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 Civilization and Its Discontent Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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Civilization and Its Discontent : Chapter 6

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Summary of Chapter VI

Freud presents his theory of instincts. The pleasure principle describes the instinct to preserve living substance and join it in larger units. The death instinct seeks to dissolve units into their primal inorganic state. There is the instinct of Eros (love) and the instinct of death. These two instincts do not always appear in isolation from one another. Frequently, they are together. He gives sadism as an example of love and destruction combined in one behavior. The implication is that civilization also combines these two opposing forces.

The death instinct can be directed inward as well as outward. Freud says many object to the idea that humans have a natural destructive urge, because God supposedly made man in his own image. But the Devil is an excuse for God of why evil exists, a scapegoat like the Jew is in the Aryan world. Freud concludes that aggression is an original instinct in humans and the biggest obstacle to civilization. Eros creates a unity in humanity, but now civilization is in trouble because it is a fight between Eros, the urge to join peacefully with others, and death or destruction.

 

Commentary on Chapter VI

Again, Freud prophesies why the world is destroying itself in aggression, marching inevitably, it appears, to another world war. Even though the love instinct tries to create a unity among nations, the death instinct is equally active in trying to tear down civilization. He mentions the Jew as a scapegoat like the devil is for God. The devil is seen as the one who creates evil, not the pure God. Likewise, if things go wrong in society, Jews often get the blame. Then there is someone on whom to play out the aggression.




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