Future of an Illusion

The Future of an Illusion Sigmund Freud’s The Future of An Illusion proposes an idealistic form of human culture, one in which human relations are reorganized so that coercion and suppression of instincts are abandoned. The pivotal factor in this reorganization, he believes, is the universal abdication of religion. For the first portion of this response, the text itself will be broken down into chapter-by-chapter summaries. These summaries are written from the Freudian perspective and are not indicitive of the author’s standpoint on these matters; this standpoint will be explored in the latter art of this response.

Chapter-by-chapter Analysis Freud begins by philosophically examining the origin of culture, for he suggests that the less one knows of the past, the less reliable will one’s Judgement of the future prove. Human culture is defined to consist of two things. Firstly, “all of the knowledge and power that men have attained to master the forces of nature… ” (Freud, 1928, p. 3) and secondly, the regulation of the relations between citizens so that the distribution of resources is attained.

Culture is a human creation that Freud believes protects humanity from its own hostile nature. He then goes on to discuss an optimistic indulgence: his idealistic golden age, in which human instincts would not be suppressed. He concludes the opening chapter by introducing a concept that reappears later on; namely, that it is not in man’s nature to be fond of work and as such, culture breeds internal rebellion. The second chapter describes the transition in reasoning from a material basis of culture to that of a psychological origin.

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If the attainment of resources – by means of labor – is strongly opposed instinctually, then culture cannot be the creation of an instinctual process. For if this were the case, culture would be irreparably threatened by rebellion and would cease to exist. Therefore, Freud suggests that culture is the design of psychological motives. The process by which culture is a derivative of psychology follows three stages. To breifly summarize, any instinct that cannot be satisfied leads to frustration, which is the result of a prohibition; the condition produced by a prohibition being a privation.

A prohibition primarily suppresses instinctual wishes; the class of men that express this frustration by asocial behavior are known as neurotics. Lastly, the chapter concludes that Freud’s contemporary society cannot survive. The suppressed classes will develop a hatred towards culture, for which they provide the majority of labor while only sharing a small portion of its resources. A culture that leaves an entire class dissatisfied and motivated to rebel cannot be expected to survive.

Freud has established that the principal task of culture is to protect humanity from the forces of nature. Religion, for Freud, is a creation of culture. It attempts to resolve the damaged self-esteem of man, and its strong urge for consolation. It demands an answer for the inevitability of death and the elplessness that permeates its existence. The answer is found in religion. According to Freud, Gods must exorcise the terrors of nature, they reconcile the cruelty of fate and make amends for the suffering imposed upon man through the communal life of culture.

All good will ultlmately De rewaraea, In tnls IITe or tne next, ana all evll will be punished, which relieves the terror and fear that plagues man’s consciousness. Gods remain, however, a device, a creation of culture to console the trembling, fearful mind. He then goes on to note that, despite the various differences between religions, t is a device that is held especially valuable. He argues that it is held more valuable than all of our devices for survival, or attaining resources, or preventing disease. Faith in the existence of a God discredits these fears and strips them of their power.

With faith being the highest priority, once again, Freud concludes that the reason for culture must be psychological. Thus far Freud has allowed himself to theorize freely, without objection. The fourth chapter is dedicated to some potential rebuttals and is essentially a dialogue between Freud and an imagined opponent “who follows my (Freud’s) arguments with mistrust… (Freud, 1928, p. 33). The first interjection regards the Freud’s assumption that it is indeed culture that creates religious ideas and regulates the distribution of products of labor.

Freud responds by mentioning that he has already attempted to show that religious ideas have formed in reaction to the same need as all other achievements of culture: from the necessity to defend itself against the “crushing supremecy of nature. ” (Freud, 1928, p. 34). Furthermore, he explains that there is another motive for religion: the strong desire to correct the painfully felt imperfections of culture. The second argument regards what Freud escribed as man’s technique of personifying nature.

If the forces of nature, such as death, are similar in emotion to man then they are capable of being bribed, exorcised or appeased in order to rob them of their power over us. Frued’s opposing voice suggests that man personfies nature due to his own natural disposition, which is likely to serve him well and in fact be correct. This personification of nature is what Freud describes as an infantile prototype. He uses the example of an infant and its parents. The infant learns that the best way to influence something that is supreme to oneself is to form a relationship with it.

It is natural to man to personify everything he wishes to comprehend, in order to later control it. ” (p. 36). Here Freud begins to assess and pick apart the heavy reliance that human culture places upon religious doctrines. “… religion consists of certain dogmas, assertations about facts and conditions of external (or internal) reality, which tell one something that one has not oneself discovered and which claim that one should give them creedence. ” (Freud, 1928, p. 41). Yet these claims are not substantiated. Here, Freud uses the example of a common dogma that was sung in school: “Konstanz is on the

Bodensee… if you don’t believe it go and see. ” (Freud, 1928, p. 42). On visiting Konstanz, and noting that it is indeed on the Bodensee, Freud explains that this dogma was substantiated and as such he follows it. Dogmas exact belief in their contents, but not without substantiating their claim to this. If one wishes to substantiate a dogma for themselves, they should be able to do so; as Freud did by visiting Konstanz. Religion does not, as Freud would say, provide such an opportunity: it cannot be substantiated.

According to Freud, there are three claims that are ade in order to exact belief in religious doctrines: firstly, because our ancestors have believed it; secondly, because we posses proofs that have been handed down from the period of antiquity; and thirdly, because it is forbidden to raise the question of their authenticity at all. This last claim arouses suspicion and can only be motlvatea Dy soclety’s awareness 0T tne uncertalnty 0T tnls Deller. Yurtnermore, to disregard this last claim has been met, in the past particularly, with serious penalties: often death.

If society did trust the authenticity of these doctrines, then it would not feel threatened by those that question. Finally, this chapter suggests that evidence for the authenticity of religious doctrines should be easily found in the present. This point that Freud puts forth is evaded by the claim that religious doctrines, as Freud puts it, “… stand above reason. ” (Freud, 1928, p. 48). Freud concludes that the inherent strength of religious doctrines lies in psychology and are certainly independent of the acknowledgement of reason.

Freud claims that religious ideas are not the residue of experience and as such he describes them as the titular illusion. He describes them as fulfillments of man’s strongest wishes and it s indeed the strength of these wishes that give religion its strength in culture, not its authenticity or dependence on reason. An illusion is not defined as an error. It is, however, necessarily derived from a man’s wish, and it is achieved when that man believes his wish to be fulfilled; the actual realization of this wish is not important. Here, Freud assigns religious doctrines to the category of illusion as they cannot be submitted to proof.

Perhaps one of Freud’s most crucial assertions is represented as such: Critics persist in calling ‘deeply religious’ a person who confesses to a sense of an’s insignificance and impotence in the face of the universe, although it is not this feeling that consitutes the essence of religious emotion, but rather the next step, the reaction to it, which seeks a remedy against this feeling. He who goes no further, he who humbly acquisces in the insignificant part man plays in the universe, is, on the contrary, irreligious in the truest sense of the word. (Freud, 1928, p. 6) This concept of seeking an answer to one’s insignificance is the foundation of religion, according to Freud, and the method of finding this answer, faith in a higher power, is what he objects to. Once again, the text is opened up to the religious rebuttal. The seventh chapter explores the arguement that culture is built upon the foundation of religion and without it there would be chaos as man would revert back to their asocial instinctual behaviors. Furthemore, it is a purposeless cruelty to disprove religious doctrines as it would take away the solace that many find in their belief.

In response to this, Freud begins by assuring the reader that a devout believer could not be convinced to abandon their faith simply by reading this text. Nor does he pretend that he is the first to put forth these arguments or ideas – he has merely put orth a “certain psychological foundation to the critique of my great predecessors. ” (Freud, 1928, p. 60). He goes on to admit that religion has contributed much to restraining asocial behaviors, however, he believes that it has dominated human society for thousands of years and it has been given the chance to show what it can achieve.

It has failed. If the greater mass of mankind had found happiness, then there would be no need to strive for social change. As the authenticity of religious doctrines are nibbled at by critics and scientific advancements, religion’s influence on culture is slipping. In this eighth chapter, the reader is exposed to Freudian theory in its most demanding form. He proposes that religion is the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity. As with a child that goes through a stage of neuroses, so too does humanity.

The child grows out of his neuroses and enters adulthood, in the same way, Freud believes that humanity will grow out of religion ana Tina a new cultural Tounaatlon tnat Is more Dennclal. Rellglous ooctrlnes are tne neurotic survivals of our ancestors and he suggests that through psycho-analytic therapy, they can be removed as any other neuroses can. As this text is coming to its conclusion, the Freudian contender steps in once again. He reminds Freud that the experiment of a society without religion has already been entertained, during the French Revolution: it failed.

Furthermore, it was being explored at the time in Communist Russia. The contender questions whether Freud really believes that humanity can survive without religion. By this stage, it may come as no surprise that he does. He begins by conceding that ” A man who has for decades taken a sleeping draught is naturally unable to sleep if he is deprived of it” (Freud, 1928, p. 86). Specifically, a man that has been indoctrinated by religious ideas may not be able to live without religion. However, the uninfluenced child does not need the consolation of religion to comfort its thoughts.

The final chapter begins with a final interjection: Given that personality is formed within the first few years of childhood, religious teachings are the best way to instill a sense of morality into one’s personality. Even if religion is an illusion “… your (Freud’s) endeavour reduces itself to the attempt to replace a proved and affectively, valuable illusion by one that is unproved and without affective value. ” (Freud, 1928, p. 3). To this Freud admits that his idealistic hope for the future of culture may also be an illusion.

Yet he makes an important distinction between his illusion and the religious counterpart. His illusion is not incapable of correction or improvement: ” You must defend the religious illusion with all your might; if it were discredited… then your world would collapse, there would be nothing left for you but to despair of everything, of culture and of the future of mankind. ” (Freud, 1928, p. 94). The foundation of Freud’s belief, however, is that it is possible for scientific work to discover something about the world that will e beneficial to mankind.

Science has shown through many trials and successes that “… science is no illusion. But it would be an illusion to suppose that we could get anywhere else what it cannot give us. ” The final words of this text reveal Frued’s underlying contention: the future of the illusion of religion is empty, and it must be abandoned if culture is to continue to develop. Interpretation The text is essentially a Journey from the origins of culture to the necessary denial of religion. If one is to blindly accept the validity of each step on this path, then the denial of religion would certainly follow.

It is difficult to challenge the chain of logic that is presented in this text. Yet there are many aspects of it that are certainly susceptible to criticism. For if even one step in this process is flawed, then the chain itself is flawed. The following analysis of Freud’s The Future of an Illusion expresses this author’s personal reaction to and examination of the text. The incorporation of external resources – such as similar analytical essays of the text by other authors – are intentionally omitted so that this author’s viewpoint is not influenced by anyone other than Freud himself.

Freud’s initial enquiry into culture is brief, yet it is greeable. The conclusion that culture is a device that serves to protect humanity from “the supremecy of nature” (Freud, 1928, p. 25) appeals to the common sense of the reader. Considering the lack of physical weapons and defences with which the human body is equipped, strength is found in numbers. The contradiction in Freud’s theory lies in his concept of instinctual suppression. One should not contest the concept entlrely, Tor culture certalnly does, to some extent, suppress many aeslres that an individual may have.

However, the importance that Freud attributes to this suppression is disproportionate. To suggest that “every man is an enemy of culture” (Freud, 1928, p. 9) as a result of this suppression is a serious inference. Furthermore, his idealistic vision of a culture without instinctual suppression is based upon the assumption that humanity will act upon rational thought. Herein lies the contradiction, for the issue of instinctual suppression is in fact a product of rational thought. Why does one suppress an instinctual desire? It is the result of a process of rational thought that prohibits acting upon it.

This inconsistency is the first issue that one can find within Freud’s illusion. The first problem with Freud’s dialogue of religion is that it is, in actuality, a monologue. Though he must be commended for his attempt to allow for the imaginary interjections of a fictional opponent, they are still derived from his own viewpoint. To a large extent, Freud uses these interjections as a means of introducing a new point or to strengthen his own argument by discrediting the opposing view. The second issue lies in the nature of religious discussion in general.

To publish a text that strongly advocates the denial of religion will be read in one of two ways: firstly, the atheist reader will strongly agree ith the logical chain that leads to the denouncement of religion; secondly, the religious reader will strongly object to the argument and may even stop reading. Neither instance describes any serious influence on behalf of the text. Freud does, however, address this. He himself regards this work as harmless and incapable of actually leading to the denial of religion that he advocates.

Then, it must be asked, for what purpose did he write this? Perhaps he sought after a younger audience, one that had not already been indoctrinated by religion. Or perhaps this is simply a prediction, one which he hoped would one day be fulfilled. Irrespective of his motivation, it must be admitted that despite the strong will Freud expresses for social change within this text, it can – ironically – never inspire such change since the very indoctrination he refers to is already evident in his audience.

If it is not, then he is not attempting to change their mind at all. This text presents the concept of an illusion in a new light. It is a definition, however, that this author finds interesting. Any dogma, or even theory, that one believes to be truth without subtantiating it for oneself is an illusion. Freud is misguided, however, in assuming that the existence of God cannot, and has not already, been substantiated. Though he limits religious doctrines authenticity to three claims, there are other means by which one might experience the presence of a God.

For example, a personal experience with a God should, according to Freud, substantiate its existence. Without such an experience, though, it should be recognized that he is correct in saying that it is an illusion. Yet this illusion that he refers to seems to be presented in a negative light. There are so many things that are a mystery to humanity, and any theory that an individual entertains will always be an illusion until they can substantiate it. The only way to avoid this is to believe in nothing at all, to doubt any theory that comes one’s way.

This is more than simply an impractical way to live, it is an empty and purposeless life. Even if one leads a life at the whim of an illusion, it still has direction and Freud seems to disregard the importance of this essential aspect of life. One of the most striking features of this text is its strong philosophical basis. The very large maJorlty 0T It Is an expresslon 0T Freud’s personal DelleTs regar01ng numanlty ana religion. Considering his strong advocation of substantiating one’s dogmas, the text is mpty of research, physiological explanation or even a single case study.

One cannot be so naive to demand accurate statistics on matters as broad as religion and culture in its entirety. However, considering the nature of topics that are discussed, this text cannot be considered a scientific publication. It is the speculation of a psychologist. As such, the most apparent link to the course content of Professor Barron’s personality psychology course is found in Freud’s description of neuroticism in children and adults. He explains that these neuroses can be removed by psycho- analytic therapy, as explored in class. However, this concept is incorrectly adapted to humanity as a whole.

As Freud said, man personifies that which he does not understand. In the same way, Freud has personfied the history of humanity so that he might better describe it according to his own theories of personality development. Beyond this, The Future of an Illusion scarcely enlightens the reader on the development of personality, for that is not its purpose. It is a philosophical piece, advocating social change by means of abdicating religion. References Freud, S. (1928). The Future of an Illusion. Retrieved from https://read. amazon. comn astn=B00D119YAK

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Future of an Illusion. (2018, Jun 28). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-future-of-an-illusion/

Future of an Illusion
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