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According to Freud, human societies require people to give up many of their most natural instincts and to replace their natural desires with the need to satisfy the "false standards of measurement" such as the "power, success and wealth [that they seek] for themselves and admire & #8230; in others, and that [as a result,] they underestimate what is of true value in life." Fred suggested that the need to live up to the standards and expectations set by society causes "too many pains, disappointments and impossible tasks" and that "to bear it we cannot dispense with palliative measures." By that, Freud meant that all of the psychological mechanisms, substitutions, and escapes that cause psychological problems and that often prevent human happiness. These ideas introduced by Freud about the psychological price paid by people living in society would later be part of the views of several other 20th century sociological theorists and used in their concepts of anomie and strain theory. They consider disappointment of people and unequal economic success and upward social mobility to be major factors in understanding social and class conflict in modern society.
Freud also questioned the value of the so-called "Golden Rule" that was very important to much of Mill's political and philosophical positions. Specifically, Freud argued that "the commandment, 'Love thy neighbour as thyself', is the strongest defence against human aggressiveness…" but also suggested that this commandment is impossible to fulfill because it requires "… such an enormous inflation of love [that it] can only lower its value, not get rid of the difficulty. By that, Freud seems to suggest that the main value upon which Judeo-Christian societies depend is little more than a false standard that only redirects the instincts it was intended to control.
More importantly, Freud goes on to argue that "…anyone who follows such a precept in present-day civilization only puts himself at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the person who disregards it." This means that human beings are naturally selfish and self-centered and that they only do what they believe is in their own interests and that these selfish impulses are much stronger than any external values from society to act differently from those instincts. Therefore, the person who chooses to give up his selfish desires just to follow those artificial values from society for the benefit of other people will always suffer from that choice simply because others cannot be counted upon to do the same.
To Freud, modern civilization provides many benefits to the individual but only at a tremendous cost. Living in society and with all of the benefits of government protection from the selfishness of others is a benefit. However, the fact that our natural goals and values are change and that we must accept, on a psychological level, the persona dictated by society causes a lot of the psychological pain and trauma that people suffer from in society.
Personal Response and Conclusion
There is great value as well as some weaknesses in the positions of both Mill and Freud. Mill's view that the most important function of modern society and of government is to protect individuals from harms caused to them by others is valuable. That is a belief that is consistent with personal freedom and rights because recognizes the right to be free from threats from others. Mill's analysis might have failed to fully define the rights to which we are all entitled but it fully supports the idea that people are much better off living in civilized societies than they would ne fending for themselves in the wild.
Freud's position also has tremendous value, such as in the idea that some of the psychological problems of people are caused by society. However, Freud's view of the relative uselessness of the Golden Rule may be less helpful, because it assumes that the rule cannot be enforced effectively by modern social institutions. In that respect, Freud's analysis might fail because it assumes that the only way a person can benefit from living in society is by following the Golden Rule blindly. Mill would argue, successfully, that it is unnecessary for every individual to love every other individual, as long as government can guarantee the equal protection from the selfishness of people toward one another if they do not genuinely "love" one another in…[continue]
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