Category Archives: psychology

A Possbile Explanation for Homosexuality within Freudian Theory

Many thanks to those who helped me on this one. Without you I would never have got as far with this as I have.

Freudian theory states our mind is divided into three portions; Id, Ego and Superego with the Id being divided into two sub-divisions, the Eros and Thanatos drives. I will not go into too much detail here about this but if you are unfamiliar with Freud you read my earlier work on Freud here…click me….and now onto the main topic for this discussion

At birth we are born with only pure Id but we develop the other two components over time through a series of phases known as our psycho-sexual development. During each phase of this development the Id channels a sexual energy called libido towards a different erogenous zone where it is focused (cathexed) upon that zone making it the centre of our attention and gratification, beginning with the oral phase in which the ego emerges in order to channel libido to the mouth. Following this comes the sadistic-anal phase before the first of two genital phases; this one is known as the phallic phase. After the phallic phase boys and girls separate off into what is known as the Oedipus and Elektra complexes respectively. It is around this phase that the Superego forms itself into a psychic entity capable of challenging the Id. After this comes a latent phase as the Superego denies all desires from the Id until puberty where the final stage commences, known as the genital stage.

1. Oral phase – libido cathexed onto the mouth
2. Sadistic anal phase – libido cathexed onto the anus in the form of denial
3. Phallic phase – libido cathexed onto the phallus
4. Oedipus/Elektra complex – libido cathexed onto the parent of the opposite gender
5. Latent phase – id placed into temporary suspension
6. Genital phase – libido cathexed onto the genitals and the genitals of others

You will notice that the fourth stage involves the libido being focused on the parent of the opposing gender, and this is possibly where the source of homosexuality lies. As it is during the Oedipus complex that the son develops sexual feelings towards his mother but fears that if he makes a move his father would intervene, to circumvent this the son will start mimicing the father in attempt to win his mother’s affections, hence tricking her into making the first move.

In some cases however I suggest that some confusion sets in and so instead of mimicing the father the son will shift his libido onto the father thinking that by loving the father the mother’s affections will be won as she too loves the father. Here now the son’s sexual energy will be placed upon a male figure instead of female…and as this is the last acitve stage before adolescence it wuold be critical in shaping the sexuality of the child in question.

As for females, they suffer the Electra complex where they suffer from penis envy as they become aware that the father has a penis but they do not but desperatly desire one. Thus they focus their libido onto the father and mimic the mother in attempt to win the father affections and obtain his penis.

A similar confusion occurs here. The daughter instead of mimicing the mother will shift her libido onto the mother in the same way the son will shift it to his father in order to obtain what he desires. Thus the daughter’s libido will be focused upon a female figure instead of a male at this vital stage within the psycho-sexual development.


Do Boys and Girls Play Differently? Does Gender Affect Play?

Young boys and girls have a tendency to show gender orientated behaviour during early infancy, this is then continued through childhood getting more profound as the child ages raising the question as to whether these behaviours are innate due to biological reasons or nurtured due to environmental/social reasons.

Even though it is not obviously apparent during early infancy there are some differences between the behaviour of boys and girls. These behaviours do not become apparent until their first birthday but even then they are barely noticeable; these behaviours then become more pronounced by the arrival of their second birthday, around the same time as the Ego develops according to Freud in his psycho-sexual development theory for behaviour. This suggests that gender differences comes from the development of the Id and Ego during the Oral stage where boys tend to express more aggressive behaviours such as biting and/or chewing whereas girls tend to express more docile behaviours such as suckling and/or tasting in order to satisfy the Id’s desire to taste everything in the external world.
Another theory comes from evidence based on Goldberg’s & Lewis’s 1969 study where they observed that infants at this age mimic the behaviour of the same sex parent, this would suggest that gender specific behaviour is not caused by the Id and Ego but by social learning as we observe our environment (family, media and peers) in order to develop our behaviour and personality. Although this study has been criticised for having a lack of validity since a number of others studies including; Clarke-Stewart 1973, Macoby 1973 and Brookes & Lewis 1974 have all failed to replicate the results found by Goldberg & Lewis.

It is unarguable that gender specific behaviours exist and this has been found via a number of studies including those by Fagot (1974 & 1978), Fein (1975), Smith & Daglish (1977), Ainsworth (1978), Feiring & Lewis (1979), Parke & Slaby (1983), Hartup (1983) and Turner (1991); there are others but they lack in supporting evidence and so remain unmentioned. The argument lies mainly within what are these behaviours and where do they come from?
Fagot in 1974 found that infants from the age of two start to play with certain types of toys depending on their gender; girls will opt for dressing up clothes, dancing, and toys that encourage mothering such as teddies and dolls, whereas boys will opt for transport orientated toys like trains, vans and cars but also building blocks and household items forbidden by the parents (household chemicals for example). This suggests that boys innately have a curious, constructive nature where girls have an innate nature to become mothers and want to look good. Fagot’s findings have also been supported by other studies mentioned earlier.

It has been found that boys play with more aggression than girls by Parke & Slaby and Turner (looking at research done by Ainsworth) noted that this is especially true if the boys have developed an insecure attachment and have been diagnosed as so during the strange situation. This aggression can be seen by watching boys play with building blocks they will construct towers or what they seem to be a magnificent height and then smash it with there hand or another object to hand and laugh at the whole situation of the tower falling. Also if you give an older boy a doll to play with a majority will sabotage it either by cutting off its hair or removing its limbs (much to the distress of the female owner). Again this aggression could be innate as an evolutionary throwback since in nature it is usually the males that fight for dominance, territory and hunt for food to provide for the rest of the family.
Another behaviour common of boys is they play in groups, found by Hartup in 1973, this would make since from a biological point of view as if gender specific behaviour is part of survival and is part of the evolutionary throwback then it would be safer to hunt as a group rather than go it alone where the hunter could become the hunted by larger predators.

In 1979 Feiring & Lewis found that girls are more vocal and are vocal earlier than boys in both play and interaction with each other, and are better at using their vocal skills to solve problems; this can be seen in a typical playground dispute. Girls will result to a screaming down of the opposition with a torrent of insults, bitchy remarks and attempts to shift the blame else where (or if all else fails result to the Vicky Pollard approach of “yeah…but no…but yeah…but SHUT UP!”). Whereas boys allow their anger to take control and exchange blows or threaten the other with violence of some description. This would also support the idea of biological causation since fighting would be part of defending territory and making themselves known as the ‘alpha male’ of the pack.

Turner, again looking at research by Ainsworth, noted that girls who are insecurely attached show dependant behaviours as well as compliance, constructive tendencies and less-dominating behaviours than securely attached girls. Insecurely attached boys on the other hand express aggression, assertiveness, dominance and attention-seeking behaviours whereas securely attached boys show more positive behaviours. Suggesting that gender specific behaviour has a social causation rooted within the maternal link during infancy. Huston, Lytton and Romney also support the idea for social causation of gender specific behaviours as they observed in studies in 1983 (Huston) and 1991 (Lytton and Romney) that parents treat children of different genders differently.

To conclude gender specific behaviours have both a innate biological causation and a nurtured social dimension. We all have an innate awareness of gender difference and of the behaviours necessary for survival and start to develop them from birth in order to survive and protect our families but also these behaviours are reinforced by the development of our maternal attachments, toys we are given to play with and observations of our same sex parent (assuming they are present to be observed). The idea of mimicking the same sex parent would only be reinforcing our innate behaviours since our parents would also be expressing the behaviours they ‘know’ are beneficial to the survival of the family; hence the father would show aggression as he knows this is needed to stop others attacking the family and so would the son, however the son just observes his father in order to gain reassurance that this is the correct way to behave going back to Freud’s idea of the Id, Ego conflict.

Personality and Gender Effects on Stress Levels

In 1976 Frakenhaeuser (et al) conducted a study into how the difference between genders affects how stressors affect the body. Frakenhaeuser (et al) took a group of boys as well as a group of girls and as they went through a stressful life event, in this case a school exam period, they took urine samples from each group to record the levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline within the bloodstream.

The results of the urine samples allowed them to find out that boys would experience a larger increase of hormonal activity during stress than the girls, but also this increase would take a longer period of time to correct itself. They also were able to find out the results from the exams were the same for both groups, as was the levels of anxiety and stress. From these findings they were able to draw up the conclusions that males were able to react faster to stress, however it is females who are able to cope better with stress as their hormonal activity was hardly affected by the stressors; thus females tend to be more hardy to the effects of stress.

Although the study in not without fault. Frakenheauser’s conclusion suggests that males are more likely to develop stress-related illnesses, yet there is a lack of evidence in support this suggestion meaning that the results from the study may have been misinterpreted. Also stress management techniques has a tendency to differ between the sexes; males prefer to opt for the more active, physical approach to handling stress by using exercise. It is a well-known fact that physical exercise released increased levels of adrenaline into the bloodstream which would therefore account for the raised levels during the exam period. Whereas females prefer to opt for a more passive, social approach to handling stress by socializing with friendship networks, social groups and support groups, this option doesn’t have any affect on the body’s biochemistry but instead shuts off the sympathetic nerves in the autonomic-nervous-system allowing the parasympathetic to continue relay messages as the body remains in a relaxed state. Because of this the assumptions made from the study about how vulnerable people are to stress is risky.
On the other hand there is strength to be found in the study. Mainly it is a significant piece of evidence describing how individual differences, such as personality and gender can change the effects stressors have on us.

The Implications of Freudian Theory Within Moral Philosophy

Freud is one of the key thinkers of modernity within philosophy of mind after he introduced a theory of mind, known as the psychodynamic model, based upon a divided self made up of unconscious, preconscious and conscious. This was later built upon to produce a topography of mind consisting of an unconscious Id, unconscious Ego, preconscious Ego, conscious Ego and a Superego which interacts with the other parts but is not specifically located within any of the earlier divisions of the mind. The model is usually referred to as the (human) psyche, although Freud sometimes refers to it as the psychic apparatus. The purpose of this essay is three-fold; first to explain Freud’s psychodynamic theory of mind, secondly to highlight the implications this has on the notion of free will and to determine whether or not free will is compatible with Freud’s theory. Finally to demonstrate the implications the compatibility of free will within Freud’s theory and has on moral philosophy in order to show that if Freud’s psychodynamic theory is found to be true then any feasible ethical model would have to fall upon the concepts I shall show throughout this essay. From this I shall conclude that free will is compatible with Freud’s psychodynamic and can support ethical systems based upon free will.

Before I begin with my explanation of Freud’s psychodynamic theory of mind I would like to point out that this essay is not intended to prove whether Freud is correct or not, nor is it intended to highlight any flaws within the model, although some flaws may become apparent throughout the following sections.

Freud’s earlier topography of the mind consisted of unconscious, preconscious and conscious, where “the nucleus of the unconscious consists of instinctual representatives which seek to discharge their cathexis; that is to say, it consists of wishful impulses” [Freud, UC, pg:582]. The term cathexis plays a vital part in Freud’s theory and can be used to mean psychic energy. Thus the unconscious exists as a collection of impulses, each of which has a cathexis of its own and interacts by discharging the cathexis around the topography of the mind. The unconscious is also the first point of call for external stimuli once it passes through the perceptive faculties for “in the first phase the psychical act is unconscious” [Freud, UC, pg:578].

Cathexis, as stated above, can be considered as a psychic energy which allows the parts of the mind to interact with each other by discharging quantities of cathexis. Therefore Freud’s psychodynamic model can be seen as a system of sinks and flows with the unconscious, preconscious and conscious being the passive parts of the system (the sinks). And the cathexis, in its multiple forms, acting as the flows hence the dynamic part of the psychodynamic model. Cathexis can manifest as sexual impulses towards certain erogenous zones, such as the mouth or anus, which Freud argues is part of the psychosexual development of the psyche.

Once external stimulus has passed into the unconscious it then undergoes a screening process to determine whether the discharge of cathexis is safe. “if, on testing, it is rejected by the censorship it is not allowed to pass onto the second phase…if, however, it passes this testing, it enters the second phase and thenceforth belongs to the second system…the preconscious” [Freud, UC, pg:578]. The preconscious then acts as a memory bank holding any latent impulses which may be recalled by the conscious at any given point, in a way it is both conscious and unconscious as it not fully conscious but not blocked by the defence mechanism of repression, which is another vital concept for Freud. Essentially is the bridge between the unconscious-conscious schism.

Freud argues “under certain conditions…the impulse then passes into the state of repression…for the ego cannot escape from itself” [Freud, RP, pg:569], therefore repression acts as the defence mechanism which blocks the impulses which, having failed the screening process of the unconscious, prove harmful to our conscious psyche. There are also two types of repression, or at least two stages to it, “there is a primal repression…which consists in the psychical representation of the instinct being denied entrance into the conscious” [Freud, RP, pg:569], in other words the primary censorship of impulses. Then “the second stage of repression…affects mental derivatives of the repressed…or such trains of thought as originating elsewhere” [Freud, RP, pg:569], this latter act of repression censors impulses which bear some resemblance with the impulse originally censored to avoid any harm coming to the conscious.

Conscious is the remaining part of the psyche. It acts the system which contains the impulses we are aware of at a given moment in time. When we become aware of an impulse it means the impulse has discharged its cathexis from the preconscious system to the conscious. However the conscious only has a small capacity, due to the limited range of focus we possess, consequently when we become aware of another impulse the cathexis of the former is discharged back into the preconscious allowing the cathexis of the latter to be discharged into the conscious. This tripartite model of the psyche later gave way to a new topography, although still carrying these three systems, the new model had three new systems which acted as an extra layer on top of what Freud had already established.

One of these three systems is the Id which is entirely unconscious and is responsible for many of our impulses which come from two drives; Eros and Thanatos . The Id is completely egotistical as its only purpose is to achieve the actualisation of its impulses regardless of all other entities (both physical and psychical). The Id’s impulses are centred around obtaining pleasure and self-preservation for “the pleasure principle is proper to a primary method of working on the part of the mental apparatus…from the point of view of the self-preservation of the organism” [Freud, BP, pg:596].

The Eros and Thanatos drives were a late revision to Freud’s model where they replace the pleasure principle. The Eros drive takes the role of self-preservation, reproduction and directing the person towards higher states of existence. On the other hand the Thanatos drive takes the role of destroying unnecessary components of the entity and external entities which threaten the existence of itself. Or as Freud puts it “we put forward the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate states; on the other hand, we suppose that Eros…aims at complicating life and at the same time, of course, at preserving it” [Freud, EI, pg:645]. Hence the two drives often come into conflict as one tries to destroy the self whilst the other preserves it.

In order to keep the Id under control the psyche has another system known as the Ego which spans across all three regions of the old division, “the ego is not sharply separated from the id; its lower portion merges into it. The repressed is only cut off sharply from the ego by the resistances of repression” [Freud, EI, pg:635]. The Ego, like the Id, also has a drive known as the reality principle. The reality principle acts as a balance between the external world and the discharges of cathexis from the Id, the role of this principle is to resolves conflicts between incompatible impulses by way of a compromise which is acceptable within the external world for “when two wishful impulses…appear to us incompatible…they combine to form an intermediate aim, a compromise” [Freud, UC, pg:582].

Finally there is the Superego which develops later on as a consequence of the Oedipus complex. During the Oedipus complex the Id discharges its cathexis in hope of mating with the parent/guardian of the opposite gender. The Ego denies this as the reality principle deems it inappropriate but allows a compromise by taking on the essence of the same gender parent/guardian in order to win the affections of the source of desire. This becomes the Superego which represents the moral standpoint and social beliefs of the same gender parent/guardian. The role of the Superego is to act as a further level of censorship alongside the reality principle and repression to ensure that the Id never actualises its most destructive impulses within the external world.

Now Freud’s topography of the human psyche has been explained I can begin to address the question of whether free will is compatible with the psyche. Beforehand a definition of what is meant by free will is necessary since free will is a notion which has been a matter of debate for some time, with each thinker providing his/her own definition of the term along the way. I, however, shall take free will to mean what Spinoza defines it as, “that thing is called free which exists from the necessity of its nature alone, and is determined to act by itself alone” [Spinoza, pg.2]. By this what is meant is something possesses free will if it is self-driven, as opposed to being driven by a causal nexus. In this sense we can consider the Id to be free since Freud does not offer any explanation as to why it discharges its cathexis towards objects, it simply does, and hence it appears as if the Id does so by its own free will. Following this the Ego cannot be free as it acts only in response to the Id, therefore its actions are caused by the Id and so not caused by itself and consequently not by the Ego’s free will. Then there is the Superego which constantly behaves in such a way as to get the Ego to permit the discharges of cathexis that our parent/guardian of the same gender would permit without any consideration for the other two systems, thus the Superego could also be considered to possess free will. If this is true then the greater part of the human psyche is free but our conscious choices are not, meaning we are only free to choose what we do not know we want to choose as a portion of our free choice has been repressed. However so far this has been mere speculation to determine whether this is the case or not further evidence needs to be considered.

O’Shaughnessy argues that the Ego does possess free will as “the will, in the romantic sense of mental force, is the manifestation of an ego” [O’Shaughnessy, pg.110], he also believes the Id and Superego to possess free will as “those subordinate mental processes have a life of their own, and while they move only because we set them in motion they are not mere instruments of our purposes. They do our bidding but go their own way” [O’Shaughnessy, pg.111]. This is also supported by Thalberg who says that “when we perform an erroneous action…control over the body passes from one’s ego, and its will, to an opposing counter-will” [Thalberg, pg.243], this both the Id and the Ego possess free will but they also oppose each other. This gives rise to a further problem…if our psyche consists of separate systems each capable of free choice but disagree then which system can truly be called the self? It would seem absurd to argue that I, that is my ‘self’, wants X yet simultaneously wants not-X as this goes against the law of non-contradiction, which states “it is impossible for the same thing at the same time both to be and not to be” [Aristotle, 1005b]. So in order to answer the problem of free will within Freud’s model we need to clear up the problem of the self.

Kierkegaard was puzzled by the problem of the self but gave a explanation of it within Sickness Unto Death in which it is argued that “the self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relations relating itself to itself…a human being is a synthesis…of freedom and necessity” [Kierkegaard, XI:127]. By this it may be possible to see how we can resolve the problem with regard to Freud. If we replace the term itself with the names of parts of the mental apparatus then Kierkegaard reads as follows: ‘the self is a relation that relates Id to Ego or is the relations relating Id to Ego’. In the first part the self can be equated to cathexis as it is this which relates the Id to the Ego via its being discharged between the two systems. In the second part the self can be equated to Superego as it is creating out of the individual’s relations, as demonstrated above, and the Superego relates the Id to the Ego by means of a secondary screening process for the discharges of cathexis. Therefore the self is the Superego and the psychic energy which interacts between the Id and the Ego, and since the impulses originate in both the Id (from the Eros and Thanatos drives) and the Ego (from the reality principle) then by extension the self is also the Id and the Ego making the self as Kierkegaard stated ‘a synthesis’. Yet it appears that the problem of the law of non-contradiction still remains if this is the case. This is not necessarily the case as it was previously stated that “when two wishful impulses whose aims must appear to us incompatible…they combine to form an intermediate aim, a compromise” [Freud, UC, pg:582], this allows the Id and Ego to have their own free will without breaking the law of non-contradiction. It also solves the last piece of Kierkegaard’s claim that the self is a synthesis of freedom and necessity, the freedom comes from the free will of each part of the system in conflict but the necessity comes from its necessary adherence to the law of non-contradiction. And so the self can be considered the human psyche in its entirety capable of freely choosing a number of desires yet bound by the law of non-contradiction so only the desires which are compatible with each other are permitting, whilst the others become repressed.

To sum up what has just been said the self is a synthesis of Id, Ego and Superego relating to each other via the psychic energy of cathexis. Secondly each of the three systems contains its own free will but is bound by the law of non-contradiction so are determined to compromise whenever two opposing wills come into conflict. To put it another way we are free to do as we please so long as we do not contradict the actions and choices which have gone before, hence Freud’s model is compatible with soft determinism, also known as compatibilism.

But what is compatibilism? Compatibilism can be described as a solution to the free will problem as it allows free will to be compatible with determinism, thus enabling us to be held morally responsible for our actions even they we had no actual choice over what action we were to take [SP]. By actual choice I mean one that is chosen freely without any constraints on our choosing, as opposed to a perceived choice which is freely chosen from within a range of options from within a set of constraints. The former would be the exercise of total free will, libertarianism. The latter is the exercise of free will bound by pre-determined criteria, compatibilism. For example an actual choice is being able to choose between a cup of tea or a glass of fizzy pop whereas a perceived choice is being able to choose between the two but only being able to choose the cup of tea as every time this choice has occurred before you have desired the tea over the fizzy pop. Now it has been established what compatibilism is it can be discussed at which ethical systems work alongside Freud’s model.

Socratic ethics is built upon the notion that no man freely does evil they only do evil acts through ignorance, thus cannot be held morally responsible as it is stated within the Apology “you have discovered that bad people always have a bad effect…upon their nearest neighbours. Am I so hopelessly ignorant as not even to realize that…because nothing else would make me commit this grave offense intentionally” [Plato, 25e] and because the evil act was not committed intentionally Socrates claims “I cannot fairly be held responsible, since I have never promised” [Plato, 33b]. This would appear, at first, to be acceptable since evil desires are repressed into the unconscious, as demonstrated above, therefore become unknown to us so if we do act in an evil way it is because our unconscious has overpowered the Ego making us act in a way in which we were not aware of.

This view has been supported by some thinkers such as Sagan who argued “If reason were not fused with libidinal energy- the desires to love and create order- it would remain impotent against the destructive drive…without Eros, reason has as much commitment to morality and an orderly social life as a stick of dynamite” [Sagan, pg:139]. What Sagan refers to here when she uses the term reason could arguably be the Ego as it follows the reality principle, hence can be seen as the rational agent within the system ensuring the Id’s selfish desires are compatible with the external world. This would mean that the Ego and the Eros drive work in tandem to subdue our inner evil derived from the Thanatos drive. However there may be a hidden layer to the dynamite metaphor used by Sagan suggesting something beyond the initial reading which argues that an Ego without the Eros drive to support it cannot be adequate enough to stop the destructive desires of the Id. Dynamite can be used as a tool for good, as well as bad, as it can destroy objects with explosive force yet with that same destructive force act as a means to a greater end. For example when dynamite is employed within quarries so that marble (or some other mineral) can be excavated and used to construct monuments elsewhere. Therefore by using dynamite in her analogy there may be an implicit claim that an Ego working on its own can freely choose to work with the Thanatos drive or work against it. Only when combined with the Eros drive does the Ego lose this actual choice and replaces it with a perceived choice. Further supporting the notion that the psyche is one designed upon compatibilism. And because every psyche comes with the Eros drive, it is not something created later on as opposed to the Superego, and then the Ego can only ever be capable of actual choice if there is some fault within the psyche weakening the Eros drive, or strengthening the Thanatos drive. In either case evil can only be freely and intentionally committed by the psychologically abnormal as they are the only ones capable of being aware of their actions, following what was said above about Socratic ethics.

This idea is strengthened further by the idea that the Superego is the basis for morality within in the psyche as “he (Freud) consistently used the designation superego for the large psychical entity and assign it three basic functions: self-observation, conscience and maintaining the ego” [Sagan, pg:5], and it is conscience which makes us feel guilt when we have evil desires or act in a way which is socially perceived as evil. Consequently it is the conscience which aims at directing our choices towards the morally good, thus we are free to choose how to act but will only act in such a way as our conscience allows again feeding back into the notion of a psyche built upon compatibility.

Furthermore if we have a damaged psyche, one in which we failed to move beyond the Oedipus complex, thus not being able to construct a fully functioning Superego, then we become psychologically abnormal and therefore incapable of guilt and remorse which removes the limitations of our actions giving us the capacity of actual choice, or at least a wider range of options within our perceived choice. Hence evil can only intentionally be done through psychological abnormality for no normal psyche would permit the destructive desires of the Id to get through; a compromise would always be made. This is supported by Pears who argues “someone has reasons for judging a particular course of action best and yet he yields to the temptation to do something else. If he yields intentionally and freely, this counts as akrasia; not being in command of oneself” [Pears, pg:264] and if one is not in control of oneself then society commonly deems them as possessing some form of psychological abnormality.

In conclusion Freud’s psychodynamic model of the human psyche is one built upon compatibilism, when the psyche is functioning normally, in which case the agent will only ever act in such a way as is socially perceived as being morally good, for the Superego was created out of the social norms held by the parents during the time of Oedipus complex as demonstrated above. However should the psyche become damaged in any of the three ways mention, that is a weakening of the Eros drive, a strengthening of the Thanatos drive, or an absence/weakening of the Superego, then the psyche becomes imbalanced and therefore abnormal in which case the psyche becomes built upon libertarianism, hence capable of actual choice and perceived choice. Only then is the agent capable of evil which they can be held morally responsible for.

• BP- Beyond the Pleasure Principle
• EI- The Ego and the Id
• RP- Repression
• SP- Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy Online
• UC- The Unconscious

• Aristotle, (2004), Metaphysics (translated by Lawson-Tancred. H), London: Penguin Classics
• Freud. S, (1995), ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’, in Gay. P, The Freud Reader, London: Vintage
• Freud. S, (1995), ‘Repression’, in Gay. P, The Freud Reader, London: Vintage
• Freud. S, (1995), ‘The Ego and the Id’, in Gay. P, The Freud Reader, London: Vintage
• Freud. S, (1995), ‘Unconscious, in Gay. P, The Freud Reader, London: Vintage
• Kierkegaard. S, (1983), The Sickness unto Death (translated by Hong. E and Hong. H), Princeton: Princeton University Press
• O’Shaughnessy. B, (1982), ‘The Id and the Thinking Process’, in Hopkins. J and Wollheim. R, Philosophical Essays on Freud, Bath: Cambridge University Press
• Pears. D, (1982), ‘Motivated Irrationality, Freudian Theory and Cognitive Dissonance’, in Hopkins. J and Wollheim. R, Philosophical Essays on Freud, Bath: Cambridge University Press
• Plato, (1954), The Last Days of Socrates the Apology; Crito; Phaedo (translated by Tredennick. H), London: Penguin Books
• Sagan. E, (1977), Freud, Women and Morality: The Psychology of Good and Evil, New York: Basic Books
• Spinoza. B, (1996), Ethics (translated by Curley. E), London: Penguin Books
• Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy Online, (accessed at 12:55 03/04/11)
• Thalberg. I, (1982), ‘Freud’s Anatomies of the Self’, in Hopkins. J and Wollheim. R, Philosophical Essays on Freud, Bath: Cambridge University Press

An Insight into Aversion Therapy

*Written by the Ocean Performer*

Aversion therapy involves taking a primary stimulus (such as alcohol) and a secondary stimulus which is likely to cause discomfort to a subject (such as an emetic). The stimuli are administered either simultaneously or within a short time in order for a link to be associated between the discomfort from the secondary stimuli and the presence of the primary stimuli. Over time a memory is formed of discomfort from the primary stimuli which creates a schema based on an expectation of discomfort whenever the primary stimuli are presented to the subject. Thus the subject, in order to avoid this expectant discomfort, shall over time come to alter their behaviours even in situations when the secondary stimulus is in fact absent so no discomfort is actually due.

This form of behavioural condition links to the psychological school of behaviourism as it relies on the principle of negative reinforcement in order to alter the behaviour of a subject via stimuli. This principle is one of the main ideas behind behaviourism as argued by Skinner who discovered this via some laboratory experiments involving rats, in addition to work done by Pavlov involving dogs (the famous Pavlov’s dogs experiment) and also his lesser known (and unethical) work on children.

The elements of behaviourism evident in aversion therapy are negative reinforcement, behavioural conditioning (which alters the subjects behaviour) and cognitive conditioning (which alters the way the subject thinks about the stimuli).

As to the effectiveness of aversion therapy. A series of papers during the 1960s by Seligman showed aversion therapy to have a success rate of 50% in conditioning men against homosexual behaviours. However it was later shown that these results were flawed as a significant amount of the subjects who were conditioned ‘successful’ were bisexual so were able to fall back on heterosexual behaviours without any undue stress. Whereas a significant number of those deemed ‘unsuccessful’ in their conditioning later went on to become asexual or remained homosexual in their behaviour and also developed mental abnormalities; largely related to depression and stress related disorders; with some even committing suicide. Hence based on these findings I do not think aversion therapy to be an effective method of behavioural conditioning in humans as it leads to long-term complications in favour of short-term successes or fails to produce any actual success as any change in behaviour was present already within the subjects’ psyche. In defence of aversion therapy these findings only purport cases where negative reinforcement had been administered success rates and long-term effects may be different should positive reinforcement be used instead.

What Makes Villains Appealing?

Firstly an apology to my dedicated fans and followers. Due to some technical issues I neglected my duties and failed to post last month, for that I apologise to you all with great sincerity.

Secondly two months ago I published a piece on why heroes appeal to us… click here to read

This time I shall be looking into the flip-side of the issue. What makes villains appeal to us? Before I begin however I would like to point out that this second part came about as a collaboration with the Artistic Maiden one of my co-workers who aid me from time by either by working on articles with me or working on individual projects for me to post on here. Now onto the article.

It would appear that unlike our love for the hero which stems from them overcoming difficulties as a mere ordianry man/woman in order to ascend into the ubermensche, which taps into our psyche and shakes us into having some hope we too can become heroes, our fascination for the villain is rooted in a darker level of our subconscious. It stems from our Id. The arrogant part of our psyche which, completly selfish, wants our desires to be achieved and will go to any length (destructive or creative) to make them happen. Thus it is in the villains, arrogance in their belief that all their plans shall come to fruition and they remain unstoppable right up to the very moment of them demise that our fondness for such charcaters emerges. That and their superiortiy complex which tags at the heartstrings of the Ego a second part of our psyche, the part which is meant to restrain the Id by feeding it tit bits of what it seeks.

By this what I mean is the Ego by allowing us to take delight in the villains wickedness it satisfies the needs of the Id enough to postpone any extreme outburst boiling away under our cool, calm, collected surface.

So whenever we indulge in a storyline of any sort it is channeling the ragin war within our psyche into the external, physical world in a safe manner so that the Superego may seek out the path to heroshipm the Id can puruse it wicked desires and the Ego feels inflated for having succesfully maintained a healthy balance between the two and the acceptance of those around us in the external.

Once again my apologies for the missing post from last month, and as usual feel free to comment.

Madness: Unreason or Beyond Reason?

The concept of madness is one that has been around in one form or another since antiquity, however exactly what is meant by the term mad has never been laid down instead it has changed with each passing era. In some it has been the height of wisdom in others a disease on humanity’s reason, but despite the term mad being relatively new its characteristics have been around for millennia. By analysing madness from a genealogical viewpoint it should become clear that madness is less real than we first assume it to be, it is in actuality a mechanism used by institutions power to separate a conceived ‘norm’ of society from the remainder in a bid to increase their power and control over societies. Therefore madness is neither a heightened form of wisdom, nor a diminished form, but simply a tool for segregation. As already mentioned this is to be argued from a genealogical viewpoint so to begin let us first look at how madness was perceived during antiquity.

Within antiquity there was no concept of the term madness nevertheless the traits usually associated with madness still existed within society. Ancient Greece had its ‘mad’ placed within temples of worship, segregated from the rest of society, where they would be sought out for their divine wisdom. A number of these oracles existed, although the best known one is that of Delphi, the Oracle was considered to be a women, known as the Pythia (a form of high priestess), whose wisdom transcended Earth as she “was chosen to speak, as a possessed medium, for Apollo, the God of prophecy”[1], in other words she heard the voice of the gods, a trait which is often associated with the schizophrenic. Hence we can see even in this early age that the segregation of the mad occurred and it was the integrated institution of the city-state and religion which was responsible for the separation of the norm and the wise.

This view of madness as being a form of wisdom inspired by the gods continued on throughout the Roman era as soothsayers and state-augurs were held in heavy esteem for their prophecies, although both the Greek oracles and Roman soothsayers often presented their wisdom in cryptic messages, such as the famous one claimed to have been said to Julius Caesar “Beware the ides of March!”[2]. In the same way the Greek Oracles were employed by the state so too were the soothsayers, so they too were products of the institution although were integrated more within society than their Greek counterparts. In modernity such cryptic messages are often posited to be the wisdom of the drunkard and therefore ought to be disregarded as nonsense, a mirror image of the Ancient view. Now we have established of the position of madness within antiquity it is time to look at its position during the medieval and early-modern periods where Christian institutions and the Occult took madness into its next stage of evolution.      

Prymus notes that the Middle Ages was a period of significant change when regarding the view of madness as the previous mystical beliefs came into conflict with a new religious order, the rise of Christendom. Both sides still held “the common characteristics of madness…to be signs of a veiled wisdom”[3], although they regularly came into conflict with each other as the two spheres of institutionalised power clashed.

On the one side there was the old mysticism which remained in the form of the Occult and Paganism where Druids replaced the oracles and soothsayers, and new tools of divination came into existence such as tarot cards. One of the more important cards in the tarot deck is The Fool which can be used as either a symbol whereby it “represents ideas…which endeavour to transcend Earth”[4], thus a higher form of wisdom, or “if badly dignified, folly, eccentricity, even mania”[5], an irrational form of wisdom. The Fool could also be used to directly represent the person asking the question to the deck’s interpreter, hence the person was claimed to be a madman bearing either intellect or mania depending on the fall of the card in relation to the others, although the interpretation of the fall was left to the discretion of the interpreter so madness was still the mechanism used by institutions to control sections of society.

The other institution of power during this period, vital to understanding the concept of madness, is the Christian Church. Prymus claims that “the transformation from insanity as veiled wisdom to madness…begins with Christian views of the…human inability to comprehend the reason of God…those who come too close to such understanding will be driven insane”[6]. What can be said about Christianity is it tried to alienate those who practised the Occult methods by teaching in The Bible that such methods were the work of The Devil, for it says in the book of Deuteronomy “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.”[7], however this view of divination, prophecy and witchcraft as being madness and a plague on humanity was not a one-dimensional view since it was permissible to suffer from hallucinations, both visual and auditory, and be regarded as speaking the word of God, and consequently the highest possible form of wisdom. There are numerous occasions when the schizophrenic have been esteemed for their madness during the height of Christendom, for example Saint Joan of Arc who led the French to war after hearing God speak to her. So it can be argued that there was a divide between institutions of power and their view of madness during this period, however both sides held a dualistic view as to what madness was allowing them to redefine it when necessary. This dualistic interpretation of madness died out during the Enlightenment when madness was seen largely as a disease on humanity rationality. 

From the seventeenth century, and to some extent for the following two centuries, Europe saw a transformation of how power was used by institutions, Foucault documented these changes in his works in which two texts are of great significance; Discipline and Punish following the story of the prison, and Madness and Civilisation following the story of the asylum. The message behind both is clear, power is used by institutions to divide and control sections of society by means of labelling them with terms such as; mad, criminal and normal[8]. It is here that the concept of madness becomes real.

Foucault points out to us that the Enlightenment era was the age of ‘The Great Confinement’ where an established norm was held and anyone who deviated from it, in any way, was to be segregated from society for these abnormalities were “aspects of evil that have such a power of contagion…that any publicity multiplies them”[9], in other words madness was a plague which needed containing before man’s rationality was corrupted. The mad during this period were, once diagnosed, placed into asylums on which it had been said “one thing is clear: the Hôpital Général is not a medical establishment. It is rather a sort of semi judicial structure”[10]. So Foucault argued that madness had been invented during the Enlightenment as a means of controlling those whose behaviour differed from the norm, when in fact there was nothing medically wrong with them. Foucault himself even pointed this out by stating, when talking about the mind of a madman, “the marvellous logic of the mind which seems to mock that of the logicians because it resembles it so exactly, or rather because it is exactly the same”[11]. This view of madness as that which does not follow the norm has lasted, to some degree, into modernity and it is modernity which shall be the next point of focus.             

Finally we come to modernity where the term madness has become quite broad in its scope as “we often call folks crazy when we simply find their behaviour odd”[12], so madness needs to have no medical background it only needs to be considered different from the established norm. Some of the Enlightenment’s medical view has remained since “the therapeutics of madness…whose chief concern was to sever or to ‘correct’ continued to develop”[13] in a number of guises including psychodynamic psychology, developed by Freud and Jung.

There have also been attempts to return back to the mysticism of antiquity and The Middle Ages, often referred to as new age movements, which like the druids, mystics and witches of the old regime who were condemned as mad by the influential institutions of their day, so too are the druids, mystics and witches of modernity to some lesser and greater degree. Nonetheless these new age movements have helped to highlight a point brought up by Foucault, “madness fascinates because it is knowledge. It is knowledge…of a difficult, hermetic, esoteric learning”[14] said to be associated with the wisdom of the cosmos, nature or higher entities depending on which institution you happen to find yourself within.

So it seems that modernity holds a broad spectral view of madness where it serves as both unreason and wisdom which is beyond reason, as well as everything in between so long as it differs from a perceived normality imposed by an institution of power which on occasion come into conflict for “it has become popular for psychiatrists to assume…witches were unfortunate women who ‘fell ill’ with ‘mental illness’[15]. This point has been noticed by Szasz who said “anything and everything…based on no matter what norm…agoraphobia… homosexuality…divorce…crime, art, undesired political leadership, participation in social affairs or withdrawal from such participation – all these things and many more are now said to be symptoms of mental illness”[16].

It seems to be then that madness is not something which can be regarded simply as unreason or wisdom which goes beyond reason for it depends upon the institution of power you happen to find yourself in. This suggests that there is no such thing as madness, and from this mental illness, the whole concept is down to imposed suggestions by those at the head of power within the institution. “During Charcot’s lifetime…it was suggested…that the phenomena of hysteria were due to suggestion…a charge that has since been fully substantiated”[17], this has been supported by Szasz, Foucault and Laing, amongst others, in a movement known as the anti-psychiatry movement.    

Laing argued that madness was a concept devised by others in an attempt to control and correct those who went against the norm by stating in his book The Divided Self “the technical vocabulary currently used to describe psychiatric patients is that it consist of words which split man up”[18] allowing the normal to be segregated from the mad. He also noticed that within the institution of psychiatry the guidelines for what were considered normal where not properly defined as “the textbook ‘signs’ of schizophrenia vary from hospital to hospital”[19], suggesting two things; firstly that institutions can be broken down into micro-institutions who are able to redefine normality to suit their localised needs, and secondly that there is no such thing as madness, it is a man-made construction. This may provide an answer as to why the term had never been used until the time of The Great Confinement previously mentioned.

Further support for the notion that madness is an imposed conception used by institutions to exercise their power over society in order to retain some sense of normality comes from Szasz who claims “we construct – and then ourselves come to believe in –various types of mental illnesses”[20]. In other words once we have been picked out by society as abnormal by our “failure to learn or comply with imitative rules”[21] then institutions place conceptions upon us, each with its own name and label, which we then absorb into our identity and subconsciously act within whatever framework is expected of our associated label having the belief that we have been told we are X so we must be X, and if I am X then I must act in the way an X would.

Consequently the concept of madness is strengthened as it becomes ingrained into our schemas and cognition of the world, or as Foucault puts it “the discursive movement of reason reasoning with itself, and which addresses madness as error”[22]. Once this self-cognition and acceptance has been established we fall under the control of institutions, and therefore more susceptible to their power which is exercised over us through disciplinary mechanisms[23]. Szasz and Foucault argue that these labels, disciplinary mechanisms and to some extent even our actions belong to the institutions as “the names and hence the values…depend on the rules of the system…that we use…all systems are made by people”[24].    

To conclude madness cannot be simply defined as either unreason or beyond reason, instead it needs to be looked at from a different viewpoint. If we look at madness as a man-made conception rather than a medical phenomenon then we come to see that madness is a shape-shifting term used by institutions of power to segregate and control sections of society who fail to comply with their imposed normality. This view of madness has existed since antiquity and since then it has been evolving into the complex network of disciplinary institutions we have in the modern western world.   


  • Foucault. M, 1991, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, London: Penguin
  •  Foucault. M, 2001, Madness and Civilization, Abingdon: Routledge
  • Laing. R, 1969, The Divided Self, London: The Camelot Press Ltd
  • Prymus. K, 2009, ‘Kefka, Nietzsche, Foucault: Madness and Nihilism in Final Fantasy VI’, in Beaulieu. M & Blahuta. J, ‘Final Fantasy and Philosophy the Ultimate Walkthrough’, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc, pp 20-33
  •  Robichaud. C, 2008, ‘The Joker’s Wild: Can we Hold the Clown Prince Morally Responsible?’, in Arp. R & White. M, Batman and Philosophy, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, pp 70-85
  •  Szasz. T, 1981, The Myth of Mental Illness, St Albans: Granada Publishing Ltd
  • The Holy Bible (King James Version), 2000, Michigan: Zondervan
  • ·Wasserman. J, 1978, Instructions for Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot Deck, New York: Noble Offset Printers

[2] Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2, 15–19

[3] Prymus. K, Kefka, Nietzsche, Foucault: Madness and Nihilism in Final Fantasy VI, Pg. 23

[4] Wasserman. J, Instructions for Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot Deck. Pg. 6

[5] Ibid

[6] Prymus. K, Kefka, Nietzsche, Foucault: Madness and Nihilism in Final Fantasy VI, pp 23-24

[7] Deuteronomy 18:10

[8] Further discussion of this position can be found in both of the mentioned texts by Foucault

[9] Foucault. M, Madness and Civilisation, Pg. 63

[10] Ibid, Pg. 37

[11] Ibid, Pg. 89

[12] Robichaud. C, The Joker’s Wild: Can we Hold the Clown prince Morally Repsonsible?, Pg.73

[13] Foucault. M, Madness and Civilisation, Pg. 151

[14] Ibid, Pg. 18

[15] Szasz. T, The Myth of Mental Illness, Pg. 191

[16] Ibid, Pg. 58

[17] Ibid, Pg. 46

[18] Laing. R, The Divided Self, Pg. 17

[19] Ibid, Pg. 35

[20] Szasz. T, The Myth of Mental Illness, Pg. 125

[21] Ibid, Pg.166

[22] Foucault. M, Madness and Civilisation, Pg. 174

[23] See Foucault’s  Discipline and Punish  for more detail on this

[24] Szasz. T, The Myth of Mental Illness, Pg.55

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