Understanding of Personhood in the History of Psychology: The Development of Freudian Psychoanalysis

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At the end of the nineteenth century, Sigmund Freud discovered the sophisticated concept of the unconscious (Willemsen, Cornelis, Filip, Geerardyn, Desmet, Meganck,  Inslegers, &  Cauwe, 2015). According to psychoanalytic theory, the unconscious plays a significant role in forming a personhood in both behavioral and psychological levels. The psychoanalytic concept primarily encompasses a person’s psychic structures in the light of id, ego, and superego. The id is originated in biological inclinations such as drives and instinctual urges (Alston, 1960). The superego reflects the ideal of parental demanding and prohibitive attitudes (Alston, 1960). The ego is understood as a mediator between biological disposition and external expectation (Alston, 1960). The concept of id, ego, and superego is the critical aspect of psychoanalytic theory as it captures the process in which a person utilizes to form his personality as well as behaviors. The unconscious is pivotal such psychic structure although one level has higher degree than another. Freud regards the unconscious, which is independently maneuvered regardless of time, reality, and rationality, as the essential part of human’s life (Grimwade, 2011). Nevertheless, Freud does not completely disregard the significance of conscious awareness; he simply emphasizes its role in lesser degree. The purpose of this writing is to understand the antecedent to the development of psychoanalysis. The writer attempts to include those influential philosophers who assist Freud to discover the unconscious. Such philosophers include Leibniz, Goethe, Hegel, Herbart, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Brentano.

Leibniz: The Higher-Order Theory of Consciousness

Leibniz postulated a higher-order theory of consciousness in which a mental state becomes conscious when another, higher-order, mental state utilizes such mental phenomenon as its own article (Jorgensen, 2011). The theory suggests that there are multiple layers of consciousness and each layer is able to use as a primary basis for the stimulating consciousness. Leibniz acknowledged that a human utilizes a conscious awareness in which he coined a term apperception to fully function. Apperception is believed to differentiate  the irrelevant in thinking from the relevant information components and equip mental representations with mental contents when object of perception is limited (Saariluoma & Kalakoski, 1998). The notion of apperception is closely associated with the cognitive processes in which how consciousness maneuvers a person. According to Jorgensen (2011), Leibniz claimed that a person certainly forms a memory from repeatedly exposing to the object of perceptions. Memory, according to Leibniz, is a rational element that entails or is similar to reflection (Jorgensen, 2011). Although the idea of conscious awareness is closely related to the concept of here-and-now in which a person is aware of immediate stimulus, memory, according to Leibniz, coexists and activates a thought process in a person.

Goethe: Understanding the Mind Through Phenomenology

Goethe introduced that the meaningful and unified experiences could be examined in which he called phenomenology (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2013). In phenomenology, each phenomenon is considered to the primitive element to construct reality that is always permeable to the human mind (Weik, 2017). To some extent, Goethe implied the approach in which the human mind perceives and constructs reality. In this regard, Goethe perhaps postulates that the human mind utilizes conscious awareness in formulating reality. Moreover, the claim that the mind can access to all phenomena yields the concept of memory. Goethe’s phenomena suggest that the macrocosm of the human mind is created on the basis of unifying elements of various different rudiments (Weik, 2017). Goethe further includes the role of culture and nature into his theory of phenomenology. Goethe claims that cultural and natural dimensions include both material and spiritual characteristics in a person (Weik, 2017). Due to human existence circumscribes multifaceted experiences, a person’s conscious awareness is possibly  unable to capture all aspects of reality. Therefore, it becomes likely that a person’s mind will experience conflicting emotions. Freudian psychoanalysis emphasizes such conflicting emotions and tendencies found in ego defense mechanisms (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014).

Hegel: The Search for Dialectical Meaning

Hegel proposes the method called dialectic that aims at comprehending the opposite characteristic of some phenomenon, concept, or institution (Stone, 2014). By understanding that a particular occurrence, idea, or even principle has two contrary features that both sound reasonable, Hegel might denote that the human mind heterogeneously interprets reality.  From the concept of dialectic, Hegel claims the congruence of thought and being (Stone, 2014). Such notion is comparable to the approach a person utilizes to rationalize his subjective experiences. That is to say, although experiencing various conflicted feelings, the mind tends to accept such incident as valid. Hegel considers his concept of dialectic as an ontological means occurring in the thought processes in which a person employs to justify his contexts (Stone, 2014). Hegel’s perspective on dialectic is somewhat similar to Goethe’s conflicting emotions and tendencies. Precisely, a person is seeking for multiple aspects of truth both objectively and subjectively which eventually creates the net of thoughts. The contradictions in the net of thoughts are similar to the concept of id, ego, and superego in Freudian psychology. (Need to say more?)

Herbart: The Facilitated and Inhibited Mind

Herbart is one of the philosophers that emphasize the role of conscious awareness. The concept of how a person can form his awareness from Herbart is somewhat similar to apperception proposed by Leibniz. Nevertheless, Herbart somewhat regards apperception to the procedure that the totality of ideas is constructed by the assimilation of sensory perception  (Klempe, 2011). By combining the concepts of apperception and sensory content, it is possible that Herbart attempts to explain the relationship between mind and body. The mind, according to Herbart, is organized through the obtainment of experiences and is neither inherited nor instinctive (Benjafield, 2008). This statement infers that although the mind receives input from bodily sensations, it is independent from congenital structures of all kinds. Benjafield (2008) stated that Herbart further suggests that consciousness formed by sensory content can become facilitated and inhibited. The process of facilitation and inhibition is postulated on the basis of the congruence of the apperceptive mass. That is, if the apperceptive mass is congruent of the a set of ideas, the mind initiates the facilitation process. On the other hand, if the apperceptive mass is incongruent of the a set of ideas, the mind initiates the inhibition process which is possibly stored in the unconscious (Benjafield, 2008). The concept of inhibition certainly influences Freud’s theory. (In what way?)

Schopenhauer: The Will in the Unconscious

Schopenhauer posits the concept of inseparable will that could be a ‘blind striving’, a ‘blind  impulse’ manifested in a person (Grimwade, 2011). Schopenhauer recognizes the will as blind in both aspects of striving and impulse probably implies that a person can operate beyond reasons. The will, according to Schopenhauer, can be manifested in both conscious and unconscious level. It somewhat entails the notion that a person has drives and motives which may or may not be rational. Schopenhauer’s notion of will also suggests that the will is dynamically operated beyond time and space and it employs a consciousness as a representation of an object and individual existing in time and space (Grimwade, 2012). The question might center on what exactly the functions of unconsciousness will be or how it coordinates with consciousness. The unconscious will might be explained by the phenomenon of dream. Schopenhauer contends that dream is a byproduct of the unconscious will in which a person has internal stimulations (Grimwade, 2012). Both dreaming and waking states encompass the ability for a person to feel a variety of emotions. Moreover, Schopenhauer argues that a person is capable of utilizing the unconscious as a means to restrain repressed repulsive thoughts  (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014). Similarly to Schopenhauer, Freud signifies the function of dreams as a way to understanding that unconscious that functions separately from the dynamic of time, reality, and rationality (Grimwade, 2011). The will in the unconscious as claimed by Schopenhauer is identical of the concept of id from Freud’s psychic structure.

Nietzsche: The Mind Operates Beyond Good and Evil

Nietzsche suggests that a human person can be equipped with good and evil characteristics. In his work, Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche argues that the “ego” and the “it” differ in which the “it” is the primary source of agency, action, and thought while the “ego” is the act (Greer, 2002). Nietzsche’s doctrine of the “ego” and the “it” denotes the significance of desire in the unconscious that maneuvers the act. Nietzsche further argues that a human person typically acts on his instincts such as the search for food, shelter, or sex, as well as exhibits his aggressive drives (Risse, 2001). Such instincts and drives operate in the “it” level that influences how the “ego” operates the acts. Nietzsche contends that, through history, a person has the will to survive when encountering with harsh environments (Fennel, 2005). That is to say, a person is characterized by instinctual ability and the drives of aggression as a means to survive in unfavorable conditions in any sort. Nevertheless, Nietzsche also claims that a person is capable of exhibiting morality and the urge to pursue greatness. Although Nietzsche does not comprehensively explain what constitutes greatness, such quality is found in a person’s character that is displayed through achievement (Hassan, 2017). The quality of greatness yields the idea of morality in which a person uses as an instrument in subduing instinctual urges. Nietzsche claims that morality is operated by feelings of guilt since a person encounters the conflict between his innate inclination (i.e. instinctual urges) and social norms (Greer, 2002). Nietzsche’s notions of the “ego”, the “it”, greatness, and morality clearly coexist in a person’s mind. Such multiple characteristics create conflictual contents in both conscious unconscious levels which is also prominent in Freud’s id, ego, and superego.

Brentano:  The Interplay of Mental and Physical Phenomena

Brentano defines his idea of consciousness as equivalent to mental phenomenon that is operated internally (Thomasson, 2000). Brentano implies that the consciousness of one’s mental states creates one’s existence and greatly puts emphasis on an internal phenomenon in understanding a personhood. He claims that a human person utilizes both physical and mental phenomena to rationalize both externally and internally (Montague, 2017). That is, a human person is comprised of the interplay of sensations and perceptions. Moreover, Brentano also introduces the influence of emotions in mental phenomena. According to Brentano, emotions serve as an intentional evaluative element in mental phenomena (Montague, 2017). Emotions occurring in such mental phenomena might function as a mediator between irrational urges and reality. From Brentano’s perspective on physical phenomena such as perceptions through all senses, such idea implies external environments can certainly impact a person’s thinking patterns. Through receiving those inputs, a person deciphers the data in mental phenomena to generate both objective and subjective reality (Montague, 2017). The notions of mental and physical phenomena and objective and subjective reality suggest that a person needs a particular object to create his consciousness although Brentano claims that conscious awareness is performed internally.  Brentano uses emotions in mental processes to contain the needs of biological gratification and social standards is similar to ego defense mechanism. (How is that concept associated to Freud?)

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