Freud’s view that morality comes from the mind
The Oedipus Complex
Freud came up with the idea of the Oedipus Complex. This is based around a story from Greek mythology. In this story, Oedipus has a father who goes off to war and when his father is at war he falls in love with his mother and becomes jealous of his father. Oedipus then himself is called to war and out of chance he comes across his father in battle and kills him. He then returns home to live a life with his mother as a partner.
- Freud believed that male children are first attached to their mothers and view their fathers as competition to their mothers. These feelings trigger feelings of guilt.
- These feelings are repressed at puberty. Freud states our goals: Detach from mother, reconcile with father and find someone to love who is not identical to mother.
- Freud saw that boys were envious and threatened by their fathers because their fathers have intimate relationships with their mothers.
- Totems/sacrifices synbolise the killing of the father (phallic imagery.)
- Freud states that boys have a fear of castration and girls have penis envy.
- We repress these feelings and they are not dealt with which leads to neurosis.
Freud believed that religion is a ‘universal obsessional neurosis’ and that religious rituals are like neurotic, obsessive actions. Freud then went on to describe religion as mankind’s Oedipus complex.
The Conscience and the Unconscious
Freud believed that an individual developed psychological mechanisms through their relationships with their parents. These mechanisms, buried in the unconscious, are what we know as the conscience.
Freud thought that the mind had various functions. He divided it into three sections, the Ego, the Id and the Superego.
The ego begins to develop from birth. As the baby begins to experience the external world, the ego begins to modify the baby’s behavior, controlling socially unacceptable impulses. The ego is a filter for our unacceptable behavior.
This Id is usually referred to as the unconscious. It is the seat of biological impulses, and is controlled by the Pleasure Principle. This compels the person to find instant gratification or pleasure – usually this associated with sexual drives.
The superego controls the impulses of the Id. The superego develops from early childhood as parents and society as the child tries to conform to their expectations.
- Freud believed the conscience develops as a child.
- For example, a child may decide to touch and prod its own feces out of curiosity. The child’s parents stop the child and tell it off saying that it is wrong to do this. So, the child represses the feelings in their sub-conscious. They worry about disappointing their parents, and become conditioned into behaving the way their parents approve of.
- Therefore, morality comes from our own repressed feelings of guilt and not God.