(c) 2020 Vernon Miles Kerr, VernonMilesKerr.com, WritersClass.net
Is Goodness for wimps? Is Goodness “relative”? Can acts be attributed to Goodness in one context but not in another? Is there a spirit of Goodness, infusing some people, but not others? Or is Goodness merely one quality of a normal, healthy human mind? I believe it is, but the operative word is “healthy.” Mental and/or social “health” is another relative judgment call — but there are some physical concepts, that can help.
Curiously, Sigmund Freud’s ideas and the design of the UNIX computer operating system — used by the Apple MacIntosh and by large Industrial networks — both apply to human Goodness, in that they both have a layered approach. Freud was on the right track with his Id, Ego, and Superego.
- The Id is the lizard brain. (UNIX’s Hardware layer.) The Id is our mechanical, knee-jerk self-protective, self-aggrandizing layer. Eating, reproducing…
- The Ego: Where Self-awareness and awareness of others commingle to form personality. (UNIX’s Kernel andShells, which handle input & output)
- The Superego: The social layer, the safety-dependent group-affiliation layer where culture & manners reside.(UNIX’s Utilities/Applications layer)
The Superego is where Goodness lives. It’s the safe-place where humanity as a species rises or falls. An individual can basically “exist”with only layers 1 & 2 but Goodness cannot. A healthy individual, naturally incorporates layer 3. An unhealthy person such as a sociopath can only feign an association with the Superego level. He or she uses that false-impression, that false-Goodness as camouflage in order to support layers 1 and 2 — in order to promote “self” rather than to promote “humanity.”
For our own self-protection we need to recognize the camouflage, and then structure our interactions with such people. For the protection of humanity, we need to improve delivery of mental-health services and to adopt methods to avoid hiring or electing such people if the position or office being filled potentially puts human lives at risk.
2 thoughts on “Opinion | Goodness”
This is a brilliant piece, and yet your description of the Freudian system is not fully accurate. As I understand it, the super-ego is not coterminous with goodness, but an overeager emissary of the Parents, of Society, of the most judgmental aspects of the person. The other extreme of the Superego is the id, which you describe fairly and well. The ego is the consequence of the clash or meeting or encounter or even marriage of Superego and Id, and it remains somewhat delicate as it is being buffeted by both throughout life. After all, we need our id, but an unchecked id is dangerous, and we need our superego but we can’t surrender to it fully lest we neglect our own inner, sometimes bodily imperatives. I’m not in a position to judge the comparison to hardware/software, but I have often wondered if these psychological categories make much sense anymore. Since you know German, you might check out the original German terminology Freud used. Far more expressive than the English translation.
AND something you say in passing strikes me as “problematic,” It is not that we “don’t deliver mental health care,” it’s that we have no idea how to fix or cure or often just mitigate mental health conditions! I Manfred >
Thanks, Professor. I agree with your assessment completely. The analogy between computer-tech and Freud’s tripartite concept was a tiny stretch. I agree that Freud meant the Superego to be more in the middle, so that the parental and societal aspects of it acted more as a mediator between the Id and Ego. In computer software there’s lots of talk about “stacks,” usually with the earliest and most simple software or data on the bottom and increasingly dependent software stacked on top. My view of the human psyche-stack is more: 1. Lizard Brain, 2. Social Instincts (as in apes and canines) 3. Language-enabled ideas of morality, culture (even myth and religion) Maybe someday there will be a #4, where myth and religion are left behind. 🙂 I really appreciate your thoughts, and I’m curious now to go read Freud in the original German.