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Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche are among the most outstanding personalities in the history of philosophy. This paper is made up of two different essays, with the one devoted to Sigmund Freud and the other one covering one of the most interesting aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy. In terms of Freud, the basic premises of his philosophy of the unconscious are discussed. Repression and suppression, the significance of dreams and slips of the tongue, association of ideas, and psychotherapy approaches are evaluated. Comparison to the earlier theories of the unconscious are provided. Later, Nietzsche’s death of god and its religious and ethical implications are discussed.
Introduction to Philosophy
Sigmund Freud: Theory of the Unconscious and Therapeutic Implications
Sigmund Freud is believed to be one of the major contributors to the current science of psychoanalysis. His theory of the unconscious is valued and used as much as it is also hated. Of all major theories of personality, no theory ever generated as much controversy as that of Sigmund Freud. Nevertheless, Freud’s professional, scientific, and practical significance should not be disregarded. Freud’s theory of the unconscious is just one of the many ways to judge and interpret the surrounding reality. Basically, Freud perceives the human mind as made of conscious and unconscious elements; the latter is considered as the largest part of human personality and mind (Boeree, 2009). In Freud’s opinion, the unconscious serves the major source of human motivations, desires, and actions (Boeree, 2009). Nevertheless, individuals either repress or intentionally suppress their unconscious motives and motivations.
Repression and suppression are the two most common defense mechanisms described by Freud. The former implies that the human organism does not allow individuals to recall painful or traumatizing events (Boeree, 2009). In other words, repression is a defense mechanism that occurs against the human will; it is the way the human mind seeks to protect itself from the pain of recalling a threatening situation. By contrast, suppression is used whenever individuals consciously and intentionally forget the threatening situation, moving forcibly the unwanted information from their direct awareness. Both repression and suppression in Freud’s theory can serve relevant instruments of psychoanalysis; but of particular importance are the unconscious meanings and motivations revealed through dreams.
Dreams occupy a special place in Freud’s theory; according to Freud, dreams are so-called “wish-fulfillments” (Brians, 1998). That is, in their dreams individuals often see how they themselves make their wishes come true. Needless to say, dreams can be used to understand individuals’ hidden desires. I remember that when I had family problems, I often saw myself visiting my family, talking to my family members, and resolving the dilemma that was pressuring me. At that time I thought the recurrent dream was the sign of my obsession with the family; however, based on Freud’s theory, in my dreams I simply fulfilled one of my biggest wishes – to have stability and peace in family life. Apparently, dreams exemplify an essential element of Freud’s psychotherapy, as they facilitate the interpretation of the unconscious. Likewise, slips of the tongue and associations of ideas serve the foundational ingredients of Freudian therapy. It is interesting to note, that Freud called slips of the tongue “parapraxes” and turned them into an essential ingredient of his psychic determinism (Boeree, 2000). In Freud’s view, all parapraxes have their meaning and are crucial to understanding the nature of human psychology. Yet, these are not the only instruments of psychoanalysis in Freud’s hands.
In Freudian therapy, free and open atmosphere lays the groundwork for understanding the subconscious. Associations of ideas occur when individuals are allowed to talk openly and freely: Freud discovered that in the atmosphere of relaxation and comprehension, individuals built their ideas logically, leading themselves to uncover the true reasons of their psychological unrest (Boeree, 2009). Transference, catharsis and insight also help individuals to turn the subconscious into the conscious (Boeree, 2009).
Objectively, Freud was not the first to explore the meaning and value of the subconscious. Before Freud, the subconscious had been described by Leibniz, Herbart, Schopenhauer and von Hartmann (Boeree, 2000). However, it was not before Freud that psychoanalysis became a science. Freud’s philosophy of self sends two important implications: first, nothing is accidental, and even slips of the tongue can help individuals to expose the hidden sides of the unconscious; second, no person can truly know him (her) self. Only psychotherapy and psychoanalysis can help individuals understand their psychology and problems in detail.
Friedrich Nietzsche: God Is Dead
“God is dead” remains one of the most popular and controversial Nietzsche’s statements. The exact meaning of the sentence is poorly understood. The statement generates multiple interpretations, but it is clear that, by having God dead, Nietzsche puts the long era of religiosity and commitment to religious morality and ethics to an end. “God is dead” means that the lives of people are no longer centered on God. Science displaces religious morality and turns into the main source of social norms. All these processes occur, as humans themselves have chosen not to obey the laws of God:
The Christians have never practiced the actions Jesus prescribed them; and the impudent garrulous talk about the ‘justification by faith’ and its supreme and sole significance is only the consequence of the Church’s lack of courage and will to profess the works Jesus demanded. (Nietzsche; in Kaufmann, 1974, p.343)
In this sense, Nietzsche is clearly against the weaknesses and slavery morality of the Christian religion; no other religion is criticized by Nietzsche as heavily as the religion of Christ.
The ethical implications of the God-is-dead statement are far-reaching. To begin with, the death of God implies that God is a human creation. Second, the death of God is the same as the loss of value: God used to exemplify the source of moral, emotional, and philosophic value, and with his death earlier values are thrown into oblivion. Third, God used to be the basic criterion of morality for Christians; and with the death of God morality as a notion ceases to exist. The fear of God is gone, and humans are no longer restrained in their decisions and actions. Certainly, those who perceive Christian religion as the source of hypocrisy and slavery morality, the death of God cannot be totally negative. Simultaneously, when Nietzsche talks of religious hypocrisy and failure to obey God’s commands, he also implies that we ourselves are primarily responsible for everything that happens to us. Nietzsche is not against religion; rather, he is against pretence and hypocrisy, and these can easily apply to any religion.
Death of God is a metaphor used by Nietzsche to describe the crisis of identity across all European states. An admirer of religion as the highest state of culture and art, Nietzsche could not reconcile with the tragic anti-religious situation in Europe. However, it seems that every modern religion faced similar philosophical difficulties at least once in a lifetime. Recently Islam has become a popular object of political and military attacks. Islam is associated with the notion of terrorism and is believed to have nothing to do with the concepts of democracy and enlightenment. The Muslims are blamed for having lost their tolerance. Secularization is shown as a relevant and desired antidote against the spreading of Islam. Unfortunately, most of what is told about Islam is the reflection of ignorance. Most European nations have reconciled with the loss of the Christian God and Christian values, but the Muslim world continues to rely on the basic premises of its religion. Our religion and worldviews are fully compatible with the principles of democracy and openness to the whole world. We seek to act morally and responsibly, and we want the Western world to develop a better understanding of the eastern philosophy and values. Only by coming in close contact with us can other nations develop respect and tolerance of our values. Nietzsche himself suggested that bringing the East and West close to each other would let Europeans develop a better understanding of their own identity (Tutt, 2011). We are not guilty of the identity crisis affecting Europe, and according to Nietzsche the death of God in Europe does not allow Europeans to look beyond themselves and their world. The loss of religious worldviews in Europeans does not mean that all other nations must follow the same path. Only by developing close collaborative ties and being more patient toward diversity and difference we will bring God back into our souls and build a morally conscious and open society, be it Christian, Muslim, or otherwise.