Hello all you esteemed people of Athens. I am here today to talk to you about these new philosophies that I hear about. They are being propagated by a fellow called Sigmund Freud from a land called Austria. He surely lives in a very troubling time and age if his hypotheses are anything to go by. His ruminations are captured in a new book called Civilization and its Discontents.
Therein, this man relates the human quest for God to the innate desire of a child to seek the protection of a father. Likewise, he says, adult humans seek for protection from the perils of the world from a Patriarchal God. He argues that through religion, humans try to satiate a feeling of limitlessness; what he calls the oceanic feeling.
This later age philosopher then talks of two opposing elements in human nature, the human instinct and civilization. The human instinct is to seek absolute freedom. This however, he argues, is destructive as the primal human desire is to seek self-gratification (what he calls the pleasure principle) even if it causes injury to others. Therefore the human nature, if left unchecked, can cause chaos and anarchy.
Civilization, on the other hand seeks to keep human desire in check.Mr. Freud states that the demand of society on an individual that compels him to repress his ego has been the cause of neurosis in most men. This is because the law of civilized society forces them to renounce their more natural, though detrimental feelings of eroticism.
The gentleman further states that there exists a counteractive instinct to the Eros called Thanatos, which is the death instinct or instinct of aggression. And while the love instinct brings peaceful coexistence between members of a community, the destructive instinct brings mayhem and must be subdued or directed outwards to an opposing force or culture. He reflects that it is at the balance of these two opposing forces that civilizations exist.
The proponent further elucidates that continued repression of the Thanatos causes the formation of the superego. This produces a heightened sense of rectitude through feelings of guilt and remorse that keeps one in check. Through remorse, the superego punishes the ego for sins committed and through guilt, it rebukes it for sins contemplated. It is through such a psychological system that order is preserved in society, but at the expense of the individual or egos happiness.
I take issue with the postulations of this gentleman. First and foremost, the idea that humans cling to God because he will provide solutions to all their problems as a father does for his children all wrong. As I intimated in my discourse with Euthyphro, we cannot entirely depend on the gods as they are not infallible. Their definition of right and wrong is questionable as there is no foundation for piety.
On the second issue of humans being inherently evil, thats utterly absurd. No one yearns to do wrong hence bring harm upon themselves. People only do wrong out of ignorance and not an innate desire or sadism as Mr. Freud would like to suggest.I believe that wrong actions come from external inducements on an innocent and naive person. And the remorse that follows afterward is an indication of the pure and good desires of the human heart. Therefore I totally disagree with the concept of Thanatos, though it has been advanced by some of our very own here in Greece. I believe that it is in the human nature to do what is right given all society.
It is my conviction that true community cannot be achieved through constantly trying to repress selfish desires to cause harm and suffering to others. Such an approach is an exercise in futility as eventually the narcissist compulsions will triumph rendering the individual a savage beast. Instead, every mans endeavor should be to uphold virtue even in the face of evil persuasions to do what is morally wrong. I would rather be imprisoned and die for what I believe in rather than flee in cowardice and the process turn to mockery everything that I believe and live in shame, as my friends would have me do.
I wish also to state that no human being can be self-edifying, self-correcting, all-knowing, and to that effect I wish to disagree with the concept of superego as advanced by the proponent. Human piety can only be achieved through an enquiry from those that have walked the road as my ardent students Plato and Xenophon have done. All persons must also submit to a higher power that is all-knowing as the scope of their knowledge is limited. Even myself, I know that I know nothing.
In conclusion, I wish to express my alarm at the level of pessimism and lack faith in the human race expressed by Mr. Freud. Maybe it stems from the horrors that he has seen in his lifetime because I hear that in his era there was a war that revealed human atrocities like never seen before. However, I wish to remind him that there is nothing new under the sun and war has been there for my time in the Peloponnesian War. Whatever evil humans undertake serves to realize a necessary end.
Sigmund Freud on the Gospel of Mathew
This is a commentary on the Beatitudes as outlined in the Gospel of Mathew chapter number five verses one to twelve in the New Testament of the Hebrew Bible. The Beatitudes are eight statements supposedly said by Jesus Christ of Nazareth in blessing to all his followers who would abide by the conditions attached therein.
Firstly, I have to say that I found statements are so intriguing because they are in contradiction with everything that I have learned regarding human beings.In all my years practicingNeurology and Psychoanalysis, I am yet to be convinced that ordinary people can live up to the lofty ideals of holiness and compassion that are advocated for in the beatitudes. They represent the highest, the even utopic level of selflessness and inner sanctity that I do not believe can be achieved by any mortal man. Human beings are innately selfish, evil and aggressive just like the beasts of the field.
Secondly, I am skeptical about the impression of an all loving, all protecting, all rewarding God. I think He is just an idea that people created out of their infantile need for a father figure to cushion them from the troubles of the world and I said as much in my book Civilization and its Discontents. By extension, all the other objects connected with this God are all abstract ideas, including the existence of a place called heaven. Anyway let us look at these promises of blessings that Christians so faithfully cling to. We shall quote from the New King James Version (NKJV) translation of the Hebrew Bible:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The problem with this statement is that it encourages poverty of spirit which in this case means humility. This, as you may have gleaned from my previous work, is not a preserve of the human nature. Mens predisposition is pride in their achievements.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Well, again no human being in his natural form would prefer a place of mourning and sadness to one of merry-making and happiness. The alluded comforter is also a notion of the human mind.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness in a dog-eat-dog society like the one we live in will get you nothing but an empty platter. Aggressiveness is inscribed in the human psyche. From birth, the first human instinct is to fight for what one believes they deserve. Its the way the id works.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Good luck in your quest for righteousness in this world Christians!
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Tell that to a soldier on the battlefield dodging bullets and ducking into muddy trenches to avoid shrapnel from bombs.
Blessed are those whose hearts are pure,for they shall see God.
The purity of heart means the absence of selfishness. In the world where the primal human instinct is fulfilling ones desires, is this not quite a tall order?
Blessed are those who make peace, for they shall be called sons of God.
Well, I bet few sons of God in the worlds battlefields and nations capitals the number of conflicts being waged is anything to go by.
Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
In conclusion, I have to say that while these statements and all that they promise is contrary to what I believe, I have heard stories of people who have supposedly, against all odds, held on to the tenets of the beatitudes. Such have been beatified and gone on to sainthood as it is in the Roman Catholic Church. Whether the credentials of these so-called saints are valid, I cannot tell.
However, I have to add a disclaimer that my studies have revealed that there are three aspects of the human nature. The first is the id, which is the primal intuitive sense of the human being. This is bent on selfishness and will do anything to take care of the self-interest. The ego is a manifestation of the consistent manner of the human being. It can reflect the ids constant selfishness or it can be made subject to the will of the superego, the third aspect. The superego is achieved through regular punishment of the ego for sins committed or meditated upon. If through constant chastisement of the ego, these saints have reached some superhuman level of holiness, which I cannot say with certainty.
All I can say from my observation in my profession is that human beings will do anything and believe anything that makes them feel that they belong to a community. This could be in the form of a religious, tribal or social grouping. As for Christians, maybe ascribing to the higher ideals embodied in the Beatitudes makes them feel collectively closer to the protection of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and God the Father. But if there is a slight chance that humans can live by the principles of the Beatitudes, then maybe we can have a heaven on earth.
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its discontents. Penguin UK, 2002.
Plato, Phaedo, and Crito Apology. "translated by FJ Church." (1951): 73-74.
Platos Apology; University of Southern Mississippi-http://ocean.otr.usm.edu/~w305717/Intro/Plato's%20Apology.pdf
The Beatitudes; Gospel of Mathew ch.5 v.1-12 New King James Version
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