Monday, April 25, 2016
Sigmund Freud: The Unconscious Philosopher
For the most part, everyone knows the name Sigmund Freud; however, ask one hundred people what Freud’s impact on society was, and overwhelmingly the answer would be his work as a psychologist. While that was his primary impact on society, I am here to argue, as did Nigel Warburton, the author of our textbook, that Freud greatly impacted the philosophical world in addition to his work as a psychologist.
A basic understanding of Freud’s ideas is essential. Freud is the father of psychoanalysis as well as the founder of the unconscious mind. Freud theorized that we are all driven by desires that we may not even know exist. He postulated that we repress memories and thoughts in our “unconscious” mind because the memories are either too painful or against established social norms. Because the conscious mind is not privy to the existence of these memories, they could be driving our actions without our knowledge or consent. Freud related the mind to an iceberg, while some of the iceberg is above water, an overwhelming majority of it is underwater. The water signifies our awareness and the iceberg is our mind with the little portion of the iceberg above the water being what we know and can recall and the majority of the iceberg what we cannot explain. This idea in particular raises plenty of philosophical questions including whether or not we are in control of our actions or whether our unconscious mind is really calling the shots. Freud posed the questions that nobody had even thought to ask and yet he denied being a philosopher when he said: “Philosophy is not opposed to science, it behaves itself as if it were a science, and to a certain extent it makes use of the same methods; but it parts company with science, in that it clings to the illusion that it can produce a complete and coherent picture of the universe. Its methodological error lies in the fact that it over-estimates the epistemological value of our logical operations… But philosophy has no immediate influence on the great majority of mankind; it interests only a small number even of the thin upper stratum of intellectuals, while all the rest find it beyond them.”
While Freud openly denied his philosophical connections, the evidence shows that the man was undoubtedly a philosopher and one worth including in our text. Philosophy at its core is all about the desire to obtain wisdom and to understand ourselves or life better. Freud was an incredible intellectual who made numerous break through discoveries. In addition, he was always trying to understand what makes us, us. He theorized that we could have a greater understanding of who we were by studying our dreams as they were a gateway into the subconscious mind. If we could find out what was going on in our subconscious mind we would have an easier time controlling it. While he might not want to admit it, deep down you can tell that Sigmund Freud was in fact a philosopher.