PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 49 12th January 2003
I. 'His Tears Have Given Birth To Men: Freud, Nietzsche and the Dionysian
Instinct' by David Allen Cook
II. Identity Cards in the UK - Yor Views?
III. 'Gregory Benford' by Joel McKinnon
I. 'HIS TEARS HAVE GIVEN BIRTH TO MEN: FREUD, NIETZSCH AND THE DIONYSIAN
INSTINCT' BY DAVID ALLEN COOK
As mankind and civilization continue to develop, one is often struck by the extremes that have been reached by the human race. On one hand, man has put his heart and soul into great works of art, created engineering marvels, saved countless lives with advances in medicine, and produced great leaders and ideas in an effort to unite the world in peace and prosperity. On the other hand, man has also created severe rifts in the quality of life between those who have and those who have not, crime, violence and warfare have grown increasingly brutal and frequent, and the earth's environment has become dangerously polluted and overburdened. Thus, the dual nature of the human being is perhaps one of the most significant riddles to be answered as mankind struggles to understand from whence he has come and to where his ultimate destination will take him.
Two great thinkers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), provided provocative ideas on the subject of human behavior that continue to have a tremendous impact on the way man views himself and the creative-destructive products of his mind. Both Nietzsche and Freud viewed man's character as a continuum of behavior on an axis between the diametrically opposed and yet mutually dependent elements of the rational (Apollonian) and the irrational (Dionysian). A closer examination of these two great intellects' attitudes toward the Dionysian instinct in man will reveal similarities and differences, but both men saw it as the essential driving force behind human thought and behavior.
In his work, 'The Birth of Tragedy', Nietzsche uses the analogy of the Greek theater to reject the idea that man is ruled by rational principles. Rather, like a Greek tragedy, life can be unfair, ironic and cruel to the point of absurdity, and the lines between good and evil are sketchy at best (Kreis). Thus, the great appeal of the Greek tragedy is that it mirrors the inherent tension between the two central principles of Greek culture, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. For Nietzsche, the Dionysian represents a kind of "raw energy" from which everything has its origins. It embodies overwhelming emotions such as terror and ecstasy, in which the intensity of the experience temporarily obscures the separation between the individual and the feeling itself. Therefore, in its pure state, the Dionysian is powerful, yet equally destructive without a means by which to control or focus it.
In contrast, the Apollonian impulse is a natural counter needed to make sense of the Dionysian by creating a structure through which it can be objectified. However, Nietzsche warned that these rational concepts are but flimsy illusions designed to "make existence appear intelligible and thereby justified" (Nietzsche 93), and "but a thin veil hiding from [man] the whole Dionysian realm" (Nietzsche 28). Therefore, Dionysos represents existential reality and Apollo gives man the means to live this reality without being swallowed up by it, by providing the impulse to beauty necessary to free him from the self-destructive forces of his base instincts ("Apollo").
Schopenhauer likened this relationship to a rowboat on the raging sea where "a man sits [...] trusting his frail craft, so, amidst the furious torments of this world, the individual sets tranquilly, supported by the principium individuationis and relying on it" (Nietzsche 22). Nietzsche saw, however, that this delicate balance was destroyed with the growing influence of "esthetic Socratism" in which "whatever is to be beautiful must also be sensible" (Nietzsche 79). As drama, art, science and philosophy began to emphasize Apollonian elements at the expense of the Dionysian, the fathomless and liberating powers of the irrational were reduced to the rigid but reassuring confines of rationalism.
Freud also recognized the power and influence of non-rational impulses on human thought and behavior. In his treatise, 'Civilization and Its Discontents', Freud put forward the idea that, as "essentially biological creatures with strong instincts," man suffers a kind of neurosis deriving from the guilt created by the conflict between his true desires and the limitations imposed by society (Johnston). These instincts, labeled by Freud as the id, constantly demand gratification, exhibit no values, have no awareness of good or evil, and generate feeling of anger, frustration and unhappiness if denied (Kreis). Thus, Freud saw these Dionysian tendencies as the unconscious root of conscious thoughts and behavior. However, unlike Nietzsche, who felt that the irrational should be exalted as the ultimate expression of humanity, Freud felt that these animal instincts were a potential danger to mankind (Kreis). Therefore, Freud was more interested in creating a scientifically-based approach to help reconcile the inevitable conflict between the reckless satisfaction demanded by primal urges and the rigid conformity imposed by civilization.
Freud felt that although primitive man may have been more psychologically healthy because he was able to revel in unrestricted desires, as a consequence, he could not expect to enjoy these pleasures for any length of time. Further, only the most powerful could actually enjoy these freedoms while the vast majority suffered under unchecked domination. To Freud, civilization is, therefore, an important step toward the leveling of the playing field in which man must "exchange a portion of his possibilities for happiness for a portion of security" (Freud 73). Thus, society's authority turns one's aggression inward unto himself (ego) and the all-knowing super-ego emerges as an internal watchdog to control behavior through a sense of guilt. However, Freud hoped to expose the destructive tendencies of this internal conflict and to show that "the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt" (Freud 97). Although Nietzsche and Freud both saw the limitations imposed by the Apollonian as a natural reaction to the power of the Dionysian, Nietzsche saw it as an abomination while Freud saw it as a necessary evil.
The struggle between Dionysos and Apollo might also be seen to represent the schism between myth and truth. Nietzsche saw the truth as something deep within the Dionysian realm making it ultimately unknowable in terms of logic and reasoning, but accessible intuitively through interaction with the Apollonian. Thus, the Dionysian artist and the Apollonian-Socratic thinker find themselves approaching the same task with very different results. As Nietzsche observed, "While the artist, having unveiled the truth garment by garment, remains with his gaze fixed on what is still hidden, theoretical [Socratic] man takes delight in the cast garments and finds his highest satisfaction in the unveiling process itself, which proves to him his own power" (92).
This brings to mind the Zen Buddhist concept that the methods used to reach enlightenment are not the same as enlightenment itself. This is demonstrated by the saying, "To point a finger at the moon is needed, but woe to those that take the finger for the moon" (Suzuki 19). In other words, intellect is a useful tool, but it must not be mistaken for reality.
Nietzsche felt that the conflict between Dionysian and Apollonian elements were necessary, especially as "the eternal and original power of art" (Nietzsche 145), but he also saw the over-reliance on rational thought as the bane of man's existence. He was disgusted by the "illusion that thought, guided by the thread of causation, might plumb the farthest abysses of being and even correct it" (Nietzsche 93) and maintained that "every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural, healthy creativity" (Nietzsche 136). Thus, Nietzsche contended that objective truth is just a mental construct that creates a false sense of comfort. Rational thought, spurred on by its perpetual desire to fully explain everything, eventually reaches its tether and "curls about itself and bites its own tail" (Nietzsche 95). With logical explanations exhausted, the Apollonian structure topples under its own awkward weight and the only recourse is to return to the Dionysian.
Thus, Nietzsche felt that to understand man's suffering, one must have "a recognition that whatever exists is of a piece, and that individuation is the root of all evil" (Nietzsche 67). Dionysos, therefore, offers real salvation from man's dilemma by showing him that he does not suffer alone. The chaotic depths of Dionysos are what unifies mankind so that when "the gospel of universal harmony is sounded, each individual becomes not only reconciled to his fellow but actually at one with him" (Nietzsche 23). For Nietzsche, the true value of Apollo is not to explain away Dionysos, but to give it a "fair semblance which at any moment make[s] life worth living and whet[s] our appetite for the next moment" (Nietzsche 145).
Freud, on the other hand, saw myth as one of the reasons for man's deep dissatisfaction with life. Early man envisioned the mythical gods imbued with omnipotence, omniscience and, thus, all those things unattainable or forbidden to mortal men (Freud 44). However, with the rise of rational thought and the accompanying explosion of technological progress, man eventually found himself able to do almost everything these gods were imagined capable. Man had, as Freud put it, "become a god himself" (44). Nonetheless, despite all of man's technological advances, Freud observed that man is no more better off and "does not feel happy in his Godlike character" (44). By creating a myth that he was eventually able to equal, man had reached the pinnacle of being and yet found the world in utter chaos. Thus, Freud found that man's suffering originates in his failure to rationally understand the conflicting elements that dictate his thoughts and actions. Mankind must understand itself as group of individuals struggling with "the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction, as it works itself out in the human species" (Freud 82). Thus, Freud had difficulty in believing the spiritual sentiment that there exists a brotherhood of man in which the "oceanic feeling" of oneness was possible. He further felt that feelings could be scientifically analyzed by describing their physiological signs (Freud 11), and that the idea of universal love was alien to an individual's human nature (Freud 70).
Whereas Freud thought the golden rule might be more aptly put, "Love thy neighbor as thy neighbor loves thee" (Freud 70), Nietzsche might have countered with, "Until you stop discriminating between thy and thee, it is impossible to know love." Although Freud agreed that happiness in life was found in the enjoyment of beauty, he included "scientific creation" along with artistic expression (Freud 33). He identified human suffering as the result of the superior power of nature, the impermanence of the human body, and the inability to regulate human relationships (Freud 37). Thus, one could conclude that Freud might feel the best way to address these problems would be through increased applications of technology, medicine and the social-psychological sciences. Although Freud felt that Dionysos was an integral part of man's psyche, he felt Apollo offered the best chance for salvation by teaching man how to live with his darker side.
Although Nietzsche and Freud did not agree on the proportions of Apollonian and Dionysian elements needed to refine the human condition, they recognized the inherent need for both to coexist. Like the Taoist philosophers of ancient China, both men shed light on the cyclical nature and natural tendency for opposing forces to balance themselves. Thus, life is not to be seen in terms of simple black or white, but of endlessly shifting shades of gray. The Chinese philosopher, Chuang-Tzu (c. 300 BC), put it this way, "Those who would say that they would have right without its correlate, wrong, [...] do not apprehend the great principle of the universe, nor the nature of creation" (Watts 85-6). Thus, Nietzsche and Freud both showed that Dionysos and Apollo play important roles in the drama of human nature. Just as there is an explicit difference between the two sides of a coin, there is an implicit relationship that makes them inseparable. Thus, mankind's rational achievements are sure to be accompanied by his irrational failures--each perpetuating the other in the endless struggle between Dionysos and Apollo.
"Apollo and Dionysus: From Warfare to Assimilation in The Birth of Tragedy and Beyond Good and Evil." Duquesne University. 25 October 2002. http:---
Freud, Sigmund. 'Civilization and Its Discontents.' Trans. and Ed. James Strachey. Intro. Peter Gay. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1961.
Hammond, Jim. "Freud and Nietzsche on Morality." Philt: A Newsletter on Philosophy and Literature. 21 October 2002. http:---/
Johnston, Ian. "On Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents." Lecture for Liberal Studies 402. January 1993. http:---
Kreis, Steven. "Nietzsche, Freud and the Thrust Toward Modernism." The History Guide: Lectures on Twentieth Century Europe. 21 October 2002. http:---
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 'The Birth of Tragedy.' Trans. Francis Golffing. New York: Anchor Books, 1956.
Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. 'Essays in Zen Buddhism.' New York: Grover Press, 1961.
Watts, Alan. 'The Way of Liberation'. Eds. Mark Watts and Rebecca Shropshire. New York: Weatherhill, Inc., 1983.
(c) David Allen Cook 2002
II. IDENTITY CARDS IN THE UK - YOUR VIEWS?
Last week, the message below was posted on Philos-L by Ben Fairweather PhD, Research Fellow at the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, De Montfort University, Leicester UK. The British government has invited responses to their proposal to introduce a scheme where every legal resident of the UK would have to obtain an 'entitlement card'. The introduction of what would effectively become an identity card is likely to raise a storm of protest amongst civil liberties groups, as well as Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum.
I shall be writing my own personal response to Dr Fairweather's provocative questionnaire. Meanwhile, I am inviting philosophical views from members of the Philosophy Pathways email list. A selection will be published in the next issue.
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 09:33:15 +0000 Reply-To: CCSR ccsr@DMU.AC.UK Sender: Philosophy in Europe PHILOS-L@liverpool.ac.uk From: CCSR ccsr@DMU.AC.UK Subject: Identity Card - Your views please To: PHILOS-L@liverpool.ac.uk
This email has been sent to a carefully selected number of email lists. Our apologies if this means you receive more than one copy. Please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org, not the email list.
The United Kingdom Government is holding a consultation on the introduction of Identity Cards (they call them 'Entitlement Cards'). At the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, we hope to put together a response that reflects the highly informed and educated opinion of members of the global academic community, and other list members. We would greatly appreciate your views to consider for direct, acknowledged, quotation in our response, which will be publicly available.
Please use complete sentences that we can quote.
1. The UK Govt would like views about a scheme where every legal resident of the UK would have to obtain a card. They say they are not considering, and do not wish to consult about, a 'compulsory scheme', where everyone will have to carry the card all the time. The scheme they propose would "establish for official purposes a personal identity which all Government departments can use if they wish", and where the card is "the only way to access particular services". Do you think the scheme amounts to a compulsory identity card scheme?
2. What is your view about whether such a scheme should be introduced?
3. Do you know of any schemes where a card issued to all members of a society, but which they did not have to carry, has since become a card that is carried compulsorily? Where?
4. Do you have any views about the possibility that people might be required to pay for their cards?
5. According to the Government, a "drawback of a voluntary scheme could be that those people who could most benefit from having a simple ... way to assert their... entitlements might be among the least likely to apply for a card. ... the greatest benefit of an entitlement card might well be negated if a section of society were not to take up the card and the protections it could afford to the broader community would be reduced or eliminated." What is your opinion?
6. One key claimed use for the card would be to combat illegal immigration and illegal employment. Do you have any views about this?
7. Another potential use is make the provision of services more efficient, and to relieve people of the need to repeatedly give details like their address. What do you think about this?
8. One option the Govt is considering is the inclusion of biometric data. What do you think about that idea?
9. Do you have any thoughts about the likelihood of cards being forged, and the implications of successful forgery?
10. Do you think a card scheme can help prevent identity theft and identity fraud? If yes, how? If not, why not?
11. The proposals include the possibility of a smart chip on the cards. What do you think about this idea?
12. The Govt intend to allow private sector organisations to use the card, including any smart chip, and see this as a way of generating revenue to keep costs down. Do you have any views about this?
13. "A card scheme would entail: establishing a secure database which could potentially hold core personal information about everyone who is lawfully resident in the UK; ... linking the core personal information to other databases which held service entitlement information." Do you have any views about such a development?
14. Do you have any views about the potential for stolen identity cards allowing wrongful access to personal data?
Any other comments or thoughts?
Job title and employer:
Please return to email@example.com (not the email list) by 20th January 2003.
You are also encouraged to respond direct to the consultation see http:--- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org by 31st January 2003.
Thank you for your help.
Ben Fairweather, PhD Research Fellow Centre for Computing & Social Responsibility School of Computing De Montfort University The Gateway, LEICESTER,LE1 9BH United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)116 250 6294 Centre: +44 (0)116 250 6143 Fax: +44 (0)116 254 1891 E-mail: email@example.com http:---
Editor, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society (ICES) http:---
III. 'GREGORY BENFORD' BY JOEL MCKINNON
Foothills College in Los Altos, California is one of the most verdant little community college campuses I've seen--all lush grasses and shady walkways through a generous sprinkling of trees. It seemed an odd place to come to hear the workings of a space-age mind like Gregory Benford. In a lecture sponsored by the NASA Ames Research Center, the Foothill College Astronomy Program, the SETI Institute and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Dr. Benford came to speak on the boundaries between science and science fiction. As a working plasma physicist with over 150 scientific papers to his name and a lifetime achievement award from the Lord Foundation, Benford is clearly qualified to speak about science. As a Campbell and two time Nebula award winning science fiction writer he seems to have that category pretty well covered as well. His novel 'The Martian Race,' features a hybrid government/ private sector approach to the effort of getting human missions underway in the form of a prize offered to the first team to successfully meet a series of carefully defined objectives. It's a great story that works on many levels, with typically great characters and excellent science, and explores many of the best reasons for making the trip. Mars Society president Robert Zubrin calls it "one of the finest novels about human exploration of the Red Planet ever written."
As his talk unwound on this pleasant evening I began to see that there is a core message within Dr. Benford's outlook that is more appropriate to the eco-friendly locale than first meets the eye. As a major scientific mind and a colossal visionary, Benford cares deeply about the future of his planet and his species.
Benford demonstrated some of his ideas with the aid of screen projections of some old familiar images from the golden years of science fiction; covers of Analog and Amazing Stories--the alluring imagery enticing young readers into the future as seen by the most visionary authors of the pulp sci-fi era. Benford showed how science fiction is always making predictions--some good and some quite bad. He showed a vivid cover showing skyscrapers in New York City under attack--not from terrorists but from an environmental source. No, not global warming but a return of the ice age. Benford reminded us this may ultimately be true--but in this case the writers missed the big, more immediate threats. Some of the predictions were just plain funny. Scantily clad women in space or on planets with little or no atmosphere protected only by a glass bubble breathing apparatus. Apparently vacuum and extremes of heat and cold weren't seen to be significantly threatening.
A good example of a prediction right on the mark was the use of ironclad fighting machines imagined by H.G. Wells. Winston Churchill was sufficiently impressed to initiate a program to attempt to build such devices and within a few short years tanks were appearing on the battlefield in the closing years of World War One, to devastating effect. One of the wild ideas shown was a city floating high in the atmosphere supported entirely by microwave beams. Wait a minute--that turns out not to be so far fetched. Benford and his identical twin brother have initiated a project to support a solar sail by microwaves and are currently planning their first test of such a technology. If successful it will be the first demonstration of power beamed across thousands of miles through empty space to accomplish real work. Beyond such a test lies the potential for amazing new methods of high-speed locomotion through our solar system.
One of the clearest images from early science fiction that has failed to show up is the classic toroidal spinning space station. SF writers knew it only made sense to create gravity in space this way. Our modern efforts at long duration habitation of space have borne out the wisdom of this vision. Microgravity is hard on the body and constitutes a serious limit on mission length. What went wrong? Why haven't we yet performed experiments of such technology? Benford explains that one of the most significant errors of the SF visionaries was an assumption that the space programs would be rational. Surely the program planners would pay heed to the engineers and scientists that know all about these things, right? In the real world these very important decisions are made by bureaucrats whose only concern is the current budget and how to stay out of the red.
Another mistaken assumption is that the first steps lead to bigger steps, which lead to obvious huge steps, etc. If humans were to reach the Moon, the early writers thought, they'd soon establish a moon base, which would set the stage for travels to Mars and beyond. Not a single writer could conceive of humans reaching the Moon in the sixties and never going beyond low Earth orbit the rest of the century. This exemplifies one of Benford's major points. Progress, in fact history, is non-linear. The leaps into the future are not rationally calculated in a smooth progression. Instead humanity tends to jump here and there--sometimes forward sometimes back. Sometimes when it looks like the stage is set for something truly amazing to unfold everything inexplicably collapses. Enter the Ming dynasty 1400 AD.
Six hundred years ago the most powerful country on Earth was China. The Ming Dynasty was the richest, most populace, most knowledgeable, and the best organized nation on Earth. The 400 ship Ming navy was far and away the most impressive of all armadas on the planet. The Chinese people included enterprising adventurers ready and able to take on great voyages of discovery, some of which journeyed far into the Indian Ocean, approaching the southern tip of Africa. A few more years would have seen the Mings encounter Europe, long before the Portuguese were ready to make similar voyages eastward. At the height of all of this expansion the regime changed and the bureaucratic class stepped to the fore. The interests of the powerful were threatened by the great voyages of discovery and the new ideas being encountered and disseminated among the populace. Within a few short years the entire Ming navy was dismantled and it became a capital crime to explore the outside world. China, instead of being the discoverers of the rest of the world, doomed herself to be the discovered. China was never again a serious force in the emerging mix of nations.
Benford understands that the glorious future of space settlements and utilization of space resources for the benefit of humanity and the preservation of our planet are by no means assured. Our retreat from the Moon could be a wise pause as we contemplate how to do this outrageous push forward properly. It could also be the leading edge of a Ming-style collapse. Benford makes a powerful argument that humanity needs space. The development of our species has been punctuated by discoveries that have propelled us forward after long epochs of relative stagnation. The discovery of the use of stone tools a million years ago, the discovery of agriculture ten thousand years or so ago, the industrial revolution a few hundred years back. There is a steady pattern of these events and according to the exponential pattern at which they occur we are due for another. The next step can only be the utilization of space resources. Without undertaking this step we may reach the limits of our technological progress due to exhaustion of the planets resources.
It's tempting to think that we should just be content with where we are. Stop the mad urge to build bigger and better machines and find peace and fulfillment within ourselves. Benford understands that this is not really a viable option. Unless we wish to retreat to a completely non-technological society we will need to continue to tear apart the Earth's crust to find fewer and fewer available resources. We're already in big trouble on this score. If we really want to keep earth beautiful we have to think about other real estate for human habitation. We could always terraform the Moon.
Huh? Terraform the Moon? I thought it was Mars we would remake into a new Earth? Benford makes a strong case that the Moon is a much better option for such an effort. To give Mars an Earthlike atmosphere would require expenditure of huge resources for thousands of years. The Moon, already the right distance from the sun, could become Earthlike within a few hundred years. Here's how you do it according to Chef Benford. Take about 40 comets and, using the existing volatile outgassing from their cores, steer them towards our heavenly sister. Arrange for each of the comets to impact the Moon in such a way as to impact the equator at just the right angle of incidence to speed up the rotational rate to a point where the Moon rotates in 5 days rather than about 28. This makes the length of day tolerable for human habitation. At the same time, the volatiles in the comets introduce enough air and water to constitute a balmy, earthlike atmosphere. Due to the convection patterns of the hot air rising at the equator and falling at the poles, the whole Moon would have a climate similar to the state of Florida. And here's the icing on the cake. Since the gravity is so much lower and the atmospheric density is even higher than Earth's, it would be easy for anyone to strap on a pair of wings and take flight!
Maybe this particular idea would pan out and maybe not. In any case, we have to think big and we have to be bold or else we're in serious trouble. There is a tendency to take progress for granted. Benford makes a strong argument that the lessons of history say it ain't necessarily so. If we want our remote descendents to enjoy a beautiful planet we have to start thinking of how we'll make this work. Science fiction has a powerful role in envisioning the promise of a better future and disseminating these powerful ideas among the general populace. A verdant Earth is not incompatible with far-flung visionary thought, as was so effectively demonstrated by the ideas in the air on this fine evening at Foothill College.
(c) Joel McKinnon 2002