Few individuals are able to truly impact society and even fewer make contributions so significant that they remain as (if not more) pertinent throughout the years as when their contribution first originated. Plato and Sigmund Freud are two such individuals. Both Plato's theory of the soul and Freud's concept of the self share common structural features. However, there are some important differences both in the internal functioning of their models and in the implications their respective theories have for establishing a good society.
This paper analyzes and examines Plato's theory of the soul and Freud's concept of the self. In Part II, Plato's theory of the soul is discussed. Part III outlines Freud's concept of the self. Lastly, this paper concludes with recommendations for integrating both Plato's and Freud's theories in order to establish a good society.
PLATO'S THEORY OF THE SOUL
Plato contended that all true knowledge is recollection. According to Plato, all individuals possess innate knowledge that tells us about the things we experience in our world. Plato believed that individuals acquired this knowledge when the soul resided in the invisible realm, the realm of The Forms and The Good. Under Plato's theory of The Forms, everything in the natural world is representative of the ideal of that form. For example, a table is representative of the ideal form Table.
The form is the perfect ideal on which the physical table is modeled. These forms do not exist in the natural world, as they are perfect, and there is nothing perfect in the natural world. Rather the forms exist in the invisible realm, the realm of The Good. When the soul resided in the invisible realm, it experienced these perfect forms and retained that knowledge. However, when the soul is born into the natural world, it forgets that knowledge. In this world, the soul has no experience of perfection, and, therefore, cannot remember the forms. Yet, when the soul is confronted with something resembling the forms, it recollects what it once knew. While we call this learning, Plato believed it is actually recollection. For example, when we see two sticks that are the same length, we say that they are equal. Yet, there is nothing in the natural world that shows us true equality.
Therefore, we must have had knowledge of the idea of equality before we entered this world. When we see the two sticks of the same length, it triggers the recollection of the idea of equality. Hence, Plato argues that our soul, before it entered this world, had knowledge of the form of equality when it was a part of the invisible realm. Upon entering this world, this knowledge was forgotten and must be recollected. Thus, all knowledge of the forms, such as equality, justice, etc. is recollected.
However, in proving that what we call learning is actually recollection, Plato also proved that the soul is immortal. While there is no example of true perfection in our world, we may imagine the concept of perfection. If we have not experienced this idea in our world, where could it have originated? We must have experienced it at some point if the idea is within us. Thus, Plato argued that the soul must have existed outside of the natural world.
In order for this to be so, it must be immortal, living before it came into this world. It only stands to reason, Plato contended, that it must continue to exist after it leaves this world. How else would it have been in existence before it came into this world? Plato believed that it was a rational assumption that our soul must continue to exist even after our death.
Whether Plato believed that the soul migrates from one lifetime to another, one body to another, some would say is unclear. However, the idea of recollection leans heavily on the assumption that the soul is residing within the invisible realm before it comes into existence in the physical realm. If the soul migrates from one body to another at one person's death and another's birth, then we would still have no explanation for the soul's knowledge of the forms. For would not the previous life have been spent in the natural world, just as this life is? As has already been noted, there is nothing perfect in this world and thus there is no way of discerning the true forms.
Thus, if the soul resided in this physical world in its previous life, where would it have gained knowledge of the forms? Arguably Plato's intention was that the soul resides within the invisible realm until its birth into the natural world. It is while it resides within this realm and experiences the perfection of the forms and The Good, that it gains true knowledge. This true knowledge is remembered when the soul experiences, within the natural world, something resembling the ideal forms.
It follows, therefore, that when the soul leaves the body at death, it must return to the invisible realm, the realm of the Forms and The Good. Plato argued that this was the desire of every soul, to regain knowledge of the perfect realm and to be reunited with The Good. In arguing his theory of recollection, Plato proved that there is no true learning in this world; there is merely recollection of the knowledge the soul had previous to this life. Plato also proved that the soul is immortal, in that it must have existed before this life in order to have knowledge of the forms. Finally, Plato showed that the soul does not permanently reside within one body and die when that body dies. It must exist separate from that body and continue to exist after that body's death.
III. FREUD'S CONCEPT OF THE SELF
There are three main components in Freud's concept of the self. According to Freud, these three ingredients are the Id, Ego, and Superego. It is the combination of these three elements that shape an individual's personality and decisions in life. The id operates on a pleasure principle and seeks immediate gratification. When a person is born, he/she demands something like eating, drinking, sleeping, and sexual pleasure in his/her lifetime. This is something that a person feels he/she must have. While this is not a necessity, it is what the person thinks is a necessity and will do anything to get.
If a person wants something really bad, they will go to any measure to get or achieve the goal that they had been reaching for. For example, if a person wants to get a million dollars before they die, they will go to any measure to do this before they die. That is, if the mind is totally controlled by the id. An individual will go to measures such as stealing the money, even if the person with the money is looking right at them. This is how far the id will go to get what it wants.
If the id does not get what it wants, it will create a memory of what the source of the "want" comes from. For example, if an infant is hungry, he/she will remember the source of the food, such as, the jar of food or the bottle of milk. This is a wish-fulfillment act that will temporarily satisfy the urge to get his food. This still does not change the amount of want for the food. Over time, as the child grows, the id will fade out while the other two tendencies, ego and super-ego, come into perspective more.
The ego is the part that suppresses the id from its sudden urges. Instead of wanting the certain thing right then, the ego waits for the right time and place for the urge to take place. The id sometimes makes a picture of the want, while the ego actually makes a plan for a successful achievement. If a thirsty five-year-old wants water, then the thirsty five-year-old now not only identifies water as the satisfaction of his urge, but also forms a plan to obtain water, perhaps by finding a drinking fountain.
While the ego is still helping the id, it borrows some of its psychic energy in an effort to control the urge until it is feasibly satisfied. Although the ego suppresses the id, it is the superego that makes you realize right from wrong. If a person has the chance to steal something, even if not watched, the person will not take the possession because of the superego, that is, if it is functioning properly. It is the fear of punishment that comes in as a factor when making the choice of stealing or not. If the person makes the right choice, the mind experiences pride and self-satisfaction.
There are two parts of the superego, the conscience and ego ideal. The conscience is what tells you what is right and wrong. It inhabits the id in pursuit of morally right goals that sometimes are not even pleasurable. The ego ideal…