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Self-preservation describes the action of a system that is geared towards its own continued existence. It is a sub-concept of autopoiesis , which, in addition to self-preservation, also includes the previous self-creation of a system.

Biology and psychology

The concept of self-preservation originally comes from biology , where it describes the actions of a biological system that is geared towards keeping itself alive , be it through innate behavior , learned reaction mechanisms or conscious decisions. This biological system can be, for example, an individual , a group or a species . For the self-preservation of an individual, the satisfaction of his or her basic physical needs is imperative, for the self-preservation of a species, reproduction . According to the Dutch zoologist and ethnologist Nikolaas Tinbergen, there are both proximate and ultimate causes for every behavior .

The term self-preservation instinct is a term used for the observation that a living being or a group of living beings, in a certain situation or in general, tries to survive. In his theory of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud contrasted the “ life drive ” with the “ death drive ”. This conception remained controversial in the psychoanalytic discourse.

Models of human personality development such as B. the model of ego development by Jane Loevinger describe the "blind" self-preservation mostly as a characteristic of a less developed personality.

Systems theory

The sociologist Niklas Luhmann described the world in his systems theory as basically consisting of autopoietic systems, including not only biological systems but also psychological systems (e.g. the self ) and social systems (e.g. political organizations). As a sociologist, he had a decisive influence on sociological systems theory , especially with the view of society as a large system consisting entirely of autopoietic, social systems . In his theory, systems must “connect” to themselves in order to be able to maintain themselves (see connection (Luhmann) ).

Politics and philosophy

A wide variety of phenomena, from the climate protection movement to research programs on space colonization, are motivated by the will to self-preserve humanity. Even the balance of terror could only exist because of mankind's instinct for self-preservation. Some critically question the instinct of self-preservation of the individual or of humanity as a whole, for example the philosophical current of antinatalism or political movements such as the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement .

Michel Foucault often described in his theory the self-preservation of social systems through the exercise of power and oppression. In his work Wahnsinn und Gesellschaft , for example, he showed how an existing social order discredits ideas that are different (threatening their continued existence) by labeling the people who utter them as "mentally ill" (mostly "schizophrenic") and themselves thus receives himself, see, for example, the diagnosis of the politically motivated US terrorist Theodore Kaczynski as "schizophrenic", who wanted to draw attention to the self-sustaining and human freedom and dignity-robbing global "industrial-technological system" and his later media presentation and medical diagnosis as "mentally ill" as a self-preservation mechanism of this system in the sense of Foucault himself predicted (see also antipsychiatry and schizophrenia # criticism of the concept of illness ).

While the instinct for self-preservation is generally viewed as something bad that one tries to get rid of, Friedrich Nietzsche , who also saw self-preservation as a fundamental principle pervading the world, gave a positive image of it with his concept of will to power .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans-Martin Lohmann: Sigmund Freud . Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, 2017, ISBN 978-3-644-57572-1 (163 pages, ).