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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"


that it is often re-projected outward, so to speak, in the form of a
jealous God, an absolute moral law, an infallible Fuhrer, or some
other externalization.

The super-ego is a rationalization of the conflict between primitive
unregulated impulse and the deep infantile need for dependence. It
can be equated with certain aspects of conscience; it gives the com-
pulsive force to taboos, both ritual and ethical; it provides morality
with its irrational certitudes, and sometimes with an unpardoning
ruthlessness; primitively, its strength is bound up with cruelty, and
this issues in the idea of punishment for sin, including expiatory self-
torture. It is, in fact, the non-rational and emotional element in

It has not, I think, been sufficiently recognized that repression is
normal in man. Man is the only organism whose mind is so con-
structed that long-continued conflict is inevitable. The young child
is subjected to powerful conflicts even before it can talk and reason,
and long before it has adequate experience to resolve a conflict
rationally. Repression is thus an adaptation to conflict, especially
to early conflict; in its absence, the degree of assurance necessary
for action and adjustment would be impossible.

Undoubtedly the picture of human psychology given by psycho-
analysis and other modern dynamic theories is crude and incomplete,
but equally undoubtedly it is a first approximation to the truth. It is
as great an improvement over older theories as was mid-nineteenth-
century physiology, for all its crudity, over the medieval theory of
humours, or Dalton's atomic theory of chemistry, for all its incom-
pleteness, over alchemy.
Its importance for philosophy, and especially for ethics, is enor-
mous, for it enables us to understand how ethical and other values
can be absolute in principle while remaining obstinately relative in
practice; and, in conjunction with our knowledge of evolution, it
enables us to reconcile absolutism and relativism by uniting them in
the concept of right direction.
Values appear absolute for two reasons. The first is a result of the
structure of language. The very existence of general and abstract
terms like true and truth implies that an absolute Truth exists, and also
that there is always an absolute difference between truth and false-
hood. This, however, is not the case. Truth is only absolute when it
deals with the incomplete, such as the abstractions from reality that
form the basis of mathematics. The absolute difference between truth