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Part Six: An Imaginary Conversation between Aristotle and Freud Part Six: An Imaginary Conversation between Aristotle and Freud
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2013-04-25 11:09:34
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Sigmund Freud: Professor Aristotle, I have been listening over the radio to the broadcast of your conversations on the existence of God and the functions of religious belief. I find them very interesting but I wonder if I could make a contribution or two as a psychologists.

Aristotle: By all means I have heard about your fame. If I am not mistaken you are considered the father of modern psychology. I especially admire in your writings the idea of getting to psychological truths via ancient Greek mythology such as the myths of Oedipus Rex and Electra.

F: Thank you for your compliment professor. I am glad that we see no insurmantable impediment to a fruitful dialogue between moderns and ancients, given the biases and prejudices that exist out there about ancient wisdom. In any case, my psychological theory starts with an obvious point: that the way people see God is the way little children see their fathers, as a god of sort: all powerful and all knowing providing assistance and protection from life’s perils but also occasionally punishing for wrongdoing.

A: Very interesting indeed. Go on.

F: As children grow up they begin to realize that their image is not accurate. This is partly due to sexual repression about which I will only speak here superficially , but in any case the original father image is now transferred to an imaginary perfect, all powerful god. All the guilt-feeling one harbors unconsciously about one’s father, especially about one’s sexual desire for the mother (the Oedipus complex) or the father (the Electra complex) is now transferred into religion where one experiences feelings of guilt, penitence, regrets and one then one seeks forgiveness and salvation or absolution from one’s sins, thus regressing to one’s childhood. Religion becomes a crutch of sorts, something one needs to cover up one’s inadequacies.

A: if I may say so, it all sounds slightly bizarre and implausible to me.

F: that’s because you are an ancient and have never heard sophisticated modern psychological theories. I may even say that your statement is simply unconscious repressed fear talking away.

A: that may be but the fact is that there are much simpler common sense accounts on why people are or become believers. The idea of a providential God for example, who cares for his creation and watches over us; or the idea of immortality as a response to our existential fear of death and final dissolution; to confront what Kierkegaard dubs the “existential dread.”

F: But in reality the fear of death is not all that important and motivating for belief despite Thomas Hobbs view on the matter. Belief can be motivated by a variety of  human desires.

A: Such as!

F: I’ll mention a few: honor, idealism, curiosity, family status, romance, tranquility.

A: ok I get the point. No doubt there are psychological motives for accepting a faith or a belief system. Nevertheless, the mere fact that one’s belief is based on psychological motives does not mean that it is necessarely false.

F: Right, but it does raise serious doubts. If a belief fulfills some profound psychological need, one begins to suspect that such is the real reason why people embrace that belief, not that the belief is true and based on rational foundations. It may means that it is mere irrational wishful thinking.

A: But that would still not show that it is false. It is intriguing to me that while Professor James argued the other day that religion was true because it serves important psychological functions, you, on the contrary argue that it is false exactly because it merely serves psychological functions. You psychologists are a strange lot. I prefer to leave psychology out of this whole argument on the ontological existence of God and stick with metaphysics.

F: I cannot say I am surprised. One can expect that from an ancient. But please don’t forget that you yourself said once that progress is made over many centuries; that even wisdom accumulates over many generations.

A: quite true professor, but I never said that progress is inevitable and unstoppable and always positive, which is what you moderns have misguidedly been holding since the Enlightenment. But that is another issue altogether. Good day Dr. Freud.

F: Good day professor Aristotle. We need to continue this conversation some other day.  


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Leah Sellers2013-04-25 16:50:04
Hello Brother Emanuel,
I'd love to hear more of the Aristotle and Freud debates. Ancient Man vs. Modern Man.
With all of our Modern Toys that we ever distract OurSelves with, Human Beings continue to run away from and avoid the Hard Interior and Exterior Work it Takes to be Greater than the Sum of Our Parts. And we are fully capable of it in the Realms of Sense and Sensibility.
Discussions like this, and many others presented, and cogitated upon around the Digital World today help. Thank you !

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