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Knapp, H.D. (1995). Psychoanalysis and Ethics: An Issue for Our Time. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 4(4):255-262.

(1995). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 4(4):255-262

Psychoanalysis and Ethics: An Issue for Our Time

Harriet D Knapp, Ph.D.

Freud's disdain of ethics, which he equated with religious commands, inhibited psychoanalysts from writing on this topic for many years. He proposed the internalization of parental commands as the genesis of superego, the agency responsible for conscience, and the internalization of the Deity (through the Second Commandment), as the genesis of a spiritualized religion. Both ideas were consequences of Freud's biblical exegesis, his identification with Moses, and his conflictual feelings regarding his own Jewish identity. It is the view of this paper that Freud overlooked the true roots of the Judaic ethic, which appeared only after defeat by the Babylonians had dismantled the Jewish State, and disempowered the monarchy and theocracy, providing room for more democratic ideas, incorporating concepts of social justice. A review of the writings of cognitive theorists finds that they emphasize freedom as the prerequisite for ethical thinking, an origin which the current paper finds as parallel with the real biblical roots of ethics; whereas Freud's superego is, paradoxically, more concordant with religion than ethics.

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