This book is in many respects a continuation of Escape from Freedom, in which I attempted to analyze modern man’s escape from himself and from his freedom; in this book I discuss the problem of ethics, of norms and values leading to the realization of man’s self and of his potentialities. It is unavoidable that certain ideas expressed in Escape from Freedom are repeated in this book, and although I have tried as much as possible to shorten discussions which are overlapping, I could not omit them entirely.
In the chapter on Human Nature and Character, I discuss topics of characterology which were not taken up in the former book and make only brief reference to the problems discussed there. The reader who wishes to have a complete picture of my characterology must read both books, although this is not necessary’ for the understanding of the present volume.
It may be surprising to many readers to find a psychoanalyst dealing with problems of ethics and, particularly, taking the position that psychology must not only debunk false ethical judgments but can, beyond that, be the basis for building objective and valid norms of conduct. This position is in contrast to the trend prevailing in modern psychology which emphasizes “adjustment” rather than “goodness” and is on the side of ethical relativism.
My experience as a practicing psychoanalyst has confirmed my conviction that problems of ethics cannot be omitted from the study of personality, either theoretically or therapeutically. The value judgments we make determine our actions, and upon their validity rests our mental health and happiness. To consider evaluations only as so many’ rationalizations of unconscious, irrational desires—although they can be that too—narrows down and distorts our picture of the total personality.
Neurosis itself is, in the last analysis, a symptom of moral failure (although “adjustment” is by no means a symptom of moral achievement). In many instances a neurotic symptom is the specific expression of moral conflict, and the success of the therapeutic effort depends on the understanding and solution of the person’s moral problem.
The divorcement of psychology’ from ethics is of a comparatively recent date. The great humanistic ethical thinkers of the past, on whose works this book is based, were philosophers and psychologists; they believed that the understanding of man’s nature and the understanding of values and norms for his life were interdependent. Freud and his school, on the other hand, though making an invaluable contribution to the progress of ethical thought by the debunking of irrational value judgments, took a relativistic position with regard to values, a position which had a negative effect not only upon the development of ethical theory but also upon the progress of psychology itself.
Many people today expect that books on psychology will give them prescriptions on how to attain “happiness” or “peace of mind.” This book does not contain any such advice. It is a theoretical attempt to clarify the problem of ethics and psychology; its aim is to make the reader question himself rather than to pacify him.
Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul; and we must take care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he praises what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell the food of the body; for they praise indiscriminately all their goods, without knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful: neither do their customers know, with the exception of any trainer or physician who may happen to buy of them. In like manner those who carry’ about the wares of knowledge, and make the round of the cities, and sell or retail them to any’ customer who is in want of them, praise them all alike; though I should not wonder, О myr friend, if many’ of them were really’ ignorant of their effect upon the soul; and their customers equally’ ignorant, unless he who buy’s of them happens to be a phy’sician of the soul. If, therefore, y’ou have understanding of what is good and evil yrou may’ safely’ buy’ knowledge of Protagoras or any’ one; but if not, then, О myr friend, pause, and do not hazard yrour dearest interests at a game of chance. For there is far greater peril in buying knowledge than in buying meat and drink….
I. The Problem
II. Humanistic Ethics: The Applied Science of the Art of Living
1. Humanistic vs. Authoritarian Ethics
2. Subjectivistic vs. Objectivistic Ethics
3. The Science of Man
4. The Tradition of Humanistic Ethics
5. Ethics and Psychoanalysis
III. Human Nature and Character
1. The Human Situation
a. Man’s Biological Weakness
b. The Existential and the Historical Dichotomies in Man
(1) The Dynamic Concept of Character (2) Types of Character: The Nonproductive Orientations
(a) The Receptive Orientation
(b) The Exploitative Orientation
(c) The Hoarding Orientation
(d) The Marketing Orientation
(3) The Productive Orientation (a) General Characteristics (b) Productive Love and Thinking
(4) Orientations in the Process of Socialization
(5) Blends of Various Orientations
IV. Problems of Humanistic Ethics
1. Selfishness, Self-Love, and Self-Interest
2. Conscience, Man’s Recall to Himself
a. Authoritarian Conscience
b. Humanistic Conscience
3. Pleasure and Happiness
a. Pleasure as a Criterion of Value
b. Types of Pleasure
c. The Problem of Means and Ends
4. Faith as a Character Trait
5. The Moral Powers in Man
a. Man, Good or Evil?
b. Repression vs. Productiveness
c. Character and Moral Judgment
6. Absolute vs. Relative, Universal vs. Socially Immanent Ethics
V. The Moral Problem of Today
A Biography of Erich Fromm