The more you know

The discomfort of civilization

For Freud, religion and morals were born when men began to appease the urge to kill the father and possess the mother; this is called taboo, which means “do not touch”, therefore it concerns what is forbidden. In his work Totem and Taboo, Freud recounts the origin of civilization; initially men lived in small tribes, in which a male dominated all, owned all women and had many children. The children were forbidden to mate with their father’s women, but one day the children killed their father and ate him. But the children felt a sense of guilt for having killed their father and for this reason they decided to create a code of rules that governed social relations. Thus morality and religion were born and the totem representing the substitute figure of the dead father, a symbol of authority, was also created.
This is how civilization originated. For Freud, men seek happiness, both as an absence of pain and as a tendency to fulfill their desires. But the pleasure principle, that is, the immediate realization of desires through fantasy, collides with the reality principle, in which we realize that only reality can truly satisfy our desires. For this reason, the clash between these two principles causes unhappiness. According to Freud, man cannot do without others and for this reason he must put a stop to his own drives; their free manifestation would make the relationship with others impossible. To curb the instincts, society contributes to making the individual superego stronger, through the social superego, which must strengthen the former. set of prohibitions. In this way the personality of the individual, already repressed by his own individual superego, is subject to a new constraint caused by the civil superego, generating in individuals a great sense of anguish, as they feel strongly limited. A greater degree of civilization will correspond to a stronger sense of repression; but Freud admits that society is indispensable because it must contain the drives precisely in order to favor the happiness of individuals.


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