Psychology in the 19th Century

Group 2

Psychology during the 19th century was based mostly on speculative discussions and philosophical theories as opposed to empirical studies and scientific tests. Freud, a renowned psychologist concerned with mental illness, diverted from popular 19th century thought connecting mental illness with either a supernatural possession or a moral flaw in an individual. He transcribed his data based on extremely in depth personal experiences with his patients which resulted in multiple case studies on mental illness. He found that mental illness did not result from an external influence or possession, but rather from an aberration in the mind of mentally ill individuals. “Mentally ill individuals are not different types of people, but something has gone awry in the makeup of their minds.”


Freud and the Id, Superego and Ego

id – what drives us to gratify our needs, these our are innate instinctual drives for satisfaction in things like food, safety and sex this uses the “pleasure principle” –  this is the need to immediately satisfy this innate instincts but we can’t be immediately gratified as babies so we learn “learned helplessness” – have to rely heavily on people around us and the environment (unconscious)

ego – “conscious-self” – day to day awareness, how we perceive the world, what we experience in everyday life, what controls our innate desires so that we satisfy our needs when its practical, reasonable and socially acceptable – basically the balance between the id and the superego. ego reality principle operates the ego, this is how you parents teach you to reasonably satisfy these needs, when it is done appropriately it leads to well adjusted adults.

superego – provides the moral standards by which ego operates (unconscious), how we wish we could behave and how our societal and emotional expectation reign in these instinctual desires.

These 3 elements of the mind can be understood by the Jockey analogy: ego is the jockey, id is the horse and superego is the track- A good jockey can account for a bad track and a wild horse, essentially meaning that the Id finds balance and compromise between the superego and the ego.


Source: PSYC 260 Textbook,_superego,_and_id

Freud and Darwin: The Evolution of Speculative Science

It is fitting that Sigmund Freud was born a generation later than Charles Darwin, because Freud does not just build on Darwin’s work in regards to the theories of natural selection, but also in regards to the spirit behind the work.

Darwin’s theories of natural selection and evolution relied heavily on the assertion of a hypothesis that was not the simplest answer to the question of where do species come from. Where his peers concluded that there was no more logical answer than the spontaneous emergence of individual species, Darwin considered the observations, records, and data collected from his trip around the world and chose to suggest the existence of a state of nature that he could not actually see, but that would more completely describe natural history. For his work, his peers lauded his mind, but often rejected his results, citing the ease of believing their own pre-existing theories that did not rely on filling in the blanks of natural history. Darwin’s contemporaries did not see how anyone could speculate so broadly, and still conduct fruitful science. For them, science required drawing logical conclusions from precise observations; if you could not specifically see the behavior or phenomena you were discussing, you could not assume its existence.  It was only after being given sufficient time to review Darwin’s work and the robustness of his proposed theories, that some other scientists in the nineteenth century began to voice their agreement with Darwin, accepting that his speculative approach did not violate the tenants of good science.

However, Darwin’s influence on the physical and even the social sciences became more and more apparent as time progressed into the 20th Century. During the period from 1900-1930, science, as a whole, began to advance rapidly, with more and more figures taking up Darwin’s mantle of theorizing on what could not be directly observed. This acceptance of the theoretical was crucial for the acceptance of Freud’s own work. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud acknowledges as much when he writes:

But have we any right to assume that the original type of feeling survives alongside the later one which has developed from it?

Undoubtedly we have: there is nothing unusual in such a phenomenon, whether in the. psychological or in other spheres. Where animals are concerned, we hold the view that the most highly developed have arisen from the lowest. Yet we still find all the simple forms alive today. The great saurians are extinct and have made way for the mammals, but a typical representative of them, the crocodile, is still living among -4- us. The analogy may be too remote, and it is also weakened by the fact that the surviving lower species are not as a rule the true ancestors of the present-day more highly developed types. The intermediate members have mostly died out and are known to us only through reconstruction. (3-4).

As Freud acknowledges in his reference to reconstruction, he needs his readers to accept the premise that they can intellectually rebuild the structures and instances that he is describing. He needs them follow him in speculation. Without a willingness to speculate on the unobservable, Freud’s theories of the mind, from which he extrapolates his theories on the evolution of culture and society are cannot seem even the least bit reasonable, as we have no way to actually see what is occurring in the mind; we have no way to make precise measurements or draw definitive conclusions. The leaps of faith that Freud is asking us to make may not be as large as Darwin’s, but they are there none-the-less, demonstrating an increase in the acceptance of speculation in science, but also the ways in which scholars and scientists like Freud continued to challenge conventions in their fields. In accepting Darwin and his methodologies, which is to say accepting and pushing the limits of speculation, Freud was able to push psychology towards the more scientific and biology driven field it is today. To some degree, it would be fair to call Freud the Darwin of Psychology because of the ways in which he challenged the assumptions of his peers.

The ironic twist here, though, is that in the evolution of Darwin’s acceptance in the scientific community, culminating in Freud’s use of Darwin as a justification for speculating on the mind, his work is used more and more frequently to support off-base science. As we know, many of Freud’s theories were debunked as Psychology developed into a more precise and accurate science. So, even while Freud is very much the spiritual successor of Darwin, we can see the potential problems for science that arose out of the reasonable use of speculation to develop theories that were proven to be untrue later. Today, science still grapples with this problem in the public sphere, where unproven theories make it hard for some individuals to accept what the scientific community did over a century ago: natural selection.

Terminology Used by Freud

Sigmund Freud was a psychologist, theorist, and one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century.  He proposed many experiments and ideas about development of the human mentally and physically. Freud uses some words in his dialogue that need to be understood to grasp what he is truly trying to convey. The first word is repression, the mind’s effort to keep thoughts and impulses out of the forefront of thought by pushing them into the subconscious. Freud believes that this happens without us being aware of it, why certain thoughts and memories are hidden because they could be hurtful to us mentally. This process is sometimes helpful and sometimes harmful. The next term is sublimation, another defense mechanism that is more adaptive. It is like an outlet for the emotion/impulse that keeps problems from occurring. For example, an aggressive person will pick up sports to let out their frustration in a healthy manner. Neurosis is another term that Freud uses. He defines it to mean manifestations of anxiety that are expressed subconsciously. There can be some outward physical symptoms as well. Now, we just classify neurosis into specific disorders, such as anxiety, OCD, depression, personality disorders, etc. Psychosis is the last of the terms, a severe psychological disorder where the ego is carried away by the id and the person is detached from reality. Disorders like this are known usually in terms of schizophrenia and other extreme cases. These terms are ones that Freud uses and discovered in his research, and it is helpful to know the background when reading his findings.

Freud’s Views on Sexuality in Children

Sigmund Freud, a psychologist in the 20th century, published his views about sexuality and children. He coined different phases that a human will go through as they develop. According to Freud, each stage has to be resolved before the next one starts. If someone gets stuck in a stage, they could have developmental problems later in life. The first stage is oral, occurring from birth to one year; where the infant fixates on their mouth by biting, sucking, breastfeeding, etc. This can sometimes come up later in life as people who bite their nails or smoke. The second phase is anal, where from one to three years a child is very impressionable on potty training. The way you are trained also develops some of people’s later relationships with authority. The phallic stage is next, when children are three to six years old. This is the Oedipus complex, where sons are attracted to their mom and daughters are attracted to their father. This is resolved through identification, and this phase is also where the concentration on the genital areas appears. Freud goes into other stages such as latency and genital, but those are for puberty and  doesn’t so much concern a child. As it can be seen, Freud brought some revolutionary thought into his time. All of his findings were experimental, and came with a lot of controversy.

Freud….Cynic or Critic


In “The future of An Illusion”, many citizens are left to fend for themselves on a path of self-destruction. Freud believed that the most pivotal assets to having superior mental abilities can be attributed to a good set of morals as well as art and ideals. Freud believed that the physical yields of a society as well as the skills and actions of a society are the “Narcissistic Ideal.” A society based on these ideals has a clear and definable direction to which that society is going. He also believed that religion clearly outlines, as well as supports, a proper moral path for citizens to follow.

It is asserted in various religions that the individual is the enemy of society in various definitions. It is wrong for a citizen to give in to his/her more primal urges such as sexual acts or envy. Should these individuals renounce these primal urges, some sort of divine reward is secured for themselves. Freud believed that these urges, though they can be recognized, cannot be completely renounced. Citizens believe in religion for various reasons. Most simply, religion stemmed back from our ancestors and it is wrong to question the elder. Freud believes that it is our duty as citizens to question what our ancestors are informing us with, especially if it really is fact.

Freud also has a theory that Gods are needed to explain the natural terrors, and satiate our fears of natural phenomena that citizens are unable to control, death and natural disaster just being a few examples. Citizens are able to project the shortcomings of the world around them on religion because he/she/it would be an overlying fated power. In many monotheistic religions, God is seen as an omniscient and omnipotent father figure in the way that it would lead citizens through the greater challenges life presents them with.

In all, Freud hopes that in the future of civilization, “science will go beyond religion, and reason will replace faith in God.” Although, his reasoning is understandable, one must also respect that this theory could be viewed as cynical to those who follow religious practices. Freud attempts mainly to separate from any blurred lines of reality as much as possible. Such psychoanalysis of citizens of his time, as well as separation of his theories from spirituality is quite distinct from other writers we have studied thus far this semester and should be noted.

To Speculate Darkly

If you caught this year’s Walter Harding lecture by Prof. Pier Gabrielle Foreman, “To Speculate Darkly: Slavery, Black Visual Culture, and the Promises and Problems of Print,” you may be interested in visiting the website of the art exhibit from which the lecture’s title is drawn.

To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave the Potter was an exhibit hosted by The Milwaukee Art Museum in 2010.

Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates explains the origins and aims of the exhibit in this video on his website. As Gates explains, the exhibit

explores the history and legacy of Dave Drake (also known as Dave the Potter). A slave in antebellum South Carolina, Drake produced stoneware pottery and famously adorned his pots with poetic couplets. Though historians and art historians have explored Drake’s career in detail, Gates is the first artist to reinterpret his work and to make it pertinent to a broader set of concerns about the place of labor and craft in present-day America. The exhibition’s provocative installation, titled To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave the Potter, features a gospel choir that engages the enigmatic, emotional works of poetry found on Drake’s pots. Gates created the captivating sound piece with musicians from both Milwaukee and Chicago. Gates further collaborated with local tradespeople to develop original ceramic works for the show. Thus, the project, as intended, has brought together two very different groups of people in partnership, and promises to create lasting relationships across the city.

Emotional Correctness

If anyone is interested, I stumbled upon a Ted Talk. Personally I enjoy Ted Talks because they are quick, entertaining, and mind opening. With what has recently been going on, in the world, in the United States, and right here in little Geneseo, I believe this one is pretty relevant. Sally Kohn is a lawyer, journalist, and political commentator, not to mention a lesbian. She has appeared on Fox News multiple times. This is her view on emotional correctness versus political correctness and where we, as a community, have gone wrong. (There is some swearing)

Kohn talks about the power of respecting each other on a personal level. We may not all agree on certain things, however, we need to “stop talking around each other, and start talking to each other.”

The other day, Mrs. Foreman showed examples of how slaves struggled to be heard. How they turned to art and print to appeal on an emotional level, not just a legal stance.Douglass, however, was filled with fire and passion in his fourth of July speech in Rochester. Yet, some of the stories he tells about women being ripped from children and the physical abuse reach the audience on an emotional level. Douglass goes on to call out the Catholic church claiming their actions in the slave movement are sacrilegious and contradictory. He concludes with “I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base presence, and your christianity as a lie.”

Kohn states “Political persuasion begins with emotional correctness.” One could argue Natural Law would go hand in hang with emotional correctness. Emotional correctness is feeling compassion and empathy for others around you. The power of emotional correctness could lead to reforms based off of natural law, providing better lives for blacks, Muslims, Syrians, and many more effected by racism and segregation today.

Thoreau’s Ideas are Still Relevant

Group 2

In class, we were discussing what Thoreau meant about being truly awake in his book, Walden. In paragraph 14 of “Where I lived and What I Lived for” he writes,

“Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly-acquired force and aspirations from within, accompanied by the undulations of celestial music, instead of factory bells, and a fragrance filling the air—to a higher life than we fell asleep from; and thus the darkness bear its fruit, and prove itself to be good, no less than the light” (Thoreau, 1854).

We are not truly awake if we are content to live in a manner that does not fulfill us. It is so much easier to exist in a state of half-consciousness, where our actions are not derived from true inspiration. By living as others direct us, we abandon our inner callings and instead turn to work on something that holds no meaning. Thoreau changed his whole world in order to “live deliberately”; to shake off the mindless drone of purposeless life. He sought the meaning of what it is to be truly awake and shared what he discovered with us all.

Thoreau’s mission of trying to wake people out of their mindless monotony is still ongoing. In 2014, The Huffington Post published an article that aligned with Thoreau’s beliefs about living. I invite you to read it and share what you think.

Bronson Alcott and Thoreau group 5

          Alcott was one of the transcendentalists, which was a group of radical thinkers and writers of New England in the 1830’s. As an early admirer of Thoreau’s reasoned philosophy, they shared many similar ideas. They both believed that a more simple life with fewer obligations was a better path to happiness. He flatly rejected the accumulation of material goods, which Thoreau shows through his cabin and solitary life.

          Alcott was a farmer, lecturer, intellectual, and writer. The success of his efforts were limited. He set up a school of radical ideas and it eventually failed. The introduction of new subjects with an innovative form of teaching caused his students to withdraw from his classes and led to its failure. Later on he became a superintendent of schools in Concord and fulfilled a lifetime dream of opening “The Concord School of Philosophy.” His educational reform was introducing hands on work and new subjects such as physical education. He also worked to end hitting children in school and educating them on morals. Something interesting about this is his ideas were failures of  his time, but now something we follow and value.

          One source says that Alcott should be considered the most pure of the transcendentalists. His ideas revolved around equality, education, relations, and living a simple life. At one point in his life, Alcott built a short-lived utopia called “Fruitlands” that emphasized fair share of work, living simply, and being close to nature. We related Alcott to what Thoreau wrote in “sounds” where he finds entertainment and enjoyment in the simplest of things.