The Ego And The ID In Sigmund Freud; A Philosophical Examination

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy


Chapter One


General Introduction

In the anal of history, quest for meaning as a quest for knowledge has remained an existential fact in every human endeavour. Hence, it propelled man’s meaning-attaching trait which satisfies his concept of existence. Philosophy as it were has been the vanguard of such innovation traceable from the time of Thales. More still, events and time have rolled out trajectories of philosophy that now constitute different field of studies. Most of these fields hold man as an object of inquiry. All their concern was to conceptualise man.

Many philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, scientists have made an incredible contribution in understanding man and his place in this world. Sigmund Freud is among these great men who have sought to make man and his life more comprehensible. Basically, Freud sees man as driven through life by two tides of psychic energy – Eros and Thanatos. These express themselves through the three structures of the mind, namely the Id, the Ego and the Superego. These three structures operate in three regions of the mind- the conscious, the preconscious and the unconscious.

As Freud explained: “the Id is the wholly unconscious domain of the mind, consisting of drives and of material later repressed. The Ego is partly conscious and contains the defence mechanism and capacities to calculate, reason and plan. The Super-Ego is also partly conscious but harbours the conscience and, beyond that ‘unconscious feeling of guilt’. The Id is viewed as the primitive and unconscious primary urges in the psyche. The Ego is developed when the Id realises that there is a world ‘out there’. The Super-Ego is an introverted parental authority which ultimately takes the place of the Oedipus impulse”[1].

This approach by Freud, brought to bare a contrast on a claim that man could accumulate real knowledge about himself and his world and exercise rational control over them. This claim in Freudian view is a delusion. Hence, he displayed the intricacies of man in relation to his conception of the “unconscious” as detailed in his work ‘The Ego and the Id’.

But to what extent can this Freudian view of the mind withstand the examination of some philosophical currents, especially existentialism and positivism?


1.1 A Short Biography of Sigmund Freud.

Freud, an Austrian neurologist, author, psychiatrist, and founder of almost all the basic concepts of psychoanalysis, was born on May 6, 1856, in the small Moravian town of Freiberg to the family of Jacob Freud and Amalia. In 1860, when he was almost four, he moved with his family to Vienna and entered the University of Vienna in 1873 at the age of seventeen studying Psychology and neurology. He graduated with a Masters Degree in 1881.

For some months in 1885, he studied under Jean Martin Charcot in Paris whose work in hysteria converted Freud to the cause of Psychiatry. Dissatisfied with hypnosis and electrotherapy as treatment techniques, he evolved the psychoanalytic method, founded on dream analysis.

For some thirty years he worked to establish the truth of his theories through his publications. He published Beyond the Pleasure Principle in 1920 which first announced his theory of the death drive; Totem and Taboo in 1913 which set about tracing the Oedipus complex back to the origins of humanity, The Moses of Michelangelo in 1914. The Future of an Illusion which is a convinced atheist’s dissection of religion, was published in 1927, Civilization and Its Discontents which is a disillusioned look at Modern civilization on the verge of catastrophe, came out in 1930. But it was in 1923, that he published his classical study The Ego and the Id improved “structural theory” of the mind.

Despite his growing reputation in May 1933 the Nazis publicly burnt Freud’s books in Berlin and fleeing this Nazi anti-Semitism, he left Vienna for London in 1938 and died on September 23, 1939, asking his physician for a lethal dose of morphine.


1.2 Statement of the Problem.

Man has always been an object of study. But, in ancient and medieval times, when the cosmocentric and theocentric perspectives prevailed, he was studied together with and subordinately to other primary realities such as the world or God. It was with Descartes, that man became the centre and the point of departure for philosophy, as such.

In this way, the modern and contemporary philosophers have obtained a whole new series of images of man, images which have often sparked great interest. For example: anguished man (Kierkegaard), economic man (Marx), existent man (Heidegger), symbolic man (Cassirer), problematic man (Marcel), erotic man (Freud) etc.

These explain the enigma in conceptualizing man. Hence, the examination of Freudian Ego and Id would to a large extent promote the understanding of man and his place in the world.


1.3 Purpose of this work.

The purpose of this work is to expose and critically examine the Freudian concept of man as detailed in his work the Ego and the Id. This examination is necessary in order to assess the contributions of Freud to philosophical knowledge and the excesses of his assumptions.


1.4 Scope of study

This work is particularly centred on the concepts of the Ego and the Id, and how they help us have a deeper understanding of man and his life. To substantiate our points, views from philosophers will be considered where necessary.


1.5 Method of Research

The method applied in this research is both expository and critical. It is expository in the sense that it shows in great detail the Freudian view of man in relation to the Ego and the Id. It is also critical because we shall subject Freud’s view to a philosophical analysis.


1.6 Division of the work.

This work is divided into four chapters. Chapter one is the general introduction. In chapter two, the researcher will dwell on the development of the concepts of Ego and the Id, and there relation to super-Ego and to the classes of instincts. Chapter three is the philosophical examination of this Freudian view. In chapter four, we shall evaluate and conclude the entire work.

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Conclusion


Man and the happenings in his life have been and remain an enigma to the human mind. This human mind however, can only conceptualise man to some extent and never wholly. Most speculations in sciences, sociology, psychology even most philosophical inputs like existentialism, personalism, individualism etc remain an attempt to establish man as the subject. It is in this that Sigmund Freud concerned himself with exploring the depth of the personality of man, rose up with the explications of man.

He should be accredited for turning the attention to the inner constituents of the personality. This step he made attracted the attention of many psychologists and most inquisitive minds who have taken up the task of developing his theories and correcting the defects in them. This Freudian contribution if not for any other thing, has made man aware of the fact that he is made up of complicated systems which when they are well managed and developed will make him turn into fully mature individual.

Such an individual is the demand of the contemporary world which is a world of boundless possibilities. The onus lies on the authentic and conscious man to unveil these possibilities. These possible events as it were, are coterminous with authentic or mature individual who should be preoccupied with the articulation of his complicated system.

Every mature or authentic society is traceable to mature or authentic individuals be it in the area of religion, moral, economy, politics etc. An authentic society is therefore where the individuals would not allow every instinct in them to be gratified (be it the drive to embezzle public fund, sniff life from someone, establish gangsterism, abhor knowledge etc) hence, they consciously refrain from such irrational drives following the promptings of their consciences. Such individuals establish a mature economy, politicking etc in a society.

In Nigerian context for instance, one in Freudian shoes would immediately conclude on the absence of this mature mind or individuals. Hence, the issue of authentic society traceable to mature individuals remain an illusion. Most individuals that constitute Nigerian society have allowed the inflow of most of their instinctual drives into their conscious element as in the ego with negligible emphasis on their consciences. As a result, there is a celebration of vices such as bribery and corruption, tribalism, nepotism, embezzlement, maltreatment, marginalisation, dishonesty, etc which culminate in in-authenticity.

Sad enough, this ugly development has invariably affected other constituents of the society in Nigeria such as the church where materialism, sex scandals, dishonesty, embezzlement, power tussle; a clandestine level of sacrilege etc is being celebrated at the pulpit.

However, a therapeutic major for these situations, lie in the Freudian contribution which has made man realise that he is made up of complicated systems. As such, a proper articulation of such complications would result in a less instinctual driven fellow responsible for a more decent society.

This Freudian development as ontological extension of his Being, softens the complexity in man and his place in the world.

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