Sigmund Freud: On Human Nature

According to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic investigation, the human nature comprises of some deep characteristics which yearn to satisfy certain needs and impulses such as aggression, ego that drives him towards pleasurable experiences, the need for love and avoidance of pain in all areas of life. The impulses are considered to lead either towards good or evil according to the nature of satisfaction they bring to human nature and the community at large.

The nature of the society, either civilized or barbaric is as a result of the type of people inhabiting the environment. It is also a function of the degree of moral standards set by the society which forms continuous suppression of human instinct leading to the need of either reaction or compensation (Ziegler, 2002).

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Freud on his psychoanalytic perspective argued that personality development is one of the great characteristics of human nature that leads to deeper understanding of the uniqueness of each person’s life. Movement of individuals from one stage of life to another result in conflict between social and biological drive, found within the human nature. The ability of any individual to cope with his/her environment is determined by the individual’s ability to cope with the forces within the society and learn from them.

His argument on psychosexuality was that the management of a child’s sexual and aggression drives by the parents within the early stages of life contributes bigger percentage on a healthy personality development which comprises of three parts; id which forms the source for basic and biological needs and forms bigger percentage of the mind.

Then there is the ego which forms the conscious part of human nature and is driven by survival and contributes towards the directing of id’s impulses as appropriate. Then there is the superego which forms part of human conscience and develops as a result of relationship and interactions with parents who teach the children to accept and conform to the society’s values and norms (Ziegler, 2002).

Freud continues to argue that the human nature finds it difficult to accept anything less than excellence. The instinct that drives them towards this contributes towards intellectualism and more of ethical sublimation which make human crave for superiority complex. Freud argued that there is a big relationship existing between man and society which makes him/her naturally anti-social based on the level of evil nature within each individual.

He believed that the function of the society was to check on the human antisocial instincts. The level to which human being becomes civilized is purely dependent on the process of sublimation. This brings about the inverse relationship between human nature’s urge to satisfy his drives and the societal cultural practices. The degree to which an individual is subjected to suppression determines the level of his civilized lifestyle (Ziegler, 2002).

Freud’s view on human nature is seen as being more pessimistic since he placed so much emphasis on the traditional belief that there is a big relationship between human behaviors and the society from which an individual grows. This makes the roots from which individual originates to be more evil and at times lead to destruction. Freud believed that superiority of the majority determines the way a society is led and driven.

He argued that the main essence of human nature comprises bigger percentage of id which yearns to satisfy only the antisocial instincts which brings about an imbalanced society. Freud arguments on human nature led to the question on whether it would be possible for human nature to contain the principles that drive towards pleasure (Ziegler, 2002).

On the study of human personality, Freud believed that the central part of human nature is as a result of id and the control of human decisions by super-ego. He argued that childhood behaviors and experiences influenced a big percentage of the adult characteristics.

According to his discovery, neuroses were as a result of powerful emotional forces brought about by traumatic and harsh experiences at childhood stage. According to Freud childhood experiences shaped up adult life stage to the extent where infantile character shapes the formation of characters into adulthood.

Is humanity disposed more towards granting mercy or toward aggression?

Freud discovered that the general behavior of an individual was much driven by motivations arising from the emotional forces built on the unconscious part of the mind. According to Freud’s personality theory, human actions are as a result of mental and neurotic conflicts. Humanity according to Freud is more inclined towards aggression which demands the satisfaction of more antisocial instincts that drives towards attainment of individual pleasure.

This leads to more conflict between individuals and the society and ultimately destruction of humanity. Freud argues that humanity cannot be inclined towards granting mercy since there was no much emphasis on the constructive human nature forces. There was no clear indication of human creativity and productivity in Freud’s theory on human development (Freud, 1930).

The urge to immediate satisfaction of the human instincts results into conflict. According to Freud the aggression is produced by the id which is considered as the little devil from within that urges individuals to indulge in pleasurable activities irrespective of the consequent results provided that some satisfaction is guaranteed.

Superego on the other hand operates on ideal principles that tend to push individuals away from trouble. Human aggression can well be seen in the behaviors of a growing child who cares less about the inconveniencies his/her demands causes to other people including the parents (Freud, 1930).

How do we progress in moral sense?

There was the belief in Freud theory that love as a virtue, was a result of sexual sublimation. Human behaviors are regarded differently depending on the culture of the society from which it emanates. The culture within which an individual functions determines to a greater extent the abnormality or normality of certain actions and behaviors. Morality brings clear differentiation on what is considered good or bad within the societies. Moral behaviors are believed to be as a result of shared values within the community.

According to Freud morals are developed to provide means by which humanity can live together in peace and unity. These codes of morals are developed as a result of social and societal dictates. The general society contributes big percentage of an individual’s morality since individuals knows no moral boundaries (Freud, 1930, 49).

This is because people are so much concerned about their own persona good as opposed to others within the same environment, there is no reliance on others as long as an individual is at peace with himself. Based on individual drives and egos, moral restrictions are not of importance so long as there is security within.

Creation of communities led to the introduction of morality since individuals saw the need for healthy interactions and the realization of strength in unity of purpose. Greater strength calls for sole restrictions on individual behaviors and actions, this according to Freud, sets up the power of the community as being superior to individual’s power which at times turn brutal. The power of the community is only eminent after dealing with the egocentric nature of human beings.

Individual actions require regulations by the moral codes for stability to be maintained within the societies. Freud argued that all negative behaviors must be dealt with in order to guarantee safety to other members of the society. This is only possible when the concept of empathy is enforced upon individuals dwelling within the same community.

This is summed up in the golden rule principle which states that we should do unto others what we expect them do unto us. The moral code based on this principle ensures that individuals treat one another in a more cautious and less violent manner (Freud, 1930).

Freudian perception on morality is based upon the concept of empathy such that any behavior associated with social evil is condemned by every society. Most individuals within the society accepts the adoption of the principles and rules that guards against inflicting harm on others since no one desires evil behaviors against him or his family. The morality of an individual is majorly based on the behavioral actions which guarantee continuity within societies.

Morality is less associated with one’s thoughts since it is more revealed in the individual actions. Freud argued that what prevents an individual from inflicting harm on others is the fear of consequent results of community actions against him rather than empathy (Carpendale and Krebs, 1995).


Carpendale, J., & Krebs, D. L. (1995).Variations in the level of moral judgment

As a function of type of dilemma and moral choice. Journal of Personality, (63), 289-313

Freud, S. (1930).Civilization and its discontents. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Ziegler, D. J. (2002). Freud, Rogers and Ellis: A comparative theoretical analysis.

Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive- Behavior Therapy, 20(2), 75-91


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