Sigmund Freud

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Caution. This article/definition is in draft form and at this time may constitute no more than rough notes, reminders for required content, or absolutely nothing at all. Content is subject to revision.


Who was he? What did he write about.

Notes

Civilization

  • Consists of
    • technology and knowledge to extract and control distribution of human wealth
    • regulations "necessary in order to adjust the relations of men to one another and especially the distribution of the available wealth. [1]
  • Basically about maintaining inequality."Thus civilization has to be defended against the individual, and its regulations, institu­tions and commands are directed to that task. They aim not only at effecting a certain distribution of wealth but at main­taining that distribution; indeed, they have to protect every­ thing that contributes to the conquest of nature and the production of wealth against men's hostile impulses."[2]
  • Freud recognizes the class nature of "civilization." "One thus gets an impression that civilization is something which was imposed on a resisting majority by a minority which understood how to obtain possession of the means to power and coercion."[3]
  • Note that Freud conflates "civilization" with European capitalism.
  • Freud recognizes that Capitalism is based on "coercion and renunciation" [4] and suggest the possibility of a "golden age" where coercion and renunciation would not be required, but suggests it is impossible and blames "the victim" (the masses) for having instincts too powerful to control. As he says, "One has, I think, to reckon with the fact that there are present in all men destructive, and therefore anti-social and anti­ cultural, trends and that in a great number of people these are strong enough to determine their behaviour in human society."[5] Note this is a secularized version of the Good versus Evil archetype Reductionist approachused by elites to manipulate and control "the masses."
  • Elitist apologist. Freud suggests that control of the masses by a minority is inevitable. "It is just as impossible to do without control of the mass by a minority as it is to dispense with coercion in the work of civilization. For masses are lazy and unintelligent; they have no love for instinctual renunciation, and they are not to be convinced by argument of its inevitability; and the indi­viduals composing them support one another in giving free rein to their indiscipline. It is only through the influence of individuals who can set an example and whom masses recognize as their leaders that they can be induced to perform the work and undergo the renunciations on which the existence of civilization depends."[6]

Toxic Socialization

  • Freud recognizes toxic elements in "civilization" and even admits that it is society and its "defects" which has made people "embittered, revengeful and inaccessible." He admits the possibility that with healthier socialization, in a process where individuals "have been brought up in kindness and taught to have a high opinion of reason, and who have experienced the benefits of civilization at an early age," individuals might come to have better attitudes. He concludes that the re-education effort to attain this goal is impossibly massive and, in any case, the extant elites were simply incapable of such a feat

Religion (pp. 15-)

  • Does not believe in the authenticity of religion. Cannot be authenticated. Links it to psychological/sociological dynamics. Beliefs the long term, rational scientific foundations must replace religious beliefs if society is to progress forward safely.
  • Wish fulfilments and illusions. "Neurotic relics" (p. 44). Religious ideas are not "precipitates of experience or end­ results of thinking : they are illusions, fulfilments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind. The secret of their strength lies in the strength of those wishes. As we already know, the terrifying impression of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection-for protection through love­ which was provided by the father; and the recognition that this h elplessness lasts throughout life made it necessary to cling to the existence of a father, but this time a more powerful one." [7]
  • Religious beliefs based on
    • tradition (believed and handed down by our "prima ancestors" [8]
    • strict prohibitions against questioning
  • But, religion required because, left to their own devices, humans will rape, kill, murder, and steal (because human's are basically Id-based monsters).
  • We put aside our evil natures to enter into group life so we can survive. Religion, in various ways, helps with this process.
  • Animistic religions which project the violent/unpredictable elements of nature onto personified God's of nature help us "breathe freely, can feel at home in the uncanny and can deal by psychical means with our senseless anxiety. We are still defenceless, per­ haps, but we are no longer helplessly paralysed; we can at least react."[9] The "Infantile prototype" of this is to be found in the toxic relationship between a child and their abusive father. "One had reason to fear them, and especially one's father..."[10]
  • Religious ideas arise from
    1. an expression of the son-father relationship (see totem and taboo, related to religions where "totem animals" become sacred)
    2. the need to defend oneself against the "crushingly superior force of nature."[11]
    3. The "urge to rectify the shortcoming of civilization..."[12]
  • Religion does four things for people
    • "The gods retain their threefold task: they must exorcize the terrors of nature, they must reconcile men to the cruelty of Fate, particularly as it is shown in death, and they must compensate them for the sufferings and privations which a civilized life in common has imposed on them." [13]
    • Adds also the notion that more advanced religions assume some moral/ethical dimensions. "It now became the task of the gods to even out the defects and evils of civilization, to attend to the sufferings which men inflict on one another in their life together and to watch over the fulfilment of the precepts of civilization, which men obey so imperfectly. Those precepts themselves were credited with a divine origin ; they were elevated beyond human society and were extended to nature and the universe."[14]
    • Advanced civilizations also develop notion of single "father" god, satiating need of the child for a father's love and protection."Now that God was a single person, man's relations to him could recover the intimacy and intensity of the child's relation to his father."[15]
    • Religion answers "big questions..." "Religious ideas are teachings and assertions about facts and conditions of external (or internal) reality which tell one something one has not discovered for oneself and which lay claim to one's belief. Since they give us information about what is most important and interesting to us in life, they are particularly highly prized."[16]

Secularization

  • believed increased scientific knowledge would lead to attenuation of religious belief systems, but felt that the uneducated masses would become murderous if they lost their religious belief. Thus Freud concluded that the "dangerous masses must be held down most severely and kept most carefully away from any chance of intellectual awakening."[17]

Commentary: Freud shows himself generally pretty ignorant of human spirituality and the history of religion. He tap dances around class awareness but ends up white washing the whole affair. ==Footnotes==

  1. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 6. https://amzn.to/2EZqqgZ. p. 6.
  2. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 6. https://amzn.to/2EZqqgZ.
  3. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 6. https://amzn.to/2EZqqgZ. p. 6
  4. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 7. https://amzn.to/2EZqqgZ.
  5. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 7. https://amzn.to/2EZqqgZ.
  6. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 7. https://amzn.to/2EZqqgZ.
  7. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 31.
  8. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 26.
  9. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 17.
  10. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 17.
  11. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 21
  12. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 21
  13. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 17.
  14. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 17.
  15. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 19.
  16. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 25.
  17. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. p. 39.