Greek mythology, classical philosophy and early theology is teeming with things referred to as 'daemons'. Many, such as those of Plato's Socrates, hint at an externalised transcendental corollary of will.

In many senses the dualism that pervaded early western philosophy could be said to be descended from this conception, but the loss of the character of being an external cause merits a distinction. The modern explicit uses of the terms 'daemon' and 'daemonic' I have found tend to refer to external perversions of ordinary will, rather than all of will itself.

So my question is: has anyone written (and I envisage here likely a writer of psychoanalysis) on the subject of daemons vis-a-vis transcendental personification of self-will in non-mythic terms?


I will have to defer to classicists and Plato scholars for secondary literature on the theme in the Platonic oeuvre. Note the bibliography for Wikipedia's entry on "daemons" in classical mythology cites M. Joyal's "To Daimonion and the Socratic Problem" (from Apeiron, vol. 38 no. 2, 2005); I can't speak to the text but it sounds like it may be worth a look.

For the perhaps more general problem of demons from a philosophical or psychoanalytic perspective, I might suggest looking at Reza Negarestani's Cyclonopedia for serious discussions of demons and demonology. Nick Land's work may also offer some insight into the problem; I might suggest Fanged Noumena, a collection of his essays.

Finally note that pleateau/chapter 10 of A Thousand Plateaus, "Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal", explicitly delves into the problem of demons -- "It can be said that becoming-animal is an affair of sorcery because (1) It implies an initial relation of alliance with a demon..." (p. 272)

  • This stuff certainly looks intriguing- although, without a decent library to go to and check, I'm not sure if this falls into the category of being 'perversions of ordinary will' as I rather clumsily put it in my question. What I'm after is something like a conscience (as played by Jimmeny cricket in Disney's Pinnoccio), but more pervasive in its influence and more general in its remit. It's hard to tell from what you've written here- are we talking about the same thing? – Tom Boardman Feb 8 '12 at 18:34
  • Most of this would definitely be more about the general question of demons/demonology than its role in the Platonic oeuvre, but note that all of the above authors offer critical insights of an effectively psychoanalytic character -- it was your point about seeking the opinion of a "writer of psychoanalysis" on these issues that makes me feel the authors above might possibly answer to the terms of your question – Joseph Weissman Feb 8 '12 at 18:37
  • Cool. In which case I probably can't accept just yet, but it's definitely earned a +1 from me. Will check those out when I next hit the library :). – Tom Boardman Feb 8 '12 at 18:43

The first thing that comes to mind is Julian Jaynes's book The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. It's highly speculative, and not taken very seriously by mainstream psychologists or philosophers, but it is aimed squarely at the topic at hand.

  • Dead on, exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for, just a shame that the author's central thesis is so speculative (and imo almost certainly not true). Have you read it? @Michael -is it worth reading? – Tom Boardman Feb 8 '12 at 18:26
  • I'd recommend reading it; it's very thought provoking. – Michael Dorfman Feb 8 '12 at 20:41

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