In the anal of history,
quest for meaning as a quest for knowledge
has remained an existential fact
in every human endeavour. Hence, it propelled man’s meaning-attaching trait
which satisfies his concept of existence. Philosophy as it were has been the
vanguard of such innovation traceable from the time of Thales. More still,
events and time have rolled out trajectories of philosophy that now constitute
different field of studies. Most of these fields hold man as an object of inquiry.
All their concern was to conceptualise man.
Many philosophers, psychologists,
sociologists, scientists have made an incredible contribution in understanding
man and his place in this world. Sigmund Freud is among these great men who
have sought to make man and his life more comprehensible. Basically, Freud sees
man as driven through life by two tides of psychic energy – Eros and Thanatos. These express
themselves through the three structures of the mind, namely the Id, the Ego and
the Superego. These three structures operate in three regions of the mind- the
conscious, the preconscious and the unconscious.
As Freud explained: “the Id is the wholly unconscious domain of the mind,
consisting of drives and of material later repressed. The Ego is partly
conscious and contains the defence mechanism and capacities to calculate,
reason and plan. The Super-Ego is also partly conscious but harbours the
conscience and, beyond that ‘unconscious feeling of guilt’. The Id is viewed as
the primitive and unconscious primary urges in the psyche. The Ego is developed
when the Id realises that there is a world ‘out there’. The Super-Ego is an
introverted parental authority which ultimately takes the place of the Oedipus
This approach by Freud,
brought to bare a contrast on a claim that man could accumulate real knowledge about
himself and his world and exercise rational control over them. This claim in
Freudian view is a delusion. Hence, he displayed the intricacies of man in
relation to his conception of the “unconscious” as detailed in his work ‘The Ego and the Id’.
But to what extent can this
Freudian view of the mind withstand the examination of some philosophical
currents, especially existentialism and positivism?
A Short Biography of Sigmund
Freud, an Austrian
neurologist, author, psychiatrist, and founder of almost all the basic concepts
of psychoanalysis, was born on May 6, 1856, in the small Moravian town of
Freiberg to the family of Jacob Freud and Amalia. In 1860, when he was almost
four, he moved with his family to Vienna
and entered the University
of Vienna in 1873 at the
age of seventeen studying Psychology and neurology. He graduated with a Masters
Degree in 1881.
For some months in 1885, he
studied under Jean Martin Charcot in Paris whose work in hysteria converted
Freud to the cause of Psychiatry. Dissatisfied with hypnosis and electrotherapy
as treatment techniques, he evolved the psychoanalytic method, founded on dream
For some thirty years he
worked to establish the truth of his theories through his publications. He
published Beyond the Pleasure Principle
in 1920 which first announced his theory of the death drive; Totem and Taboo in 1913 which set about
tracing the Oedipus complex back to the origins of humanity, The Moses of Michelangelo in 1914. The Future of an Illusion which is a
convinced atheist’s dissection of religion, was published in 1927, Civilization and Its Discontents which
is a disillusioned look at Modern civilization on the verge of catastrophe, came
out in 1930. But it was in 1923, that he published his classical study The Ego
and the Id improved “structural theory” of the mind.
Despite his growing
reputation in May 1933 the Nazis publicly burnt Freud’s books in Berlin and fleeing this
Nazi anti-Semitism, he left Vienna
for London in
1938 and died on September
23, 1939, asking his physician for a lethal dose of morphine.
Statement of the Problem.
Man has always been an object
of study. But, in ancient and medieval times, when the cosmocentric and
theocentric perspectives prevailed, he was studied together with and
subordinately to other primary realities such as the world or God. It was with
Descartes, that man became the centre and the point of departure for philosophy,
In this way, the modern and
contemporary philosophers have obtained a whole new series of images of man,
images which have often sparked great interest. For example: anguished man (Kierkegaard),
economic man (Marx), existent man (Heidegger), symbolic man (Cassirer), problematic
man (Marcel), erotic man (Freud) etc.
These explain the enigma in conceptualizing man. Hence, the examination of Freudian Ego and Id would to a
large extent promote the understanding of man and his place in the world.
Purpose of this work.
The purpose of this work is
to expose and critically examine the Freudian concept of man as detailed in his
work the Ego and the Id. This examination is necessary in
order to assess the contributions of Freud to philosophical knowledge and the
excesses of his assumptions.
Scope of study
This work is particularly
centred on the concepts of the Ego and the Id, and how they help us have a
deeper understanding of man and his life. To substantiate our points, views
from philosophers will be considered where necessary.
Method of Research
The method applied in this
research is both expository and critical. It is expository in the sense that it
shows in great detail the Freudian view of man in relation to the Ego and the Id. It is also critical
because we shall subject Freud’s view to a philosophical analysis.
1.6 Division of the work.
This work is divided into
four chapters. Chapter one is the general introduction. In chapter two, the
researcher will dwell on the development of the concepts of Ego and the Id, and
there relation to super-Ego and to the classes of instincts. Chapter three is
the philosophical examination of this Freudian view. In chapter four, we shall
evaluate and conclude the entire work.