The Metaphysical Jungle

Sigmund Freud: Sublimation

“In considering] the problem of why it is so hard for men to be happy, [we see that one source of unhappiness is] the inadequacy of the regulations which adjust the mutual relationships of human beings in the family, the state and society. . . . [When we think about this,] we come upon a contention which is so astonishing that we must dwell upon it. This contention holds that what we call our civilization is largely responsible for our misery. . . . The word “civilization” describes the whole sum of the achievements and the regulations which distinguish our lives from those of our animal ancestors and which serve two purposes – – namely to protect men against nature and to adjust their mutual relations. . . .

Sublimation of instinct is an especially conspicuous feature of cultural development. . . , [and] it is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct, how much it presupposes precisely the non-satisfaction (by suppression, repression or some other means?) of powerful instincts. . . .”

–Sigmund Freud. Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)

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