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How Do Nietzsche and Freud Differ in Their Evaluation of Civilisation - Essay Example

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How Do Nietzsche and Freud Differ in Their Evaluation of Civilisation

This essay examines the extent the Freud and Nietzsche differ in their evaluation of civilization. Analysis There are a number of overarching considerations in regards to Nietzsche and Freud’s perspectives on civilization. One considers that in many regards both thinkers share a similar cynicism towards mass society. Nietzsche was greatly suspicious of the notion of morality and sought means of examining the underlining significance of moral actions, concluding that ultimately individuals were self-interested. Freud additionally questioned notions of selflessness (McGrath 1995, p. 111). Perhaps more significantly both thinkers recognized the prominence irrationality plays in civilization and human existence. While Freud embraced the Western scientific tradition of social progress, Nietzsche largely disregarded these notions. In addition to his disregard of society in this way, Nietzsche also believed that, to a large-extent, social reforms were useless and impossible (McGrath 1995, p. 111). Nietzsche viewed society as constricted by too many rules and regulations that hindered one’s pursuit of a richer and fuller human existence (McGrath 1995, p. 111). Freud’s emphasis on scientific progress seems conflicted with Nietzsche’s abandonment of social reform. ...
While Freud’s texts more directly consider the thrust of civilization to a large extent Nietzsche focuses on the individual. One of Nietzsche’s most seminal works is ‘Beyond Good and Evil’. One of the earlier considerations in this text is Nietzsche’s condemnation of past philosophers as too readily embracing notions of truth (Nietzsche 2003, p. 20). This is a significant criticism as Nietzsche has considered that past perspectives on philosophy and civilization must be fundamentally reconsidered as based on erroneous assumptions. For instance, Nietzsche broadly criticized Socrates. Rather than constituting ‘truth,’ Nietzsche argues that these past philosophical perspectives have merely sought to emphasize a philosophical perspective as a means of advancing the moral prejudices of the philosopher (Nietzsche 2003, p. 20). For instance, rather than Socrates’ claims being a legitimate claim to moral truth, Nietzsche argues that these beliefs merely serve to bolster Socrates’ self-interested position. This is a highly significant argument as in addition to criticizing the Western philosophical tradition, it criticizes many of the very foundational elements of society. Nietzsche notes, "from every point of view the erroneousness of the world in which we believe we live is the surest and firmest thing we can get our eyes on" (Nietzsche 1996, p. 34). While civilization through the Enlightenment had previously embraced the notion that humanity was inherently good, Nietzsche is positing in these regards that individuals must think beyond traditional notions of good and evil, as they are based an invalid premises. One considers Freud’s perspective on many of these notions in his seminal text Civilization and Its ...Show more


How do Nietzsche and Freud Differ in Their Evaluation of Civilisation? Introduction While contemporary perspectives on civilization have increasingly moved towards scientific understandings through sociology and anthropology, some of the foundational perspectives emerged largely from a philosophical perspective…
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