‘A’ Level Philosophy and Ethics Notes
Conscience - Freud
Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) Freud was an Austrian doctor who had a number of troubled middle class Viennese ladies. He had a private practice in Vienna, where he developed his theories about the development of the mind. He developed the term Psychoanalysis, and also coined many of his other technical terms. Some of these terms have become widely known, though sometimes their original meanings have become changed! He began to develop his ideas as he worked with hypnosis as a treatment for hysteria in Paris. His mentor (a French Physiologist called Jean Charcot) was convinced that the hysteria that he was treating was psychical in origins. Charcot believed that ideas and beliefs could have a physical effect on a person. Repression Freud believed that a person can lose complete control of their mental states through a process called Repression. The process caused a change in the mental state that could lead to mental illness. In particular, the repression of early sexual experiences could have a damaging effect on a person: A young child is told off by its mother for touching itself – “Don’t do that – it’s dirty!” The child comes to feel that feelings of a sexual nature are “dirty”, and tries to push the feelings into their subconscious The sexual feelings are now repressed. These repressed feelings may cause mental imbalance, leading to possible illness.
Freud developed this idea through some of the discussions with his patients. He began to consider the idea that infants develop sexual feelings for their parents. He based this idea on an experience that he remembered during a session of self-analysis. He recalled feeling sexually aroused when seeing his mother naked. The trauma of such an experience causes “neurosis”. Neurosis A mental illness associated with feelings of anxiety developed through having to deal with mental conflicts. The distress experienced can to an obsessivecompulsive disorder, or some other neurotic behaviour.
Conscience - Freud
Freud and the Conscience Freud’s ideas about the development of the conscience are based on his beliefs about the development of the adult mind. The Ego εγω - ego (Greek – ‘I’) The ego is developed by the mind as a “front” to interact with society. The socialisation of the individual involves the repression of natural, but antisocial desires. The Super-Ego The feelings of disapproval of society are “internalised” to form the Super-Ego. § The super-ego therefore restricts the instinctive behaviour of the individual.
The Conscience The conflicts caused by the creation of the Super-Ego lead to the creation of a “guilty conscience”. The conscience develops into a powerful force, independent of reason and instinct. It leads to feelings of guilt based on the perceived expectations of society. The Super-Ego divides into two activities. Freud based this idea on the way that parents behave towards their children as they bring them up.
The Ego Ideal A parent will reward “good” (i.e. appropriate) behaviour with praise. The child learns to appreciate the parent’s approval. It feels pride in satisfying its parent’s expectations.
The Conscience A parent will also punish “bad” behaviour. The child will feel disappointment and shame when it sees its parent’s disappointment.
Freud’s ideas appear to have some basis in Child Development studies. Children are socialised by contact with the adult world. Through play they learn how to deal with other people. They also learn not to be selfish and to think of others. This socialisation takes place through parents’ rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad behaviour. However, the parents are not always “in control” of their own feelings. Sometimes they allow their own feelings of frustration and disappointment show (based in their feelings of inadequacy formed because of perceived pressures from other parents). The parent rewards the child for behaviour that...
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