Scholars of psychology have to understand the various perspectives that the scholars before them had concerning the human nature and how people develop the different personalities. Therefore, it is important to read widely and examine the various literature and compare their content to understand the schools of thought that exist and their application to the practice of psychotherapy. Hence, the paper will critically examine the work of Victor Frankl titled “Man’s Search for Meaning” and the book by Sigmund Freud titled “The Future of an Illusion.” The paper will also analyze Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.” The three works all talk about human nature and the role of faith in its development. While Frankl and Rousseau agree that the nature of humans is good, Freud sharply opposes. Also, while Frankl and Rousseau recognize the importance of faith and religion in the psychological health of humans, Freud, on the other hand, says that religion is illusory and wishful thinking that has negative consequences.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” was authored from Victor Frankl’s personal experience in a Nazi concentration camp. The work details the struggles of the writer in the camp and how he coped (Frankl 2). The work contains the mental picture of a typical prisoner in the dire conditions that they were subjected to and discussed it from his logotherapy psychological perspective. For example, in the section of the book in which the author talks of how they walked in a cold place for miles while hardly strong enough to walk he says, “I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss…” (Frankl 48). By doing that he informs the author of his actual feelings as he went through the problems and applied his theory to it. Therefore, unlike Rousseau and Freud, the author gives himself as evidence of how his theory works. Freud, on the other hand, offers a critic of religion in the lives of humans. In his critic, he uses the beliefs and psychoanalysis as the main tools of passing his point. Therefore, the critic lacks strong evidence to support the argument of the author apart from the backing of the psychoanalytic approach. Rousseau’s “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality” on the other hand critics the ideas of the authors that discussed the topic of human nature before him such as Hobbes. He also lacks personal experience like Victor Frankl. Therefore, Frankl is more convincing in his work because of the use of evidence from his life and the application of the theory that he communicated to the people to survive in the concentration camp and also outside after he was freed. The writing of the method of logotherapy and its application from the perspective of a person who had experienced it makes the work of the theorist more authentic than the Freud’s critic of religion and Rousseau’s discussion of human nature.
The three authors also give different perspectives of the psychology behind people’s actions. Frankl argues based on his logotherapy perspective. According to the view, the nature of people is driven by the purpose of their lives. Therefore, people behave like they do because they seek to have a purpose in their lives. The purpose may be founded on themselves or the people that look up to them. For example, in some part of the text, the author is inspired to fight for his survival by the thought of his wife. The author says “…But my mind clung to my wife’s image…” (Frankl 48). In the part of the text, the author found a purpose for his life in his wife. He struggled to survive in the harsh conditions because of reasons such as his wife. The author says that their meaning drives people’s behaviors and that despite the situation that a person may be, life never stops having to mean. The author thought that there is always someone looking down upon people even if the situation is very hard. The idea that his wife is looking down at him or imagining his wife gave his life meaning.
Rousseau, in his work says that two forces drive people. One of them is self-preservation, and the other is ‘pity.’ The view of Rousseau can be compared to that of Hobbes who also said that self-preservation is the primary motive of the actions of people (Rousseau 35). However, Rousseau asserts that pity is a significant part of what drives people’s behaviors. According to Rousseau, if self-preservation were the only principle that drove people as Hobbes had suggested earlier, people would be monsters. The author describes pity as “an innate repugnance to see his fellow suffer” (Rousseau 36). The nature of people as characterized by the two principles of compassion and self-preservation is corrupted by the society to create the people that exist in the communities. Unlike Frankl, Rousseau discussed the issue of human nature in two situations. One of the situations is one in which the person lives without the interaction and corruption of the society. The author describes humans that have not been corrupted by the societies in his work. The perspective that Rousseau in talking about the topic of human nature is different from both Frankl and Freud because unlike the two, Rousseau talks about the nature of people away from societies while the other two authors speak about the nature of humans within the context of the society.
In “The Future of an Illusion” on the other hand, Freud centers his discussion on religion. Therefore, his discussion on motivation is limited to what leads people to believe in god and their faiths. The author says that people are motivated to believe in religion by their wishful thinking that it will bring them immortality of their souls and a prolongation of their earthly existence by life after death (Freud 38). Therefore, according to the writing of Freud, human behaviors are driven by their self-centeredness. The negative ideology of humans is contrary to the belief of Rousseau and Frankl. Freud directly opposed the thoughts of Rousseau and Frankl.
The views of the authors also differ concerning the innate nature of people. According to Frankl, two kinds of people exist. The text of Frankl says that there are both decent and indecent people. The author wrote that there were both decent and indecent prisoners. Therefore, the author believes that depending on the actions and behavior of people, there are those that are good and those that are evil. The view is different from both Rousseau and Freud as it shows a more liberal line of thought as compared to the other writers who say that people are naturally good and evil respectively. According to Frankl, decent and indecent people were the only important races. For instance, in the concentration camp, he says that there are indecent as well as decent prisoners (Frankl 102). He also says that there were both decent and indecent Nazi guards. Therefore, from his experience, the author does not generalize the nature of people as either good or bad. Instead, he says that both types of people exist in all societies.
Contrary to the liberal thinking of Frankl, Rousseau thought that people are naturally good and that they are only corrupted by the societies in which they live and civilization. The author terms the human being in the absence of the society and civilization as being in “the state of nature.” According to Rousseau, timid, lacking foresight and peaceful (Rousseau). The author argues that the capacity to understand that God gave humans is what hinders the natural state and brings civilization, hence making people exist in an unnatural state. The author says that it is the existence of people within the contexts of societies that make them evil and brutish. By saying that the understanding that God gave people hinders their natural goodness, the author blames God for the unnatural state of humans that is characterized by brutishness, solitariness, and selfishness (Rousseau).
Freud views people as being naturally evil. The perception of Freud concerning the natural state of humans sharply differs from both Frankl and Rousseau’s. According to Freud, human nature is naturally anti-social, destructive and rebellious. The destructiveness of people results to disasters when people interact in their societies because “masses are lazy and unintelligent” (Freud 7). The view of the author differs from both Rousseau and Frankl in that unlike both, Freud first claims that people are not intelligent. The author also claims that there is no goodness in people. Freud also thinks that civilization result to the positive attributes of people. Freud thought that civilization prevented people from showing their destructive nature because of the existence of laws and leaders to guide them. The thought of Freud about civilization differs from that of Rousseau. Rousseau blames civilization for the evils that exist while Freud thanks civilization for the order. Freud also thought that religion is an emphasis on the attainment of the drives such as sex, wealth and other selfish gains through believing in the benefits that come from believing (Freud 17).
In conclusion, Frankl, Freud, and Rousseau wrote in different contexts about the nature of humans. Also, the writers took different perspectives concerning the topic. The issue of the nature of people is crucial because it allows psychologists to understand what drives people to behave the way they act. Frankl talks from the voice of a person who has gone through the worst and recovered through believing in that there was purpose in his life. Freud, on the other hand, critiqued religion and described as part of the wishful ideas of people and their evil nature. Rousseau thought that people were naturally good but corrupted by their societies. Therefore, the views of the authors differ a lot from each other. Frankl presents a more open-minded and convincing argument based on the fact that he speaks from experience and illustrates the working of his theory. Freud and Rousseau critique their predecessors but offer insufficient empirical evidence to support their claims.