Sigmund Freud's Theory Of Moral Sentiments

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Sigmund Freud’s The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis and Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments analyze man’s ability to engage in the practice of self-deceit, of denying or rationalizing away objective truths to protect oneself from thoughts that are painful or difficult to handle. Freud’s model of the human mind attributes self-deceit to the “unconscious” mind. Just as processes in a lecture hall could be disturbed by one unruly student behaving contrary to the accepted rules of the establishment, so too is a mind disturbed by thoughts and memories contrary to the sensibilities of the individual. When strong morals are challenged by disturbing ideas, the mind protects itself by removing the thought from the mind, just as the …show more content…
The human mind attempts to observe its own conduct in the way an impartial spectator might in two instances: before action has taken place, and after we have acted. “Our views are apt to be very partial in both cases; but they are apt to be most partial when it is of most importance that they should be otherwise” (Smith 10-12). Self-deceit occurs in the mind when an individual has performed a deed that he would find very disagreeable in other circumstances. When this occurs, he will either be ashamed and change his behavior, or he will rationalize his actions as being justified. Though the former is more morally upstanding, Smith argues: “It is so disagreeable to think ill of ourselves, that we often purposely turn away our view from those circumstances which might render that judgement unfavorable” (Smith 43-46). Thinking oneself a bad person is a difficult thing for the mind to handle, so rather than face the truth of his actions a man may deceive himself into believing the act justified. It takes a certain bravery to face the deformities of one’s own conduct, but when it is especially improper, facing what one has done in the light that a stranger may see it is a very painful concept. Smith notes on this

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