Reliability of Sigmund Freud's claims

Authors Avatar

TOK – Sigmund Freud and Psychology

Peter Frederiksen Svane

3/10 – 2008


  1. What did you learn that you considered as useful knowledge/information from watching the movie?

In the TOK course, one is concerned with the extent to which something can be justified, and if the given knowledge is useful. The movie explained Freud’s basic ideas about the forces governing human behavior. Whether these can be believed, or not, is in the end up to the individual to determine, and I will do so later. Freud’s ideas give a way to explain different people’s behavior, and hence a tool to predict how the individual person will most likely act in certain situations. That information, if applied correctly, can be very useful. If I am aware of that, according to Freud, some are more prone to commit various crimes that can directly bring me in danger, because they have grown up under certain conditions, I and society can take our precautions. Similarly, a person who has grown up under “optimal” conditions can benefit society, and one might therefore want to draw upon that person. The danger, however, of such knowledge resembles very much that of stereotypes. Those are by its very definition false, and therefore impose unjustified barriers between two person, cultures, etc. That, in fact, prevents society as whole from gaining knowledge through interaction. In the case with the supposed criminal, his background might not determine his future, and hence the precautions that his bystanders take, will be unfair, and prevent his development as a human being. Determinism versus free will also has a role to play. If we accept Freud’s ideas as true, then we remove the responsibility of the individual’s actions, good or bad, because the criminal’s actions are merely a natural response to a cause: the parents. If Freud’s ideas are discredited, and it is shown that an individual can develop freely from its parents, then the knowledge is useless because it doesn’t apply to the perceived reality. Since Freud’s ideas are neither accepted or rejected, the knowledge is neither useless nor useful. Rather it can be seen as a guide that applies sometimes, which then can be used to explain different concepts. In other words, Freud’s ideas can be useful.

Not to forget, the movie gave an insight into the life and times of Sigmund Freud, which is subject to debate from time to time. Such background knowledge is often useful since it can be used to take part in the debates or be used in other contexts, such as this essay.

  1. Talk about two major Freudian ideas. Do you agree with the ideas? Can we “prove” these ideas or not? How did Freud try to prove the ideas? Did he do so satisfactorily? What is the role of intuition in these types of ideas? Is intuition a valid way to approach knowledge?

According to Freud, each human being is defined by how one’s ego is balanced by the superego and the id. The superego represents the higher moral values of society, and those traits required for interacting in society. The id seems to be a collection of animal instincts such as the drive for sex (libido) and the drive for death (thanato). Thus a person has to find a balance between the natural selfish drive that seeks to satisfy immediate lust, and the “correct” moral behavior required to interact in society. The only remedy I have to rationally justify such a claim personally is by looking at to which extent the statement seems to be rooted in reality and is confirmed by it. In other words, the basis for whether or not I can agree with this proposition depends on how many times it is confirmed through inductive reasoning. From my own experience, the theory seems to be true since it in myself and others explains why I behave in certain ways. I sometimes feel as though society has pulled a curtain down over me and my natural instincts and innate feelings. In different books I’ve read new examples that support the claim keeps occurring. The Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale 150 years ago called The Shadow, in which a man’s dark shadow materializes and becomes an evil human being. I am surrounded by things that confirm the theory. On the other hand, I sometimes find exceptions. To some extent, the sense of “right” and “wrong” appears to be innate, hence an instinct alongside the libido and the thanato. That contradicts Freud’s idea. Therefore I neither disagree nor agree with his ideas since they can’t be logically justified, but on the other hand gain support from the many instances where they seem to be true.

Join now!

“Prove” is a big word, and it is often misused. Gödel, for example, showed that mathematically a proof is never certain, and that leaves the other lower ranking sciences in the hierarchy in the same state. A large part of proving something is the given thing’s ability to convince someone: to make someone believe. Deductive reasoning is easier to believe because it seems intuitively obvious. But sometimes it can lead to far of conclusion, because it can be used to prove anything (Rocks cannot fly, My sister can’t fly, therefore my sister is a rock). A tool like that has ...

This is a preview of the whole essay