Hegel vs. Freud

Both Hegel and Freud venture to explain the consciousness and how we interpret our surroundings. In Freud’s piece, An Outline of Psycho-Analysis, he explains how we interact with internal and external events in terms of the id, ego, and super ego, while Hegel explains his ideas in Sense Certainty using the all-excompassing ‘I’. Sense-certainty is the immediate sensory response to and object or event. However, how we interpret and store this knowledge must  depend on our consciousness. It must therefore depend on the all encompassing ‘I’ instead of the immediate Here and Now response of sense-certainty. “The force of its truth thus lies now in the ‘I’, in the immediacy of my seeing, hearing, and so on; the vanishing of the single Now and Here that we mean is prevented by the fact that I hold them fast” (§101). Thus I have knowledge in the object, but then it is also in me since I am a self-conscious being that can withhold this information. The ‘I’ must then be the best form of knowledge because it is all encompassing and universal, containing all the observations gathered through sense-certainty and their interpretations.

Freud, on the other hand, does not define consciousness and knowledge as the all-encompassing ‘I’ that is gathered through sense-certainty experience, but rather three divisions of our psyche. The id is a part of consciousness that we are born with and contains everything inherited including natural instincts.

Then throughout life the ego and super-ego are developed through experience. The ego is a part of the mind where the id has developed to deal with external world. This part of the mind controls body movements and sense perception of external events, and can either avoid, adapt from, or interact with stimuli in order to make changes in these external events. For internal events, the ego controls natural instincts, while seeking pleasure and avoiding unpleasure. The super-ego is part of the ego that is shaped by parents because of our long period of dependence during our youth. It is developed throughout childhood by this third party influence so must be differentiated from the ego. It is not only the parents that shape the super-ego but also the family, traditions, teachers, society, etc.

Overall, looking at these definitions, Hegel argues that we are an all-encompassing being dependent on sense-certainty while Freud divides our psyche into distinct branches that develop differently in response to our experience.

Also, completely unrelated to this post but I was trying to find a picture and found this. Enjoy.


4 responses to “Hegel vs. Freud

  1. I think that this your post serves as a comprehensive, well-thought about comparison of these two philosophers. It is fascinating to compare self-certainty with the categorization of the psyche. I wanted to extend the post by asking, which explanation of unconsciousness and consciousness is most effective? I, myself, lean towards Freud because his theory is based upon a process easier to conceptualize and make sense of. For me, Kant’s philosophy of unconsciousness is very general and difficult to wrap my head around, as it is seemingly “all-encompassing” and founded upon a highly subjective interpretation of experience and the environment. What is your opinion? Whose philosophy acts as a better explanation of unconsciousness?

  2. I think you meant Hegel here instead of Kant…sorry for the confusion with the picture! I can see where you are coming from when you say Freud’s argument is stronger, because his piece is easier to read and his points are straight forward. Despite Hegel having a more general definition of the psyche, what I really liked about Hegel’s piece is the Lordship and Bondage aspect when one consciousness encounters another. For Freud, I do like the three branches with the id, ego, and super-ego, but it is a more internal explanation. Hegel, on the other hand, really addresses how one consciousness effects another.

    So in my opinion, both have valid points. I actually tend to favor Hegel, probably because I have closely read his piece multiple times for essays and have a great appreciation for his work, despite it being very lengthy and confusing at first.

  3. This is a well written post that has deepened my understanding of both Hegel and Freud. After reading this post, I feel that Freud’s model is more effective. It has three parts of our psyche working in harmony together to create a single experience. However, people sometimes experience indecisiveness or confusion. Freud would argue that this is caused by contradicting effects that the id, ego, and super-ego can have on each other. I believe that the mind does not operate as an all-encompassing “I” but rather as a network consisting of multiple entities.

  4. Moses I really like your input!! I discussed this post in my meeting with Jordan yesterday, and I think I do have some flaws with this post that makes Freud seem most effective as you have pointed out. I stuck mostly to discussing the ‘I’ and sense-certainty, but Hegel proposes so many more ideas that I could not discuss in just 500 words. He also brings up many more concepts about how the consciousness works in relation to another, when they come in contact in Lordship and Bondage, and how one can idenify his or herself through negation.
    These ideas just scratch the surface of Hegel’s piece in its entirety, and I will actually be pairing the two authors, Hegel and Freud, in my final essay! So if you are interested in the parallels I draw between the two for my essay, we can discuss them on Monday when I re-read and write my thesis and outline.

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