NJ: The Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bion, W. (1962). Second thoughts: Selected papers on psycho-analysis. London: Karnac. 1967.Google Scholar
  7. Bion, W. (1965). Transformations. London: Karnac Books. 1984.Google Scholar
  8. Borossa, J., Bronstein, C., & Pajazkowska, C. (Eds.). (2015). The new Klein-Lacan dialogues. London: Karnac Books.Google Scholar
  9. Brentano, F. (1862). On the several senses of being in Aristotle. (R. George, Trans.). Berkeley: University of California Press. 1975.Google Scholar
  10. Brentano, F. (1867). The psychology of Aristotle. (R. George, Trans.). Berkeley: University of California Press. 1977.Google Scholar
  11. Brentano, F. (1874). Psychology from the empirical standpoint (L. L. McAlister, Trans.). London: Routledge & K. Paul. 2015.Google Scholar
  12. Brown, J. (2006). A psychosocial exploration of love and intimacy. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burgoyne, B., & Sullivan, E. M. (Eds.). (1997). The Klein-Lacan dialogues. New York, NY: Other Press.Google Scholar
  14. Corrigan, K., & Glazov-Corrigan, E. (2004). Plato’s dialectic at play: Argument, structure, and myth in the Symposium. Philadelphia: Penn State University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fairbairn, W. R. D. (1952). Psychoanalytic studies of the personality. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1994.Google Scholar
  16. Ferenczi, S. (1909). Introjection and transference. In first contributions to psychoanalysis (pp. 35–93). London: Karnac. 1980.Google Scholar
  17. Fink, B. (2015). Love and/in psychoanalysis: A commentary on Lacan’s reading of Plato’s Symposium in Seminar VIII: Transference. The Psychoanalytic Review, 102, 59–91.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Freud, S. (1906). Letter from Sigmund Freud to C. G. Jung. December 6, 1906. In W. McGuire (Ed). The correspondence between Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung. (pp. 11–13). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974.Google Scholar
  19. Freud, S. (1911). Psychoanalytic notes on an autobiographical account of a case of paranoia. Standard Edition. (Vol. 12, pp. 9–88). London: Hogarth.Google Scholar
  20. Gerasimos, X. S. (1988). Plato & Freud: Two theories of love. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  21. Husserl, E. (1931). Cartesian meditations: An introduction to phenomenology. (Dorian Cairns, Trans.) Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1960.Google Scholar
  22. Kelman, H. (1965). A phenomenologic approach to dream interpretation: Part I. Phenomenology—a historical perspective. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 25, 188–202.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Kernberg, O. (1995). Love relations: Normality and pathology. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Klein, M. (1937). Love, guilt, and reparation. In J. Riviere (Ed.) Love, hate, and reparation. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis (1967).Google Scholar
  25. Klein, M. (1946). Notes on some schizoid mechanisms. Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 5, 160–179 (1996).Google Scholar
  26. Kristeva, J. (2004). Melanie Klein. (R. Guberman, Trans.) New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lacan, J. (1960–1961). The seminar of Jacques LacanBook VIIITransference. (C. Gallagher, Trans.) from unedited French typescripts. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from
  28. Lear, J. (1990). Love and its place in nature: A philosophical interpretation of Freudian psychoanalysis (p. 1999). New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Lear, J. (2005). Freud. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Lear, J. (2006). The Socratic method and psychoanalysis. In S. Ahbel-Rappe & R. Kamtekar (Eds.), A companion to Socrates (pp. 442–462). Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  31. Luhmann, N. (1986). Love as passion. (J. Gains & D. L. Jones, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Polity Books.Google Scholar
  32. Merleau-Ponty. (1951). Man and adversity. In Toadvine & L. Lawlor (Eds.) The Merleau-Ponty reader (189–241). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. 2007.Google Scholar
  33. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1952). Indirect language and the voices of silence. In T. Toadvine & L. Lawlor (Eds.) The Merleau-Ponty reader (pp. 241–282). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. 2007.Google Scholar
  34. Morra, J. (1998). Julia Kristeva: 1966–96: Aesthetics, politics, ethics New York. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Phillips, J. (1999). From the unseen to the invisible. In D. Olkowski & J. Morley (Eds.), Merleau-Ponty, interiority and exteriority, psychic life and the world (pp. 69–88). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  36. Plato. (1875 [c. 385–370 BCE]). Symposium. In The Dialogues of Plato. (B. Jowett, Trans.). London: Macmillan and Co. Retrieved from
  37. Plato. (1925 [c. 370 BCE]). Phaedrus. In Plato in twelve volumes, vol. 9. (H. N. Fowler, Trans.). Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., from the Tufts Perseus project. Retrieved from
  38. Plato. (2000 [c. 380 BCE]). Republic. (G. R. F. Ferrari, Ed., Tom Griffish, Trans.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Plato. (2005 [c. 370 BCE]). Phaedrus. (C. Rowe, Trans.). London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  40. Plato. (2008 [c. 385–370 BCE]). Symposium. In M. C. Howatson & Frisbee C. C. Sheffield (Eds.) (M.C. Howatson, Trans.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Riviere, J. (1937). Hate, greed, and aggression. In M. Klein & J. Riviere: Love, hate, and reparation: Two lectures (pp. 3–56). London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. 1967.Google Scholar
  42. Rubovits-Seitz, P. F. D. (1998). Depth-psychological understanding: The methodologic grounding of clinical interpretations (p. 2013). Hillsdale: The Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  43. Sandford, S. (2010). Plato and sex. Cambridge: Polity Books.Google Scholar
  44. Stromberg, D. (2018). Noble errors: Examples of love and tragedy from literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. Comparative Literature Studies, 55(1), 93–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Symington, N. (2004). The blind man sees: Freud’s awakening and other essays. London: Karnac.Google Scholar
  46. West, W. N. (1999). Repeating staging meaning between Aristotle and Freud. SubStance, 28, 138–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Winnicott, D. W. (1958). Collected papers: Through paediatrics to psychoanalysis. Oxon: Routledge. 2001.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Literary StudiesHebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

Personalised recommendations