Are humans inherently selfish? These days I find myself questioning the motives of friends, family and society itself. People just generally seem to be all for them self and the harsh truth is no one seem to genuinely care about the well-being of the other party. The world seems to lack empathy as a man will have no remorse for scamming hardworking citizens of their life savings. People seem to feel no sense of guilt for causing pain.
Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis, a theory which explains human behaviour. He believed that the human self is divided into three parts. His conception of the three-part self is made up of the Id, Ego and the Super-ego.
He believes that the Id is a bunch of instincts aimed at gaining pleasure and avoiding pain and this part of our personality will always be the most dominant. It is the version of ourselves that is endlessly demanding and selfish. It’s unreasonable and hard to please. It’s like a spoilt brat in some sense. He states that the logical law of thought does not apply to the Id. It has no judgement of moral value it just seeks pleasure for itself.
The second part of ourselves he argues is the ego. The ego comes across as the reasonable modest of the three. It is the negotiator. When the Id acts up making unreasonable request it tries to keep it in check. The ego stands for reason and good sense. It’s like a reality check. However, being weaker, it tries to satisfy the pleasure of the Id, the Super-ego and the external world. When people go the see a therapist this is the part of themselves that they seek to strengthen.
The super ego is like the Id, it’s irrational and represent the main adversary of the Id. It is the stern parent of our self that deals in guilt and set impossible standards of moral perfection. This is shaped by our parents or religion and this feeling of guilt is called the ego ideal or standards of impossible perfection. It’s like when parents expect their kids to be the president one day and go down in history as one of the most successful human beings to ever walk the face of the earth. Or to be at the top of their classes all the time and get perfect grades all the time. What happens is that children begin to internalize these impossible expectations. This is the ego ideal. Therefore the super-ego has these two parts, the conscience representing guilt and the ego ideal.
When the super-ego tries to fulfill these impossible tasks it opposes the self-serving pleasure principle of Id and the reality principle of the ego while always trying to impose its own morality as it represents the morality principle.
Freud went on to argue that there is no remedy for the subconscious warfare between the three parts of our personality and that we are doomed to suffering. The greatest suffering he alluded to was that of interpersonal suffering. The one we cause one another and our inability to resolve it. The pain we inflict on the people we have intimate relationships with, even family members in an argument or dispute. Sometimes the people will find the harshest things to do or say just to upset you or hurt you intentionally. Ever wonder why? Freud believed that in our unconscious we want to hurt others and because of the Id in our personality we get immense pleasure from it and will not admit it to ourselves or else we will be punished by our super-ego through guilt. As a result most people rarely even apologise for causing hurt and even if they do they often repeat the offense. He believes that men are wolves to one another. Humans are cruel and brutal and warfare proves the truth to that.
Are humans inherently selfish? if we are to go by our dominant instinct then the answer seem obvious. The harsh reality is people out there derive pleasure from you pain. they feel good when they make you feel bad. and it doesn’t get more selfish than that.