Freud’s “On Human Nature” – Web Questions

Below please find some questions about Sigmund Freud’s essay, “On Human Nature,” written by your classmate, Tabia Chu. Please write a response of a paragraph or more to at least one of these.

1) Why did Freud start his article with the theory of wishful dreams? Do you think this piece would lose its meaning without this introduction?

2) What is Freud’s overall position on the “good” and “bad” of human nature? How can this theory be applied to the imperialists?


2 Comments on “Freud’s “On Human Nature” – Web Questions”

  1. Madiha Rao says:

    1. Freud starts his article with the theory of wishful dreams because it gives insight to his argument on human nature.Freud argues that human nature consists of impulses of an elementary nature which are not good or bad. But the expressions of these impulses are classified as good or bad according to how they are related to the needs and demands of human community. Selfishness and altruism are some expressions of these impulses. These impulses can be transformed from one to the other by internal and external factors, We sometimes misinterpret these impulses if we are not aware whether they are being influenced by internal or external factors. The woman in the introduction interpreted her dream as expressing an inner evil desire though Freud interpreted the external forces affecting the woman and was able to show her that the dream actually revealed a harmless desire. The other women in the introduction thought that her dream meant that she possessed an evil wish to have her daughter die- a desire that she had 15 years ago when she was pregnant. However, the dream was actually benign because it was influenced by a recent event. Freud argues that external and internal influences play an important role in shaping our impulses and in order to understand the nature of a human we have to understand what is impacting them. I think the piece would lose its meaning without the introduction because Freud cannot show how the unconscious mind works without interpreting dreams which express the impulses that Freud discusses in his article. The dreams better illustrate how impulses and human nature are related.

  2. Question 2

    Freud believed that the classification of human instinct and action into “good” or “bad” was inadequate. He understood human nature to be more complicated than that and claimed that bad or evil actions did not necessarily imply a wholly bad or evil person, but rather a person whose instincts have been unbearably repressed throughout social development. Freud posits the “moral standard” as almost impossible to attain and claims that society’s idea of wholly good people and the wholly good state is delusional. This can be implied to imperialism through Freud’s analysis of egoism and altruism. He explains that selfish tendencies are often repressed through both internal and external forces, but that those instincts never disappear and have a tendency to re-emerge in what appears as altruism. This is a very imperialistic outlook, and it reflects the tendency of imperialist nations to colonize other countries for economic benefit while externally claiming that they are freeing these countries and protecting them from violence or coercion.


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