Ethics: The Self in Its
Relationship to Good
AND ITS REVISIONS
Freud's view of morality is well known. He sees morality as opposed to our nature as human beings. To be oneself or authentic one has to give due recognition to what belongs to one's nature. One who sides with morality, therefore, takes sides against one's own nature which is instinctive in character. Morality is thus a force of repression and prevents men from becoming themselves.
Freud makes it clear that he does not advocate licence in holding this view. He regards morality as beneficial insofar as it regulates human conduct in community life. He distinguishes between 'voluntary self-control' and 'repression' and advocates accepting the discipline of morality. One can do so without being taken in by its pretentions and without submitting to its repression. To do so is to learn to accept discipline without giving up on who one is. Freud thinks of this as learning to renounce the prospect of immediate pleasure for the sake of long-term and abiding objectives.
He sees the opposition between instinctive human nature and the morality which comes to us from our culture as a conflict within us. For that morality too becomes part of us, in the form of the super-ego, as we side with its demands, imposed on us in our childhood. But although those demands are thus 'internalized' they still remain 'external' to the ego. The super-ego thus brings pressure on the ego to ignore the demands made on it by the id which represents the inclinations of our instinctive nature. It is thus the agent of repression within us.