As my last note on Independence Day, I’m republishing my earlier article on the Freud-Einstein letters, which were published as the monograph Why War? The article links to a resource that provides readers with the full text of Why War?
Some of the thoughts underlying some of my last the few postings have led once more to my thinking about the question: Why War? This again reminded me of the letters between Freud and Einstein investigating the nature of war, wherein they hoped (although not optimistically) that we might be able to find the means to prevent wars. The letters were published as a very limited edition monograph (2,000 copies), entitled Why War? Careful readers of the Freud letters contained within that monograph will especially note that Freud conceptualized his professional identity there as a psychologist, rather than as a psychoanalyst.
I find the conclusion of the correspondences to be extremely striking. Specifically, the conclusion of their investigation into the causes of war was that its root lay in psychosis, and that war is a clear example of collective psychosis:
Because man has within him a lust for hatred and destruction. In normal times this passion exists in a latent state, it emerges only in unusual circumstances; but it is a comparatively easy task to call it into play and raise it to the power of a collective psychosis. Here lies, perhaps, the crux of all the complex factors we are considering, an enigma that only the expert in the lore of human instincts can resolve.
And so we come to our last question. Is it possible to control man’s mental evolution so as to make him proof against the psychosis of hate and destructiveness?