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Rethinking the Human Person

Moral Landscape and Ethical Literacy

Nahal Jafroudi

Recent developments in the natural and social sciences have brought great benefits to humanity, both in terms of our material wellbeing and our intellectual and conceptual capacities. Yet, despite a broad ethical consensus and highly developed innate faculties of reason and conscience, there seems to be a significant discrepancy between how we ought to behave and how we actually behave, leading to a disregard for the dignity of human persons across the globe. This book suggests that the problem arises from various misunderstandings of the nature of the self and that the solution could lie in adopting a holistic concept of the human person within the context of a carefully cultivated ethical literacy. It argues that the ideas of the Iranian philosopher Ostad Elahi (1895–1974) provide a powerful and compelling alternative to the dominant post-Enlightenment understanding of selfhood, education and morality.

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Chapter 6: Freud


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Although Freud’s conception of the self, similar to Descartes’, is focused on the inner workings, unlike the Cartesian self which is simple, immaterial, single and distinct, the Freudian self is complex, material, composite and conflictual. That is, where the Cartesian self is essentially a mind that is a constant transparent whole, which is completely distinct from the senses and immediately accessible to introspection at any moment, the Freudian self, where the unity of the self is fragmented into different components of the id, the ego and the superego within the three levels of human consciousness, viz. the conscious, the preconscious and the unconscious, is an opaque and complex entity that is dislocated and fractured by repressed desires and driven by arational1 instinctual drives, of which one can never become quite conscious, and over which one cannot have control. The inner world of the Freudian self is shaped by drives and forbidding and forbidden desires buried within the unconscious, which are excluded from the conscious mind through processes of displacement, denial and repression2 that in turn render the self impervious to explanation in terms of rationality or logic. The self thus becomes of a scientific concern that can be analysed and scrutinised. ← 157 | 158 →

With the unconscious being a complex site of contesting power relations, associational webs and subdoxastic3 triggering mechanisms, self-experience is therefore radically divided between conscious, rational thought on the one hand and unconscious desire, fantasies and...

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