University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Plato vs. Freud on Metaphysics
Plato and Freud have made great strides in their respective fields of study. Both men have made a lasting impact on the way we now as humans view the world that we live in. Plato and Freud have similarities in views that they share but they also have some differences metaphysically. Plato believes that what is ultimately real are ideas, he believes that images are imperfect representations of the perfect concepts. While Freud believes what is physically real is by the evolution of man. Freud ultimately puts his faith in what he can see and analyze in front of him instead of what he cannot. Freud developed a “talking cure” which he would let the hysterical patient talk freely about the earliest occurrences which would then entirely eliminate the patient’s symptoms.”…developed the idea that many neuroses (phobias, hysterical paralysis and pains, some forms of paranoia, and so forth) had their origins in deeply traumatic experiences, which had occurred in the patient’s past but which were now forgotten–hidden from consciousness. The treatment was to enable the patient to recall the experience to consciousness, to confront it in a deep way both intellectually and emotionally, and in thus discharging it, to remove the underlying psychological causes of the neurotic symptoms.” Plato answers the question of metaphysics by saying of ideas and ideal forms and Freud answers the metaphysical question through his belief in human nature.
For Plato what is ultimately real are ideas and Ideal forms. Plato believes that the object was constantly changing so the ideal form is what was ultimately real. Everything in existence has a form of perfection for itself. All things in the physical world work in their existence to approach their perfection. An object, living or dead, always works in some way or another to meet its nature. For example, if you have a brand new table in your house the brand new table itself is not perfect. It is not perfect because the table itself is in a constant state of change. There is however a perfect ideal form of the table that does not change. “It is most of all from Plato that we get the theory of Forms, according to which the world we know through the senses is only an imitation of the pure, eternal, and unchanging world of the Forms.”
While on the other hand Freud believes ultimately what is real is physical matter the whole universe is in evolution, which means he believes in no God or Gods. He concludes that all religious beliefs are illusions that have little proof. Freud also believed that the evolution that man had endured from the beginning to where he stood presently is what is ultimately real. “The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, whose practice began in 1885, believed that each person’s subconscious mind was fraught with desires stemming from earlier phases of evolution. These desires, suppressed by modern society, accounted for much of neurotic behavior. Likewise, an individual’s personality was at least partially determined by heredity.” Freud believes that evolution plays a very pressing role in the lives of humans and that is what is real in the world. Further, what is ultimately real about humans is that man is the highest and most complex of all living creatures whose personality is composed of three interacting parts—the Id, the Ego and the Super-ego.
The Id (or it) part of the psyche is the primitive instinctive component of personality. It consists of all of the inherited biological components of personality including the sex life. The Id is impulsive and unconscious and responds immediately to the instincts of human beings. The personality of a newborn child is all id and later it starts to develop ego and superego. The ego develops in order to mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world. It is the decision-making component of personality. The ego only satisfies the id on the realistic terms sometimes compromises to avoid negative consequences of society. The superego incorporates the values and morals of society, which are learned from one’s parents and others. It develops around the age of 3 – 5 during the phallic stage of psychosexual development. Through all of these different stages in personally there are some check and balance stages that go along with stages. For example if the id wants something that is wrong and the ego lets the person have such thing, guilt can come into play. “The superego consists of two systems: The conscience and the ideal self. The conscience can punish the ego through causing feelings of guilt. For example, if the ego gives in to id demands, the superego may make the person feel bad though guilt.”
Freud and Plato have made great strides in influencing the world after their work in their respective fields was completed. Freud has influenced many great psychologists after him and Plato has done the same in his respective field of philosophy. Freud influenced the minds such as: Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Karen Horney, Alfred Alder, Erik Erikson, and Carl Jung. Freud’s influences in his field were great toward the constant search for a deeper analysis of how the mind works. “His work supported the belief that not all mental illnesses have physiological causes and he also offered evidence that cultural differences have an impact on psychology and behavior. His work and writings contributed to our understanding of personality, clinical psychology, human development and abnormal psychology.” Plato as well left a lasting impression on philosophers after him. He gave great insight to know the world around him works and functions. Plato’s ideas were used to justify some religions and certain academic subjects. Plato gave a lot to the teachers and scholars after him. “In his lifetime he was the most celebrated teacher of his day. After his death his ideas were taken up by countless other thinkers. Philo of Alexandria used Plato’s ideas to give a philosophical framework to Judaism. Early Christian writers eagerly embraced Plato’s thought as the best available instrument for explaining and defending the teachings of the Bible and church tradition. Of the Christian Platonists, St. Augustine of Hippo was the best known and most influential. Plato’s influence spread into Islam as well, through the writings of the philosophers Avicenna and Averroes.” Freud and Plato are not just polar opposites they have things in common as well. They both thought that trouble in the human soul/mind arises when the three parts don’t work in harmony with each other. Plato thought that the key to such harmonious relationship was to yield control to the rational soul; after all, he was the founder of the rationalist program in philosophy. Freud, on the other hand, concentrated on dealing with the id by means of psychoanalytical techniques.
The difference of these men is clearly seen but they also have ideas that intertwine them. Plato thought the human soul, which we now call the mind, was made up of three parts: appetitive, rational, and the spiritual soul. Freud in turn in his career built a system around Plato’s comparable ideas.
The system was: id similar to the appetitive soul, ego similar to the rational soul, and superego similar to the spiritual soul. Both men have given the world a foundation to build upon and expand their theories.
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Lorenz, Hendrik. “Ancient Theories of Soul.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 23 Oct. 2003. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.