Man for Himself: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics
“There is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives his life by the unfolding of his powers.” —Erich Fromm
Are we primarily determined by nature or nurture? What are the best ways that people can live productively? In Man for Himself, renowned social philosopher Erich Fromm posits: With the gifts of self-consciousness and imagination, any individual can give his or her own unique answer. This answer is rooted in our human nature, and should correspond to mankind’s powers of reason and love. Therefore, Fromm reasons, “living itself is an art.” In his humanistic concept of man, Fromm describes various character orientations that are to be found in Western culture. For the first time, Fromm analyzes the parallels between economic concepts of market value and how we value others and ourselves—the idea of personality as a commodity. He argues for a return to humanistic ethics, and discusses issues such as the question of conscience, of selfishness and self-love, and of pleasure and happiness. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Erich Fromm including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s estate.
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"Man for Himself" might be a good book, but it is also, in some ways, a limited and dated one. It seems written in the shadow of twentieth-century totalitarianisms, and Fromm's confidence in Freudian ... Read full review
The author extends Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham's theory of character types. Unlike these psychoanalysts who see character in terms of reaction formation and sublimation of fixated sexual and aggressive drives Erich Fromm views human character as being the result of early socialisation and the attitude the child takes to its dawning consciousness of its separateness from the mother. How the child deals with this separateness and the freedom it brings defines the character of the child. In this respect the author is closer to Heidegger than Freud. In fact he uses Heidegger's terminology of authenticity and the call of conscience in his explanations of human character. At the same time the author rejects Heidegger's idea that humans have no real self. Indeed From regards inauthentic being as a retreat from the real individual self. It is this acceptance of one's own and others freedom and individuality that underlies the author's take on the ethical core of human beings. Unlike Freud and Heidegger, Erich Fromm saw morality and ethics as having a reality that could not be reduced to drive mechanisms or contemporary social practices but that was inherent in the human condition of self awareness and choice. Human beings may try to escape this truth but by doing so the result is psychopathology and destructiveness..
Although Fromm is out of style I believe he is probably one of the great social theorist of the 20th century being able to create a in-genius synthesis of classical psychoanalysis, existentialism, humanism and Marxism. His synthesis is completely coherent and should be read by everyone interested in explaining and understanding human behaviour. His writing style is superbly clear and accessible without a trace of the overly complex pretentiousness found in other modern psychoanalytic writers. Fromm can be read on his own since he is able to write so clearly but at the same time a knowledge of other authors works like Freud, his close colleague Karen Horney, Martin Heidegger and Karl Marx deepens one's appreciation of his ideas.