Friday, November 18, 2011

Freud's Pessimistic Take on Human Nature

I'm reading through Freud's The Future of an Illusion. Freud put a bad spin on human nature. It would be nice, he thought, if persons didn't need the constraining and coercive laws of civilization, and they would, by some human moral instinct, enjoy other people and care for them. Unfortunately, he writes, "that would be the golden age, but it is questionable if such a state of affairs can ever be realized." (Freud, Sigmund, The Future of an Illusion, Kindle Location 98).

In this regard Freud is in sync with Christian theism. He continues...

"It seems more probable that every culture must be built up on coercion and instinctual renunciation; it does not even appear certain that without coercion the majority of human individuals would be ready to submit to the labour necessary for acquiring new means of supporting life. One has, I think, to reckon with the fact that there are present in all men destructive, and therefore anti-social and anti-cultural, tendencies, and that with a great number of people these are strong enough to determine their behaviour in human society.
This psychological fact acquires a decisive significance when one is forming an estimate of human culture." (Ib., K location 101-104)

Yup. Destructive ways are within all; biblically, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (BTW, it's questionable whether or not Frued was an atheist. See Harvard Freud-scholar Armand Nicholi's The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life.)