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What do we know about Sigmund Freud's theories?
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Sexual desire

Perhaps Freud's most famous theory, Freud had very controversial views on the construction of sexuality.
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The Argument

Freud redefined sexual desire as mobile and directed towards a wide variety of objects.[1] Freud maintained that conflicts among the id, ego, and superego change over time as a person grows and they progress through a series of five basic stages, each with a different focus - oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. Each psychosexual stage directly related to a different physical centre of pleasure. Across these stages, the child is presented with different conflicts between their biological drives (id) and their social and moral conscience (superego) because their biological pleasure-seeking urges focus on different areas of the body (what Freud called “erogenous zones”). The child’s ability to resolve these internal conflicts determines their future ability to cope and function as an adult. Failure to resolve a stage can lead one to become fixated in that stage, leading to unhealthy personality traits; successful resolution of the stages leads to a healthy adult.[2] In1896, Freud announced his ‘seduction theory’ that sexual abuse in infancy was the source of hysterical symptoms. The paper was greeted with derision and called a “scientific fairy tale.” By 1897, Freud adapted his theory, stating that patients were not remembering actual molestation, but their own sexual fantasies due to the Oedipus complex. From infancy, all children have aggressive and erotic feelings about their parents, but they repress those feelings out of fear: for boys, the fear is of castration; girls, as they are traumatized eventually to discover, are already castrated as they have no penis.[3]

Counter arguments

Some Freud followers believe he changed his seduction theory due to social pressure that could not believe that child sexual abuse was widespread in Victorian Vienna. Increased understanding might indicate that his first theory was more likely than his second.


[P1] All children go through psychosexual stages. [P2] Many children confuse their own childhood sexual fantasies for molestation.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] This theory is inaccurate, produced only due to social pressure.


This page was last edited on Monday, 23 Mar 2020 at 12:37 UTC

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