Socrates vs Freud Comparative Paper

Topics: Plato, Sigmund Freud, Socrates Pages: 6 (1726 words) Published: April 22, 2015
Vinny O’Brien
Dr. James Getz
Honors Mosaics 1
October 26th, 2014
One of Sigmund Freud’s most prominent claims that he makes in Civilization and its Discontents is that the laws that make up society are what holds man back from what man truly desires, and that if not for the superego, man would break those laws. Based on Plato’s recording of the dialogue in the Crito, Socrates would completely disagree with this claim. According to Socrates, laws are what allow the state to exist, and the state exists to serve its people, therefore any person living within the state should want to follow the law, as it would only benefit them. These are the core values which Socrates has lived his life by, and in Freudian terms, this simply means Socrates’ superego has been effective in mitigating the drive of the id. In Socrates’ case, the instance of the superego dominating the id is a consistent one; so consistent that I’m forced to question any presence of the id at all. If the id creates a desire to kill, fornicate, and indulge while the superego serves as a reminder to follow the law and do what’s right, but the superego always prevails, then there is no evidence to support any presence of an id. Socrates shows no signs of heeding to primitive desires such as breaking the law. While the two may not agree regarding the impact that laws have on their people, they both acknowledge that there is a general sense of responsibility to follow the laws that all humans should feel. How they perceive this responsibility is where the two philosophers differ.

Freud talks a lot about the death drive, an innate aggression that all humans feel, resulting in a strong internal desire for death and destruction. This wasn’t the first time Freud had referenced this concept, but it wasn’t always a foundation of his beliefs. Early on, he always spoke of man’s constant erotic desires, driven by the id. It wasn’t until after World War I that he altered his theory to include the death drive. Given that Civilizations and its Discontents was written in 1920s Austria, and the physical and emotional toll left by The Great War was still fresh in the minds of people around the world, it is understandable that Freud’s views on human nature became darker during this time. In the Crito, however, we never see any of this type of aggression from Socrates. He most likely has fewer days to live than he can count on one hand and yet he shows no desire to lash out in any way, despite the fact that he believes that he was arrested unjustly. In fact, his complacency with certain death is alarming to Crito. On page 62 he tells his concerned friend, “it would be an error for someone of my age to complain when the time has come when he must die.” He’s not acting on behalf of what’s best for him, he is simply accepting the hand that he has been dealt and living at peace with it (this sounds eerily familiar having just finished The Daodejing). Either Socrates has the strongest superego the world has ever seen, or he was simply born without an id.

In the Crito, Socrates and Crito discuss whether Socrates should be planning an escape plan to evade his imminent execution. Socrates personifies the Laws of Athens in this passage; he literally gives the Laws of Athens a voice in the discussion and speaks on their behalf. He remains objective in doing so; he simply explained to Crito the importance of following the law beyond the obvious legal reasons. He shows legitimate reason to respect the law in the same light that one should respect one’s own father (72-73). In this discussion, the three characters represent the three parts of the human psyche. Crito urges Socrates to forge an escape and free himself. To do this would require breaking the law in order to appease one’s own desires; therefore, Crito represents the id in this sequence. The Laws of Athens remind Socrates of all the good they do. One of many examples that they provide is that without marriage laws that allow...
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