The Iceberg

Having read Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, I am interested, if not amused by his assertions concerning the self’s ability to know itself. That is, he divides the perceptions in terms of the ego (our conscious self), the superego (our aspiring self), and the id (our subconscious and lizard brain self). He reduces man’s innate self to one motivated by aggression and desire (eros). Man is an iceberg, who knows only what he sees above the surface of his self and the rest remains a mystery to him. It is perhaps why humans are so afraid of uncertainty because there is a lack of certainty inherent in themselves, that there is a subconscious part that they will never fully know or come to terms with.It is civilizational society that conditions us to act a certain way in which we internalize its value as part of ourselves. Therefore, we can never separate the “bare” self from the self that is constructed by external processes and norms.

Humans are not naturally aggressive. Assuming that they were, the whole of society would not have escaped the state of nature because no one would be rational enough to engage in cooperative alliances of security to ensure survival (also presupposing that security is the reason why humans join together). Also reducing basic human nature to a sex drive and an aggression drive does not complete the fuller picture. Here we may cite natural law or Noam Chomsky or even Plato to see that humans also have a modular capacity (morals, virtue, etc.) and a rational capacity, as well as a creative drive. Human beings are complex creatures in the sense that they should not be reducible to behavioural observations  and the gap between our species and the apes is a considerable distance to stretch to justify the dominance of animal tendencies in humans.

The ability to philosophize or reflect on the fact that we are shaped by social processes itself encourage self-awareness. It allows us to bring into question which norms are questionable and which need to be reformed/conformed to bare human identity. Postmodern critique has allowed us to discover more about ourselves, like a stepping stone from the Enlightenment. Self-awareness is a process as much as all the other social constructs we may find in religion, politics, and to a lesser degree in science.  Man is an iceberg only insofar as he does not actively engage in self-awareness and  deconstructing the external parts of his identity.

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