The Centre of the Universe

FreudThough he is usually regarded as Behaviorism’s chief opposition, Freud struggled with no less determination throughout his lifetime to remain as rigorously scientific as possible – a goal that, for the most part, he fortunately failed to achieve. As a result, his studies were destined to have a far greater influence upon the arts, literature and philosophy than those who were patterning their study of human nature on rodents and pigeons.

Still, while Freud was willing to grant that human nature had a shadowed interior whose secrets might be more elusive than the logic of the reflex arc, he nonetheless hoped to make the psyche’s dark forces and hidden fantasies the stuff of objective scrutiny.

In Freud’s eyes, psychoanalysis was the final stage in mankind’s long, difficult march from superstition to civilization. Yet as much as the life of reason deserved to be cherished, Freud was frank enough to admit that it brought no happiness with it. Quite the contrary, the progress of science was a punishing ordeal.

Protecting an ecosystem “for its own sake” implies a blank-cheque approach that entails bearing many opportunity costs, including losses in public health and welfare…often what is good for ecological systems is good for human health and welfare. Taken literally, however, Americans are being asked to attach as much significance to the Northern Spotted Owl or the delta smelt as they do to human beings. Most people are not ready to embrace that they are no more significant in the universe than owls and fish.

“Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naive self-love,” he declared. “The first of these came in the age of Copernicus when the human race “realized that our Earth was not the centre of the universe. It was only a tiny speck in a world system of a magnitude hardly conceivable.”

Three centuries later came the Darwinian revolution in biology, which “robbed man of his peculiar privilege of having been specially created, and relegated him to a descent from the animal world, implying an ineradicable animal nature in him.”

Bad enough, but worse was yet to come: “Mankind’s craving for grandiosity is now suffering the third and most bitter blow from present-day psychological research which is endeavouring to prove to the ‘ego’ of each one of us that he is not even master in his own house.”

~ Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth.


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