P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 49
12th January 2003
I. 'His Tears Have Given Birth To Men: Freud, Nietzsche and the Dionysian
Instinct' by David Allen Cook
II. Identity Cards in the UK - Yor Views?
III. 'Gregory Benford' by Joel McKinnon
I. 'HIS TEARS HAVE GIVEN BIRTH TO MEN: FREUD, NIETZSCH AND THE DIONYSIAN
INSTINCT' BY DAVID ALLEN COOK
As mankind and civilization continue to develop, one is often struck by the
extremes that have been reached by the human race. On one hand, man has put his
heart and soul into great works of art, created engineering marvels, saved
countless lives with advances in medicine, and produced great leaders and ideas
in an effort to unite the world in peace and prosperity. On the other hand, man
has also created severe rifts in the quality of life between those who have and
those who have not, crime, violence and warfare have grown increasingly brutal
and frequent, and the earth's environment has become dangerously polluted and
overburdened. Thus, the dual nature of the human being is perhaps one of the
most significant riddles to be answered as mankind struggles to understand from
whence he has come and to where his ultimate destination will take him.
Two great thinkers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), provided
provocative ideas on the subject of human behavior that continue to have a
tremendous impact on the way man views himself and the creative-destructive
products of his mind. Both Nietzsche and Freud viewed man's character as a
continuum of behavior on an axis between the diametrically opposed and yet
mutually dependent elements of the rational (Apollonian) and the irrational
(Dionysian). A closer examination of these two great intellects' attitudes
toward the Dionysian instinct in man will reveal similarities and differences,
but both men saw it as the essential driving force behind human thought and
In his work, 'The Birth of Tragedy', Nietzsche uses the analogy of the Greek
theater to reject the idea that man is ruled by rational principles. Rather,
like a Greek tragedy, life can be unfair, ironic and cruel to the point of
absurdity, and the lines between good and evil are sketchy at best (Kreis).
Thus, the great appeal of the Greek tragedy is that it mirrors the inherent
tension between the two central principles of Greek culture, the Apollonian and
the Dionysian. For Nietzsche, the Dionysian represents a kind of "raw energy"
from which everything has its origins. It embodies overwhelming emotions such
as terror and ecstasy, in which the intensity of the experience temporarily
obscures the separation between the individual and the feeling itself.
Therefore, in its pure state, the Dionysian is powerful, yet equally
destructive without a means by which to control or focus it.
In contrast, the Apollonian impulse is a natural counter needed to make sense
of the Dionysian by creating a structure through which it can be objectified.
However, Nietzsche warned that these rational concepts are but flimsy illusions
designed to "make existence appear intelligible and thereby justified"
(Nietzsche 93), and "but a thin veil hiding from [man] the whole Dionysian
realm" (Nietzsche 28). Therefore, Dionysos represents existential reality and
Apollo gives man the means to live this reality without being swallowed up by
it, by providing the impulse to beauty necessary to free him from the
self-destructive forces of his base instincts ("Apollo").
Schopenhauer likened this relationship to a rowboat on the raging sea where "a
man sits [...] trusting his frail craft, so, amidst the furious torments of
this world, the individual sets tranquilly, supported by the principium
individuationis and relying on it" (Nietzsche 22). Nietzsche saw, however, that
this delicate balance was destroyed with the growing influence of "esthetic
Socratism" in which "whatever is to be beautiful must also be sensible"
(Nietzsche 79). As drama, art, science and philosophy began to emphasize
Apollonian elements at the expense of the Dionysian, the fathomless and
liberating powers of the irrational were reduced to the rigid but reassuring
confines of rationalism.
Freud also recognized the power and influence of non-rational impulses on human
thought and behavior. In his treatise, 'Civilization and Its Discontents', Freud
put forward the idea that, as "essentially biological creatures with strong
instincts," man suffers a kind of neurosis deriving from the guilt created by
the conflict between his true desires and the limitations imposed by society
(Johnston). These instincts, labeled by Freud as the id, constantly demand
gratification, exhibit no values, have no awareness of good or evil, and
generate feeling of anger, frustration and unhappiness if denied (Kreis). Thus,
Freud saw these Dionysian tendencies as the unconscious root of conscious
thoughts and behavior. However, unlike Nietzsche, who felt that the irrational
should be exalted as the ultimate expression of humanity, Freud felt that these
animal instincts were a potential danger to mankind (Kreis). Therefore, Freud
was more interested in creating a scientifically-based approach to help
reconcile the inevitable conflict between the reckless satisfaction demanded by
primal urges and the rigid conformity imposed by civilization.
Freud felt that although primitive man may have been more psychologically
healthy because he was able to revel in unrestricted desires, as a consequence,
he could not expect to enjoy these pleasures for any length of time. Further,
only the most powerful could actually enjoy these freedoms while the vast
majority suffered under unchecked domination. To Freud, civilization is,
therefore, an important step toward the leveling of the playing field in which
man must "exchange a portion of his possibilities for happiness for a portion
of security" (Freud 73). Thus, society's authority turns one's aggression
inward unto himself (ego) and the all-knowing super-ego emerges as an internal
watchdog to control behavior through a sense of guilt. However, Freud hoped to
expose the destructive tendencies of this internal conflict and to show that
"the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness
through the heightening of the sense of guilt" (Freud 97). Although Nietzsche
and Freud both saw the limitations imposed by the Apollonian as a natural
reaction to the power of the Dionysian, Nietzsche saw it as an abomination
while Freud saw it as a necessary evil.
The struggle between Dionysos and Apollo might also be seen to represent the
schism between myth and truth. Nietzsche saw the truth as something deep within
the Dionysian realm making it ultimately unknowable in terms of logic and
reasoning, but accessible intuitively through interaction with the Apollonian.
Thus, the Dionysian artist and the Apollonian-Socratic thinker find themselves
approaching the same task with very different results. As Nietzsche observed,
"While the artist, having unveiled the truth garment by garment, remains with
his gaze fixed on what is still hidden, theoretical [Socratic] man takes
delight in the cast garments and finds his highest satisfaction in the
unveiling process itself, which proves to him his own power" (92).
This brings to mind the Zen Buddhist concept that the methods used to reach
enlightenment are not the same as enlightenment itself. This is demonstrated by
the saying, "To point a finger at the moon is needed, but woe to those that take
the finger for the moon" (Suzuki 19). In other words, intellect is a useful
tool, but it must not be mistaken for reality.
Nietzsche felt that the conflict between Dionysian and Apollonian elements were
necessary, especially as "the eternal and original power of art" (Nietzsche
145), but he also saw the over-reliance on rational thought as the bane of
man's existence. He was disgusted by the "illusion that thought, guided by the
thread of causation, might plumb the farthest abysses of being and even correct
it" (Nietzsche 93) and maintained that "every culture that has lost myth has
lost, by the same token, its natural, healthy creativity" (Nietzsche 136).
Thus, Nietzsche contended that objective truth is just a mental construct that
creates a false sense of comfort. Rational thought, spurred on by its perpetual
desire to fully explain everything, eventually reaches its tether and "curls
about itself and bites its own tail" (Nietzsche 95). With logical explanations
exhausted, the Apollonian structure topples under its own awkward weight and
the only recourse is to return to the Dionysian.
Thus, Nietzsche felt that to understand man's suffering, one must have "a
recognition that whatever exists is of a piece, and that individuation is the
root of all evil" (Nietzsche 67). Dionysos, therefore, offers real salvation
from man's dilemma by showing him that he does not suffer alone. The chaotic
depths of Dionysos are what unifies mankind so that when "the gospel of
universal harmony is sounded, each individual becomes not only reconciled to
his fellow but actually at one with him" (Nietzsche 23). For Nietzsche, the
true value of Apollo is not to explain away Dionysos, but to give it a "fair
semblance which at any moment make[s] life worth living and whet[s] our
appetite for the next moment" (Nietzsche 145).
Freud, on the other hand, saw myth as one of the reasons for man's deep
dissatisfaction with life. Early man envisioned the mythical gods imbued with
omnipotence, omniscience and, thus, all those things unattainable or forbidden
to mortal men (Freud 44). However, with the rise of rational thought and the
accompanying explosion of technological progress, man eventually found himself
able to do almost everything these gods were imagined capable. Man had, as
Freud put it, "become a god himself" (44). Nonetheless, despite all of man's
technological advances, Freud observed that man is no more better off and "does
not feel happy in his Godlike character" (44). By creating a myth that he was
eventually able to equal, man had reached the pinnacle of being and yet found
the world in utter chaos. Thus, Freud found that man's suffering originates in
his failure to rationally understand the conflicting elements that dictate his
thoughts and actions. Mankind must understand itself as group of individuals
struggling with "the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction, as it
works itself out in the human species" (Freud 82). Thus, Freud had difficulty
in believing the spiritual sentiment that there exists a brotherhood of man in
which the "oceanic feeling" of oneness was possible. He further felt that
feelings could be scientifically analyzed by describing their physiological
signs (Freud 11), and that the idea of universal love was alien to an
individual's human nature (Freud 70).
Whereas Freud thought the golden rule might be more aptly put, "Love thy
neighbor as thy neighbor loves thee" (Freud 70), Nietzsche might have countered
with, "Until you stop discriminating between thy and thee, it is impossible to
know love." Although Freud agreed that happiness in life was found in the
enjoyment of beauty, he included "scientific creation" along with artistic
expression (Freud 33). He identified human suffering as the result of the
superior power of nature, the impermanence of the human body, and the inability
to regulate human relationships (Freud 37). Thus, one could conclude that Freud
might feel the best way to address these problems would be through increased
applications of technology, medicine and the social-psychological sciences.
Although Freud felt that Dionysos was an integral part of man's psyche, he felt
Apollo offered the best chance for salvation by teaching man how to live with
his darker side.
Although Nietzsche and Freud did not agree on the proportions of Apollonian and
Dionysian elements needed to refine the human condition, they recognized the
inherent need for both to coexist. Like the Taoist philosophers of ancient
China, both men shed light on the cyclical nature and natural tendency for
opposing forces to balance themselves. Thus, life is not to be seen in terms of
simple black or white, but of endlessly shifting shades of gray. The Chinese
philosopher, Chuang-Tzu (c. 300 BC), put it this way, "Those who would say that
they would have right without its correlate, wrong, [...] do not apprehend the
great principle of the universe, nor the nature of creation" (Watts 85-6).
Thus, Nietzsche and Freud both showed that Dionysos and Apollo play important
roles in the drama of human nature. Just as there is an explicit difference
between the two sides of a coin, there is an implicit relationship that makes
them inseparable. Thus, mankind's rational achievements are sure to be
accompanied by his irrational failures--each perpetuating the other in the
endless struggle between Dionysos and Apollo.
"Apollo and Dionysus: From Warfare to Assimilation in The Birth of Tragedy and
Beyond Good and Evil." Duquesne University. 25 October 2002.
Freud, Sigmund. 'Civilization and Its Discontents.' Trans. and Ed. James
Strachey. Intro. Peter Gay. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1961.
Hammond, Jim. "Freud and Nietzsche on Morality." Philt: A Newsletter on
Philosophy and Literature. 21 October 2002. http://www.historyguide.org/
Johnston, Ian. "On Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents." Lecture for
Liberal Studies 402. January 1993.
Kreis, Steven. "Nietzsche, Freud and the Thrust Toward Modernism." The History
Guide: Lectures on Twentieth Century Europe. 21 October 2002.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 'The Birth of Tragedy.' Trans. Francis Golffing. New
York: Anchor Books, 1956.
Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. 'Essays in Zen Buddhism.' New York: Grover Press, 1961.
Watts, Alan. 'The Way of Liberation'. Eds. Mark Watts and Rebecca Shropshire.
New York: Weatherhill, Inc., 1983.
(c) David Allen Cook 2002
II. IDENTITY CARDS IN THE UK - YOUR VIEWS?
Last week, the message below was posted on Philos-L by Ben Fairweather PhD,
Research Fellow at the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, De
Montfort University, Leicester UK. The British government has invited responses
to their proposal to introduce a scheme where every legal resident of the UK
would have to obtain an 'entitlement card'. The introduction of what would
effectively become an identity card is likely to raise a storm of protest
amongst civil liberties groups, as well as Members of Parliament from across
the political spectrum.
I shall be writing my own personal response to Dr Fairweather's provocative
questionnaire. Meanwhile, I am inviting philosophical views from members of the
Philosophy Pathways email list. A selection will be published in the next issue.
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 09:33:15 +0000
Reply-To: CCSR ccsr@DMU.AC.UK
Sender: Philosophy in Europe PHILOS-L@liverpool.ac.uk
From: CCSR ccsr@DMU.AC.UK
Subject: Identity Card - Your views please
This email has been sent to a carefully selected number of email lists. Our
apologies if this means you receive more than one copy. Please reply to
email@example.com, not the email list.
The United Kingdom Government is holding a consultation on the introduction of
Identity Cards (they call them 'Entitlement Cards'). At the Centre for
Computing and Social Responsibility, we hope to put together a response that
reflects the highly informed and educated opinion of members of the global
academic community, and other list members. We would greatly appreciate your
views to consider for direct, acknowledged, quotation in our response, which
will be publicly available.
Please use complete sentences that we can quote.
1. The UK Govt would like views about a scheme where every legal resident of
the UK would have to obtain a card. They say they are not considering, and do
not wish to consult about, a 'compulsory scheme', where everyone will have to
carry the card all the time. The scheme they propose would "establish for
official purposes a personal identity which all Government departments can use
if they wish", and where the card is "the only way to access particular
services". Do you think the scheme amounts to a compulsory identity card scheme?
2. What is your view about whether such a scheme should be introduced?
3. Do you know of any schemes where a card issued to all members of a society,
but which they did not have to carry, has since become a card that is carried
4. Do you have any views about the possibility that people might be required to
pay for their cards?
5. According to the Government, a "drawback of a voluntary scheme could be that
those people who could most benefit from having a simple ... way to assert
their... entitlements might be among the least likely to apply for a card. ...
the greatest benefit of an entitlement card might well be negated if a section
of society were not to take up the card and the protections it could afford to
the broader community would be reduced or eliminated." What is your opinion?
6. One key claimed use for the card would be to combat illegal immigration and
illegal employment. Do you have any views about this?
7. Another potential use is make the provision of services more efficient, and
to relieve people of the need to repeatedly give details like their address.
What do you think about this?
8. One option the Govt is considering is the inclusion of biometric data. What
do you think about that idea?
9. Do you have any thoughts about the likelihood of cards being forged, and the
implications of successful forgery?
10. Do you think a card scheme can help prevent identity theft and identity
fraud? If yes, how? If not, why not?
11. The proposals include the possibility of a smart chip on the cards. What do
you think about this idea?
12. The Govt intend to allow private sector organisations to use the card,
including any smart chip, and see this as a way of generating revenue to keep
costs down. Do you have any views about this?
13. "A card scheme would entail: establishing a secure database which could
potentially hold core personal information about everyone who is lawfully
resident in the UK; ... linking the core personal information to other
databases which held service entitlement information." Do you have any views
about such a development?
14. Do you have any views about the potential for stolen identity cards
allowing wrongful access to personal data?
Any other comments or thoughts?
Job title and employer:
Please return to firstname.lastname@example.org (not the email list) by 20th January 2003.
You are also encouraged to respond direct to the consultation see
email@example.com by 31st January 2003.
Thank you for your help.
Ben Fairweather, PhD
Centre for Computing & Social Responsibility School of Computing
De Montfort University
The Gateway, LEICESTER,LE1 9BH
Tel: +44 (0)116 250 6294
Centre: +44 (0)116 250 6143
Fax: +44 (0)116 254 1891
Editor, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society (ICES)
III. 'GREGORY BENFORD' BY JOEL MCKINNON
Foothills College in Los Altos, California is one of the most verdant little
community college campuses I've seen--all lush grasses and shady walkways
through a generous sprinkling of trees. It seemed an odd place to come to hear
the workings of a space-age mind like Gregory Benford. In a lecture sponsored
by the NASA Ames Research Center, the Foothill College Astronomy Program, the
SETI Institute and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Dr. Benford came to
speak on the boundaries between science and science fiction. As a working plasma
physicist with over 150 scientific papers to his name and a lifetime achievement
award from the Lord Foundation, Benford is clearly qualified to speak about
science. As a Campbell and two time Nebula award winning science fiction writer
he seems to have that category pretty well covered as well. His novel 'The
Martian Race,' features a hybrid government/ private sector approach to the
effort of getting human missions underway in the form of a prize offered to the
first team to successfully meet a series of carefully defined objectives. It's a
great story that works on many levels, with typically great characters and
excellent science, and explores many of the best reasons for making the trip.
Mars Society president Robert Zubrin calls it "one of the finest novels about
human exploration of the Red Planet ever written."
As his talk unwound on this pleasant evening I began to see that there is a
core message within Dr. Benford's outlook that is more appropriate to the
eco-friendly locale than first meets the eye. As a major scientific mind and a
colossal visionary, Benford cares deeply about the future of his planet and his
Benford demonstrated some of his ideas with the aid of screen projections of
some old familiar images from the golden years of science fiction; covers of
Analog and Amazing Stories--the alluring imagery enticing young readers into
the future as seen by the most visionary authors of the pulp sci-fi era.
Benford showed how science fiction is always making predictions--some good and
some quite bad. He showed a vivid cover showing skyscrapers in New York City
under attack--not from terrorists but from an environmental source. No, not
global warming but a return of the ice age. Benford reminded us this may
ultimately be true--but in this case the writers missed the big, more immediate
threats. Some of the predictions were just plain funny. Scantily clad women in
space or on planets with little or no atmosphere protected only by a glass
bubble breathing apparatus. Apparently vacuum and extremes of heat and cold
weren't seen to be significantly threatening.
A good example of a prediction right on the mark was the use of ironclad
fighting machines imagined by H.G. Wells. Winston Churchill was sufficiently
impressed to initiate a program to attempt to build such devices and within a
few short years tanks were appearing on the battlefield in the closing years of
World War One, to devastating effect. One of the wild ideas shown was a city
floating high in the atmosphere supported entirely by microwave beams. Wait a
minute--that turns out not to be so far fetched. Benford and his identical twin
brother have initiated a project to support a solar sail by microwaves and are
currently planning their first test of such a technology. If successful it will
be the first demonstration of power beamed across thousands of miles through
empty space to accomplish real work. Beyond such a test lies the potential for
amazing new methods of high-speed locomotion through our solar system.
One of the clearest images from early science fiction that has failed to show
up is the classic toroidal spinning space station. SF writers knew it only made
sense to create gravity in space this way. Our modern efforts at long duration
habitation of space have borne out the wisdom of this vision. Microgravity is
hard on the body and constitutes a serious limit on mission length. What went
wrong? Why haven't we yet performed experiments of such technology? Benford
explains that one of the most significant errors of the SF visionaries was an
assumption that the space programs would be rational. Surely the program
planners would pay heed to the engineers and scientists that know all about
these things, right? In the real world these very important decisions are made
by bureaucrats whose only concern is the current budget and how to stay out of
Another mistaken assumption is that the first steps lead to bigger steps, which
lead to obvious huge steps, etc. If humans were to reach the Moon, the early
writers thought, they'd soon establish a moon base, which would set the stage
for travels to Mars and beyond. Not a single writer could conceive of humans
reaching the Moon in the sixties and never going beyond low Earth orbit the
rest of the century. This exemplifies one of Benford's major points. Progress,
in fact history, is non-linear. The leaps into the future are not rationally
calculated in a smooth progression. Instead humanity tends to jump here and
there--sometimes forward sometimes back. Sometimes when it looks like the stage
is set for something truly amazing to unfold everything inexplicably collapses.
Enter the Ming dynasty 1400 AD.
Six hundred years ago the most powerful country on Earth was China. The Ming
Dynasty was the richest, most populace, most knowledgeable, and the best
organized nation on Earth. The 400 ship Ming navy was far and away the most
impressive of all armadas on the planet. The Chinese people included
enterprising adventurers ready and able to take on great voyages of discovery,
some of which journeyed far into the Indian Ocean, approaching the southern tip
of Africa. A few more years would have seen the Mings encounter Europe, long
before the Portuguese were ready to make similar voyages eastward. At the
height of all of this expansion the regime changed and the bureaucratic class
stepped to the fore. The interests of the powerful were threatened by the great
voyages of discovery and the new ideas being encountered and disseminated among
the populace. Within a few short years the entire Ming navy was dismantled and
it became a capital crime to explore the outside world. China, instead of being
the discoverers of the rest of the world, doomed herself to be the discovered.
China was never again a serious force in the emerging mix of nations.
Benford understands that the glorious future of space settlements and
utilization of space resources for the benefit of humanity and the preservation
of our planet are by no means assured. Our retreat from the Moon could be a wise
pause as we contemplate how to do this outrageous push forward properly. It
could also be the leading edge of a Ming-style collapse. Benford makes a
powerful argument that humanity needs space. The development of our species has
been punctuated by discoveries that have propelled us forward after long epochs
of relative stagnation. The discovery of the use of stone tools a million years
ago, the discovery of agriculture ten thousand years or so ago, the industrial
revolution a few hundred years back. There is a steady pattern of these events
and according to the exponential pattern at which they occur we are due for
another. The next step can only be the utilization of space resources. Without
undertaking this step we may reach the limits of our technological progress due
to exhaustion of the planets resources.
It's tempting to think that we should just be content with where we are. Stop
the mad urge to build bigger and better machines and find peace and fulfillment
within ourselves. Benford understands that this is not really a viable option.
Unless we wish to retreat to a completely non-technological society we will
need to continue to tear apart the Earth's crust to find fewer and fewer
available resources. We're already in big trouble on this score. If we really
want to keep earth beautiful we have to think about other real estate for human
habitation. We could always terraform the Moon.
Huh? Terraform the Moon? I thought it was Mars we would remake into a new
Earth? Benford makes a strong case that the Moon is a much better option for
such an effort. To give Mars an Earthlike atmosphere would require expenditure
of huge resources for thousands of years. The Moon, already the right distance
from the sun, could become Earthlike within a few hundred years. Here's how you
do it according to Chef Benford. Take about 40 comets and, using the existing
volatile outgassing from their cores, steer them towards our heavenly sister.
Arrange for each of the comets to impact the Moon in such a way as to impact
the equator at just the right angle of incidence to speed up the rotational
rate to a point where the Moon rotates in 5 days rather than about 28. This
makes the length of day tolerable for human habitation. At the same time, the
volatiles in the comets introduce enough air and water to constitute a balmy,
earthlike atmosphere. Due to the convection patterns of the hot air rising at
the equator and falling at the poles, the whole Moon would have a climate
similar to the state of Florida. And here's the icing on the cake. Since the
gravity is so much lower and the atmospheric density is even higher than
Earth's, it would be easy for anyone to strap on a pair of wings and take
Maybe this particular idea would pan out and maybe not. In any case, we have to
think big and we have to be bold or else we're in serious trouble. There is a
tendency to take progress for granted. Benford makes a strong argument that the
lessons of history say it ain't necessarily so. If we want our remote
descendents to enjoy a beautiful planet we have to start thinking of how we'll
make this work. Science fiction has a powerful role in envisioning the promise
of a better future and disseminating these powerful ideas among the general
populace. A verdant Earth is not incompatible with far-flung visionary thought,
as was so effectively demonstrated by the ideas in the air on this fine evening
at Foothill College.
(c) Joel McKinnon 2002
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