Civilization and Its Discontent : Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “At the height of being in love the boundary between ego and object threatens to melt away. Against all the evidence of his senses, a man who is in love declares that 'I' and 'you' are one, and is prepared to behave as I it were a fact” (Chpt. I, p. 13).

    Freud rejects the idea that there is such a thing as a state of mystical oneness between the individual and the universe. The only time when this irrational oceanic state might temporarily occur is when someone falls in love.

  2. “One feels inclined to say that the intention that man should be 'happy' is not included in the plan of 'Creation' (Chpt. 2, p. 23).

    The purpose in life according to humans is the satisfaction of the pleasure principle, but one finds that the external world is not set up to satisfy human desires. Freud here states the reality principle, which is what every intelligent person discovers after outgrowing childhood.

  3. Religion restricts this play of choice and adaptation, since it imposes equally on everyone its own path to the acquisition of happiness and protection from suffering. Its technique consists in depressing the value of life and distorting the picture of the real world in a delusional manner” (Chpt. II, p. 31).

    Freud lists religion as one of the ways in which people try to get out of suffering and make themselves happy. They do so, however, by suppressing their life force and adopting certain rigid ideas that make them less flexible. In other words, they accept a delusional picture of the world.

  4. “. . . in whatever way we define the concept of civilization, it is a certain fact that all the things with which we seek to protect ourselves against the threats that emanate from the sources of suffering are part of that very civilization” (Chpt. III, p. 33).

    Freud makes the conclusion that civilization is designed to protect us but is a main source of our suffering.

  5. “This replacement of the power of the individual by the power of a community constitutes the decisive step of civilization” (Chpt. III, p. 42).

    Individuals give up their liberty and pursuit of personal desire to be part of a community.

  6. “The sexual life of civilized man is notwithstanding severely impaired” (Chpt. IV, p. 52).

    The instincts are controlled in a civilization, especially the sexual and aggression instincts. A person cannot go where he or she wants to satisfy desire. Sexual mores are highly codified.

  7. “. . . men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved, and who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness . . . their neighbor is for them a potential helper or sex object . . .” (Chpt. V, p. 58).

    Freud explains why loving your enemy or neighbor as yourself does not work as an ethic. Humans are basically violent.

  8. “I adopt the standpoint, therefore, that the inclination to aggression is an original, self-subsisting instinctual disposition in man, and I return to my view that it constitutes the greatest impediment to civilization” (Chpt. VI, p. 69).

    Freud states that aggression is not errant behavior but basic human nature; it prevents civilization from being successful.

  9. “His aggressiveness is introjected, internalized; it is, in point of fact, sent back to where it came from—that is, it is directed towards his own ego” (Chpt. VII, p.70).

    The human psyche punishes itself for its own aggressive instincts, thus internalizing authority.

  10. “. . . the two urges, the one towards personal happiness and the other towards union with other human beings must struggle with each other in every individual” (Chpt. VIII, p. 88).

    Freud sees no way out of the frustration of living with others, because one wants to be with other people and yet live for oneself too.

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