Philosophy of Erich Fromm
Episode #10 of the course “Brief history of Contemporary philosophy”
A member of the prestigious Frankfurt school of thought in Germany, Erich Fromm further developed Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theories in new directions. Together with Karen Horney, Fromm is famous for founding the school of Neo-Freudian thought and studies, specifically in the realms of political psychology and ethical psychology. Expanding on Freud’s ideas of libido and combining them with Marx’s ideas about “fixed” and “relative” drives behind people’s actions, Fromm used his unique synthesis of these ideas to study and develop theories of child behaviors and child rearing.
Devoted to studies of the Jewish Talmud since boyhood, Fromm was highly interested in the psychological meanings and impacts of religion. A humanist, Fromm interpreted the biblical story of Adam and Eve as an allegory to explain existential questions about what makes us human. It is the burden of an individual’s self-awareness of his or her humanity, Fromm argued, that is frightening and has deep psychological impacts. Fromm condemned religion ultimately, citing it as the source for inequality and other social issues.
Fromm centered his theories on the ideas that people have eight basic needs regardless of the social context in which they live. These basic needs are relatedness, transcendence, rootedness, sense of identity, frame of orientation, excitation and stimulation, unity, and effectiveness. In general, Fromm believed that people want to be creative, have caring relationships, and understand their place in the world. Fromm argued that when incorporating these basic needs into society, people operate under socialist humanist principles. He was outspoken and was recognized multiple times for his work as a humanist.
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