Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Egoist or Egotist?

Thomas Hobbes by John Michael Wright
Freud is usually credited with the discovery of the ego, but should it rightfully be Hobbes since it was he who really viewed man as a creature locked in his own skin? Freud once did say the ego is a body ego. What that means is that the border guard of the personality is the epidermis and that’s a Hobbesian idea too. But if you look at Hobbes occupying a street corner, he would reside at the intersection of Human Character and Political Philosophy. Freud did go on to write Civilization and Its Discontents, a treatise about the realpolitik of human desire and the way in which instinct must be relinquished in order for man to live in society. But it was the Enlightenment that really produced the brilliant idea of analyzing man's place in nature and its implications for the polity. The Enlightenment gave more credit to reason than darker nineteenth century thinkers like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Freud. They were more interested in instinct or that part of the mind which Freud would later term the libido. Nietzsche and Freud were ultimately talking about an unconscious in which a moral imperative doesn’t exist. Thus Nietzsche wrote Beyond Good and Evil. For Hobbes self will needed to be curbed, but it was still something man was conscious of and capable of doing something about. Democracy with its constitution and its system of checks and balances was the way that the individual will, the solitary ego, could be harnessed in the service of the greater good.

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