Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sigmund Freud:  The Unconscious Philosopher
Sean Byars
Section 6

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.



  1. Tanner Davis
    Section 6
    Professor Oliver

    One thing that Socrates always spoke of was the subject of virtue.He believed people should focus on spending their life looking for this rather than being consumed with desires of possessions or money. ] He thought that virtue would lead to a better appreciation for friends and the search for better friends who will truly be there for you. He also wanted this journey for virtue to culminate in healthier communities where everyone cared for and respected their neighbors instead of coveting them. Socrates believed that this was the best way to make the world a better place. He believed that if everyone looked for virtue that they would be naturally better people and aspire to make others better as well. Socrates also acted on this idea. He would treat people in a virtuous way and live out his life in the same manner. Many thought Socrates would just leave Athens and go against his words of virtue and wanting a wholesome community; however, Socrates embraced death and died just the way he wanted with dignity while maintaining his word. Socrates believed that having virtues really developed character for people. Socrates stressed that "the unexamined life is not worth living [and] ethical virtue is the only thing that matters." I believe in his idea of this as well because the world would truly be a better place if everyone searched for virtue instead of possessions. People are too predisposed with desires nowadays.
    Socrates saw the mistakes in people and he pointed it out and then he gave them a way to change the things that were wrong. If people would live the lifestyle that he proposed then there would be less greed and more overall happiness throughout the world. People would strive to help others instead of helping themselves because knowing that they helped someone in need would fulfill their sense of virtue. The world is too focused on each individual’s own desires rather than the desires of others. Things that are not needed are made the focal points of many people’s lives. Communities would be healthier as neighbors would not covet each other and their possessions but instead they would focus on helping their neighbors.
    If Socrates saw how the world is today, then he would be disgusted as it is much worse than it was back then. People are more focused on greed and possessions now than they were in his day. He would preach his word out again, but probably more furiously as everyone focuses on their phones and technology rather than listening. Now there are so many things people want that it has made it almost impossible for the pursuit of true virtue. Socrates wanted a world where people sought for innermost and emotional desires rather than possessions and physical desires. Socrates and his virtues would make the world a better place. His ideas would truly make people happy if they would follow them instead of following what they want.
    (I put it on this because I didn't get the email to become an author)

    1. Socrates stressed that "the unexamined life is not worth living [and] ethical virtue is the only thing that matters." - Yes, but "ethical virtue" was a much broader category for Socrates and the Greeks than it has become for us. Ethics is about the good life and how to live it, and that transcends any narrow approach to living by socially-sanctioned rules and codes. It's about arete, excellence in all facets of living.

      (Send me your email if you still want an invitation to be an author.)

  2. Ironic, that Freud was eager to distance himself from unscientific philosophy and now has largely been disavowed by scientific psychology... so, he'd better accept his philosophical identity on pain of being declared irrelevant. I agree, though - he is quite relevant, as a challenger to the rationalist dogma that our minds are open books to self-scrutiny, "meditation," etc.