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The Path Not Taken: Self-Restriction in Nietzsche, Freud, and Plato

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Title: The Path Not Taken: Self-Restriction in Nietzsche, Freud, and Plato
Author: Lowenthal, Matthew H.
Advisor: Wright, Kathleen; Miller, Jerry
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Philosophy
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: The idea of a physical path is commonly used as a metaphor for different situations in life. Three different philosophers also make arguments that can be viewed in terms of a path. Nietzsche’s notion of the promise in On the Genealogy of Morals is akin to a path in that the promiser vows to achieve a goal and follow a course of action that is required to get there. Freud’s idea of normal human sexuality in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality can also be seen as a path in that he feels it is normal for a person to narrow down their initially vast sexual impulses and conform to the normal straight path. This idea is also expressed in Plato’s Phaedrus when the character of Socrates claims that he never leaves the city walls because there is nothing to learn outside of them. All three of these philosophers promote the idea that sticking to a path is more valuable than deviating from it; deviating is seen as a sign of weakness, or psychological illness, or just valueless. Although these philosophers go to great lengths to promote these views, their arguments are undone by the internal contradictions and ambiguities of the arguments themselves. Nietzsche’s promise is based on the existence of memory, but memory is actually a product of forgetfulness, which Nietzsche says is valuable, and could not exist without it. Freud concedes that there may be no person who actually follows his normal path of sexuality, and that to deviate from the path actually is normal. Plato’s Socrates realizes upon deviating from his path that there is much to be learned outside the city walls, and that deviating from it can help him appreciate the path even more. Though this does not prove that deviating from the path is actually more valuable than sticking to it, it does suggest that such valuations are not as clear as the three philosophers would make it seem.
Subject: Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900 -- Contributions in philosophy of self
Subject: Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939 -- Contributions in philosophy of self
Subject: Self (Philosophy)
Subject: Plato -- Contributions in philosophy of self
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Lowenthal, Matthew H.. "The Path Not Taken: Self-Restriction in Nietzsche, Freud, and Plato". 2012. Available electronically from

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