Freud’s Weltanschauung

Sigmund Freud, known to college students everywhere for his ability to trace all human activity back to sex, published “Civilization and Die Weltanschauung” in 1918, near the end of World War I. While Freud never explicitly mentioned WWI in the excerpt discussed here, he did state that man’s natural inclination to aggression is one of the greatest impediments to civilization. The struggle between a number of contrasting factors, including the struggle between the instinct for life and the instinct for destruction (aggression) forms the evolution of human civilization, according to Freud.

Considering the time in which Freud wrote, and his references to Marxism, it seems impossible that Freud could have written on the topic of aggression without WWI influencing his thinking and writing to some extent. WWI provided a perfect example of the instinct for aggression (an unnecessary war and unnecessary loss of life) alongside an instinct for life (soldiers fighting to preserve their own lives and those of their countrymen and women). Freud also stated that the superiority of reason and intellect over other cultural forces, especially religion, provided the best hope for the future of civilization. He compared religion to neuroticism of the mind and saw it as an irrational, dangerous force. Whereas religion is divisive, in Freud’s mind, reason is unifying.

The early twentieth century was a time of great change, crisis, and rivalry in Europe. Religion and reason, life and aggression–these dichotomies explained die Weltanschauung of the time for Sigmund Freud.

2 thoughts on “Freud’s Weltanschauung

  1. First of all, I really enjoyed reading your take on the piece. I found it especially interesting Freud’s view on the relationship between philosophy, religion, and science, especially the negative references towards religion. To expand on your point he stated, ” (religion’s) doctrines carry with them the stamp of the times in which they originated, the ignorant childhood days of the human race.” I also found his allusions to Marxism as fascinating and was not aware of the influence Marx had on Freud.

  2. Your post was very interesting and spot on from what I see. I enjoyed this piece thoroughly and thought that the influence that Marx had on Freud was very interesting. I find the closing sentence of this piece, “This struggle is what all life essentially consists of, and the evolution of civilization may therefore be simply described as the struggle for life of the human species” very interesting and informative. I had known Freud’s name just from general psychology, and it is interesting to now know the other works and influences that impacted his life.

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