There are many concepts that do not still have certain meanings. One of them is the term “consciousness”, and since the early times of philosophy, there isn’t an exact explanation of consciousness. As a simple explanation, consciousness means hat the condition of being awake and able to understand what is happening. However, Descartes and Freud have different perceptions for consciousness. This paper will argue that, according to Freud’s concerning the relation of unconsciousness and conscious process in order to show why it cannot be accepted by Descartes opinion of consciousness.
The way of Descartes is to try to understand things from the point of view of skepticism. Descartes tries to reach to the first principle by doubting everything. According to Descartes this doubting way of reaching to the first principle has to be our method. This method provides us to form a basic truth that the other truths are based on it. Why Descartes did choose this way? It is because that, he believed that our sense perception and imagination can deceive us.
He gives the example of dreams. People cannot be sure about whether they are awake or they are sleeping.
On the other words, maybe the real life that we live can be an imagination, or that moment, we think that is real, can be a dream. However, Descartes reach to this basic truth, by reaching to idea of the existence. Descartes starts to ask questions on knowledge. He asks, “What do you know? ” and his answer is with certainty nothing.
If the answer is nothing, we know what we lack of, and by the method that we mentioned, we can reach “indubitable truth”. According to Descartes, there is a mind and body distinction.
This distinction means that, thinking is something different from physical properties. According to Descartes people can separate their thoughts from their bodies, which means that we cannot deny that we are aware of ourselves. Our thoughts have two aspects. One of them is something, the other is self-awareness. We can explain this by an example; if we are holding a bottle (something) in our hand, we know that it is a bottle; we can think of that this is a bottle (self-awareness). We can doubt about what something is, because as it is mentioned, it may a dream, not reality.
However, the second one, self-awareness, thinking of the bottle cannot be doubt, because whether a person is dreaming or awake, that person can say “I think something”. At this point concept of “self-consciousness” emerges. Then by the method, Descartes asks the question of what is “I”. We cannot doubt without existing, we cannot be deceived about this. Then Descartes reaches to the point of “first principle, which is called “cogito”. By our method, we know that everything is based on cogito, the first principle.
The other question that Descartes asks is “are we certain of ourselves as physical beings? ” we become conscious while are using our mind’s. Descartes says your thought is not caused by perception; you have the capacity to separate your thoughts from external objects. Thoughts are independent. According to Descartes when we think, we are more aware of thinking beings. Descartes explains that with the wax example; wax has a certain color, smell, weight and shape. If we change its properties, we continue to call it as a wax.
This is because of the things that we are certain, are all changeable, therefore we can separate them from the wax. At that point “extension” emerges. All things have extensions; they have to extend in space. We can understand this by our minds, because extension cannot be perceived. As a conclusion consciousness is cogito, we know thing in the basis of this. If we try to understand consciousness from the point of view of Freud, we see some differences between Descartes perception of consciousness. Freud thinks that Descartes perception is limited, but not complete.
According to Freud, we cannot only rely on empirical results, based on consciousness. It can be a form of resistance, to control our life. In our life we may lie mostly without knowing, because of our experiences and some other external forces. The problem is psychoanalysis can be relying on consciousness as a security. The important thing is to distinguish thoughts and feelings. Relying on Freud, it is like an iceberg; it can be seen a part of the iceberg, which is at the top, and there is the other big part under the see, that cannot be seen.
Thee seen part is our consciousness, while the hidden part is our unconsciousness. Therefore, first we have to distinguish what is consciousness and unconsciousness. The big difference between Descartes and Freud is this unconsciousness. While Descartes ignores the unconsciousness, Freud gives importance to it. To make this clearer, we have to understand psychoanalysis and unconsciousness. Psychoanalysis is a scientific study of psyche. Structure of psyche contains id, ego and superego. Id is inherited with birth, its people’s instinct.
Ego is the external world and superego is consisted of norms and values. There are two instincts; life instincts (Eros), death instinct (Destructive). these are the ways of explaining unconsciousness according to Freud. From the point of view of Freud, our main causes of our behaviors are because of psyche and our instincts that are hidden in our unconsciousness. The point that Descartes’ ad Freud’s thoughts are challenging is; according to Descartes, people as thinking beings, we are certain about our consciousness, consciousness is based on our knowledge.
However Freud thinks this explanation is not wrong but not sufficient enough, because unconsciousness causes interruptions in our consciousness, which means that, w cannot understand the unconsciousness from what we know consciousness, with consciousness, we cannot use its rules to understand unconsciousness. We cannot rely on consciousness, it may be wrong as the unconsciousness. As a conclusions, both philosophers tried to explain consciousness and unconsciousness with their ideas; while Descartes mentions that consciousness gives us a certainty, Freud thinks consciousness can give us a certainty, but doesn’t give us self-knowledge truth.