Freud’s Theory of Dream Interpretation as the
Reflection of the Legacy of the Enlightenment
The problem of the legacy of the Enlightenment traditionally
attracted the attention of many specialists, including the
most significant ones which made a great contribution in the
development of modern science. One of such specialists is
Sigmund Freud who could not ignore the legacy of the Enlightenment
in his works, even though it was not the main goal of his
researches. In this respect, it is worthy of mention his theory
of dream interpretation which seems to be the most closely
related to Freud’s views on the legacy of the Enlightenment
and, at the same time, represents a profound work on the problem
of dream and its perception by human beings.
On analyzing his theory of dream interpretation, it is primarily
necessary to point out that Sigmund Freud has developed his
theory of dream interpretation at the epoch when such concepts
as superego and id have not been clearly defined yet and which,
nonetheless, could be found in his work dedicated to the problem
of dream research. Moreover, the concepts of superego and
id are directly linked to Freud’s views on the Enlightenment.
Nonetheless, in order to properly understand his views on
the legacy of the Enlightenment, it is necessary to point
out that his theory of dream interpretation has played probably
the crucial role here. According to the researcher, human
dreams could be interpreted and they are actually the result
of the combination of work of individuals’ preconscious
and unconscious. Sigmund Freud insists that human dreams are
just a sort of fulfillment of human wishes, which are not
realized in real life but find their realization in human
dreams. In such a way, he views dreams as a way of the realization
of individuals’ wishes on the subconscious level when
human body is in a state of somber and, what is more, Freud
underlines that, normally, these wishes cannot be realized
in real life.
At the same time, he argues that these wishes are disguised
within a dream and, consequently, it is necessary to clearly
structure dreams in order to fully realize the wishes hidden
within the dreams. In fact, this is where the link to the
legacy of the Enlightenment seems to be particularly strong
since Freud attempt to understand how human wishes could be
understood through the correct interpretation and analysis
of dreams. Moreover, on developing his theory, he focuses
on the problem whether it is possible to effectively interpret
dreams and, thus, be able to better understand the internal
world of an individual his/her inclinations and tendency dominating
in his/her psychology or current state of mind.
In order to better understand the extent, to which the dreams
could be interpreted and hidden wishes understood, Sigmund
Freud, in the result of numerous researches, develops four
major transformations which help properly interpret dreams
and understand human wishes avoiding censorship of conscience.
The first transformation is condensation. According to Freud,
this means that one dream object may stand for several thoughts.
Practically, it means that, when an individual dream some
object, it is possible certain associations with some thoughts
that could be related to this object, at least for the concrete
individual. In such a way, Freud stands on the ground that
it is possible to enlighten human internal world by means
of interpreting of his dreams objects but, it is worthy of
noting that this transformation limits dreams interpretation
and enlightenment to the object world. It means that the enlightenment
cannot overcome the boundaries of objects that are equivalent
of certain thoughts or wishes of an individual.
Furthermore, another transformation that Freud singles out
in his theory is displacement. This transformation implies
that a dream object’s physical importance is assigned
to an object that does not raise the censor’s suspicions.
In other words, being applied to the Enlightenment, this means
that the dream objects do not actually disturb human conscience
but instead acquire some plausible forms in order to be perceived
as natural objects without any strong resistance from the
part of an individual. In terms of the legacy of the Enlightenment,
it means that, according to Freud, the Enlightenment should
be perceived by an individual in a comprehensible form without
provoking any suspicions concerning its realism or naturalism.
The third transformation that Freud singles out is representation.
Basically, representation is viewed by Freud as a thought
that is translated to visual images. It should be said that,
to a certain extent, visual images here are similar to dream
objects in condensation and, consequently, it has similar
limitations in terms of the legacy of the Enlightenment. To
put it more precisely, an individual’s perception is
limited only by imagery tools and, consequently, this transformation
may be viewed as supplementary and enlarging the condensation
and dream objects interpretation.
Finally, Freud speaks about symbolism, when a symbol replaces
an action, person, or idea. In such a way, the dream interpretation
as well as the Enlightenment acquires predicative function
when some thoughts and images may be accomplished by interpretation
of actions and even ideas.
Nevertheless, it should be said that Sigmund Freud apparently
indicates at certain limitations of the Enlightenment as he
underlines that there exist censorship which an individual
has to permanently overcome if he/she wishes to either interpret
his dreams and hidden wishes or enlighten his/her internal
world. In this respect, it should be said that human unconscious,
Freudian id, rather tend to depict individuals hidden wishes
fulfilled while human preconscious, Freudian superego, cannot
allow it disguising wishes within human dreams.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible
to conclude that Sigmund Freud develops a profound theory
of dream interpretation and, at the same time, reflects on
the legacy of the enlightenment. Eventually, he arrives to
the conclusion that it is possible to interpret hidden wishes
of individuals through dream interpretation understanding
dream objects, images, symbol, etc. but human preconscious
constantly limits the Enlightenment and disguises the real
wishes of individuals.
1. Strachey, J. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. New
York: Random House, 2005.