May 1, 2009

Pillars of Unbelief - Freud

Sigmund Freud'Peter Kreeft

(Dr. Peter Kreeft teaches philosophy at Boston College. He is a renowned Catholic apologists and unapologetic big C Catholic. This is an excerpt from his series Pillars of Unbelief. The fourth article considers Sigmund Freud, an "honest atheist," who paved the way for the sexual revolution. It can be read in its entirety here.)

Founder of the "Sexual Revolution"

He was the Columbus of the psyche. No psychologist alive escapes his influence.

Yet, along with flashes of genius, we find the most bizarre ideas in his writings—e.g., that mothers cuddle their babies only as a substitute for their desire to have sexual intercourse with them.

Sigmund Freud's most influential teaching is his sexual reductionism. As an atheist, Freud reduces God to a dream of man. As a materialist, he reduces man to his body, the human body to animal desire, desire to sexual desire and sexual desire to genital sex. All are oversimplifications.

Freud was a scientist, and in some ways a great one. But he succumbed to an occupational hazard: the desire to reduce the complex to the controllable. He wanted to make psychology into a science, even an exact science. But this it can never be because its object, man, is not only an object but also a subject, an "I."

At the basis of our century's "sexual revolution" is a demand for satisfaction and a confusion between needs and wants. All normal human beings have sexual wants or desires. But it's simply not true, as Freud constantly assumes, that these are needs or rights; that no one can be expected to live without gratifying them; or to suppress them is psychologically unhealthy.

This confusion between needs and wants stems from the denial of objective values and an objective natural moral law. No one has caused more havoc in this crucial area than Freud, especially regarding sexual morality. The modern attack on marriage and the family, for which Freud set the stage, has done more damage than any war or political revolution. For where else do we all learn the most important lesson in life—unselfish love—except in stable families who preach it by practicing it?

Yet, with all his faults, Freud still towers above the psychologies that replaced him in popular culture. Despite his materialism, he explores some of the deeper mysteries of the soul. He had a real sense of tragedy, suffering and unhappiness. Honest atheists are usually unhappy; dishonest atheists happy. Freud was an honest atheist...

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