Philosophy of Sigmund Freud
Episode #4 of the course “Brief history of Contemporary philosophy”
Austrian medical doctor Sigmund Freud turned his attention in the late 19th century to a new focus of study. Freud developed unique theories in an attempt to understand the human mind and its connection to the human body. He theorized that frustrated psychological energy — the libido — became misdirected and often ended up caught deep in the mind, which made it interfere with normal human behavior. Freud believed that all human actions were based on the drive to fill essential needs like eating, sleeping, or having sex. From his contemporaries and his followers, Freud has received criticism for the emphasis his theories place on the human sex drive.
In his development of psychoanalysis, he created a type of talk therapy designed to allow patients to release repressed or forgotten memories that continued to affect their physical and mental wellbeing. Freud also developed a system to interpret dreams through predictable symbols. He constructed theories about child development and the importance of parenting that sparked wide-scale social change concerning child welfare. He explored phobias and fears and was interested in constructing therapies to help people with extreme problems control their emotional reactions to fearful triggers.
Freud’s theories influenced artists, writers, and musicians throughout the 20th century. His terminologies, such as “Oedipus complex” or “Freudian slip,” are common phrases today. His daughter, Anna Freud, was one of the first to study under him and develop his theories into new areas. Humanities departments continue to utilize Freudian theory for interpretation, while branches of science have furthered his theories based on evidence that supports or rejects them. Freud’s talk therapy theories are still put into practice today, as patients with psychological trauma continue to find relief in his methods. While most helpful for psychology and psychiatry, the impact of neo-Freudian theory can be seen in physics, biology, and animal sciences too.
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