2011年8月8日 星期一

Man the Sick Animal (III)


Whilst Merton sees the myth of the Fall of Man and his expulsion from Paradise in the Bible as a theological description of man's Original Sin (because he dares to desire to separate himself from God, his creator and the source of his being) and as a foolish and irrational escape into illusion and falsehood, Fromm interprets the myth differently. Whilst Adam and Eve may live in the garden of Eden in complete harmony with each other, with nature and with God and there is peace and no need to work, to Fromm there is at the same time, "no choice, no freedom and no thinking either" (FOF 27). When he acts against God's command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he breaks the state of harmony with nature with which he is a part without transcending it and from the point of view of the Church, which represented authority, this is essentially sin but to Fromm, 'from the standpoint of man, however, this is the beginning of human freedom": "Acting against God means freeing himself from coercion, emerging from the unconscious existence of pre-human life to the level of man. Acting against the command of authority, committing a sin, is in its positive human aspect the first act of freedom, ie. the first human act....the act of disobedience as an act of freedom is the beginning of reason." (FOF 27-28) A consequence of this act is that the original harmony between man and nature is broken. "God proclaims war between man and woman, and war between nature and man. Man has become separate from nature, he has taken the first step toward becoming human by becoming an 'individual". He has committed the first act of freedom. This knowledge reveals to Adam and Eve that they were naked and they felt ashamed. "He is alone and free, yet powerless and afraid. The newly owned freedom appears as a curse; he is free from the sweet bondage of paradise, but he is not free to govern himself, to realize his individuality." (FOF 28) .

Psychologically, the achievement of "individuation" and of the concomitant "self-consciousness" is a protracted process . It starts at birth: the umbilical cord between the baby and his mother is severed: henceforth he becomes  a separate biological entity. However, for a considerable period after birth, he remains one with his mother functionally. Though he lacks freedom, his ties with his nature, his mother, his community provides him with rootedness in a group, whether it be his family, his clan, his guild, his village, his town or his church. "Freedom from" is not identical with "freedom to".

Unlike the other creatures, man is born completely "helpless": he is less quick and less effective in his automatically regulated and instinct driven reactions to the dangers of the eternal environment than the other animals and is completely dependent on the good will of his parents for the longest period of time amongst all the mammals. Precisely because his action is least  completely dominated by inflexible instinctive behavioral pattern, man has essentially to learn almost every one of his adaptive behavior. Paradoxically, man's biological weakness becomes the condition for development of a specifically human  culture. (FOF 26). As L Bernard said: "Instinct ...is a diminishing if not a disappearing category in higher animal forms, especially in the human" (Instinct 1924 509). Whilst for the animal, there is an uninterrupted chain of reactions between the emergence of an impulse upon receiving the appropriate stimulus from the environment to its more or less strictly determined course of action leading to the abatement of the relevant tension upon the satisfaction of that impulse, in man, that chain is interrupted. At every step, the kind of satisfaction to every stimulus is "open": he must choose between various alternative courses of action. He has to think! Instead of merely reacting and adapting passively to a stimulus, he has to adapt positively and actively. He has to create and to produce a solution. He invents tools, and in thus mastering nature, he separates himself more and more from it. He learns that he is part of nature but must transcend it but he also becomes aware of his limits and that his ultimate fate is death even if he were to deny it in manifold fantasies.(FOF 27)

But even for the adult population, the primitive man remains tied to the world from which he emerged: the soil, the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees, the flowers, the animals and also to the group of people with whom he is connected by blood ties and primitive religion bears ample witness to man's feeling of oneness with the Nature. To reduce his fears, he humanizes and anthropomorphizes the forces of nature and its plants and animals. But this way of dealing with Nature blocks the development of his reason and his critical faculties: he can recognize himself and others only through  his/their participation in a clan, a social and religious community, and not as an individuated human being, i.e. they block his development as a free self-determining, creative and productive individual. But this way of dealing with Nature and his social world has one great psychological advantage: it compensates him with social and psychological  security. He can think of himself and is reassured that he belongs to a structured whole in which he has a clearly defined place. He trades the suppression of his own natural impulses for insulation and freedom from social and emotional isolation.

As individuation proceeds, man is increasingly able to master Nature and to distinguish himself from both Nature and other people through the increasing use of his reason but that comes with an expensive price tag: he finds growing doubts about his role in the universe, the meaning of his life, and with that a growing feeling of his own powerlessness and insignificance as an individual. His mother gradually takes on the role of the teacher, the disciplinarian, the police, judge  and her wishes may often conflict with that of the child: sometimes, she becomes for the child, a witch instead of a fairy god-mother, a hostile and often dangerous person. This antagonism, often a part of the "education" process, is an important factor in sharpening the distinction between the "self" and the "non-self", the "I" and the "Thou". But initially, to the child's mind, the parents are not yet considered as completely separate from his own developing notion of "self": they are still part of the child's egocentric universe. " Gradually, as the child grows stronger, physically, emotionally and mentally, the three spheres become increasingly integrated, guided by the child's will and reason. But he is not allowed unlimited growth: every society is characterized by a certain level of individuation beyond which the normal individual cannot go. "Each step in the direction of growing individuation threatened people with new insecurities....There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual." (FOF29)  As he becomes more independent, self-reliant and critical, he also becomes more isolated, alone and afraid. If however, he is not able to achieve this in an integrated and harmonious way, then his sense of doubt and uncertainty becomes an intolerable burden and he may seek to escape from the kind of freedom by submission or some kind of relationship which promises relief from such uncertainty, even if it meant stripping from him a great part of his freedom because his freedom has become such an intolerable burden. Freedom turns out to be a mixed blessing. In particular, the religious solution emphasizes the wickedness of human nature, the insignificance and powerlessness of man on his own and his individual need to to subordinate himself to an external power and being, God. To Fromm, this idea of the unworthiness of the individual, his fundamental inability to rely upon himself and his need to submit is also the main theme of Hitler's ideology, which however, lacks the emphasis on freedom and moral principles inherent in Protestantism
(To be cont'd)

1 則留言:

  1. The more one analyses people, the more
    all reasons for analysis disappear. Sooner or later one comes to that dreadful
    universal thing called human nature.    

    Oscar Wilde

    [版主回覆08/09/2011 16:48:00]Oscar Wilde is speaking tongue in cheek! When is he not? But we must admire him for his penetrating perception of the folly and ugliness of human nature, despite his sarcasm!