Marx, Nietzsche and Freud were called the “Masters of Suspicion” for challenging the prevailing traditions and dogmas of their times. Could these great philosophers/analysts teach us something important for us to implement within our current era?
Regardless of whether we share their ideas or not, the truth is these great men impacted Western thought in a profound and decisive way since their appearance. Marx was the mainstay of an entire political and social movement that spanned over the entire world. Nietzsche gave shape to novel and even shocking ideas about the role of the human being in society, morality and religion. Freud founded a whole discipline “psychoanalysis” which continues to have an impact on medicine and psychology, and is part of social criticism (good and bad) today.
They have been called the masters of suspicion because all three were exactly that, suspicious of the predominant dogmas and herd mentality of their times:
Marx suspected the democratic structure of the European societies of the 19th century; for him history did not develop according to ideas or cultural forms but these were just the superstructure that keeps hidden the true historical forces; that is, those behind the economic force.
Nietzsche, was suspicious of the structure of moral systems and the “benefactive” action of religion; for him religion only serves to hide human weakness and the tyranny exercised by religious and social institutions over the moral behavior of human beings.
Freud, he was suspicious of our authentic ability to make free decisions based on reason. He considered that all we call reason is not what really drives the behavior of human beings but the hidden forces of the unconscious are the true motor of all our decisions and our actions.
As you can see; whether you agree with them or not; they dared to question the existence of human freedom…are we free or do we think we are free? If we are not free, do we dare to be? If you ask me, these are very valid and deeply important questions, for it challenges and/or demands “FREE WILL”
For the three of them, other darker and deeper forces seemed to actually have control over how we live our lives, over what kind of decisions we make, what paths we should choose and the conditions in which we are forced to live. These forces, would like for us to think of ourselves as “free” but only to the extent we don’t actually become “FREE”.
For example, for Marx, the way in which people decide to wage war or choose a form of government or create a law is not based on ideas but based on complex economic relationships between social groups; there will always be a small group at the top that controls production of goods and controls economic transactions and a large group at the bottom, totally dependent on that elite.
In the case of Nietzsche, it was evident to him the prevailing moral system was the result of a religious system based on the repression of human will and the subjection of the human being to an elite. A small group of people who reserved the “right” to interpret moral and divine laws; turning people into slaves. That is why he spoke openly of the moral of the slave – the moral of the submissive, of the obedient, of the weak, the one who had to be guided by a few–he contrasted this moral to its opposite–the moral of the master – that of the dominant, the one who sees himself as all powerful.
Freud, discovered a human psyche in which the conscious being is only a small part of a person who believes he decides freely, but in reality is conditioned by the hidden psychic forces of the unconscious (including all the rules, memories and dogmas taught growing up to the age of 7). He believed (and modern science can’t deny it) the unconscious to be much larger and more powerful and therefore much more decisive. Freud said a man believes he makes decisions with complete freedom, he believes himself autonomous but in reality he is a victim of his impulses and programming. Impulses that come from traumas and experiences hidden in the unconscious and programming instilled in him mostly through religion and schools. It is believed by many scholars and philosophers, Freud’s “discovery” was the main reason he became the target of ridicule to the point of discrediting his work; making a mockery of him and “selling” only a small fraction of what he really taught and believed–they made popular the fraction that made him look like an obsessed fool. As a French philosopher has pointed out “so much force invested in discrediting his work, are we such fools as not to ask ourselves why?”
Marx, Nietzsche and Freud all offered their points of view to change the situations they described. For example, Marx thought it was evident the large human population stripped of production of goods and unable to influence political decisions, should educate themselves and take control of the economy and transactions in order to change their situation.
Nietzsche believed the way to liberate oneself was to reject moral conventions which keep a human being in a state of weakness and subjection. He believed a person should work on himself and adopt the moral of the master in order to forge a new human being–“the super man”-– a free, strong man who could be himself.
Freud believed the way to liberate self, was to become aware of the existence of hidden traumas and programs; to make the unconscious conscious in order to resolve those traumas and dissolve those hidden programs, freeing oneself from their restrictions.
The three were suspicious of a predominant discourse at their time that spoke of freedom when in fact it was working to suppress it–sounds familiar? The three of them proposed measures to help a human being become aware of what was hidden behind the illusions which surrounded him. In a way it can be said, these men proposed a particular and very much real awakening of conscience (not just mantras). They wanted people to open their eyes to what really happens in the world, how society is structured, how governments or those who fund them manipulate us, how we manipulate ourselves from the inside because we believe the lies and limitations they have taught us.
Why did I choose this article? Look around, there are so many things going on… those proposing peace, equality, freedom yet I see the world more confuse, angry, divided and enslaved; not by shackles imposed physically but by voluntary mental shackles.
I love chess, what I see, is a game well played; where most people are losing their freedom in the name of freedom, losing their humanity in the name of humanity, becoming more hateful than ever before in the name of peace. I believe when things finally get to a point impossible to tolerate, those same people will be willing to give up just about anything in exchange for some type of “normalcy”.
Why I chose these great minds? because they dared to believe in the power each one of us has to wake up (no mediators needed). They dared to believe we can be more than sheep, we can be human; for to be human (with all its imperfections) is to be divine. We may not get it all “right” but I want to believe we can do better than we are doing right now.
“Nothing is as precious as human reason and freedom. Freedom is the WILL to be responsible to ourselves”