In a world in which violence seems to be increasing, social philosopher Erich Fromm has treated this haunting question with depth and scope in the most original and far-reaching work of his brilliant career. Conceding that there is a kind of aggression which man shares with animals, Fromm shows that it is defensive in nature, designed to insure survival. On the other hand, malignant aggression, or destructiveness, in which man kills without biological or social purpose, is peculiarly human and not instinctive; it is one of the passions, like ambition or greed. Drawing on findings of neurophysiology, prehistory, anthropology, and animal psychology, Fromm presents a global and historical study of human destructiveness that enables readers to evaluate the data for themselves.
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If one truly responds to man and his future, i. Rational faith as well as rational despair are based on the most thorough, critical knowledge of all the factors that are relevant for the survival of man.
The basis of rational faith in man is the presence of a real possibility for his salvation: the basis for rational despair would be the knowledge that no such possibility can be seen. Yet the spreading of irrational despair is in itself destructive, as all untruth is; it discourages and confuses. Preaching irrational faith or announcing false Messiahs is hardly less destructive — it seduces and then paralyzes.
This, indeed, is why cynicism is so seductive in our present culture — a particularly pernicious form of defeatist resignation masquerading as empowered critical thinking. Fromm captures this brilliantly: The attitude of the majority is neither that of faith nor that of despair, but, unfortunately, that of complete indifference to the future of man. They live just as comfortably and are just as little engaged.
They do not feel despair; if they did, they would not, and could not, live as contentedly as they do. And while their pessimism functions largely to protect the pessimists from any inner demand to do something, by projecting the idea that nothing can be done, the optimists defend them selves against the same inner demand by persuading them selves that everything is moving in the right direction anyway, so nothing needs to be done.
To have faith means to dare, to think the unthinkable, yet to act within the limits of the realistically possible; it is the paradoxical hope to expect the Messiah every day, yet not to lose heart when he has not come at the appointed hour. This hope is not passive and it is not patient; on the contrary, it is impatient and active, looking for every possibility of action within the realm of real possibilities.
Critical and radical thought will only bear fruit when it is blended with the most precious quality man is endowed with — the love of life. Complement The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness , a rousing read in its entirety, with some thoughts on hope, cynicism, and the stories we tell ourselves and a beautiful reflection on how to anchor our humanity in turbulent times , then revisit Fromm on having vs.
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The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
During the summer semester of , Fromm studied at the University of Heidelberg , where he began studying sociology under Alfred Weber brother of the better known sociologist Max Weber , psychiatrist-philosopher Karl Jaspers , and Heinrich Rickert. Fromm received his PhD in sociology from Heidelberg in They married in , but separated shortly after and divorced in He began his own clinical practice in In he joined the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and completed his psychoanalytical training. Their relationship ended in the late s. Meanwhile, he taught as a professor of psychology at Michigan State University from to and as an adjunct professor of psychology at the graduate division of Arts and Sciences at New York University after
The job had been obtained for me, and others of our friends, by Mike and Tom Miley whose mother, Helen, was working as the business manager there. After graduating from seminary she was kind enough to employ me again until I found more regular work. The position at the club was a peach. My duties consisted of guarding the service entrance, the most onerous part of which was having to arrive before the other workers did early in the morning. I must have read a hundred books that summer, often more than one in an eight-hour day. Quite contrary to the point Fromm is making. The first and shortest part of the book is dedicated to a discussion of psychological theory Instinctivism vs.
Erich Fromm - The Anatomy Of Human Destructiveness