Freud's Letter to Einstein: Meaning and Interpretation

Letter to Einstein is a world famous letter written by the 20th century well known psychologist Sigmund Freud to the famous physicist Albert Einstein. Freud wrote the letter after the First World War in the response of Einstein because Einstein had already written a letter to Freud asking him causes and solution of war. Einstein had also asked Freud weather the problem of war can be solved permanently.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

In response, Freud has written about his opinion on how war happens and what can be the solution of the problem of war. But before writing about the causes and solution of war Freud has briefly described about the history of war. The question where might is right as the cause of war asked by Einstein is replied by Freud that might is violence.

Then he says that in the primitive age there was also war among the people but at that time physical power was the means of war. In the Stone Age because of the invention of the stone weapons, physical strength was replaced by mental strength because a person having the skill of using the weapon dominated others in the war. In the modern age due to the advanced weapons can dominate others in the war. Sigmund Freud also says that international law and different diplomatic politicians are also weapons of war used by the powerless to fight with the powerful ones.

Freud after describing the history of war describing about the causes of war, he considers there are mainly two causes of war which are material and psychological cause. Material cause of war is the conflict of desires. When two or more than two individuals or parties desire only one object at the same time they cannot achieve it because the object is only one . There conflicting desires of getting the object lead them towards war. After the war the individual or the party who gets victory in war is the owner in the human history that has happened due to the conflict of desires.

Secondly Freud considers Psychological cause as another cause of war. To describe about it he explores human mind and concludes that human mind is dominated alternatively by two instincts or psychological forces which are hadeotic and erotic. The former comes from the word hade which means hell and the later comes from form the word Eros which means love when Erotic instinct dominates our mind we become creative and love to each other so it is positive force. But when Hadeotic instinct dominates our mind we become destructive and desire destruction and death everywhere. So psychologically when we are dominated by Hadeotic force, we desire war. It is the psychological cause of war according to Freud.

Freud also writes about the solution of war and he says that there is only temporary solution of war which has no permanent solution. Before describing about the permanent solution of war he describes about different temporary solutions of war. He says that development of culture using the world wide organizational power and fulfilling of the desires are the means of temporary solution of war. Freud says that establishing the culture against war is one of the ways the temporary solution of war.

There are two ways of developing culture: one ways is to establish a powerful authority in the society and giving strong punishment to the person or the party who makes war. When the war maker is punished by the authority, the others are also suppressed. But Freud says that it cannot be more effective. Another culture to present war is the planting of anti war fewer in the human mind such a culture should be developed that all the people should be tied up in the feeling of fraternity. When individual is having feeling of such brother, hood and sister hood, they do not think of war. But it is also not effective for ever. It can work temporarily.

Another way of the temporary solution of the war is establishing of League of Nations which was the subject of discussion at that time is a positive point to prevent war temporarily. Freud says that such organizations should have military power of all the countries so that it should be used between the war making groups. Such military force can prevent the battle on the one hand and on the other hand there should be peace talk even on the table. The concept of making such organization gave birth to the present UNO and as Freud says that military force of the UNO has been involved on preventing war.

The third way of preventing war, according to Freud is the fulfillment of human desire. In this, point Freud criticizes the Bolshevists who claimed that all human desires can be fulfilled and war can be prevented forever. In Freud’s belief this is just an illusion that war can never be prevented permanently. By fulfilling human desires, it can be prevented temporarily but not permanently, because all human desires are impossible to fulfill, when desires are unfulfilled and when there is conflict of desires, there is always the possibility of war.

Finally Freud comes to explain why the permanent solution of war is impossible. He says that after the long exploration in to human mind by the psychologist, they came to conclude that human psychology is alternately dominated by two opposite instincts: Hadeotic and Erotic the former is negative and destructive psychotically force while the later is positive and creative love force. When Erotic force dominates our psychology we become creative and we love to each other. But when Hadeotic force dominates us we are so much destructive and we desire death everywhere. Freud also claims that psychologist and neurotics have studied to change the Hadeotic instinct in to totality of Erotic instinct. In other words, it was attempted to make the human mind only as the domination of erotic instinct by eliminating the Hadeotic instinct but it was beyond human control. Naturally human mind is divided in to Hadeotic and erotic instincts so that no human attempts can alter it that’s why Freud says that the permanent solution of war is quite impossible because until and unless the Hadeotic force remains in to our mind. We always become destructive. Hadeotic force dominates human psychology universally so the problem of war remains in the human world universally, it makes the permanent solution of war is impossible. Freud reminds Einstein as well as the readers that we should be pacifists but we cannot prevent the war. We should accept war like the acceptance of other thing in life; He even says that not all wars are negative because some wars can be remedy for ailing humanity. So some wars positively change the world of disorder in to the world of order and harmony. He tries to persuade us that he is not supporting war saying that some wars are positive but he is talking about the nature of war and he is saying that war is negative but it is beyond our control so it should be accepted.