Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents (1930)
Edition used: W.W. Norton, 2010
Christina Hendricks begins this lecture by giving some background in a few Freudian ideas and arguments that may help in making sense of the text, and then talks about connections between this text, Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Plato’s Republic, and Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols while giving her reading of some of the main points of Freud’s arguments. She ends with a quick question about the choice to start the book with a discussion of the “oceanic feeling” only to seemingly drop it, and then argues that we can see it reappear as a theme, in a way, in the end of the book.
Click here for the link to the lecture on the UBC Media Site system, where you can see the video with the slides as well.
- Compare Freud’s discussion of the divine to that developed in either Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling or Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols.
- What does Freud’s title Civilization and its Discontents reveal about his project?
- What does Freud mean by the death instinct (Thanatos) and what is its relevance to Antigone?
- How does Freud understand the nature of human happiness and how is this understanding similar to, or distinct from, that of either Nietzsche, Hobbes, Rousseau, or Plato?
- Compare the implications of Freud’s and Plato’s conceptions of the self.
- Explore Freud’s approach to human history in Civilization and its Discontents and compare to previous readings if you wish.
- In a footnote early in Chapter 4 of Civilization and its Discontents, Freud speculates on the impact of the human evolution to walking on two leg on the nature of sexual arousal. Critically evaluate his argument and suggest whether speculations of this sort enhance or undermine the overall credibility of the general thesis at the core of his book.