Erich Fromm is a well-known humanistic
psychologist who has published much on the
role of freedom in the psychological
development of man. Three of his books
are quoted here: The Fear of Freedom, Man for himself and The Sane
Society. Fromm doesn't write about
the position of animals, what he does write
about are the differences and similarities
between man and animal.
If man is not free, or lacking sound relations, then he can be destructive instead of creative. Vulnerability without strength leads to irritation under stress. In our current diseased society economical freedom leads to a selfishness unleashed, which is something we need to outgrow.
We will quote - non joining - parts of his book The Sane Society, sometimes with our own headings. The (1 column) quotes illustrate the nature of human development and the accompanying problems. We extend his recommendations (in the 2 adjacent columns) to the interaction with animals.
Chapter 3 The human situation, key to humanistic psychology.
When a person is born, and this goes for the human race as a whole as well as for the individual, he finds himself thrown out of a situation that was well-defined and specific, just as specific as the instincts, into a new situation, unspecific, unsure and open. Security exists here only compared to the past, and for the future only with respect to a certain death, which in fact is a return to the past, to the inorganic stage of lifeless matter. And thus the problem of human existence is wholly unique in nature as we know it. Man has fallen from nature, and at the same time remained inside it, part divine and part animal, part infinite and part finite. There is the necessity of ever finding new solutions to contradictions in his existence and to found ever higher forms of unity with nature, the source of which lies in all the psychic powers determining human behavior, the source of all his passions, experiences and fears.
There is only one passion that succeeds in fulfilling man's need for bonding with the world and to give him a sense of human integrity and personality at the same time, namely love. Love is a bonding with something or someone outside the self, on the condition that personal independence and human integrity are preserved. It's an experience of participation and community that first brings about the complete realization of inner strength and possibility. The true perception of love alleviates the need for false images. There's no need to devaluate the image of the other or myself because the truth of actively participating and loving enables me to step beyond my individual separate existence, and at the same time to meet myself as the bearer of active forces that bring about the love act. What matters is not the object, but the specific quality of love. This love lies in the experiencing of human solidarity with our fellow man as well as in the erotic love between man and woman, in the love of a mother for a child, but also in one's love for himself as a human being, and finally it is found in the mystical experience of unity. In the act of love I am one with the All, yet at the same time I am myself, a non-reproducible, separate, limited and mortal human being. Because precisely from this polarity between separateness and unity love is born and reborn.
Real care for animals is also about preventing dependency, to give the animal the opportunity to function independently and naturally.
In every step towards a new phase in life, whether he makes it himself or is forced into it, man becomes freer and more bound at the same time. Every phase offers possibilities and insecurities, that may turn out positively or negatively. In Fromm´s text there is an implicit explanation for the pointless violence in our society and for our indifferent attitude toward animals in industrial farming.
Man as creation, creator and destructor
Another aspect of the human situation, closely connected
to solidarity, is the situation of man as a creation,
together with the necessity of breaking out of precisely
this condition of having been purely passively created.
Man is thrown into this world without his knowledge,
consent or wish, and is also taken out of it without
his will or consent. In this sense he is no different
from animals, plant-life or the inorganic. But precisely
because he has been gifted with reason and imagination,
he cannot resign himself to this passive role of being
a creation, and he turns into a ´creator´,
driven by a pressing need to transgress his passive
creature-hood and the coincidence of his existence.
Now this creation presupposes personal activity and
care, and also the love for that which is created. So
how could man solve the problem of transcending himself,
if he is neither able to create, nor to love? There
is another answer to this necessity for transcendence:
if I cannot create life, then at least I can destroy
it. Because even the destruction of life is a form of
transcendence. Indeed, it is no less wondrous that man
can destroy life than that he can create it. After all,
life is the great, unfathomable wonder. In the destructive
act man sets himself above life, and steps beyond himself
as a creature. So man, as far as he is driven to transcend,
is left with a choice to create or to destroy, to love
or to hate. The enormous power of the desire to destroy
which we have felt all through man's history and which
we witnessed during our own time, is rooted inside human
nature as much as the drive to create. The saying that
man is able to develop his primary capacity to love
and reason, does not imply a naive faith in human goodness
per se. The destructive is a secondary possibility,
rooting just as much in the fashion of existence of
man and with the same intensity and power as all other
passions, which does not clash with what I said in Man
for Himself about destructiveness as the ´result
of an unlived life´.
According to Fromm, humanity is at a crossroads. One path leads to the road to freedom, but is coupled with fear. The other path leads to a repetition of history.
Man faces the
same choices as humankind, every time the society or
he himself is freed further.
|As long as the individualization process
has not reached the stage where the individual rises above
these primary bonds, the ´I´ is still ´we´,
and he is certain of himself as long and as far as the
group is functioning. The development of modern society
led to the dissolution of these primary bonds. Modern
man is essentially alone, he must be able to stand on
his own two feet and be able to handle anything independently.
A true sense of self can only be reached by developing
the non-reproducible and specific entity that ´he´
is for as much as he can truly say ´I am me´.
This achievement is only possible if he realizes his potential
in such a way that he can connect to the world without
being undone by it, meaning that he attains a creative
The estranged man on the other hand tries to solve the issue another way, namely by conforming to his surroundings. He only feels secure and safe if he resembles his fellow man as much as possible. His highest purpose is to achieve approval of others, and his greatest fear is having to live without it. Being different, or belonging to a minority, is a danger that threatens his feeling of security. The consequence is a search for limitless conformism. The feeling of guilt with regard to sin that controlled people's lives some generations back, has now been replaced by a feeling of discomfort and insecurity with respect to being different.
chapter 9 Fromm describes the human situation.
From free man
he becomes an automaton, treating himself and other
- animals as well - as things and keeping others from
these achievements. One characteristic of an automaton
is that he can function separately from other people,
but also that he is insensitive. The difference between
him and a man is that an automaton cannot hate.
... automatons, willingly following without violence, can be led without leaders, and can make machines that operate as people, in their turn creating people acting as automatons. In short, they are people whose reason pines away while their sense increases, and thus create the dangerous situation that man is equipped with the greatest material power possible but without the wisdom to use it. This alienation and automation leads to increasing mental unhealthiness. Life has no meaning, there is no real happiness, no faith, no reality. Everyone is 'happy', but no-one really feels, has reason and loves. In the nineteenth century the problem was that 'God was dead', in the twentieth century man is dead. In the nineteenth century inhumanity meant cruelty, in the twentieth it meant schizoid self-alienation. Slavery was the danger in the past, but the danger in the future is that man turns into an automaton. And it is all too true that automatons do not revolt. But in view of human nature these automatons cannot live and be healthy. They will turn into 'golems' and destroy the world and themselves because they can no longer stand the boredom of life without meaning.
War and automation are our great perils. Our
only remaining alternative is to radically leave the
wrong path and set foot on the road to human self-realization.
The first condition for this is to remove the threat
of war that grips us all, and that paralyses faith and
initiative. We must take responsibility for all people's
lives and internationally develop that which all great
countries have established internally up to now, namely
a part of prosperity for everyone and a better distribution
of the economical sources of prosperity. This should
finally lead to the formation of an international economical
cooperation, of global government and to full disarmament.
We must maintain the industrial method, but decentralize
labor and state so that they gain human proportions,
and allow a certain minimum of centralization required
Thus far Fromm´s
We at Animal
Freedom think that with inner
liberation human abilities must also be employed
for freedom for animals.