Civilization And Its Discontents: Sources Of Unhappiness (Essay Sample)
In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud defends the proposal that life under the conditions of civilization is a source of discontent or unhappiness. Write an essay discussing Freud's view. In your paper, you should address the following issues:
a. What according to Freud, are the principal sources of unhappiness? To what extent does civilization, in Freud's view, mitigate or exacerbate these causes of unhappiness?
b. How and why is civilization supposed to frustrate natural human instincts? In particular, what instincts does Freud see as frustrated, and what is it about civilized life that makes the satisfaction of these instincts problematic? (In answering this question, it may be useful to consider whether, for Freud, the goals of civilized life are in tension with our primal instincts.)
c. Do you agree with Freud? Why or why not? (If you disagree with Freud, what specifically do you disagree with, and how would you convince someone to share your view? In answering this question, it might be helpful to consider how Freud's view compares with other conceptions of the pros or cons of life in the civilized society that we have seen, e.g. Aristotle's, Hobbes', Rousseau's.)
Civilization and Its Discontents
Civilization and Its Discontents
Freud's book titled “Civilization and Its Discontent” is all about the clash societal expectations and people's desire for individuality. In other words, the author, Freud explores the inherent tension between individual desires and civilization. While individuals strive to achieve instinctive freedom, civilization calls for conformity of all the individuals to the societal pressures. It is arguably true that Freud seeks to find a satisfactory answer regarding the main purpose of life. As such, he delves into the question regarding what the human behavior reveals about their lives' intention and purpose. This essay explores Freud's view about the underlying sources of unhappiness and the impact of civilization of such sources; and the manner in which civilization frustrates natural instincts.
Before delving into the main sources of unhappiness, it is important to examine happiness itself. In light of this, Freud begins by examining what humans demand and wish to attain in life. He then claims that human endeavor to achieve happiness in the sense that they not only strive to become happy but also remain happy. However, the aim of such endeavor is twofold – appositive aim and a negative one. The positive aim seeks to eliminate displeasure and pain while the negative aim strives to experience pleasure. Overall, Freud contents that the human life's main purpose is largely determined by the so-called pleasure principle. Such principle dominates the mental apparatus' operation from the onset.
However, happiness is merely an episodic phenomenon since what humans call happiness is simply stems from the satisfaction of the certain needs. In other words, humans cannot achieve sustainable happiness. As Freud posits, prolonging any situation that conforms to the pleasure principle does not result in a feeling of prolonged contentment but rather mild contentment. Intense enjoyment is derived from contrasts rather than from the status quo. The state of things only generates mild happiness while a sudden fulfillment of desires that have been long overdue creates intense happiness. Thus, the humans' own constitution limits the likelihood of happiness.
As Freud contents, there are various underlying sources of unhappiness, including the human body itself, the external world and the interrelationship among humans. To begin with, the human body is bound to decay while the dissolution is associated with anxiety and pain as warning signals. Given that the humans are mortal, their own bodies are weak and really likely to cause great suffering. Specifically, humans are bound to suffer from diseases, injuries, accidents and the ultimate death. Overall, man could have enjoyed intense happiness if he were immortal.
On the other hand, the external world is a threat to humans with its ruthless and overwhelming destructive forces. For instance, the occurrence of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes often results in gre
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