Civilization and Its Discontents

The Golden Rule Symbol Analysis

The Golden Rule Symbol Icon

Although not always a symbol in itself, in general usage, the Golden Rule is, for Freud, an indication of the errors of the Christian value system, and of Western morality in general. The Golden Rule, as Jesus formulates it in the Gospels, says that one ought to “do unto others what one would want others to do unto oneself.” This forms the basis of a communal and selfless moral and social system, at least in its ideal religious conception. But Freud, throughout Civilization and Its Discontents, believes that societies are not founded on this kind of generosity alone. Instead, all “civilized” groups of men and women are bonded by the competing impulses of the individual (the selfish) and the social (the selfless). In addition, societies must wrestle with the competing human desires of love (eros) and death (thanatos) – the first of which causes people to join in sexual and romantic relationships, and the second which spurs people to destroy those relationships, and the social structures surrounding them. This theory of drives, which underlies Freud’s system of psychoanalytic social psychology, is, according to Freud, a more accurate representation of human behavior than the demanding and ultimately impractical Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule Quotes in Civilization and Its Discontents

The Civilization and Its Discontents quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Golden Rule. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Norton edition of Civilization and Its Discontents published in 2010.
Chapter 4 Quotes

Perhaps St. Francis of Assisi went furthest in exploiting love for the benefit of an inner feeling of happiness.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Golden Rule
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

Not merely is this stranger in general unworthy of my love; I must honestly confess that he has more claim to my hostility and even my hatred. He seems not have the least trace of love for me and shows me not the slightest consideration.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Golden Rule
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Golden Rule Symbol Timeline in Civilization and Its Discontents

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Golden Rule appears in Civilization and Its Discontents. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Individuality vs. Social Bonds Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Happiness Theme Icon
Suffering, Aggression, and Death Theme Icon
Religion, Delusion, and Belief Theme Icon
...religion—a love of all mankind, and the injunction to “love one’s neighbor as oneself” (the Golden Rule )—is an aberration, something nearly impossible for most humans to manage. (full context)
Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Social Bonds Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Happiness Theme Icon
Suffering, Aggression, and Death Theme Icon
Religion, Delusion, and Belief Theme Icon
Freud investigates the “ Golden Rule ” in greater detail, arguing that it is an impractical injunction for two reasons. First,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Social Bonds Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Happiness Theme Icon
Suffering, Aggression, and Death Theme Icon
Religion, Delusion, and Belief Theme Icon
Freud then turns his attention back to the concept of the Golden Rule , which he seeks to analyze, and to debunk, in greater detail. For, Freud argues,... (full context)