A paper delivered at the 2018 Libertarian Scholars Conference….

            The ashlar of the philosophical underpinnings of the United States (US) is a belief in natural law: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” (US, 1776).  This radical affirmation of the primacy of the individual survives today in Libertarianism and is the basis for the non-aggression principal.  Natural law and its relationship to the question of authority is situated within philosophical and theological thought.  However, the question of authority is also present in the context of psychoanalysis and it is through this lens that this paper examines the question of authority.  In particular, it asks the question: is psychoanalysis a friend or foe of natural law particularly in relation to the authority aspect?  Here, psychoanalysis refers specifically to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Carl Jung’s (1875-1961) schools of psychoanalysis.  To answer that question requires a review of natural law and the question of authority, followed by the fundamental theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. 

            First, what is natural law and what are its antecedents?  To answer these questions one must have a definition of law: “Law, in its generic sense, is a body of rule of action or conduct prescribed by controlling authority, and having binding legal force.  That which must be obeyed and followed by citizens subject to sanctions or legal consequences is a law,” (Garner & Black, p. 884).  Of import to this inquiry, this widely accepted definition of law takes the ontological stance that there is a controlling authority but what is this ethereal controlling authority?  It is not evident from this definition and so a look to antiquity is in order. 

In the Greek tradition, Socrates, Plato & Aristotle argued that there is a distinction between physis and nomos.  Thus, law or custom (nomos) differs from place to place or culture to culture but nature (physis) is universal. Aristotle makes the universality claim explicit in On Rhetoric: “particular laws that each people has set up for itself, there is a ‘common law’ or ‘higher law’ that is according to nature,” (Aristotle, 1373b2-8).  Nature in this context was ascribed to transcendent forces or the Greek pantheon.  Turning to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition the answer is that God is the law giver, that we are “endowed by our Creator.”  Saint Thomas Aquinas dedicated considerable attention to developing natural law moral theory which he posits is derived from the rationality of humans: “the rule and measure of human acts is the reason, which is the first principle of human action,” (Aquinas, 1465/1948, Q. 90).  From these principles is derived a universal moral code, applicable to all humans.  This moral natural law is held separate from natural law in the jurisprudence context which does not necessarily hold with the moral universality.  Regardless, that aspect of natural law important to this paper is the question of authority.  More properly, it is focused on the Bolshevik formulation of who, whom.  Moral natural law, derived as it is from the submission to the authority of God as the creator of our rational consciousness points to an innate, universal formulation with the  ability to be worked out by each individual.

Freud and Jung have different conceptions on the nature and purpose of human consciousness and thus divergent views on the authority question.  This question of authority in psychoanalysis is obliquely addressed by Thomas Szasz (1920-2012).  Libertarians have been generally skeptical of psychiatry and in particular psychoanalytic psychology for years.  There are some fundamentally good reasons for this.  Szasz delineated how psychiatry became a weapon of first the moneyed classes in England and eventually the State in general (2007).  Continued abuse of psychiatry occurs every day with police (among other armed state actors) having the ability to involuntarily commit any individual under section 5150 of the Welfare and Institutions Code (State of California, 1969).  For an especially egregious, contemporary involuntary commitment, we only have to review the case of Brandon Raub (Rutherford Institute, n.d.).  Other abuses include the Veterans Administration putting 34,500 on New York’s No-Guns List (Hartocollis, 2014).  Then there is the so-called Frankfurt school, started with the express purpose of developing Marxist theory and encouraging Jewish intellectuals to embrace the Communist revolution in Germany.  The Frankfurt school’s ideas continue to this day in the form of critical theory and its concomitant social justice.  So, given that the lineage of psychiatry has this sordid, anti-liberal past, particularly when one looks at Freud’s work, is it possible that C. G. Jung’s psychology confronts this statist view and in fact is a friend of modern-day Libertarianism?

To begin this investigation, it is instructive to turn to the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his signature theory: The Oedipus complex.  To put the Oedipus complex into context requires a review of Freud’s conception of the structure of the human psyche.  He posited a tripartite view: this was composed of the id, the ego and the super-ego (1923).  The id was Freud’s nomenclature for the archaic instincts of biological life, such as sex and aggression and conceptually sits under the ego, though there are parts of the ego submerged into the id.  Stated differently, the instincts, the id, are moderated by the ego.  Freud said:

“The functional importance of the ego is manifested in the fact that normally control over the approaches to motility devolves from it.  Thus in its relationship to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength while the ego uses borrowed forces.  The analogy may be carried further.  Often a rider, if he is not to be parted from his horse, is obliged to guide it where it wants to go; so in the same way the ego is in the habit of transforming the id’s will into action as if it were its own,” (1923, pp. 10-11).

Framed differently, the ego frustrates the id but is not morally developed: this is the job of the super ego.  To use another analogy, the id functions much as the bad angel on one shoulder while the super-ego functions as the good angel on the other shoulder.  In Freud’s conception, the super-ego has a component of morality to it, as Freud said “a differentiation within the ego, which may be called the ego ideal or super-ego,” (ibid., p. 12).

This model of the psyche is foundational to Freud’s Oedipus complex.  Oedipus is a tragic figure in Greek mythology.  He ends up unwittingly killing his father and marrying his mother.  Viewing the psyche through this lens, Freud hypothesized that normal development involves a sexual tension between a male child, mother and father in a triangle:

“In its simplified form the case of a male child may be described as follows.  At a very early age the little boy develops an object-cathexis for his mother, which originally related to the mother’s breast and is the prototype of an object choice on the anaclitic model; the boy deals with his father by identifying himself with him.  For a time these two relationships proceed side by side, until the boy’s sexual wishes in regard to his mother become more intense and his father is perceived as an obstacle to them; from this the Oedipus complex originates.  His identification with his father then takes on a hostile coloring and changes into a wish to get rid of his father in order to takes his place with his mother,” (ibid., pp. 14-15).

For Freud then, the male child must initially submit to the authority of his father.  The case is similar in the case of female children in that they must submit to the authority of the mother’s claim to the father’s sexual attention while transitioning her relationship to her father from one rooted in sexuality to affection.  What is clear here is that in Freud’s view, the strong person wins, in this case the adults who are in a position of authority until such time as they are sexually aware and transitioning into adulthood.  In fact, in Freud’s view it is imperative that the child develops the ability to stand on their own, no longer bound to the parent’s authority.  However, in the case of non-neurotic adults, instead the adult must submit to the authority of civilization.  In fact, in Civilization and its Discontents Freud makes this explicit: “Human life in communities only becomes possible when a number of men unite together in strength to any single individual and remain united against all single individuals,” (1963, p. 72).  Here we see civilization conceptualized as a superior strength mob arrogating a monopoly on violence.  This comports with the Libertarian concept of the State as having a monopoly on violence.  Freud is also contemptuous of a transcendent authority such as God whereby authority derives from.  His views on religion are:

[that] the whole thing is so patently infantile, so incongruous with reality, that to no one whose attitude to humanity is friendly it is painful that the great majority of mortals never be able to rise above this view of life,” (ibid., p. 34).

From this it is possible to adduce that Freud is no friend of moral natural law, nor a friend of the Libertarian principle of non-aggression, for it is patently obvious that Freud felt that first the child must submit to the authority of his or her parents, and later in life to a mob that keeps the strong man individual in check:  this reifies the primacy of the State over the individual and negates natural law.  Freud may be considered the father of psychanalysis, but Carl Jung (1875-1961) greatly expanded, amplified and eventually split from Freud.  In the next section I turn to one of Jung’s central tenants, the notion of individuation and the religious function of the psyche.

            Jung contra Freud postulated that the individual psyche was oriented towards solving its dilemma of “why am I here” in a religious way.  By this he did not mean that the individual had to subscribe to any particular religion or conception of God, rather, it is incumbent upon the individual to recognize an internal submission to the nature of their own being.  This is contra to Freud, whose psychological submission was for him, self-evidently a submission to an external authority.  Jung was adamant though that to be an individual is a radical act: “To develop one’s own personality is indeed an unpopular undertaking, a deviation that is highly uncongenial to the herd, an eccentricity smelling of the cenobite, as it seems to the outsider. (1946/1954, Para. 298). Further it is one that few are actually brave enough to undertake it:

“There are not a few who are called awake by the summons of the voice, whereupon they are at once set apart from the others, feeling themselves confronted with a problem about which the others know nothing. In most cases it is impossible to explain to the others what has happened, for any understanding is walled off by impenetrable prejudices. “You are no different from anybody else,” they will chorus or, “there’s no such thing,” and even if there is such a thing, it is immediately branded as ‘morbid’,” (ibid., para. 308).

Those called however face backlash from the authority of the mob State: “He is at once set apart and isolated, as he has resolved to obey the law that commands him from within. ‘His own law!’ everybody will cry. But he knows better: it is the law,” (ibid., Para. 304).  Here, we see a profound difference between Freud and Jung.  Whether consciously or not, Jung has invoked the specter of natural law and placed it firmly within the individual’s psyche. 

            This process of awakening and hearing the call of one’s psyche is what Jung referred to as individuation.  Not coincidentally, in Jung’s conception it is imperative that that individuals individuate—a lifetime process of those who hear the clarion call of breaking from the herd which is a lifetime obligation: “To the extent that a man is untrue to the law of his being he has failed to realize his own life’s meaning,” (ibid., para. 314). 

Jung advanced the primacy of the individual in response to the herd: he specifically was responding to the ascension of Hitler arising from groupthink:

“Insofar as society is itself composed of de-individualized human beings, it is completely at the mercy of ruthless individualists. Let it band together into groups and organizations as much as it likes – it is just this banding together and the resultant extinction of the individual personality that makes it succumb so readily to a dictator. A million zeros joined together do not, unfortunately, add up to one,” (Jung, 1983, p. 301).

            From this brief survey it seems clear that Jung not only fervently believed in the primacy of the individual, he felt it was an imperative to for civilization for individuals to individuate: to hear the call of vocation while separating oneself from the mass of humanity:

“This apparently unique life [Christ] became a sacred symbol because it is the psychological prototype of the only meaningful life, that is, of a life that strives for the individual realization – absolute and unconditional – of its own particular law.  Well may we exclaim with Tertullian: anima naturaliter christiana!” (ibid., p. 204).

Jung’s views, juxtaposed with Freud’s presents a conundrum to the central question addressed at the beginning: is psychoanalysis a friend of natural law, specifically when addressing the question of submission to authority.  From the Freudian perspective, the answer is a categorical no.  From the Jungian perspective it is an emphatic yes.  This question of individual liberty, of submission to whose authority is not new.  For those with an individual view of liberty the answer is to my own authority:  Jung and Pythagoras  would agree.  “No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself. No man is free who cannot command himself,” (Pythagoros, 1925).

Aquinas, T. (1948).  Summa theologica (Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Trans.).  New York, NY: Benzinger Bros. (Original work published 1485)

Aristotle, ., & Kennedy, G. A., (1991). On rhetoric: A theory of civic discourse. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Freud, S. (1953).  The ego and the id.  In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 19).  London, UK: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1923)

Freud, S. (1963). Civilization and its discontents. In J. Riviere & J. Strachey (Eds. & Trans.), London, UK: Hogarth Press.

Garner, B. A., & Black, H. C., (1994). Black’s law dictionary. 6th ed. St. Paul, MN: West.

Hartocollis, A., (2014). Mental health issues put 34,500 on New York’s no-guns list.  New York, NY: New York Times.

Jung, C. G. (1954). The development of personality (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 17, pp. 165-186). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1934)

Jung, C. G. (1983). The undiscovered self. In A. Storr (Ed.). The essential Jung: Selected writings. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rutherford Institute. (n.d.). Brandon Raub. Retrieved from https://www.rutherford.org/issues/free_speech/brandon_raub.

State of California (1969). Detention of mentally disordered persons for evaluation and treatment [5150 – 5155]. Retrieved from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=WIC&sectionNum=5150

Szasz, T. (2007). The origin of psychiatry: Coercion as cure. In Medicalization of everyday life: Selected essays. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Pythagoras, ., (1925). Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Volume I, Books 1-5 (Loeb Classical Library No. 184). In R. D. Hicks (Trans.).  Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *