Freud's civilised man... Aristotle's virtuous man questioned

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Smith, Katie
Issue Date
MA in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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In this thesis Aristotelian theory has been used to represent the norm of societal thinking in the area of human goodness and morality. Aristotle's theory has been used to illustrate the Freudian view point around civilization. Aristotle views mankind as innately good, and through practice and education form good moral habits. Aristotle believes that the vast majority of mankind is good –and strives for the ultimate aim of happiness, which is achieved through acting in a virtuous manner and avoiding bad behaviour or vice. For Aristotle people are either good or bad, with good people acting in the right manner and bad people acting in the wrong manner. Bad people act in this manner to avoid pain and are usually for Aristotle ignorant or mentally disturbed. Aristotle seems to believe that friendship is a key element in this equation, good people form relationships as they recognise good, and wish good things for the other. Freud views mankind as aggressive and libidinally driven. Freud unlike Aristotle looks at the human subject through the conscious and unconscious processes. This thesis explores Freud's Oedipus complex, which is an unconscious process in which a child harbours sexual desires towards their mother and an aggressive murderous wish towards the father who is seen as a rival to the mother. This process is only given up through fear of an aggressive retaliation from the father whom the child fears will castrate him for this libidinal wishes towards the mother. Freud seems to believe that mankind joins civilized society and forms relationships with one another, to protect themselves from the aggressive drives of others. For Freud all relationships are based on libidinal ties, people form sexual relationships to procreate and satisfy their libidinal drive. Other relationships are based upon this, with the sexual aim inhibited. For Freud happiness is achieved through the satisfaction of the libidinal and aggressive drives, which become frustrated by civilisation as it demands that these drives be curtailed, making happiness impossible. Civilized society is filled with war, torture and cruelty of mankind towards one another. Freud's theories seem to better explain these phenomena in society and bring in to question Aristotle's theory of a virtuous man.