Essay: Socrates and You Have Read

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¶ … Socrates and you have read Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents Write a short [3-page] essay reacting to what you have just read, giving reasons for what you say and referring to Freud's text painstakingly and, remember, you are Socrates reacting to Freud.

After consuming and contemplating the book Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud, I would have to say that I agree with half of the ideas set forth in the book, and vehemently disagree with the other half of the ideas in the book. Freud spend the bulk of this writing posing the notion that there is an inherent friction between the individual and society which originates in the individual's need for freedom, a desire which is innate to every single person and which is in direct opposition to the demand that society makes for sheer conformity and repression. Conformity is indeed a dangerous thing, as Freud demonstrates and it can indeed contribute to a herd mentality where people are engaging in behavior and actions that lack reason and which are simply occurring just because they are seen as important -- important only because others are doing them. This mania of the herd mentality is demonstrated in the following excerpt: "Even so, there are variations in men's behavior which ethics, disregarding the fact that they are determined, classifies as good and evil. As long as these undeniable variations have not been abolished, conformity to the highest ethical standards constitutes a betrayal of the interests of culture, for it puts a direct premium on wickedness. One is irresistibly reminded here of an incident in the French Chamber when capital punishment was being discussed; the speech of a member who had passionately supported its abolition was being applauded with loud acclamation, when suddenly a voice was heard calling out from the back of the room, "Que messieurs les assassins commencent!" (Freud). Such ideas present clearly the imminent destruction and absurdity that can embody this conformity of thought, which undeniably leads to a conformity of action. Freud is correct in asserting that the law and society in general creates a certain level of restriction. There is a restriction in tolerance along with a restriction in imagination.

However, some of the restriction present is actually necessary, such as the laws present to restrict people from killing one another. Freud views this as restrictive and something which breeds discontent, but these restrictive qualities are actually necessary in helping to forge a civilized society, something Freud does not appear to give much credit to. The law is something which can help guide people to a more civilized state of being, where virtue thrives and flourishes and men are able to elevate one another with baser instincts being curbed. On the other hand, Freud sees these laws as sources by which happiness is severely restricted. It appears as though Freud just views man simply as a beast, and sees man flourishing the most when all animalistic qualities are allowed full reign. This simply is not an ideal scenario for any human being. Freud is correct when he states that human beings all bear certain traits which are unchangeable, but the baser notions that he focuses on are too strongly centered on sex, violence, aggression and aggression towards authority figures.

There's an overwhelming baseness to all that Freud sees human beings as being comfortable with and having a proclivity towards. This is all too reductive to be accurate. For instance, examine the following excerpt from Freud's book: "The bit of truth behind all this shone so eagerly denied his that men are not gentle, friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if they are attacked, but that a powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned as part of their instinctual endowment. The result is that their neighbor is to them not only a possible helper or sexual object, but also a temptation to them to gratify their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without recompense, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and kill him" (Freud). This paints a picture of human beings almost victimized by their instincts, as having very little choice into how they behave or what they do. In fact, Freud appears to paint a picture of the powerless man. This is not only inaccurate, but it absolved men from having to have to use their reason and thought processes for their own benefit. Men are able to reason, men are able to engage in logic, men are able to engage in dialogue with one another and to look at a problem from a variety of perspectives in order to forge the most ideal solution or mode of action.

None of these possibilities really exist for Freud and this is a fallacy of his mode of reasoning. The fact that human beings are capable of engaging in deductive reasoning, exchanging dialogue and having debates, demonstrates that those are the loftier actions that they should strive for, in lifting themselves up and out of their own depravity.

Furthermore, as a believer in the higher powers and the fact that there is no evidence to refute the existence of higher powers, Freud's claims that religion is just another manifestation of the need for humanity to soothe itself is completely unfounded. Freud presents this a pure conjecture without any proof, when the proof of the Gods is abundant in human life and life on earth.

Now assume that you are Freud and you have just read the Sermon on the Mount. Write a short [3-page] essay reacting to what you have read, giving reasons for what you say and referring to the text of the Sermon and, remember, you are supposed to be Freud reacting to Jesus' Sermon.

After reading the famed Sermon on the Mount, delivered by Jesus Christ and one of the major touchstones of the teachings of Christianity and of the Roman Catholic Church, one is reminded of the fundamental uselessness of all religions, as this speech is clear and present manifestation of that inherent uselessness of religion. Sure, the Sermon on the Mount offers a core message of love, for all people on earth to love one another as Jesus Christ loves all people and to ensure that all others on earth have a good life. Again this demonstrates one of the inherent flaws of this sermon and of religion in general: the vagueness of these sentiments is of no real use to any individual. There are no specifics delivered on what a good life is. One can assume that love is a major aspect of living a good life, though again, this just leads the individual in yet another circle: a good life means loving Jesus, a good life means loving others, yet loving others means that one needs to help one another in living good lives -- which individuals are still never told how to do.

For instance, the Sermon on the Mount famously offers up the notion of loving one's enemies: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (esvbible.org). This is again revelatory the flaws of the Sermon on the Mount and the flaws which abound religion in general. It's hard to determine what exactly perfection means in this case and whether Jesus simply wants everyone to be niece to everyone else or to engage in self-sacrifice or if this is a more detailed version of the Ten Commandments, etc.

One of the other fundamental problems with the sermon on the mount is in connection with the issue of how so many people, religious and non-religious, no doubt ignore these teachings or pillars simply because their impossible to follow. For example, who really turns the other cheek when they've been attacked unfairly? And for the fact of the matter, such a move goes completely against the animalistic and survival instincts of the common man. Such a notion would actually be detrimental for any human being to follow, as it threatens their survival. Furthermore, it would be completely useless to ask a human being to engage in such actions. Moreover, when one looks at the historical figures who did follow the teachings of Jesus, it seems like a chamber of horrors of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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