Psychology of the Individual and Society
Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud have both made important contributions to the understanding of an individual and his relationship with the society. They both argue on how individuals think and how the mind causes them to behave in certain ways that influence them to behave in certain ways, in their relationship with other people. Sigmund Freud addresses these issues through Psychoanalysis and Civilization and its Discontents while Nietzsche addresses these issues in The Gay Science through aphorisms.
Sigmund Freud is best understood for his theories of the unconscious mind and the defense mechanisms of repression. Despite the fact that there are certain ideas brought up by Freud that have been refuted, there are two related but distinct issues that are influential in understanding an individual and his relation to the society. Freud developed a theory of the organization of the human mind and the internal operations that go on in the mind. Secondly, he theorized that human behavior is conditioned and is a consequence of how the mind is organized. These theories help in the understanding of individuals because they help reveal the information about one’s thoughts (Freud 12).
In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud makes a comparison between psychoanalysis and other accepted scientific theories. Through Civilization and its Discontents, Freud describes that human beings are made of three parts that include ego, super-ego and the id. He states that these three parts fight over one another to rule a human being. However, a human being must get these three parts to work in harmony and live in a state of equilibrium. The super-ego signifies the conscience part and the moral impositions that have been placed on individuals since childhood. This part represents the voice of authority, control, regulation and moral judgment. It is the part that keeps most of the societal rules and has the ability of punishing individuals with guilt. In this case, guilt is the part that calls an individual’s attention to his or her failure. It is harsh and aggressive. Freud sees the super-ego both as individual and collective. In understanding the self and the relationship of the self to society, the super-ego determines the manner in which a person behaves because it is the part that internalizes all the rules and moral standards defined by the society, for its inhabitants. This is the part that determines how an individual relates with others because it understands what the society needs and what the society do not.
The ego is the part that signifies individuality. It represents personal capacity as a rational being and the ability to make rational decisions. It represents the civilized individual. The ego, therefore, is essential in understanding the individual and his or her relations to the society. This part is important because for an individual to relate with others well in the society, he or she must make decisions and rational choices to be able to effectively do this. Therefore, the id is imperative for both the individual and his relationship to the society (Freud 45).
The id is the part that symbolizes the lowest instincts of an individual including his or her primary desires hunger, love, rest and all the primary needs of an individual. This determines the understanding of an individual as a human being.
Civilization and its Discontents seeks to understand the individual and his relationship to the society by replacing the metaphysical framework with a psychological one. Here, Freud does not consider societal institutions, behavior civilization or culture in an abstract way but as they exist in reality. Therefore, the birth of civilization is linked to the individual. People are born in a world that has negative things that should be avoided, for instance, to find pleasure and avoid pain. This means that the basis of civilization is egoism. Therefore, several individuals come together to create a culture or civilization. This means that the individuals who understand one another have constant relationships and coexist closer to one another. However, individuals are different and change their interests, something that creates different social institutions.
The theory of Psychoanalysis seeks to understand the conscious thought and behavior through studying the unconscious. In psychoanalysis, Freud gives prime importance to dreams as the means to understanding the unconscious. Psychoanalysis emphasizes that an essential factor that operates the unconscious is repression. Freud believed that human beings hide painful memories deep inside their unconscious mind and that repression is different among individuals. Freud also emphasized that people are unaware that they have repressed traumatic experiences in their mind. Therefore, Psychoanalysis was Freud’s idea of understanding individuals and helping them regain from illnesses caused by bad and traumatic memories.
Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the philosophers that focused on the relationship of body and mind and the nature of human beings in the society. Nietzsche sought to understand the causes of the actions of individuals, their reaction to stimuli and the overall patterns of behavior portrayed by individuals. One of the most notable conclusions that he made out of his study is that the strongest individuals are those who respond to their bodily instincts truly and have control over their minds. The opposite of the strongest individuals are those who react to conventions brought about by the society, as opposed to instincts that are created and ruled over by laws of nature.
In the Gay Science, Nietzsche presents various aphorisms that show his understanding of the individual and the relationship of the individual to the society. From his aphorism of love and sex, Nietzsche states that an individual who understands that he is loved but does not love betrays the importance of love. The issue of using senses does not help in the growth of love to the extent that it makes its origins weak. Love causes human beings to do things that are beyond the judgment of good and evil. Nietzsche states that from love of man, an individual can, in certain cases, embrace other individuals at random because an individual cannot embrace everyone. At the end of it all, an individual loves his or her desire instead of what should be desired. Therefore, when individuals live closely to one another, their relationship always ends in disgrace. People never see the beauty of the original love they shared. In this aphorism, Nietzsche posits that individuals behave according to how they are treated by other individuals in the society. However, new experiences that individuals have with others, such as love do not often last forever (Nietzsche 34).
In another aphorism, the intellectual conscience, Nietzsche states that he does have similar experiences and keeps resisting this. This is similar to every other individual who does not want to believe these experiences despite the fact that it is palpable. The most important issue here is that most people do not have intellectual conscience. He states that individuals never want to believe issues and live by them without giving themselves reasons to believe or not to believe or even troubling themselves with these issues later. Most people who are gifted and seen as noble also do this. Therefore, there is no refinement or good heartedness when people cannot display this in their judgments or their faith. Nietzsche shows that most individuals in the society do not have intellectual conscience as it is believed.
Another aphorism that shows Nietzsche’s understanding of the individual and his relation to society is the moral skepticism in Christianity. He states that Christianity has effectively spread moral skepticism effectively. He states that Christianity has destroyed the faith that individuals had on virtues. As such, individuals spread moral skepticism in the sense that irrespective of the fact that Christianity teaches the moral treatises of the ancient times, it also teaches a sense of superiority, which is not a virtue. Nietzsche shows that irrespective of the fact that Christianity teaches individuals to be virtuous in the society it makes these individuals moral skeptics by making them feel more superior to other people (Nietzsche 108).
In conclusion, both Freud and Nietzsche depict an understanding of the mind and the understanding of the relation of the individual to society. Freud relies on Psychoanalysis, Civilization, and its Discontents to show an understanding of the mind and how it influences the way, an individual acts in the society. The ego, super-ego and id determine ones behavior. On the other hand, Nietzsche relies on his aphorisms in The Gay Science to show that the mind works to influence behavior depending on the influences that are presented on to the mind. In the society, individuals act according to the things that their minds are exposed to.
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. United Kingdom: Penguin Books Limited, 2002.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1974.