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What drives civilization?

What drives civilization?


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Fossil record indicates humanity arose on the African Continent - in/around Gauteng. Yet the oldest civilizations on record are far afield - Ebla, Mesopotamia

What drives civilization? Why is the cradle of civilization not nearer the cradle of humanity?

In my opinion civilization is that state of intellect when beings of a community recognize that collaboration rather than competition for resources is feasible, and actively work in that direction (granted we humans still have competition at the level of village, town, company, & nation). Unlike other contemporary civilizations (ants and bees for instance) humans are not segregated into castes such as the warrior, worker - intellect drives human civilization.


Not a real explanation of why writing or cities appeared where they appeared but by that time humans had already spread to many parts of the world so I am not sure there is any particular need to explain why they did not appear in southern Africa, specifically.

Also, the “cradle of humankind” in Gauteng is a large source of hominin fossils (possibly for reasons that have more to do with their preservation than anything else), not of homo sapiens sapiens or anatomically modern humans. We are not talking about the same periods at all (millions of years before present vs. 200 000 years for homo sapiens sapiens and 6000 years for writing).


In my opinion the question is not of-topic, because of two reasons:

1) Scientifically, it is hard to approve or not, but Sigmund Freud wrote about it in book: Totem and Taboo wrote that civilization start when human offsprings decided not to kill father and that strongest among them become new "leadeor of herd/doggery" It could explain debate cradle of humanity - craddle of civilization.

2) In Social psychology it is known model of Terror management theory. In this wikipedia articles you have numerous references.

Why I think it is relevant for this web site is relation: neuroscience - cognitive science - social psychology and related social cognition and socila neuroscience.

EDIT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_management_theory#References

EDIT2: Answer: According to Terror management theory people are interested to maintain civilization to maintain illusion of immortality.

Source: Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Intraindividual Processes

http://books.google.hr/books?id=4AVi-a7_BCAC&pg=PA281&lpg=PA281&dq=Blackwell+Handbook+of+Social+Psychology:+Intraindividual+Processes+terror+management+theory&source=bl&ots=kk-BnZbm_X&sig=HX6p9AjKGxjPmJMUTpGpB7Eb3Cg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8Cn6UfvqJYLLtQb89YCYDg&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Blackwell%20Handbook%20of%20Social%20Psychology%3A%20Intraindividual%20Processes%20terror%20management%20theory&f=false


Are we ready for the genetic revolution?

When the time comes, and experts believe it is coming sooner than we expect or are prepared for, genetic meddling with the human genome may drive social inequality to an unprecedented level with not just differences in wealth distribution but in what kind of being you become and who retains power. This is the kind of nightmare that Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Jennifer Doudna talked about in a recent Big Think video.

CRISPR 101: Curing Sickle Cell, Growing Organs, Mosquito Makeovers | Jennifer Doudna | Big Think www.youtube.com

At the heart of these advances is the dual-use nature of science, its light and shadow selves. Most technological developments are perceived and sold as spectacular advances that will either alleviate human suffering or bring increasing levels of comfort and accessibility to a growing number of people. Curing diseases is what motivated Doudna and other scientists involved with CRISPR research. But with that also came the potential for altering the genetic makeup of humanity in ways that, again, can be used for good or evil purposes.

This is not a sci-fi movie plot. The main difference between biohacking and nuclear hacking is one of scale. Nuclear technologies require industrial-level infrastructure, which is very costly and demanding. This is why nuclear research and its technological implementation have been mostly relegated to governments. Biohacking can be done in someone's backyard garage with equipment that is not very costly. The Netflix documentary series Unnatural Selection brings this point home in terrifying ways. The essential problem is this: once the genie is out of the bottle, it is virtually impossible to enforce any kind of control. The genie will not be pushed back in.


When a tree sprouts in the forest it begins to assemble life.

The tree extends its roots and no doubt makes contact with the mycelium of a mushroom, extending its energy flow and living relationship. It raises leaves to the sun and connects with that living energy system. It connects with water in the air and soil it connects with the diverse soil community. The tree unifies energies in its living systems.

The life of the earth functions in its balanced way because each being lives according to its particular nature. The decentralized power of all life resides in each being. In contrast, the pattern of empire culture is to centralize power over life and consequently the natural patterns disintegrate.

A golf course, for example, appears very neat and orderly. With its edged borders, well-watered grass, and trees, it represents the epitome of orderliness to the mind conditioned by the culture of civilization. In the reality of earth life, created and conditioned by cosmic forces, it is a gross disorder. Where once stood a life potentiating, balanced and perpetual, dynamic, climax ecosystem with its diverse circulating energies and manifold variety of beings, there are now a few varieties of designer plants kept alive by chemicals and artificial water supplies. A staff of maintenance people are kept busy battling the integrated life of the earth that attempts to rescue this wound by sending in the plants, animals, and other life forms that are naturally adapted to live in the area.


Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization

There’s a tendency among humanist and atheist writers to make their books dense and detailed, recognizing that the usual audience wants all the facts comprehensively collected in one place. Their readers may not need or even desire the many popular approaches to storytelling, such as creating suspense or tossing in entertaining sidelights to stir interest in the content. Those who just want to “get the information” tend to grow impatient with all that. I know I do.

But this isn’t the case with every candidate for a humanist worldview, or aspects of it. In particular, many aren’t yet sure what philosophical conclusions to draw so they need to be gently sold rather than bombarded with arguments. Thus they can be put off by books that seem too heavy, or that sound too decisive and settled from the get-go.

British writer Stephen Cave, who got his PhD in metaphysics from Cambridge University, understands this. As such he’s written a book, innocuously titled Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization, designed to impart to a wider public a portion of the humanist outlook—the idea that no form of immortality is truly attainable. It’s a book crafted to reach beyond the audience included within the current humanist movement. This becomes clear not only from his title but from the first sentence. Cave starts out by taking us on a journey to ancient Egypt, opening the first chapter, “A Beautiful Woman Has Come,” with a paragraph that could have begun a popular novel.

They tried to destroy her. Hammers swung to smash the elegant nose and break her long and graceful neck. All across the kingdom, the statues and busts of the great queen were pounded to dust. Her name was chiseled from the monuments, its utterance banned. This embodiment of regal womanhood was never to be seen or spoken of again.

For many, that sort of nonfiction writing is exciting. It gets the juices flowing and draws one into the material. Now compare the above passage about Nefertiti to the opening of the only other major book devoted exclusively to a careful analysis of life after death: Corliss Lamont’s The Illusion of Immortality. Chapter One is entitled “Importance of the Problem” and starts thus:

“All men are mortal” begins the most famous of all syllogisms, and it proceeds to tell us that “Socrates is a man” and “therefore Socrates is mortal.” The branch of philosophy known as logic has made much of this syllogism as an example of perfect reasoning what is more significant is the prodigious amount of time and energy which philosophy as a whole has spent on inquiring into its true and complete meaning.

And so the first paragraph goes, continuing for four more long and complex sentences. Which is appropriate for a book that originated as a doctoral dissertation.

/>Cave relies heavily on Lamont and gives him due credit. But he reorganizes Lamont’s essential arguments (and those of others) in a particularly memorable way, reducing “the apparent diversity of stories about how immortality is to be attained” to four basic narratives: staying alive, resurrection, soul, and legacy. He then begins his exploration of the staying-alive narrative with the story of the first emperor of China and that man’s pursuit of an elixir of life that would allow him to live forever. Cave wraps up with modern techno-optimist and transhumanist ideas of nanotechnology and life extension, revealing their many hidden problems.

For the resurrection narrative he begins with the New Testament and Paul’s resurrection of the flesh doctrine, takes us through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, analyzes cryonics, and leaves off where Star Trek “beams down” Captain Kirk. All the while Cave exposes the internal contradictions that are rife within any idea of achieving immortality in such a manner.

The soul narrative begins with Dante, provides the usual philosophic objections to the very idea of a soul, explores reincarnation, and challenges Buddhism head on, refuting its claim that the soul narrative is not part of its doctrine.

This leaves the concept of legacy: living on in the memories of others. Although I’m disappointed that Cave doesn’t note the arguments on this topic so evocatively presented by Cicero in “Scipio’s Dream,” I enjoyed the historical coverage of the immortal aspirations of Alexander of Macedon and the legendary ones of Homer’s heroes. Cave also covers a variation on this narrative, which he calls “biological legacy,” poetically expressed by Albert Einstein when writing to console a friend’s widow. “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children, for they are us,” Einstein wrote. “Our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.” But it turns out there’s a dark side to this view, which takes us back to Alexander and the palace murders orchestrated by his mother, Olympias.

What Cave does so well throughout Immortality is to take the reader by the hand and carefully guide her or him through each concept, ensuring understanding before exploring assorted variations and difficulties. He’s writing for searchers, not people collecting knock ’em-dead refutations of positions they’ve already rejected. And his appeal is to intellectual curiosity. The vehicle by which he transports readers through the maze of cultural assumptions and theological abstractions is that of the humanities. Science has its say, to be sure. But he doesn’t require readers to start from such a perspective.

Cave is a storyteller, and he uses stories as entrées to ideas. Most people respond much better to stories than to clinical dissections. That’s the secret of the Bible’s popularity, for instance. It’s more a storybook than a law book—and certainly isn’t a text on theology or science. So if humanism hopes to compete in that marketplace, it will need to tell stories too—true stories as well as literary ones.

Just as importantly, Cave understands the psychology behind belief in an afterlife. So he takes readers into the depths of the “mortality paradox,” explaining how it’s possible that, on the one hand, we know we will die and, on the other, we just can’t imagine ourselves dead. By revealing and parsing this paradox, he takes us to the root of the issue.

Then, in the final section of the book, he sets forth a positive vision of the good life free of immortal aspirations. As usual, Cave infotains us first, this time with the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh and its message that a person would do better to focus on the here and now. Then he takes us through Epicurus and brings us to the life-affirming wisdom of the Stoics, Bertrand Russell, and others.

It isn’t enough, you see, to simply tear down a false idea. One needs to also offer a positive alternative. Lamont knew the value of this approach, naming his final chapter “Life without Immortality” and offering an affirmative humanism. Cave does much the same thing. But he does it without any specific reference to humanism, freethought, or atheism—words that, indeed, are totally absent from his index.

And therein lies the rub. Cave has written a book that doesn’t label its source or conclusion. For some this will prove a major shortcoming, for others an ethical lapse. But could it simply be a deft communication of controversial ideas? I’ll leave it for those reading the book to decide for themselves.


Psychoanalysis, Freud, Civilization and Capitalism

Is Freud right when he claimed that psychoanalysis is concerned with ‘social phenomenon’ including politics?

Sigmund Freud's seminal texts on psychoanalysis sealed his position as the unofficial father of modern psychology. Whilst not subscribing to any explicitly political weltanschauung – or world-view – the idea that the study of the individual psyche was inseparable from the social psychology of the group underpins his work. His theoretical analyses of the unconscious mind and the concept of regression, libidinal development and its sublimation, the division of the mind into three antagonistic parts – Id, ego and superego, and the pleasure instincts and death drives inherent in all human beings are evidently attempts at explaining social phenomenon, currents and patterns of human behaviour that run throughout the history of civilisation. The significance and importance of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century is self-evident the rise and fall of fascism and it's quasi-masochistic 'mob mentality', the war of ideologies and the allure of their self-appointed leaders and vanguards, the rise in mental health problems and the incessant categorisation and sub-categorisation of diseases of the mind, the parallel growth of marketing, advertising and consumer psychology in the business world and public relations and spin in the world of politics – all symptomatic of a the Freudian assertion that the mind cannot be understood as a rational and coherent whole, but is in fact irrational, manipulatable and is shaped obliviously by desires and drives that we have no control over.

Modern consumer capitalism has artfully mastered the techniques of the manipulation of the psyche and even turned the practice into an industry in itself advertising, public relations and marketing. Advanced capitalism's ability to exploit general tendencies in the human mind, particularly the unconscious mind has lead to a proliferation of a sophisticated propaganda racket that shapes public opinion and governs people's behaviour. Freud's nephew Edward Bernays saw this development in a highly positive light, arguing that, “intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society”, and that somewhat paradoxically to any vision of 'democratic' society the 'socially necessary' manipulators, “constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country”. Appropriately and true to his word, Bernays managed to re-brand his position as a propagandist by euphemistically renaming propaganda, 'public relations'. The advertising and marketing industries have developed tried and tested techniques of selling commodities. The methods stem from the psychoanalytical idea of tapping into the unconscious, appealing to repressed desires, sublimating them through buying power and promises of personal fulfilment, empowerment, pleasure and strength through expenditure. We find our identities in what we buy and express our self through the commodities we own. Buying has become a process of self-affirmation and what we buy determines not only our status, but can signify our belonging to a group, our belief in an ideal or our loyalty to a brand. Consumer trends, fashion and fads are a testament to the relevance of 'the herd instinct' that Freud examines in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. In an appraisal of the work of Gustave Le Bon, Freud states that, “we have an impression of a state in which an individual’s separate emotion and personal intellectual act are too weak to come to anything by themselves and are absolutely obliged to wait till they are reinforced through being repeated in a similar way in the other members of the group.” Rampant consumerism, from a psychoanalytical point of view, can be seen as an expression of libidinal desires sublimated with 'retail therapy' or the instinctual drive of human beings to be part of 'the herd'. The success of advertising is measured by its ability to convince potential consumers that a ownership of a certain product will guarantee them a place in that herd or that their fears, anxieties and internal conflicts can be resolved and pleasure attained through the simple act of buying.

A 1921 handbook for aspiring salesmen wrote that, “In a retail store, you have a wonderful chance to study human beings. Who are they? What are their chief characteristics? Why do they act and talk as they do? Where are they going? For what purposes do they buy various articles?” Rachel Bowlby points out, “an intimate connection, institutionally and intellectually, between psychology and marketing during the first forty years of this century and beyond.” As psychology became a separate discipline moving away from both philosophy and neurology, its primary concerns were entwined with the concerns of marketing experts – the scientific study of human behaviour and the human mind's susceptibility to suggestion along with the impulses and desires of our psyches and subconscious and the exploitation of these desires. The consumerist ethic wasn't too far removed from the ethos of psychology – an individualistic and almost narcissistic obsession with an irrational self and troubled and malleable ego, whilst promoting the idea that either psychotherapy or retail therapy can resolve internal mental instabilities.

According to Freud, the pleasure-seeking childlike part of the psyche – the Id – is repressed by artificial boundaries imposed on it by society which are internalised mentally and represented in the 'superego' of the mind. Our egos are an amalgamation of these two conflicting parts of the psyche, working in conjunction and opposition with both, striving after the pleasure principle sought after by the our primordial Ids whilst maintaining the respectability and socially appropriate behaviour demanded by our superegos. The ego is the part of the mind with the ability to exercise direct control over the body, as we try to reconcile our love-instincts and drives for pleasure with the innately repressive functions of our superegos which, “[displaying] particular severity and [raging] against the ego with the utmost cruelty” demand conformity and submission and cause an inevitable internal conflict that manifests itself in depression, anxiety, neuroses, pathology and sometimes hysteria that characterise modern 'civilisation'. This categorisation of the minds three metaphysical sectors necessarily leads to an all-encompassing explanation of various social problems and phenomenon. Generalised internalised repression, first of our Oedipus complex (the precursor to our superegos), incestuous desires and primary identification with our patriarchal figures serves as a crucial stepping stone to understanding the widespread psycho-pathologies in human beings, as well a general explanation of our modern political structures which arise from a, “universalisation of the father-son relationship into a prototypical mould underlying all political formations.” Additionally, sublimation of crude, primary drives associated with our Ids and repressed libidos can, to some extent, satiate these drives. The creation of works of art, 'progress' in the sciences and technological invention, general interests and hobbies as well as obsession with the accumulation of more and more consumer goods which distinguishes our modern 'civilisation' from our primitive past are merely the reification of our abstract instinctual desires materialised and substituted for other socially constructed desires that fit in more neatly with the norms and values of our particular epoch. In Freudian terms, the anguish that we suffer due to the subjugation of our desires is partly avoidable. A, “technique for avoiding suffering makes use of the displacements of the libido that are permitted by our psychical apparatus. Sublimation of the drives plays a part in this. the artist's joy in creating, in fashioning forth the products of his imagination, or the scientist's in solving problems and discovering truths.” But Freud states in a typically elitist fashion that these palliative reliefs were reserved for only a small and privileged minority that posses the, “special aptitudes and gifts that are not exactly common.” This assumption is indicative of Freud's tendency in his writings to reserve psychoanalysis and psychotherapy as a firmly bourgeois pursuit and see little or no hope in the crowd or masse seeking 'higher pursuits' or 'socially useful' ones to quash the instinctive pleasures of the Id.

We could postulate that had Freud been alive today, to a degree he could have included social phenomena such as television, spectator sports, mainstream cinema or celebrity culture in a long list of, “powerful distractions, which cause us to make light of our misery, substitutive factions, which diminish it” and particularly, “intoxicants, which anaesthetise us to it.” It could easily be argued that the entire 'Society of the Spectacle' serves to lull all of us into an inertia that keeps us blissfully unaware of the causes of our collective miseries and frustrations. Disenfranchisement and apathy are the hallmarks of advanced consumer-(spectacular)-capitalism, along with civilisation's distinctive features analysed by Freud that cause extensive damage to our mental and physical well-being and forbid the realisation of our desires and aspirations. But the organisation of the 'Spectacle', its invasion into every part of our daily lives and encroachment into our psyches keeps us all sufficiently docile and submissive, despite the very real internal antagonisms and contradictions imposed on us by the external world. “Those who organise the world organise both suffering and the anaesthetics for dealing with it this much is common knowledge. Most people live like sleepwalkers, torn between the gratification of neurosis and the traumatic prospect of a return to real life.” Psychoanalysis and especially psychiatry has, to some extent, become part of the repressive machinery of society. It has been co-opted and put into use as a lubricant for the cogs of oppression and can therefore be defined as a tool not just for explaining social phenomenon, but for keeping social, political and economic structures in place and consequently is a highly politicised discipline. The Foucauldian notion that psychiatry, like all other specialised branches of knowledge, science and ideology, has become part of a vast superstructure of oppressive control and manipulation here rings true.

The view that people's actions in 'civilised' societies are governed not by their rational and logical decision-making capacities (but rather by the complex and often unconscious interplay of hostile elements of the mind) is echoed by several contemporary 'anti-civilisation' thinkers, who can loosely be described as 'primitivists' or 'neo-luddite'. Themes in Freud's analysis of civilisation, its discontents and the inescapable psychological and social harm that results from the onset of an 'advanced organisation of society' influence the work of Theodore Kaczynski and his pamphlet Industrial Society and Its Future. But for Kaczynski, a well-established and prevailing sense of powerlessness, anxiety and mental instability exists not due to the internal repression of Oedipal desire or early traumatic experiences, but because of a the regulation of our lives by large-scale organisations and the lack of influence people have over their own lives. However, this isn't by any means a radical departure from Freudian thinking. Whereas Freud's psychoanalytical standpoint blames an almost factional dispute between superego and id on the incontinuity of the self, Kaczynski puts down the lack of any autonomous decision-making or 'power processes' in the creation of entire populations of psychologically perturbed subjects. But as in the texts of Freud, sublimation of real needs and desires for what Kaczynski describes as 'surrogate activities', is seen as a necessary prescription for people living in a society where mental health is, “defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.” Freud's sublimation can be directly equated with Kaczynski's concept of 'surrogate activities' - “an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the 'fulfilment' that they get from pursuing the goal.” These activities serve the purpose of what Freud calls, “palliative relief”' from, “the life imposed on us [that is] too hard for us to bear: it brings too much pain, too many disappointments, too many insoluble problems.” And yet a crucial difference separates Freud and Kaczynski's two perspectives on 'civilisation' and the problems that arise from it. For Kaczynski, an advocate of anarcho-primitivism, the inhuman social phenomenon and organisation of society that arise from 'progress' and 'advancement' is entirely avoidable, whereas Freud sees this as inevitable, necessary and preferable to the alternative of barbarism and submission to the whims of individual egos. Freud's inclination towards authoritarian systems of governance or perhaps reluctant acceptance of such methods of social organisation are born out of his fear of what he called the, “psychological malaise of crowds” and a “bias against those whom he called 'the masses.'” His absolute belief in the pleasure principle lead him to adopting a sort of utilitarian-realist perspective that the best vehicle for the attainment of this pleasure in a balanced and measured (i.e the long-term achievement of this absolute goal without descending into anarchic lawlessness) was, “to give way to a middle course between total satisfaction and complete renunciation. for Freud, liberation and real pleasure always demand a self-restraint which is predicated on the internalisation of authority.” In this way, a total acceptance of Freudian psychoanalysis is reactionary, conservative and must essentially be precluded by an acceptance of a pessimistic Hobbessian view of human beings as morally bankrupt, feral and self-destructive in their very nature. Human beings, for Freud are too volatile and untrustworthy not to be controlled by some external authority, the pros of civilisation vastly outweigh the cons and all of us, 'the masses', being unable to effectively manage our own psychic emotions must submit to servitude and be managed by others. Authority is legitimised and the very worst features of 'civilisation' justified, “to overcome the disturbance of communal life caused by the human drive for aggression and self-destruction.” Nevertheless, like all critiques of civilisation the analysis is pointed towards the discord caused by the battle between individuals and society, an important dichotomy that for Freud, unlike radical primitivist and left-libertarian theory, can never be fulbly resolved, but only be mediated, controlled and limited.

In many respects, psychoanalysis could be accused of externalising and applying too universally personal neuroses and turning individual mental characteristics and psychic problems into all-encompassing explanations of social phenomena (including political structures) without placing these phenomena in their historical, cultural or social context. Applying, “to large-scale social processes and institutions the concepts and categories which he had developed on the private realm” Freud universalised his essentialist views on the individual psyche and attempted to explain all social phenomena through a rigid psychoanalytic grid that he himself had constructed a priori. Freud's analysis of 'crowd mentality', particularly his explanations for the desire of people to be dominated by often tyrannical leaders (on a historical note, he resided in Vienna during Hitler's Anschluss with Austria in 1938) is no exception but does nevertheless pose interesting questions and invite debate on engaging explanations of leadership, totalitarianism and humanity's appetite for destruction. In Group Psychology Freud sets about analysing the psychological reasons for the allure of leaders. This broad social phenomena is again analysed from a purely psychological perspective. The leader for Freud inherits the position of the patriarch, the authority figure that provides grounding and imposes regulations, rules and absolutes in a chaotic and disturbing world. His popularity is dependant on his ability to embody unchanging moral values, convey an ordered vision of the world and bind together the mass of individuals, uniting the crowd behind them. Freud had little reservations about describing the relationship between charismatic leaders and obedient crowds as erotic - “what can unite thousands or millions of people is the relation – and the libidinal investment of this relation – of each one of them to a leader (political, religious or military) or an idea occupying the position of. a common point of reference.” The effect of this libidinous attraction is absolute adoration, servitude and willingness to submit. Seductions of power and the authority figure stem not just from personal admiration or 'libidinal investment', but also the enticement of being part of the crowd and the regression to the 'herd instinct'. “What happens is that the members of the crowd are hypnotised (and that is the word Freud uses) by the leader. The leader takes place of the over-I. What he offers to individuals is a new psychological dispensation. Where the individual super-ego is inconsistent and often inaccessible because it is unconscious, the collective super-ego, the leader, is clear and absolute in his values.” The atrocities committed by ordinary people under Nazi rule in Austria give credence to the Freudian concept of the death drive. Their success and popularity lay in their willingness to allow people to commit barbarous and forbidden acts, to unleash the primordial instincts of their Ids without restraint against persecuted minorities and scapegoats, but still remain within the parameters of a new fascist legitimacy. They created a new moral order in which people could resolve their antagonisms and internal human ambivalence in collective acts of barbarism and death-driven passion in events like Kristallknacht. “'The aim of all life,' Freud famously declared, 'is death.'” We are prone to seek in death a resolution that we cannot achieve in life. These abominations allowed a discharge of all the anxieties and contradictions described by Freud that had been bound up in the human psyche. All the negative traits of the human mind, “the weakness of intellectual ability, the lack of emotional restraint, the incapacity for moderation and delay, the inclination to exceed every limit in the expression of emotion” were let loose as people were given licence to, “work it off completely in the form of action.” His conclusions go some way to explaining his deep-seated scepticism of states of anarchy and unbridled expressions and manifestations of instinctual drives that for Freud, would undoubtedly lead to acts of barbarity. The mistrust of a hypothetical chaotic 'state of nature' in which the psyche is freed without external control or the mediation of the super-ego, and the consequent support of a politically conservative but completely necessary form of hierarchical government can be understood in this light.

To conclude, Freud is correct in his assertion that psychoanalysis is concerned with social phenomenon and can the discipline be a useful and radical tool in explaining various political structures and cultural and societal trends. However, Freudian psychoanalysis in particular has a tendency to equate individual psychiatric trends with generalised trends in society. The individual and the social are inextricably linked, however, the result of universalising and generalising psychoanalysis to explain political and social phenomena often means that events are taken out of their historical and economic context and placed in a sometimes unsuitable framework and viewed from a doctrinaire perspective.


Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious Theme Analysis

Sigmund Freud was a psychologist, therapist, and intellectual concerned with the forces at work in the human mind. His theory of “psychoanalysis,” which he developed over the course of his lifetime, has many aspects—but can be summed up, primarily, as the descriptive study of a system of internal checks and balances that regulate emotion and action.

Freud believed that the mind could be divided into the ego (the “I”), the id (deep, sometimes perverse, desires) and the superego (the warden or overseer, keeping id and ego in check). In Freud’s theory of mind, humans generally are aware of the desires that drive their behaviors, but oftentimes they aren’t—and that makes these latter impulses unconscious. Freud argued that unconscious drives shape human beings’ lives—who they are and why they do what they do.

Civilization and its Discontents is a thought-experiment by Freud: an essay attempting to determine whether the same unconscious impulses that Freud saw as driving individual’s behavior could also be used to describe the formation of human civilization. Freud puzzles out whether civilization is itself a “good” or “progressive” thing: whether it makes human beings happier, healthier, and freer than an ideal “state of nature” before, or outside, civilization.

Freud concludes that the very same processes and antagonisms operating in the individual mind are the forces shaping whole civil societies. Thus Freud argues for—though he does not use the term—a “social psychology,” or a way of explaining society based on the accumulated effects of individuals’ minds.


Synopsis

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2011) explores the topic of human motivation. Daniel argues that most people are driven by extrinsic motivation—decisions based on external rewards and punishments. The author proposes that people should replace extrinsic motivation with intrinsic motivation. Daniel shows that intrinsic motivation has to do with the innate pleasure humans derive from completing or mastering an activity. People and organizations should adopt intrinsic motivation as a challenge to improve their abilities and not simply for material reward. Daniel proposes that restructuring work and aligning jobs with intrinsic motivation, organizations will be more successful and employees will lead happier, more rewarding, and fulfilling lives.

Chapter 1: The Rise and Fall of Motivation 2.0

-Daniel starts by showing that civilization was driven by our survival needs: eating and surviving. He refers to them as “Motivation 1.0”.

-The industrial revolution brought about Motivation 2.0. We have gone beyond basic needs. The world now works using a ‘carrots and stick’ system of rewards and punishments.

-Extrinsic Motivation works on a rewards and punishment mentality. Intrinsic Motivation produces results from an internal desire to accomplish something even if there is no material reward.

Chapter 2: 7 Reasons Why Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work

-Psychology shows that carrots and sticks system does not work. Extrinsic motivation “crowds out” intrinsic motivation and the joy of accomplishing a task it also diminishes performance and discourages creativity in the long-term.

-Extrinsic motivation encourages cheating.

-It motivates people to engage in immoral behavior in order to get ahead in life. What happened at ENRON is a good example of extrinsically motivated behavior.

-Extrinsic behavior is addictive and produces negative effects once it’s stopped. People tend to get depressed when there is no reward and start to feel like work is a punishment

-Extrinsic motivation encourages short-term thinking. This affects long-term growth.

Chapter 3: Type I and Type X

-There are two types of people: Type X (Extrinsic) who are driven by a desire for fame, status, money, etc. Such people are materialistic and always seek to gain more. They are also highly successful.

-Type I’s (Intrinsic) are motivated from within. They seek to accomplish something meaningful and take pleasure in the task and not the reward.

-Type I have higher self-esteem and establish better relationships. They are motivated by purpose, autonomy and a desire to master their lives.

Chapter 4: Autonomy

-Autonomy or the desire to be in control of one’s life is one of the three basic human needs. However, it should not be confused with independence. One can be autonomous but not independent.

-Most people thrive when they are presented with a problem and asked to provide solutions. There is greater creativity when one people work in an environment of autonomy

-In the workplace, people desire to have autonomy in time, tasks, teams, and techniques. Autonomy encourages Type I personality to develop and flourish.

Chapter 5: Mastery

-The path to achieve Mastery is to attain what is referred to as “flow: when a task is neither too easy nor too difficult.” It is also the point at which we will learn the most and the quickest.

-Mastery is a mindset. Start seeing your ability to improve as having no end. What you see is what you get.

-Mastery is a pain. To achieve mastery requires effort and practice. Don’t rush to achieve mastery.

-Mastery is an asymptote. Mastery can never be fully achieved. This means that there is always room for improvement.

Chapter 6: Purpose

-When one is motivated by purpose, they tend to be more productive and satisfied. One reaches purpose while doing something well that matters in a cause larger than themselves.

-If companies focused on maximizing purpose and not profits, profits would follow naturally since employees with purpose would create great products.

-Purpose in the workplace can be improved using words of encouragement and policies that encourage productivity.


It is a trope of science fiction that there are so-called "basilisks" that will neurologically impair anyone who views them. These things are visual patterns/shapes/whatever that human brains (or perhaps any brain) cannot process without being harmed in some way (think about bricking an electronic device). Common examples are the movie Bird Box, an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation (used against the Borg), and about 3000 articles on the SCP collaborative fiction website.

For a basilisk to be viable, one would have to know how a human mind processes information (whether this is the whole brain, or just the visual cortex, I couldn't say) to some very profound level, and to debug it like you would any other software. You might identify some inputs that crash this software, and given that human brains don't have a reset button (that we're aware of), it would likely stay in this locked-up state forever after (especially if it crashes the visual cortex, so that no one can feed therapeutic inputs to it that revert the brain to a non/less-crashed state). The sorts of experiments that would be necessary to conduct this research would be, by necessity, absolutely unethical. It might even require being able to simulate human minds (something we don't currently have enough processing power to do, let alone several other missing technologies).

For the purposes of your story, these might be still images, or might be video. They might or might not have an audio component. They could work in such a way that some are immune, or none are. The details would be entirely up to you.

Does it matter?

Sometimes things don't need a full explanation. We never learn why Phil is forced to relive the same day over and over in Groundhog Day. We don't get to hear or read Monty Python's "Funniest Joke in the World". (How could we? It would kill us too!) If the means by which the movie drives the viewer insane is not important to the plot of the story, why not just leave it out?

Explaining things like this creates the risk of creating a "voodoo shark": the explanation is less believable than the thing it attempts to explain. And, in fact, the Groundhog Day script did originally have an explanation for why Phil was forced to relive the same day over and over again—a sort of voodoo curse, as it happens—and it was cut because it was just silly. The writers tried a few different explanations, but none of them worked better than no explanation at all, so that's what they went with.

It's not the movie itself, it's rather the movie and what they spray in the room where the movie is projected.

Psychedelic drugs are known for

  • having their effect depending on the "set" of the user, meaning their mental state at the moment of the assumption
  • being capable of surfacing latent psychosis.

Put the two together, with a movie which creates the right "set", and most of your audience might turn psychotic.

Sentience Off-Switch.

In the distant past some apes were artificially given sentience by a race of advanced aliens.* These apes became modern humans. When these aliens performed the uplift they added a failsafe that the sentience could be deactivated by issuing a certain visual pattern.

The pattern only works when observed in its entirety at the correct speed and frequency. If any of the variables are off it looks like white noise. The movie contains the pattern.

When someone views the movie they revert to feral ape behaviour. Wild apes are mostly nonviolent in their natural home on the Savannah. But the modern world contains hundreds of people and noises and flashing lights that get the ape all riled up. Then all nearby humans are recognized as interlopers on their territory and attacked.

*Please do not ask me how these aliens themselves acquired sentience. It is a mystery.

A movie that produces doubt and suspicion about the underpinnings of civilization (examples: rule of law, democratic ideals, civil society) with slick, plausible and easy to digest ideas that augment tropes and concepts already circulating in the populace.

The old tropes and concepts which the movie augments have themselves persisted because these concepts can manifest ambient anxiety and fear in the susceptible population. Augmented ideas level up and become memes, reproducing themselves and gaining power and audience. More people watch the movie to find out what it is all about and become hosts to these ideas. The memes mutate and evolve, with more powerful and transmissible ideas gaining dominance.

Skillful political operators take advantage of the large and growing population infected with these memes. They stoke the fear and anxiety that feed the memes, which become stronger. The operators use the infected population to gain political power.

Led by these operators, the population infected by the memes destroy their own civilizations from the inside out. Civilization is replaced with a different type of society of a form driven by the memes and anxieties / fears they nurture. This destruction is in some cases gradual, over years and in some cases paroxysmic.
It takes persistence to kill civilization. Civilization is big and durable. It will take more than one shot.

Drives them insane - this is part of the OP. Are infected people insane? They do not think so. They do not froth at the mouth and eat their pets. But they will vigorously defend the reality of the memes they are infected with. They will defend them against evidence and common sense. The memes are a shared delusion - fixed false immutable beliefs. Delusions are a hallmark of mental illness.

Just a fun fictional scenario for a work of fiction!


Psychology

One school of theorists has postulated that the major causes of war can be found in man’s psychological nature. Such psychological approaches range from very general, often merely intuitive assertions regarding human nature to complex analyses utilizing the concepts and techniques of modern psychology. The former category includes a wide range of ethical and philosophical teaching and insights, including the works of such figures as St. Augustine and the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Benedict de Spinoza.

Modern writers utilizing psychological approaches emphasize the significance of psychological maladjustments or complexes and of false, stereotyped images held by decision makers of other countries and their leaders. Some psychologists posit an innate aggressiveness in man. Others concentrate upon public opinion and its influence, particularly in times of tension. Others stress the importance of decision makers and the need for their careful selection and training. Most believe that an improved social adjustment of individuals would decrease frustration, insecurity, and fear and would reduce the likelihood of war. All of them believe in the importance of research and education. Still, the limitations of such approaches derive from their very generality. Also, whether the psychological premises are optimistic or pessimistic about the nature of man, one cannot ignore the impact upon human behaviour of social and political institutions that give man the opportunities to exercise his good or evil propensities and to impose restraints upon him.


What drives civilization? - Psychology

HUMN 221 Professor Easton

  • Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was born in Moravia (then part of Austria now in the Czech Republic) the family moved to Vienna in 1859. Freud married Martha Bernays in 1886. He fathered six children.
  • Education: Freud began medical studies at the University of Vienna in 1873 studied physiology with von Brück [neurology], beginning in 1877. MD degree 1881.
  • Rejected "mechanistic" view of what makes the mind work. Studied with Charcot in Paris [hypnosis], 1885.
  • Worked with Breuer on "Studies on Hysteria," 1895. [The talking cure]
  • "Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis," 1915/16.
  • Cancer of the palate and jaw diagnosed, 1923.
  • Honored with title "Citizen of Vienna," 1924. Copies of Freud's books burned by the Nazis, 1933.
  • Anna Freud was arrested by Gestapo in Vienna, 1938 (and released). Freud immigrated to London his wife and children also escaped. Four sisters remain in Vienna and were later killed in concentration camps.

the unconscious—the vast, unknowable, unexaminable part of the mind (which Freud calls a "dynamic structure" in conflict with itself). The unconscious is much larger than consciousness. Like an excavated city, the history of a body's skeleton, or an evolutionary descendent of a dinosaur (see Civilization and its Discontents, ch. 1 ), the unconscious is timeless. Its past and present exist simultaneously.

censorship—the means of keeping unpleasant (or unsociable) desires out of consciousness. Censorship is circumvented through dreams, parapraxes (or "slips of the tongue"), word association, and figures of speech.

repression—a way of dealing with painful or unsociable desires they are relocated in the unconscious where they indirectly continue to influence daily life and dreams. Some recent believers in "Recovered Memory Syndrome" claim they base their theory on Freud's notion of repression (e.g., RMS suggests that patients in therapy might suddenly remember that they were molested as children). Freudian scholars, however, point out that Freud does not talk about repression of events but rather of thoughts and desires.

transference —the emotional relationship formed between the patient and the analyst "falling in love" with the analyst, or temporarily substituting the analyst for the object of desire, etc.

libido—vital impulse or energy often, sexual desire. Often this word is found in its adjectival form. "Libidinal energy" is that which propels an "object instinct" like sexual desire. In C&D, Freud discusses an "economics of the libido"—diversifying one's libidinal "portfolio." To Freud "attachments of affection" are "libidinal ties," thought possibly aim-inhibited.

instinct or drive—innate and biological urge that seeks satisfaction in objects. E.g., one might have an "instinctual" desire for food or sex. In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud says, "Civilization . . . presupposes the non-satisfaction . . . of powerful instincts" (end of Ch. 3). This means that in order for "civilization" to develop, people must repress their drives.

infantile sexuality —Freud's insistence that sexuality does not begin with adolescence, that babies are sexual, too.

bisexuality —Freud contends that all human beings are both physiologically and psychologically bisexual, although most people repress one part of their sexuality or another.

neurosis—disorder of personality resulting from the denial of an instinctual urge. Unable to tolerate the frustrations of the restrictions civilization places on sexual life, the neurotic "substitutes" satisfactions, which are manifested as "symptoms." Such symptoms might be physical tics, pain, odd postures, illnesses (e.g., coughing), or acute manifestations of anxiety.

OOPS! If you become neurotic by denying instinct, and the development of civilization depends on the denial of instinct, does that mean civilization creates—and depends on!—neurosis?

ego ( "I" or "Ich" ), id ( "it" or "Es" ), super-ego ( "over-I" or "Über-ich" )— The id is the seat of desire and instinct. It is totally unconscious. The ego, which is mostly conscious, begins as an "undifferentiated" psychic structure. When a child learns to distinguish between itself ("I") and the objects it desires ("other"), the ego develops as a structure separate from the id. This separation results from early disappointments—when our desires are not fulfilled. When Freud refers to the ego, he is talking about our conscious self of who we are. The super-ego is internalized self-criticism, an internalization of the voice of the father or authority. The size of the super-ego is not related to the force of the authority figures one has experienced the super-ego strengthens in proportion to the aggression directed against it. C&D, ch. 7: "The super-ego torments the sinful ego with the same feeling of anxiety and is on the watch for opportunities of getting it punished by the external world."

sublimation—literally, "raising up" (toward the "sublime"). Freud discusses "sublimation" as a process of redirecting psychical energy from ego-desire (e.g., sexual gratification) to the satisfaction of cultural aims (e.g., work, art, politics). C&D, ch. 4: "[C]ivilization is obeying the laws of economic necessity, since a large amount of the psychical energy which it uses for its own purposes has to be withdrawn from sexuality."

Ideal demands—the requirements of civilization to live in a way that will contribute to the "perfect" functioning of civilization. E.g., "Love thy neighbor as thy self" or "Love thy enemies." Ideal demands are antagonistic to sexuality (Eros) and aggression (Thanatos).

Eros and Thanatos—Freud identifies two drives that both coincide and conflict within the individual and among individuals. Eros is the drive of life, love, creativity, and sexuality, self-satisfaction, and species preservation. Thanatos, from the Greek word for "death" is the drive of aggression, sadism, destruction, violence, and death. At the conclusion of C&D, Freud notes (in 1930-31) that human beings, following Thanatos, have invented the tools to completely exterminate themselves in turn, Eros is expected to "make an effort to assert himself in the struggle with an equally immortal adversary. But who can foresee with what success and with what result?"

In Civilization and its Discontents , Freud struggles with paradoxes:

1. Human behavior is motivated by a desire for happiness ("satisfaction of needs"). Humans bond together to promote happiness. This bonding or "civilization" works against individual happiness.

2. Although civilization prevents happiness, it is necessary for human life.

3. In order for civilizations to be coherent, they channel their aggression toward scapegoats (those excluded from the coherence), but with little effect: "In this respect the Jewish people, scattered everywhere, have rendered most useful services to the civilizations of the countries that have been their hosts but unfortunately all the massacres of the Jews in the Middle Ages did not suffice to make that period more peaceful and secure for their Christian fellows" (C&D, ch. 5)


Are we ready for the genetic revolution?

When the time comes, and experts believe it is coming sooner than we expect or are prepared for, genetic meddling with the human genome may drive social inequality to an unprecedented level with not just differences in wealth distribution but in what kind of being you become and who retains power. This is the kind of nightmare that Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Jennifer Doudna talked about in a recent Big Think video.

CRISPR 101: Curing Sickle Cell, Growing Organs, Mosquito Makeovers | Jennifer Doudna | Big Think www.youtube.com

At the heart of these advances is the dual-use nature of science, its light and shadow selves. Most technological developments are perceived and sold as spectacular advances that will either alleviate human suffering or bring increasing levels of comfort and accessibility to a growing number of people. Curing diseases is what motivated Doudna and other scientists involved with CRISPR research. But with that also came the potential for altering the genetic makeup of humanity in ways that, again, can be used for good or evil purposes.

This is not a sci-fi movie plot. The main difference between biohacking and nuclear hacking is one of scale. Nuclear technologies require industrial-level infrastructure, which is very costly and demanding. This is why nuclear research and its technological implementation have been mostly relegated to governments. Biohacking can be done in someone's backyard garage with equipment that is not very costly. The Netflix documentary series Unnatural Selection brings this point home in terrifying ways. The essential problem is this: once the genie is out of the bottle, it is virtually impossible to enforce any kind of control. The genie will not be pushed back in.


It is a trope of science fiction that there are so-called "basilisks" that will neurologically impair anyone who views them. These things are visual patterns/shapes/whatever that human brains (or perhaps any brain) cannot process without being harmed in some way (think about bricking an electronic device). Common examples are the movie Bird Box, an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation (used against the Borg), and about 3000 articles on the SCP collaborative fiction website.

For a basilisk to be viable, one would have to know how a human mind processes information (whether this is the whole brain, or just the visual cortex, I couldn't say) to some very profound level, and to debug it like you would any other software. You might identify some inputs that crash this software, and given that human brains don't have a reset button (that we're aware of), it would likely stay in this locked-up state forever after (especially if it crashes the visual cortex, so that no one can feed therapeutic inputs to it that revert the brain to a non/less-crashed state). The sorts of experiments that would be necessary to conduct this research would be, by necessity, absolutely unethical. It might even require being able to simulate human minds (something we don't currently have enough processing power to do, let alone several other missing technologies).

For the purposes of your story, these might be still images, or might be video. They might or might not have an audio component. They could work in such a way that some are immune, or none are. The details would be entirely up to you.

Does it matter?

Sometimes things don't need a full explanation. We never learn why Phil is forced to relive the same day over and over in Groundhog Day. We don't get to hear or read Monty Python's "Funniest Joke in the World". (How could we? It would kill us too!) If the means by which the movie drives the viewer insane is not important to the plot of the story, why not just leave it out?

Explaining things like this creates the risk of creating a "voodoo shark": the explanation is less believable than the thing it attempts to explain. And, in fact, the Groundhog Day script did originally have an explanation for why Phil was forced to relive the same day over and over again—a sort of voodoo curse, as it happens—and it was cut because it was just silly. The writers tried a few different explanations, but none of them worked better than no explanation at all, so that's what they went with.

It's not the movie itself, it's rather the movie and what they spray in the room where the movie is projected.

Psychedelic drugs are known for

  • having their effect depending on the "set" of the user, meaning their mental state at the moment of the assumption
  • being capable of surfacing latent psychosis.

Put the two together, with a movie which creates the right "set", and most of your audience might turn psychotic.

Sentience Off-Switch.

In the distant past some apes were artificially given sentience by a race of advanced aliens.* These apes became modern humans. When these aliens performed the uplift they added a failsafe that the sentience could be deactivated by issuing a certain visual pattern.

The pattern only works when observed in its entirety at the correct speed and frequency. If any of the variables are off it looks like white noise. The movie contains the pattern.

When someone views the movie they revert to feral ape behaviour. Wild apes are mostly nonviolent in their natural home on the Savannah. But the modern world contains hundreds of people and noises and flashing lights that get the ape all riled up. Then all nearby humans are recognized as interlopers on their territory and attacked.

*Please do not ask me how these aliens themselves acquired sentience. It is a mystery.

A movie that produces doubt and suspicion about the underpinnings of civilization (examples: rule of law, democratic ideals, civil society) with slick, plausible and easy to digest ideas that augment tropes and concepts already circulating in the populace.

The old tropes and concepts which the movie augments have themselves persisted because these concepts can manifest ambient anxiety and fear in the susceptible population. Augmented ideas level up and become memes, reproducing themselves and gaining power and audience. More people watch the movie to find out what it is all about and become hosts to these ideas. The memes mutate and evolve, with more powerful and transmissible ideas gaining dominance.

Skillful political operators take advantage of the large and growing population infected with these memes. They stoke the fear and anxiety that feed the memes, which become stronger. The operators use the infected population to gain political power.

Led by these operators, the population infected by the memes destroy their own civilizations from the inside out. Civilization is replaced with a different type of society of a form driven by the memes and anxieties / fears they nurture. This destruction is in some cases gradual, over years and in some cases paroxysmic.
It takes persistence to kill civilization. Civilization is big and durable. It will take more than one shot.

Drives them insane - this is part of the OP. Are infected people insane? They do not think so. They do not froth at the mouth and eat their pets. But they will vigorously defend the reality of the memes they are infected with. They will defend them against evidence and common sense. The memes are a shared delusion - fixed false immutable beliefs. Delusions are a hallmark of mental illness.

Just a fun fictional scenario for a work of fiction!


Psychoanalysis, Freud, Civilization and Capitalism

Is Freud right when he claimed that psychoanalysis is concerned with ‘social phenomenon’ including politics?

Sigmund Freud's seminal texts on psychoanalysis sealed his position as the unofficial father of modern psychology. Whilst not subscribing to any explicitly political weltanschauung – or world-view – the idea that the study of the individual psyche was inseparable from the social psychology of the group underpins his work. His theoretical analyses of the unconscious mind and the concept of regression, libidinal development and its sublimation, the division of the mind into three antagonistic parts – Id, ego and superego, and the pleasure instincts and death drives inherent in all human beings are evidently attempts at explaining social phenomenon, currents and patterns of human behaviour that run throughout the history of civilisation. The significance and importance of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century is self-evident the rise and fall of fascism and it's quasi-masochistic 'mob mentality', the war of ideologies and the allure of their self-appointed leaders and vanguards, the rise in mental health problems and the incessant categorisation and sub-categorisation of diseases of the mind, the parallel growth of marketing, advertising and consumer psychology in the business world and public relations and spin in the world of politics – all symptomatic of a the Freudian assertion that the mind cannot be understood as a rational and coherent whole, but is in fact irrational, manipulatable and is shaped obliviously by desires and drives that we have no control over.

Modern consumer capitalism has artfully mastered the techniques of the manipulation of the psyche and even turned the practice into an industry in itself advertising, public relations and marketing. Advanced capitalism's ability to exploit general tendencies in the human mind, particularly the unconscious mind has lead to a proliferation of a sophisticated propaganda racket that shapes public opinion and governs people's behaviour. Freud's nephew Edward Bernays saw this development in a highly positive light, arguing that, “intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society”, and that somewhat paradoxically to any vision of 'democratic' society the 'socially necessary' manipulators, “constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country”. Appropriately and true to his word, Bernays managed to re-brand his position as a propagandist by euphemistically renaming propaganda, 'public relations'. The advertising and marketing industries have developed tried and tested techniques of selling commodities. The methods stem from the psychoanalytical idea of tapping into the unconscious, appealing to repressed desires, sublimating them through buying power and promises of personal fulfilment, empowerment, pleasure and strength through expenditure. We find our identities in what we buy and express our self through the commodities we own. Buying has become a process of self-affirmation and what we buy determines not only our status, but can signify our belonging to a group, our belief in an ideal or our loyalty to a brand. Consumer trends, fashion and fads are a testament to the relevance of 'the herd instinct' that Freud examines in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. In an appraisal of the work of Gustave Le Bon, Freud states that, “we have an impression of a state in which an individual’s separate emotion and personal intellectual act are too weak to come to anything by themselves and are absolutely obliged to wait till they are reinforced through being repeated in a similar way in the other members of the group.” Rampant consumerism, from a psychoanalytical point of view, can be seen as an expression of libidinal desires sublimated with 'retail therapy' or the instinctual drive of human beings to be part of 'the herd'. The success of advertising is measured by its ability to convince potential consumers that a ownership of a certain product will guarantee them a place in that herd or that their fears, anxieties and internal conflicts can be resolved and pleasure attained through the simple act of buying.

A 1921 handbook for aspiring salesmen wrote that, “In a retail store, you have a wonderful chance to study human beings. Who are they? What are their chief characteristics? Why do they act and talk as they do? Where are they going? For what purposes do they buy various articles?” Rachel Bowlby points out, “an intimate connection, institutionally and intellectually, between psychology and marketing during the first forty years of this century and beyond.” As psychology became a separate discipline moving away from both philosophy and neurology, its primary concerns were entwined with the concerns of marketing experts – the scientific study of human behaviour and the human mind's susceptibility to suggestion along with the impulses and desires of our psyches and subconscious and the exploitation of these desires. The consumerist ethic wasn't too far removed from the ethos of psychology – an individualistic and almost narcissistic obsession with an irrational self and troubled and malleable ego, whilst promoting the idea that either psychotherapy or retail therapy can resolve internal mental instabilities.

According to Freud, the pleasure-seeking childlike part of the psyche – the Id – is repressed by artificial boundaries imposed on it by society which are internalised mentally and represented in the 'superego' of the mind. Our egos are an amalgamation of these two conflicting parts of the psyche, working in conjunction and opposition with both, striving after the pleasure principle sought after by the our primordial Ids whilst maintaining the respectability and socially appropriate behaviour demanded by our superegos. The ego is the part of the mind with the ability to exercise direct control over the body, as we try to reconcile our love-instincts and drives for pleasure with the innately repressive functions of our superegos which, “[displaying] particular severity and [raging] against the ego with the utmost cruelty” demand conformity and submission and cause an inevitable internal conflict that manifests itself in depression, anxiety, neuroses, pathology and sometimes hysteria that characterise modern 'civilisation'. This categorisation of the minds three metaphysical sectors necessarily leads to an all-encompassing explanation of various social problems and phenomenon. Generalised internalised repression, first of our Oedipus complex (the precursor to our superegos), incestuous desires and primary identification with our patriarchal figures serves as a crucial stepping stone to understanding the widespread psycho-pathologies in human beings, as well a general explanation of our modern political structures which arise from a, “universalisation of the father-son relationship into a prototypical mould underlying all political formations.” Additionally, sublimation of crude, primary drives associated with our Ids and repressed libidos can, to some extent, satiate these drives. The creation of works of art, 'progress' in the sciences and technological invention, general interests and hobbies as well as obsession with the accumulation of more and more consumer goods which distinguishes our modern 'civilisation' from our primitive past are merely the reification of our abstract instinctual desires materialised and substituted for other socially constructed desires that fit in more neatly with the norms and values of our particular epoch. In Freudian terms, the anguish that we suffer due to the subjugation of our desires is partly avoidable. A, “technique for avoiding suffering makes use of the displacements of the libido that are permitted by our psychical apparatus. Sublimation of the drives plays a part in this. the artist's joy in creating, in fashioning forth the products of his imagination, or the scientist's in solving problems and discovering truths.” But Freud states in a typically elitist fashion that these palliative reliefs were reserved for only a small and privileged minority that posses the, “special aptitudes and gifts that are not exactly common.” This assumption is indicative of Freud's tendency in his writings to reserve psychoanalysis and psychotherapy as a firmly bourgeois pursuit and see little or no hope in the crowd or masse seeking 'higher pursuits' or 'socially useful' ones to quash the instinctive pleasures of the Id.

We could postulate that had Freud been alive today, to a degree he could have included social phenomena such as television, spectator sports, mainstream cinema or celebrity culture in a long list of, “powerful distractions, which cause us to make light of our misery, substitutive factions, which diminish it” and particularly, “intoxicants, which anaesthetise us to it.” It could easily be argued that the entire 'Society of the Spectacle' serves to lull all of us into an inertia that keeps us blissfully unaware of the causes of our collective miseries and frustrations. Disenfranchisement and apathy are the hallmarks of advanced consumer-(spectacular)-capitalism, along with civilisation's distinctive features analysed by Freud that cause extensive damage to our mental and physical well-being and forbid the realisation of our desires and aspirations. But the organisation of the 'Spectacle', its invasion into every part of our daily lives and encroachment into our psyches keeps us all sufficiently docile and submissive, despite the very real internal antagonisms and contradictions imposed on us by the external world. “Those who organise the world organise both suffering and the anaesthetics for dealing with it this much is common knowledge. Most people live like sleepwalkers, torn between the gratification of neurosis and the traumatic prospect of a return to real life.” Psychoanalysis and especially psychiatry has, to some extent, become part of the repressive machinery of society. It has been co-opted and put into use as a lubricant for the cogs of oppression and can therefore be defined as a tool not just for explaining social phenomenon, but for keeping social, political and economic structures in place and consequently is a highly politicised discipline. The Foucauldian notion that psychiatry, like all other specialised branches of knowledge, science and ideology, has become part of a vast superstructure of oppressive control and manipulation here rings true.

The view that people's actions in 'civilised' societies are governed not by their rational and logical decision-making capacities (but rather by the complex and often unconscious interplay of hostile elements of the mind) is echoed by several contemporary 'anti-civilisation' thinkers, who can loosely be described as 'primitivists' or 'neo-luddite'. Themes in Freud's analysis of civilisation, its discontents and the inescapable psychological and social harm that results from the onset of an 'advanced organisation of society' influence the work of Theodore Kaczynski and his pamphlet Industrial Society and Its Future. But for Kaczynski, a well-established and prevailing sense of powerlessness, anxiety and mental instability exists not due to the internal repression of Oedipal desire or early traumatic experiences, but because of a the regulation of our lives by large-scale organisations and the lack of influence people have over their own lives. However, this isn't by any means a radical departure from Freudian thinking. Whereas Freud's psychoanalytical standpoint blames an almost factional dispute between superego and id on the incontinuity of the self, Kaczynski puts down the lack of any autonomous decision-making or 'power processes' in the creation of entire populations of psychologically perturbed subjects. But as in the texts of Freud, sublimation of real needs and desires for what Kaczynski describes as 'surrogate activities', is seen as a necessary prescription for people living in a society where mental health is, “defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.” Freud's sublimation can be directly equated with Kaczynski's concept of 'surrogate activities' - “an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the 'fulfilment' that they get from pursuing the goal.” These activities serve the purpose of what Freud calls, “palliative relief”' from, “the life imposed on us [that is] too hard for us to bear: it brings too much pain, too many disappointments, too many insoluble problems.” And yet a crucial difference separates Freud and Kaczynski's two perspectives on 'civilisation' and the problems that arise from it. For Kaczynski, an advocate of anarcho-primitivism, the inhuman social phenomenon and organisation of society that arise from 'progress' and 'advancement' is entirely avoidable, whereas Freud sees this as inevitable, necessary and preferable to the alternative of barbarism and submission to the whims of individual egos. Freud's inclination towards authoritarian systems of governance or perhaps reluctant acceptance of such methods of social organisation are born out of his fear of what he called the, “psychological malaise of crowds” and a “bias against those whom he called 'the masses.'” His absolute belief in the pleasure principle lead him to adopting a sort of utilitarian-realist perspective that the best vehicle for the attainment of this pleasure in a balanced and measured (i.e the long-term achievement of this absolute goal without descending into anarchic lawlessness) was, “to give way to a middle course between total satisfaction and complete renunciation. for Freud, liberation and real pleasure always demand a self-restraint which is predicated on the internalisation of authority.” In this way, a total acceptance of Freudian psychoanalysis is reactionary, conservative and must essentially be precluded by an acceptance of a pessimistic Hobbessian view of human beings as morally bankrupt, feral and self-destructive in their very nature. Human beings, for Freud are too volatile and untrustworthy not to be controlled by some external authority, the pros of civilisation vastly outweigh the cons and all of us, 'the masses', being unable to effectively manage our own psychic emotions must submit to servitude and be managed by others. Authority is legitimised and the very worst features of 'civilisation' justified, “to overcome the disturbance of communal life caused by the human drive for aggression and self-destruction.” Nevertheless, like all critiques of civilisation the analysis is pointed towards the discord caused by the battle between individuals and society, an important dichotomy that for Freud, unlike radical primitivist and left-libertarian theory, can never be fulbly resolved, but only be mediated, controlled and limited.

In many respects, psychoanalysis could be accused of externalising and applying too universally personal neuroses and turning individual mental characteristics and psychic problems into all-encompassing explanations of social phenomena (including political structures) without placing these phenomena in their historical, cultural or social context. Applying, “to large-scale social processes and institutions the concepts and categories which he had developed on the private realm” Freud universalised his essentialist views on the individual psyche and attempted to explain all social phenomena through a rigid psychoanalytic grid that he himself had constructed a priori. Freud's analysis of 'crowd mentality', particularly his explanations for the desire of people to be dominated by often tyrannical leaders (on a historical note, he resided in Vienna during Hitler's Anschluss with Austria in 1938) is no exception but does nevertheless pose interesting questions and invite debate on engaging explanations of leadership, totalitarianism and humanity's appetite for destruction. In Group Psychology Freud sets about analysing the psychological reasons for the allure of leaders. This broad social phenomena is again analysed from a purely psychological perspective. The leader for Freud inherits the position of the patriarch, the authority figure that provides grounding and imposes regulations, rules and absolutes in a chaotic and disturbing world. His popularity is dependant on his ability to embody unchanging moral values, convey an ordered vision of the world and bind together the mass of individuals, uniting the crowd behind them. Freud had little reservations about describing the relationship between charismatic leaders and obedient crowds as erotic - “what can unite thousands or millions of people is the relation – and the libidinal investment of this relation – of each one of them to a leader (political, religious or military) or an idea occupying the position of. a common point of reference.” The effect of this libidinous attraction is absolute adoration, servitude and willingness to submit. Seductions of power and the authority figure stem not just from personal admiration or 'libidinal investment', but also the enticement of being part of the crowd and the regression to the 'herd instinct'. “What happens is that the members of the crowd are hypnotised (and that is the word Freud uses) by the leader. The leader takes place of the over-I. What he offers to individuals is a new psychological dispensation. Where the individual super-ego is inconsistent and often inaccessible because it is unconscious, the collective super-ego, the leader, is clear and absolute in his values.” The atrocities committed by ordinary people under Nazi rule in Austria give credence to the Freudian concept of the death drive. Their success and popularity lay in their willingness to allow people to commit barbarous and forbidden acts, to unleash the primordial instincts of their Ids without restraint against persecuted minorities and scapegoats, but still remain within the parameters of a new fascist legitimacy. They created a new moral order in which people could resolve their antagonisms and internal human ambivalence in collective acts of barbarism and death-driven passion in events like Kristallknacht. “'The aim of all life,' Freud famously declared, 'is death.'” We are prone to seek in death a resolution that we cannot achieve in life. These abominations allowed a discharge of all the anxieties and contradictions described by Freud that had been bound up in the human psyche. All the negative traits of the human mind, “the weakness of intellectual ability, the lack of emotional restraint, the incapacity for moderation and delay, the inclination to exceed every limit in the expression of emotion” were let loose as people were given licence to, “work it off completely in the form of action.” His conclusions go some way to explaining his deep-seated scepticism of states of anarchy and unbridled expressions and manifestations of instinctual drives that for Freud, would undoubtedly lead to acts of barbarity. The mistrust of a hypothetical chaotic 'state of nature' in which the psyche is freed without external control or the mediation of the super-ego, and the consequent support of a politically conservative but completely necessary form of hierarchical government can be understood in this light.

To conclude, Freud is correct in his assertion that psychoanalysis is concerned with social phenomenon and can the discipline be a useful and radical tool in explaining various political structures and cultural and societal trends. However, Freudian psychoanalysis in particular has a tendency to equate individual psychiatric trends with generalised trends in society. The individual and the social are inextricably linked, however, the result of universalising and generalising psychoanalysis to explain political and social phenomena often means that events are taken out of their historical and economic context and placed in a sometimes unsuitable framework and viewed from a doctrinaire perspective.


Psychology

One school of theorists has postulated that the major causes of war can be found in man’s psychological nature. Such psychological approaches range from very general, often merely intuitive assertions regarding human nature to complex analyses utilizing the concepts and techniques of modern psychology. The former category includes a wide range of ethical and philosophical teaching and insights, including the works of such figures as St. Augustine and the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Benedict de Spinoza.

Modern writers utilizing psychological approaches emphasize the significance of psychological maladjustments or complexes and of false, stereotyped images held by decision makers of other countries and their leaders. Some psychologists posit an innate aggressiveness in man. Others concentrate upon public opinion and its influence, particularly in times of tension. Others stress the importance of decision makers and the need for their careful selection and training. Most believe that an improved social adjustment of individuals would decrease frustration, insecurity, and fear and would reduce the likelihood of war. All of them believe in the importance of research and education. Still, the limitations of such approaches derive from their very generality. Also, whether the psychological premises are optimistic or pessimistic about the nature of man, one cannot ignore the impact upon human behaviour of social and political institutions that give man the opportunities to exercise his good or evil propensities and to impose restraints upon him.


What drives civilization? - Psychology

HUMN 221 Professor Easton

  • Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was born in Moravia (then part of Austria now in the Czech Republic) the family moved to Vienna in 1859. Freud married Martha Bernays in 1886. He fathered six children.
  • Education: Freud began medical studies at the University of Vienna in 1873 studied physiology with von Brück [neurology], beginning in 1877. MD degree 1881.
  • Rejected "mechanistic" view of what makes the mind work. Studied with Charcot in Paris [hypnosis], 1885.
  • Worked with Breuer on "Studies on Hysteria," 1895. [The talking cure]
  • "Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis," 1915/16.
  • Cancer of the palate and jaw diagnosed, 1923.
  • Honored with title "Citizen of Vienna," 1924. Copies of Freud's books burned by the Nazis, 1933.
  • Anna Freud was arrested by Gestapo in Vienna, 1938 (and released). Freud immigrated to London his wife and children also escaped. Four sisters remain in Vienna and were later killed in concentration camps.

the unconscious—the vast, unknowable, unexaminable part of the mind (which Freud calls a "dynamic structure" in conflict with itself). The unconscious is much larger than consciousness. Like an excavated city, the history of a body's skeleton, or an evolutionary descendent of a dinosaur (see Civilization and its Discontents, ch. 1 ), the unconscious is timeless. Its past and present exist simultaneously.

censorship—the means of keeping unpleasant (or unsociable) desires out of consciousness. Censorship is circumvented through dreams, parapraxes (or "slips of the tongue"), word association, and figures of speech.

repression—a way of dealing with painful or unsociable desires they are relocated in the unconscious where they indirectly continue to influence daily life and dreams. Some recent believers in "Recovered Memory Syndrome" claim they base their theory on Freud's notion of repression (e.g., RMS suggests that patients in therapy might suddenly remember that they were molested as children). Freudian scholars, however, point out that Freud does not talk about repression of events but rather of thoughts and desires.

transference —the emotional relationship formed between the patient and the analyst "falling in love" with the analyst, or temporarily substituting the analyst for the object of desire, etc.

libido—vital impulse or energy often, sexual desire. Often this word is found in its adjectival form. "Libidinal energy" is that which propels an "object instinct" like sexual desire. In C&D, Freud discusses an "economics of the libido"—diversifying one's libidinal "portfolio." To Freud "attachments of affection" are "libidinal ties," thought possibly aim-inhibited.

instinct or drive—innate and biological urge that seeks satisfaction in objects. E.g., one might have an "instinctual" desire for food or sex. In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud says, "Civilization . . . presupposes the non-satisfaction . . . of powerful instincts" (end of Ch. 3). This means that in order for "civilization" to develop, people must repress their drives.

infantile sexuality —Freud's insistence that sexuality does not begin with adolescence, that babies are sexual, too.

bisexuality —Freud contends that all human beings are both physiologically and psychologically bisexual, although most people repress one part of their sexuality or another.

neurosis—disorder of personality resulting from the denial of an instinctual urge. Unable to tolerate the frustrations of the restrictions civilization places on sexual life, the neurotic "substitutes" satisfactions, which are manifested as "symptoms." Such symptoms might be physical tics, pain, odd postures, illnesses (e.g., coughing), or acute manifestations of anxiety.

OOPS! If you become neurotic by denying instinct, and the development of civilization depends on the denial of instinct, does that mean civilization creates—and depends on!—neurosis?

ego ( "I" or "Ich" ), id ( "it" or "Es" ), super-ego ( "over-I" or "Über-ich" )— The id is the seat of desire and instinct. It is totally unconscious. The ego, which is mostly conscious, begins as an "undifferentiated" psychic structure. When a child learns to distinguish between itself ("I") and the objects it desires ("other"), the ego develops as a structure separate from the id. This separation results from early disappointments—when our desires are not fulfilled. When Freud refers to the ego, he is talking about our conscious self of who we are. The super-ego is internalized self-criticism, an internalization of the voice of the father or authority. The size of the super-ego is not related to the force of the authority figures one has experienced the super-ego strengthens in proportion to the aggression directed against it. C&D, ch. 7: "The super-ego torments the sinful ego with the same feeling of anxiety and is on the watch for opportunities of getting it punished by the external world."

sublimation—literally, "raising up" (toward the "sublime"). Freud discusses "sublimation" as a process of redirecting psychical energy from ego-desire (e.g., sexual gratification) to the satisfaction of cultural aims (e.g., work, art, politics). C&D, ch. 4: "[C]ivilization is obeying the laws of economic necessity, since a large amount of the psychical energy which it uses for its own purposes has to be withdrawn from sexuality."

Ideal demands—the requirements of civilization to live in a way that will contribute to the "perfect" functioning of civilization. E.g., "Love thy neighbor as thy self" or "Love thy enemies." Ideal demands are antagonistic to sexuality (Eros) and aggression (Thanatos).

Eros and Thanatos—Freud identifies two drives that both coincide and conflict within the individual and among individuals. Eros is the drive of life, love, creativity, and sexuality, self-satisfaction, and species preservation. Thanatos, from the Greek word for "death" is the drive of aggression, sadism, destruction, violence, and death. At the conclusion of C&D, Freud notes (in 1930-31) that human beings, following Thanatos, have invented the tools to completely exterminate themselves in turn, Eros is expected to "make an effort to assert himself in the struggle with an equally immortal adversary. But who can foresee with what success and with what result?"

In Civilization and its Discontents , Freud struggles with paradoxes:

1. Human behavior is motivated by a desire for happiness ("satisfaction of needs"). Humans bond together to promote happiness. This bonding or "civilization" works against individual happiness.

2. Although civilization prevents happiness, it is necessary for human life.

3. In order for civilizations to be coherent, they channel their aggression toward scapegoats (those excluded from the coherence), but with little effect: "In this respect the Jewish people, scattered everywhere, have rendered most useful services to the civilizations of the countries that have been their hosts but unfortunately all the massacres of the Jews in the Middle Ages did not suffice to make that period more peaceful and secure for their Christian fellows" (C&D, ch. 5)


When a tree sprouts in the forest it begins to assemble life.

The tree extends its roots and no doubt makes contact with the mycelium of a mushroom, extending its energy flow and living relationship. It raises leaves to the sun and connects with that living energy system. It connects with water in the air and soil it connects with the diverse soil community. The tree unifies energies in its living systems.

The life of the earth functions in its balanced way because each being lives according to its particular nature. The decentralized power of all life resides in each being. In contrast, the pattern of empire culture is to centralize power over life and consequently the natural patterns disintegrate.

A golf course, for example, appears very neat and orderly. With its edged borders, well-watered grass, and trees, it represents the epitome of orderliness to the mind conditioned by the culture of civilization. In the reality of earth life, created and conditioned by cosmic forces, it is a gross disorder. Where once stood a life potentiating, balanced and perpetual, dynamic, climax ecosystem with its diverse circulating energies and manifold variety of beings, there are now a few varieties of designer plants kept alive by chemicals and artificial water supplies. A staff of maintenance people are kept busy battling the integrated life of the earth that attempts to rescue this wound by sending in the plants, animals, and other life forms that are naturally adapted to live in the area.


Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization

There’s a tendency among humanist and atheist writers to make their books dense and detailed, recognizing that the usual audience wants all the facts comprehensively collected in one place. Their readers may not need or even desire the many popular approaches to storytelling, such as creating suspense or tossing in entertaining sidelights to stir interest in the content. Those who just want to “get the information” tend to grow impatient with all that. I know I do.

But this isn’t the case with every candidate for a humanist worldview, or aspects of it. In particular, many aren’t yet sure what philosophical conclusions to draw so they need to be gently sold rather than bombarded with arguments. Thus they can be put off by books that seem too heavy, or that sound too decisive and settled from the get-go.

British writer Stephen Cave, who got his PhD in metaphysics from Cambridge University, understands this. As such he’s written a book, innocuously titled Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization, designed to impart to a wider public a portion of the humanist outlook—the idea that no form of immortality is truly attainable. It’s a book crafted to reach beyond the audience included within the current humanist movement. This becomes clear not only from his title but from the first sentence. Cave starts out by taking us on a journey to ancient Egypt, opening the first chapter, “A Beautiful Woman Has Come,” with a paragraph that could have begun a popular novel.

They tried to destroy her. Hammers swung to smash the elegant nose and break her long and graceful neck. All across the kingdom, the statues and busts of the great queen were pounded to dust. Her name was chiseled from the monuments, its utterance banned. This embodiment of regal womanhood was never to be seen or spoken of again.

For many, that sort of nonfiction writing is exciting. It gets the juices flowing and draws one into the material. Now compare the above passage about Nefertiti to the opening of the only other major book devoted exclusively to a careful analysis of life after death: Corliss Lamont’s The Illusion of Immortality. Chapter One is entitled “Importance of the Problem” and starts thus:

“All men are mortal” begins the most famous of all syllogisms, and it proceeds to tell us that “Socrates is a man” and “therefore Socrates is mortal.” The branch of philosophy known as logic has made much of this syllogism as an example of perfect reasoning what is more significant is the prodigious amount of time and energy which philosophy as a whole has spent on inquiring into its true and complete meaning.

And so the first paragraph goes, continuing for four more long and complex sentences. Which is appropriate for a book that originated as a doctoral dissertation.

/>Cave relies heavily on Lamont and gives him due credit. But he reorganizes Lamont’s essential arguments (and those of others) in a particularly memorable way, reducing “the apparent diversity of stories about how immortality is to be attained” to four basic narratives: staying alive, resurrection, soul, and legacy. He then begins his exploration of the staying-alive narrative with the story of the first emperor of China and that man’s pursuit of an elixir of life that would allow him to live forever. Cave wraps up with modern techno-optimist and transhumanist ideas of nanotechnology and life extension, revealing their many hidden problems.

For the resurrection narrative he begins with the New Testament and Paul’s resurrection of the flesh doctrine, takes us through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, analyzes cryonics, and leaves off where Star Trek “beams down” Captain Kirk. All the while Cave exposes the internal contradictions that are rife within any idea of achieving immortality in such a manner.

The soul narrative begins with Dante, provides the usual philosophic objections to the very idea of a soul, explores reincarnation, and challenges Buddhism head on, refuting its claim that the soul narrative is not part of its doctrine.

This leaves the concept of legacy: living on in the memories of others. Although I’m disappointed that Cave doesn’t note the arguments on this topic so evocatively presented by Cicero in “Scipio’s Dream,” I enjoyed the historical coverage of the immortal aspirations of Alexander of Macedon and the legendary ones of Homer’s heroes. Cave also covers a variation on this narrative, which he calls “biological legacy,” poetically expressed by Albert Einstein when writing to console a friend’s widow. “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children, for they are us,” Einstein wrote. “Our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.” But it turns out there’s a dark side to this view, which takes us back to Alexander and the palace murders orchestrated by his mother, Olympias.

What Cave does so well throughout Immortality is to take the reader by the hand and carefully guide her or him through each concept, ensuring understanding before exploring assorted variations and difficulties. He’s writing for searchers, not people collecting knock ’em-dead refutations of positions they’ve already rejected. And his appeal is to intellectual curiosity. The vehicle by which he transports readers through the maze of cultural assumptions and theological abstractions is that of the humanities. Science has its say, to be sure. But he doesn’t require readers to start from such a perspective.

Cave is a storyteller, and he uses stories as entrées to ideas. Most people respond much better to stories than to clinical dissections. That’s the secret of the Bible’s popularity, for instance. It’s more a storybook than a law book—and certainly isn’t a text on theology or science. So if humanism hopes to compete in that marketplace, it will need to tell stories too—true stories as well as literary ones.

Just as importantly, Cave understands the psychology behind belief in an afterlife. So he takes readers into the depths of the “mortality paradox,” explaining how it’s possible that, on the one hand, we know we will die and, on the other, we just can’t imagine ourselves dead. By revealing and parsing this paradox, he takes us to the root of the issue.

Then, in the final section of the book, he sets forth a positive vision of the good life free of immortal aspirations. As usual, Cave infotains us first, this time with the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh and its message that a person would do better to focus on the here and now. Then he takes us through Epicurus and brings us to the life-affirming wisdom of the Stoics, Bertrand Russell, and others.

It isn’t enough, you see, to simply tear down a false idea. One needs to also offer a positive alternative. Lamont knew the value of this approach, naming his final chapter “Life without Immortality” and offering an affirmative humanism. Cave does much the same thing. But he does it without any specific reference to humanism, freethought, or atheism—words that, indeed, are totally absent from his index.

And therein lies the rub. Cave has written a book that doesn’t label its source or conclusion. For some this will prove a major shortcoming, for others an ethical lapse. But could it simply be a deft communication of controversial ideas? I’ll leave it for those reading the book to decide for themselves.


Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious Theme Analysis

Sigmund Freud was a psychologist, therapist, and intellectual concerned with the forces at work in the human mind. His theory of “psychoanalysis,” which he developed over the course of his lifetime, has many aspects—but can be summed up, primarily, as the descriptive study of a system of internal checks and balances that regulate emotion and action.

Freud believed that the mind could be divided into the ego (the “I”), the id (deep, sometimes perverse, desires) and the superego (the warden or overseer, keeping id and ego in check). In Freud’s theory of mind, humans generally are aware of the desires that drive their behaviors, but oftentimes they aren’t—and that makes these latter impulses unconscious. Freud argued that unconscious drives shape human beings’ lives—who they are and why they do what they do.

Civilization and its Discontents is a thought-experiment by Freud: an essay attempting to determine whether the same unconscious impulses that Freud saw as driving individual’s behavior could also be used to describe the formation of human civilization. Freud puzzles out whether civilization is itself a “good” or “progressive” thing: whether it makes human beings happier, healthier, and freer than an ideal “state of nature” before, or outside, civilization.

Freud concludes that the very same processes and antagonisms operating in the individual mind are the forces shaping whole civil societies. Thus Freud argues for—though he does not use the term—a “social psychology,” or a way of explaining society based on the accumulated effects of individuals’ minds.


Synopsis

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2011) explores the topic of human motivation. Daniel argues that most people are driven by extrinsic motivation—decisions based on external rewards and punishments. The author proposes that people should replace extrinsic motivation with intrinsic motivation. Daniel shows that intrinsic motivation has to do with the innate pleasure humans derive from completing or mastering an activity. People and organizations should adopt intrinsic motivation as a challenge to improve their abilities and not simply for material reward. Daniel proposes that restructuring work and aligning jobs with intrinsic motivation, organizations will be more successful and employees will lead happier, more rewarding, and fulfilling lives.

Chapter 1: The Rise and Fall of Motivation 2.0

-Daniel starts by showing that civilization was driven by our survival needs: eating and surviving. He refers to them as “Motivation 1.0”.

-The industrial revolution brought about Motivation 2.0. We have gone beyond basic needs. The world now works using a ‘carrots and stick’ system of rewards and punishments.

-Extrinsic Motivation works on a rewards and punishment mentality. Intrinsic Motivation produces results from an internal desire to accomplish something even if there is no material reward.

Chapter 2: 7 Reasons Why Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work

-Psychology shows that carrots and sticks system does not work. Extrinsic motivation “crowds out” intrinsic motivation and the joy of accomplishing a task it also diminishes performance and discourages creativity in the long-term.

-Extrinsic motivation encourages cheating.

-It motivates people to engage in immoral behavior in order to get ahead in life. What happened at ENRON is a good example of extrinsically motivated behavior.

-Extrinsic behavior is addictive and produces negative effects once it’s stopped. People tend to get depressed when there is no reward and start to feel like work is a punishment

-Extrinsic motivation encourages short-term thinking. This affects long-term growth.

Chapter 3: Type I and Type X

-There are two types of people: Type X (Extrinsic) who are driven by a desire for fame, status, money, etc. Such people are materialistic and always seek to gain more. They are also highly successful.

-Type I’s (Intrinsic) are motivated from within. They seek to accomplish something meaningful and take pleasure in the task and not the reward.

-Type I have higher self-esteem and establish better relationships. They are motivated by purpose, autonomy and a desire to master their lives.

Chapter 4: Autonomy

-Autonomy or the desire to be in control of one’s life is one of the three basic human needs. However, it should not be confused with independence. One can be autonomous but not independent.

-Most people thrive when they are presented with a problem and asked to provide solutions. There is greater creativity when one people work in an environment of autonomy

-In the workplace, people desire to have autonomy in time, tasks, teams, and techniques. Autonomy encourages Type I personality to develop and flourish.

Chapter 5: Mastery

-The path to achieve Mastery is to attain what is referred to as “flow: when a task is neither too easy nor too difficult.” It is also the point at which we will learn the most and the quickest.

-Mastery is a mindset. Start seeing your ability to improve as having no end. What you see is what you get.

-Mastery is a pain. To achieve mastery requires effort and practice. Don’t rush to achieve mastery.

-Mastery is an asymptote. Mastery can never be fully achieved. This means that there is always room for improvement.

Chapter 6: Purpose

-When one is motivated by purpose, they tend to be more productive and satisfied. One reaches purpose while doing something well that matters in a cause larger than themselves.

-If companies focused on maximizing purpose and not profits, profits would follow naturally since employees with purpose would create great products.

-Purpose in the workplace can be improved using words of encouragement and policies that encourage productivity.


Watch the video: Why Civilizations Collapse (May 2022).