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Weiss, F.A. (1951). The World. Am. J. Psychoanal., 11(1):60-62.

(1951). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 11(1):60-62

The World

Frederick A. Weiss

In deciding to speak about “The World” as my part in this Symposium, I was well aware that by some it might be considered presumptuous for a psychoanalyst to attempt discussion of a problem of such magnitude. It is true that social, economic and political forces which transcend the field of individual psychology are involved, but these are not abstract nor impersonal forces of nature. They are human forces and their actions reflect human motivations. Since psychoanalysis is concerned with human motivations, it is, therefore, not only the right but the duty of the analyst to study and evaluate these larger aspects. When a friend of mine recently said to me, “This whole world, filled with irrational anxieties and hostilities, belongs on the psychoanalytical couch,” he did not mean that the whole world should be analyzed. What he really meant was that to get real peace, we need more than political changes: we need changes in men themselves. “Wars start in the minds of men.” Psychoanalysis can help, therefore, in preventing war.

Modern psychoanalysis no longer sees wars as the inevitable result of the workings of the death instinct, or of competitive aggression rooted in anal-erotic drives. We agree with Julian Huxley that “human nature contains no war instinct.” We believe that in human nature there are constructive forces moving toward growth, self-realization and peaceful cooperation with others. History shows at least as many examples of constructive cooperation as of destructive aggression. Mankind could not have survived unless, again and again, courageous cooperation against the threats of nature had prevailed. That this drive of the real self toward healthy growth and constructive cooperation is not always manifest does not disprove its existence.

In 1814, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“Some men are born without the organs of sight, or of hearing, or without hands. Yet it would be wrong to say that man is born without these faculties, and sight, hearing, and hands may with truth enter into the general definition of man. The want or imperfection of the moral sense in some men, like the want or imperfection of the sense of sight and hearing in others, is no proof that it is a general characteristic of the species…. I sincerely believe in the general existence of a moral instinct.

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