04/19/2024, 03:51, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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Is shame primordial to human desire?

Author: Malte Tellerup


My inquiry is a return to the thinking Freud presents as the origin of desire and guilt in the myth of “the killing of the father” through out all his oeuvre but especially inTotem and Taboo and Civilization and its Discontents. I ask whether Freud bases his understanding too strongly on contemporary scientific blindness to the too human desire of separating human from nature. In Totem and Taboo Freud argues that the primordial formation of the human collective psychic can be accessed by psychoanalysis through readings of myths, religion, pathology, biology and contemporary anthropology of the late 19th and early 20th century (1) which has bred and fed a psycho-social interpretation of animal studies as overtly focused on domination, functionalism, kin-ship (as in modern sized families) and guilt as the human interaction with its outside: nature. For concepts of desire this provides a “nature” of aggressive and destructive behavior, which needs to be tamed by shame/culture to form a new “natural” (the premise of Civilization and Its Discontents’ main argument).

The myth of “the sons killing the father” is picked up through a variety of sources, but most important for me is how he borrows the hypothesis of a “primal state of human society” from Darwin and J.J. Atkinson (p. 287, Freud’19). A hypothesis that makes for a narrative in line with a, at the time, very normal structure of hierarchy in the animal kingdom where one alpha male dominates the herd/family (2).  Such is the narrative derived from studies of monkeys, horses, cattle, apes, chickens and almost all larger mammals who live in flocks or herds. This highly competitive interpretation of Darwin’s evolution is compared with studies of myths of origin in Greek and Christian thought and anthropological studies of tribal societies....

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