How does Freud's writings reflect on the human condition?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I had to pare down the question from its original form.  It is fascinating, but might have to be submitted in multiple parts.  Freud's view of the human condition is one in which there is a certain level of pessimism in the human condition.  On one hand, Freud recognizes that the optimism that is so rampant within the time period in which he writes is rooted in the basic idea that human reason-ability can always be recognized.  Freud's projection of the conscious and the subconscious is something that challenges this notion.  For Freud, the human predicament is one in which individuals have to fully grasp and understand the role of the subconscious within their own conception of self.  There is little in way of "rationality" being the basis of human beings.  Rather, there are embers and flickers of our own background that formulates the subconscious.  In order to understand what it means to be be human and the condition within it, one has to embrace the role of the subconscious and how it impacts human behavior.  To a great extent, this is a process that propels the individual into greater understanding of oneself, but also one that limits the freedom of the human being.  The subconscious cannot be overcome, Freud will argue.  It cannot be sublimated nor can it be repressed away, try as humans might.  For Freud, the best one can do is to understand it and appropriate it as part of one's own sense of self.  The human predicament is based within this idea.  In Freud's thought, the recognition of the subconscious and the understanding that it cannot be repressed represents the element of Eros, and a creative instinct of redemption that might be present for human beings.  Yet, Freud also understands that the human predicament might not be fully ready or capable to do such a thing, in which case the instinct of negation, or Thanatos, will steadily rise and always be there.  For Freud, the battle and clash of both forces marks the human predicament and the advancement of historical consciousness.


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