Is Civilization Really the Source of Mankind’s Problems?

Freud’s main argument in his work Civilization and its Discontents was that in their efforts to achieve happiness, humans have formed civilizations, which are actually the source of their suffering. In his analysis of human nature, Freud stated that the cause of this suffering is due to humans forcing themselves to restrain their naturalistic tendencies to abide by civilization’s laws. However, I think that Freud’s theory seems too heavily based on his own conclusions/expectations of human nature. Do we have a clear answer on what it means to be human? If the criteria for humanity were based on the drive to answer one’s wants and needs, or the will to make choices that maximize survivability and happiness, I could apply this to every other being in the world. I think that this motivation is just an effect of the world’s inherent limits. Humanity’s suffering stems solely from the physicality of the world; this unruly “human nature” that Freud refers to is just a byproduct of those rules. Take his example of having to leave the comfort of the womb. I think that this first hardship, which represents the pain of existence, is the source of humanity’s suffering. This brings us back to the subject of civilization causing humanity’s suffering. Freud relates civilization to being a shelter but also a trap, where humans have poisoned themselves from the inside. I think that this poison, or suffering, is simply the basic building block of this world. To adapt to the world, one must take on a suit of desire to protect themselves, or in line with Freud’s teachings, one must form an ego. However, I don’t think that one’s ego and one’s nature are the same. I think human nature is something that is formed before existence. We as humans must wear clothes and live in shelters that are made of this poison, but this doesn’t mean we ourselves are made of poison. Human suffering isn’t caused by the recoil of having to suppress one’s ego. Human suffering exists because we are constantly living in an environment of suffering. How can you protect yourself from this environment if everything you make is made from the very same environment?

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