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Reflections on War and Death

Reflections on War and Death by Sigmund Freud
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Anyone, as Freud tells us in Reflections on War and Death, forced to react against his own impulses may be described as a hypocrite, whether he is conscious of it or not. One might even venture to assert—it is still Freud’s argument—that our contemporary civilisation favours this sort of hypocrisy and that there are more civilised hypocrites than truly cultured persons, and it is even a question whether a certain amount of hypocrisy is not indispensable to maintain civilisation. When this travesty of civilisation, this infallible state that has regimented and dragooned its citizens into obedience, goes to war, Freud is pained but not surprised that it makes free use of every injustice, of every act of violence that would dishonour the individual, that it employs not only permissible cunning but conscious lies and intentional deception against the enemy, that it absolves itself from guarantees and treaties by which it was bound to other states and makes unabashed confession of its greed and aspiration to power. For conscience, the idea of right and wrong, in the Freudian sense, is not the inexorable judge that teachers of ethics say it is: it has its origin in nothing but “social fear,” and whereas in times of peace the state forbids the individual to do wrong, not because it wishes to do away with wrongdoing but because it wishes to monopolise it, like salt or tobacco, it suspends its reproach in times of war. The suppression of evil desires also ceases, and men, finding the moral ties loosened between large human units, commit acts of cruelty, treachery, deception and brutality the very possibility of which would have been considered incompatible with their degree of culture.

First Page:

REFLECTIONS ON WAR AND DEATH

REFLECTIONS ON WAR AND DEATH

By PROFESSOR DR. SIGMUND FREUD, LL.D.

Authorized English Translation By

DR. A. A. BRILL and ALFRED B. KUTTNER

[Illustration: colophon]

MOFFAT, YARD AND COMPANY NEW YORK 1918

Copyright, 1918, by MOFFAT, YARD, AND COMPANY

This book is offered to the American public at the present time in the hope that it may contribute something to the cause of international understanding and good will which has become the hope of the world.

THE TRANSLATORS.

REFLECTIONS ON WAR AND DEATH

I

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS OF WAR

Caught in the whirlwind of these war times, without any real information or any perspective upon the great changes that have already occurred or are about to be enacted, lacking all premonition of the future, it is small wonder that we ourselves become confused as to the meaning of impressions which crowd in upon us or of the value of the judgments we are forming. It would seem as though no event had ever destroyed so much of the precious heritage of mankind, confused so many of the clearest intellects or so thoroughly debased what is highest... Continue reading book >>


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