Quote Book – [25] – Judiciary, Law, Individual Freedom and Civilisation

Communal life becomes possible only when a majority comes together that is stronger than any individual presents a untied front against every individual. The power of the community then pits itself, in the name of ‘right’, against the power of the individual, which it condemned as ‘brute force’. The replacement of the power of the individual by that of the community is the decisive step toward civilisation.

Its essence lies in the fact that the member of the community restrict themselves in the scope for satisfaction; whereas the individual knew no such restriction.

Hence, the next requirement of civilisation is justice, that us the assurance that the legal order, once established, shall not be violated again in favour of the individual. This entails no judgement regarding the ethical value of such a system of law. The subsequent development of civilisation seems to aim at a situation in which the law should no longer express the will of a small community – a caste, a social stratum or a tribe – that in its turn relates like a violent individual to other groups, which may be more comprehensive. The ultimate outcome should be a system of law to which all – or at least all those who qualify as members of the community – have contributed by partly forgoing the satisfaction of their drives, and which allows no one – again subject to the same qualification to become a victim of brute force.
Individual liberty is not an asset of civilisation. It was greatest before there was any civilisation, though admittedly even then it was largely worthless, because the individual was hardly in a position to defend it. With the development of civilisation it underwent restrictions, and justice requires than no one shall be spared these restrictions.

Quote Book -[18]-International Civilisation (Society)

Page 159 It has been said that each generation must win its own struggle to be free. In our generation, thermonuclear war has made the risks of such struggles greater than ever. But the stakes are the same: the right to live in dignity according to the dictates of conscience and not according to the will of the state.
Page 37 We acknowledge, then, that a country has a high level of civilisation if we find that in it everything can assist man in his exploitation of the land and protect him against the forces of nature – everything, in short that is of use to him – is attended to and properly ordered.
Page 39 No feature, however, seems to us to characterise civilisation better than the appreciation and cultivation of the higher mental activities, of intellectual, scientific and artistic achievements, and the leading role accorded to idea in human life.
Page 42 It does not seem as though any influence can induce human beings to change their nature and become like termites; they will probably always defend their claim to individual freedom against the will of the mass. Much of mankind’s struggle is taken up with the task of finding a suitable, that is to say happy accommodation, between the claims of the individual and the mass claims of civilisation. One of the problems affecting the fate of mankind is whether such an accommodation can be achieved through particular moulding of civilisation or whether the conflict is irreconcilable.
Page 64 It is clearly not easy for people to forgo the satisfaction of their tendency to aggression. To do so makes them feel uneasy.   One should not belittle the advantage that is enjoyed by a fairly small cultural circle, which is that it allows the aggressive drive an outlet in the form of hostility to outsiders.   It is always possible to bind quite large numbers of people together in love, provided that others are left out as targets for aggression

I once discussed this phenomenon, the fact that it is precisely those communities that occupy contiguous territories and are otherwise closely related to each other – like the Spaniards and the Portuguese, the North Germans and the South Germans, the English and the Scots, etc . – that indulge in feuding and mutual mockery. I called this phenomenon ‘the narcissism of small differences’ – not that the name does much to explain it. It can be seen as a convenient and relatively innocuous way of satisfying the tendency to aggression and facilitating solidarity within the community.

Page 65 – 66 If civilisation imposes such great sacrifices not only on man’s sexuality, but also on his aggressiveity, we are in a better position to understand why it is so hard for him to feel happy in it. Primitive man was actually better off, because his drives were not restricted.   Yet this was counterbalanced by the fact that he had little certainty of enjoying this good fortune for long.   Civilised man had traded in portion of his chances of happiness for a certain measure of security. But let us not forget that in the primeval family only its head could give full rein to his drives; its other members lived in slavish suppression.

In that primordial era of civilisation there was therefore an extreme contrast between a minority who enjoyed it benefits and the majority to whom they were denied. As for today’s primitive peoples, more careful stuffy has shown that we have no reason whatsoever to envy them their instinctual life by reason of the freedom attaching to it; it is subject to restrictions of a different kind, which are perhaps even more severe than those imposed on modern civilised man,

Page 66 When we rightly reproach the present state of our civilisation with its inadequate response to our demand for a form of life that will make us happy, and with allowing so much suffering, which could probably be avoided – and when we strive, with unsparing criticism, to expose the roots of this inadequacy- we are exercising a legitimate right and certainly not revealing ourselves as enemies of civilisation. We may hope gradually to carry out such modifications in our civilisation as will better satisfy our needs and escape this criticism. But perhaps we shall also become familiar with the idea that there are some difficulties that are inherent in the nature of civilisation and will defy any attempt at reform. In addition to the tasks involved in restricting the drives – for which we are prepared – we are faced with the danger of a condition that we may call ‘the psychological misery of the mass’. This danger is most threatening where social bonding is produced mainly by the participation’s identification with on another, while individuals of leadership calibre do not acquire the importance that should be accorded to them in the formation of the mass.
Page 74 For the rest, I take the view that the tendency to aggression is an original, autonomous disposition in man, and I return to my earlier contention that it represents the greatest obstacle to civilisation. At one point in this investigation we were faced with the realisation that civilisation was a special process underdone by humanity, and we are still under the spell of this idea. We will now add that it is a process in the service of Eros, whose purpose is to gather together individuals, then families and finally tribes, peoples and nations in one great unit – humanity. Why this has to happen we do not know: it is simple the work of Eros.   These multitudes of human beings are to be libidinallly bound to one another; necessity alone, the advantages of shared work, will not hold them together. However, this programme of civilisation is opposed to man’s natural aggressive drive, the hostility of each against all and all against each.   This aggressive drive it the descendent and principal representative of the death drive, which we found beside Eros and which rules the world jointly with him. And now, I think, the meaning of the development of civilisation is no longer obscure to us. This development must show us the struggle between Eros and death, between the life drive and the drive for destruction, as it is played out in the human race.   This struggle is the essential content of all life; hence, the development of civilisation may be described simply as humanity’s struggle for existence.
Page 105-106 For a variety of reasons I have no wish whatever to offer an evaluation of human civilisation. I have been careful to refrain from the enthusiastic prejudice that sees our civilisation as the most precious thing we posses or can acquire, and believes that its path will necessarily leads us to heights of perfection hitherto undreamt of. I can at least listen, without bridling, to the critic who thinks that, considering the goals of cultural endeavour and the means it employs, one is bound to conclude that the whole effort is not worth the trouble and can only result in a state of affairs that the individual is bound to find intolerable My impartiality is facilitated by my scant knowledge of such matters. There is only one thing that I know for certain: the value judgements of human beings are undoubtedly guided by their desire for happiness and thus amount to an attempt to back up their illusions with arguments. I should understand perfectly if someone were to stress the inevitability of human civilisation and maintain, for instance, that the tendency to restrict sexual life, or to promote the humanitarian ideal at the expense of natural selection, were trends that could not be averted or deflected and that it was best to yield to them as if they were naturally ordained. On the other hand, I am familiar with the objection that in the course of human history such strivings, which we consider insurmountable, have often been cast aside and replaced by others. I therefore dare not set myself up as a prophet vis-à-vis my fellow men, and I plead guilty to the reproach that I cannot bring them any consolation, which is fundamentally no less passionately than the most well-behaved and pious believers.

The fateful question for human race seems to be whether, and to what extent, the development of its civilisation will manage to overcome the disturbance of communal life caused by the human drive for aggression and self-destruction.   Perhaps in this context the present age is worthy of special interest. Human beings have made such strides in controlling the forces of nature that, with the help of these forces, they will have no difficulty in exterminating one another, down to the last man. They know this, and it is knowledge that accounts for much of their present disquiet, unhappiness and anxiety. And now it is to be expected that the other of the two ‘heavenly powers’, immortal Eros, will try to assert himself in the struggle with the equally immortal adversary. But who can foresee the outcome?

Source: Civilisation and its discontents – Sigmund Freud

Quote Book -[12]- People & Society

Page 18 Again, only religion has an answer to the question of the purpose of life. It can hardly be wrong to conclude that the notion that life has a purpose stand or falls with the religious system.

We will therefore turn now to the more modest question of what human beings themselves reveal, through their behaviour, about the aim and purpose of their lives, what they demand of life and wish to achieve in it.   The answer can scarcely be in doubt: they strive for happiness, they want to become happy and remain so.

This striving has tow goals, one negative and one positive: on the one hand it aims at an absence of pain and unpleasurable experiences, on the other at strong feelings of pleasure.   ‘Happiness’, in the strict sense of the word, relates only to the latter. In conformity with this dichotomy in its aims, human activity develops in two directions, according to whether it seeks to realize – mainly or even exclusively – the one or the other of these aims.

As we see, it is simply the programme of the pleasure principle that determines the purpose of life. This principle governs the functioning of our mental apparatus from the start; there can be no doubt about its efficacy, and yet its programme is at odds with the whole world – with the macrocosm as much s with the microcosm. It is quite incapable of being realised; all the institutions of the universe are opposed to it; one is inclined to say that the intention that man should be ‘happy’ has no part in the plan of ‘creation’. What was call happiness, in the strictest sense of the word, arises from the fairly sudden satisfaction of pent-up needs. By its very nature it can be no more than an episodic phenomenon. Any prolongation of a situation desired by the pleasure principle produces only a feeling of lukewarm comfort;; we are so constituted that we can gain intense pleasure only from the contrast, and only very little from the condition itself.   Hence , our prospects of happiness are already restricted by our constitution. Unhappiness is much less difficult to experience. Suffering threatens us from three sides: from our own body, which being doomed to decay and dissolution, cannot dispense with pain and anxiety as warning signals; from the external world, which can unleash overwhelming, implacable, destructive forces against us; and finally from our relations with others. The suffering that arises from the last source perhaps causes us more pain than any other; we are inclined to regard it as a somewhat superfluous extra, though it is probably no less ineluctable than suffering that originates elsewhere.

It is no wonder that, under the pressure of these possibilities if suffering, people are used to tempering their claim to happiness, just as the pleasure principle itself has been transformed, under the influence of the eternal world, into the more modest ‘reality principle’; that one counts oneself lucky to have escaped unhappiness and survive suffering; and that in general the task of avoiding suffering pushes that of obtaining pleasure into the background. Reflection teaches us that we can try to perform this task by following very different paths; all these paths have been recommended by various schools of worldly wisdom and trodden by human beings. Unrestricted satisfaction of all our needs presents itself as the most enticing way to conduct one’s life, but it means putting enjoyment before caution, and that soon brings its own punishments.

Source: Civilization and its discontents. By Sigmund Freud


Quote Book -[10]- Economics & Society

Page 62 – 63 The communist think they have found the way to redeem mankind from evil.  Man is unequivocally good and well disposed to his neighbour, but his nature has been corrupted by the institution of private property.  Ownership of property gives the individual the power and so the temptation, to mistreat his neighbour; whoever is excluded from ownership is bound to be hostile to the oppressor and rebel against him.  When private property is abolished, when goods are held in common and enjoyed by all, ill will and enmity among human beings will cease.  Because all needs will be satisfied, no one will have any reason to see another person as his enemy; everyone will be glad to undertake whatever work is necessary.  I am not concerned with economic criticisms of the communist system; I have no way of knowing whether the abolition of private property is expedient and beneficial.*   But I can recognise the psychological presumption behind it as baseless illusion.  With the abolition of private property the human love of aggression is robbed of one of its tools, a strong one no doubt, but certainly not the strongest.  No change has been made in the disparities of power and influence that aggression exploits in pursuit of its end, or in nature.  Aggression was not created by property; it prevailed with almost no restriction in primitive times, when property was very scanty.

[* – Anyone who tasted the misery of poverty in his youth and experienced the indifference and arrogance of propertied people, should be safe from the suspicion that he has no sympathy with current efforts to combat inequalities of wealth and all that flows from them.  Of course, if this struggle seeks to appeal to the abstract demand, made in name of justice, for equality among all men, the objection is all too obvious: nature, by her highly unequal endowment of individuals with physical attributes and mental abilities, has introduced injustices that cannot be remedied.]

Source: Civilisation and its discontents, By: Sigmund Freud

Quote Book -[9]- People & Society

Page 22 Unless a special aptitude dictates the direction that a person’s interest in life is to take, the ordinary professional work available to everyone can occupy the place assigned to it by Voltaire’s wise advice.   Within the scope of a short survey it not possible to pay sufficient attention to the vital role of work in the economy of the libido. No other technique for the conduct of life binds the individual so firmly to reality as an emphasis on work, which at least gives him a secure place in one area of reality, the human community, The possibility of shifting a large number of libidinal components – narcissistic, aggressive, even erotic – towards professional work and the human relations connected with it lends it a value that is in no way inferior to the indispensable party it plays in asserting and justifying a person’s existence in society. Special satisfaction comes from professional activity when this is freely chosen and therefore make possible the use, through sublimation, of existing inclinations, of continued or constitutionally reinforced instinctual impulses. And yet people show scant regard for work as a path to happiness. Thy do not strive after it as they do after other possibilities of satisfaction. The great majority work only because they have to and this aversion to work is the source of the most difficult social problems.
Page 29 – 31 “We shall never wholly control nature; our constitution, itself part of this nature, will always remain a transient structure, with a limited capacity for adaption and achievement. Recognition of this fact does not have a paralysing effect on us; on the contrary, it gives direction to our activity. Even if we cannot put an end to all suffering, we can remove or alleviate some of it; the experience of thousands of years has convinced us of this. Our attitude to the third source of suffering, the social source, is different.

We refuse to recognise it at all; we cannot see why institutions that we ourselves have created should not protect and benefit us all.   However, when we consider how unsuccessful we have been at preventing suffering in this very sphere, the suspicion arises that here too an element of unconquerable nature may be at work in the background – this time our own psyche.

When considering this possibility, we come up against a contention which is so astonishing that we will dwell on it for a while. It is contended that much of the blame for our misery lies with what we call our civilisation, and that we should be far happier if we were to abandon it and revert to primitive conditions. I say this is astonishing because, however one defines the concept of civilisation, it is certain that all the means we use in our attempts to protect ourselves against the threat of suffering belong to this very civilisation.

By what route have so many people arrived at this strange attitude of hostility to civilization? I think a deep, long-standing dissatisfaction with the state of civilization at any given time prepared the ground on which a condemnation of it grew up owing to particular historical causes.   I thin I can identify the last two of these; I am not sufficiently erudite to trace the casual chain back for enough into the history of the human race. Some such hostility to civilisation must have been involved already in the victory of Christianity over paganism. After all this hostility was very close to the devaluation of earthly life that came through Christian teaching. The penultimate cause arose when voyages of discovery brought us into contact with primitive peoples and tribes. Owing to inadequate observation and misinterpretation of their manner and customs, they appeared to the Europeans to lead a simple, happy life, involving few needs, which was beyond the reach of their culturally superior visitors. Subsequent experience has corrected several such judgments; the fact that these peoples found life so much easier was mistakenly ascribed to the absence of complicated cultural requirements, when in fact it was due to nature’s bounty and the with which their major needs could be satisfied. The final cause is particularly familiar to us; it arose when we became acquainted with the mechanism of the neuroses that threaten to undermine the modicum of happiness enjoyed by civilised man. It was discovered that people became neurotic because they could not endure the degree of privation that society imposed on them in the service of its cultural ideals, and it was inferred that a suspension or a substantial reduction of its demands would mean a return to possibilities of happiness.

There is an added factor of disappointment. In recant generations the human race has made extraordinary advances in the natural sciences and their technical application, and it had increased its control over nature in ways that would previously have been unimaginable. The details of these advances are generally known and need no be enumerated. Human beings are proud of these achievements, and rightly so. Yet they believe they have observed that this newly won master over space and time, this subjugation of the force of nature – the fulfilment of an age-old longing – has not increased the amount of pleasure they can expect from life of made them feel any happier.”

Page 32 – 33 What is the good of the reduction of infant mortality if it forces us to practise extreme restraint in the procreation of children, with the result that on the whole we rear no more children than we did before hygiene became all important, but have imposed restraints on sexual life within marriage and probably worked against the benefits of natural selection? And finally, what good is a long life to us if it is hard, joyless and so full of suffering that we can only welcome death as a deliverer?

It seems certain that we do not feel comfortable in our present civilisation, but it is very hard to form a judgement as to whether and to what extent people of an earlier age felt happier, and what part their cultural conditions played in the matter. We shall always tend to view misery objectively, that is to project ourselves, with all our demands and susceptibilities, into their conditions, and then try to determine what occasions for happiness or unhappiness we should find in them . This way of looking at things, which appears objective because it ignores the variations in subjective sensitivity, is of course the most subjective there can be, in that it substitutes our own mental state for all others, of which we nothing. Happiness, however, is something altogether subjective.   However much we recoil in horror when considering certain situations – that of the gallery slave in ancient times, of the peasant in the Thirty Years War, of the victim of the Holy Inquisition, of the Jew waiting for the pogrom – it is none the less impossible for us to empathise with these people, to divine what changes the original insensitivity, the gradual diminution of sensitivity, the cessation of expectations, and cruder of more refined methods of narcotisation have wrought in man’s receptivity to pleasurable and unpleasurable feelings. In cases where there is a possibility of extreme suffering, certain protective psychical mechanisms are activated. It seems to me fruitless to pursue this aspect of the problem any further.

Page 33 It is time to consider the essence of the civilisation whose value for our happiness has been called into question. We will reframe from demanding a formula that captures this essence in a few words before we have learnt anything from our investigation.   We will content ourselves with repeating that the word ‘civilisation’ designates the sum total of those achievements and institutions that distinguish our life from that of our animal ancestors and serve the dual purpose of protecting human beings against nature and regulating their mutual relations.

Source: Civilization and its discontents. By: Sigmund Freud

Quote Book -[4]- People

Page 3 Normally we are sure of nothing so much as a sense of self, of our of our own ego.
Page 16 Normally we are sure of nothing so much as a sense of self, of our of our own ego.
Page 26 Despite the incompleteness of my presentation, I venture to offer even at this early stage a few remarks to round off our present enquiry. The programme for attaining happiness, imposed on us by the pleasure principle, cannot be fully realised, but we must not – indeed cannot – abandon our efforts to bring its realisation somehow closer. To reach this goal we may take very different routes and give priority to one or the other of two aims: the positive aim of gaining pleasure or the negative one of avoiding its opposite. On neither route can we attain all we desire. Happiness, in the reduced sense in which it is acknowledged to be possible, is a problem concerning the economy of the individual libido. There is no advice that would be beneficial to all; everyone must discover for himself how he can achieve salvation.

Source: Civilization and its discontents. By Sigmund Freud

Quote Book -[3]- People

Page 18 Ultimately, all suffering is merely feelings; it exists only in so far as we feel it, and we feel it only because our constitution is regulated in certain ways.

Source: Civilization and its discontents. By Sigmund Freud

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.