Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) suggested in A Difficulty of Psychoanalysis that mankind’s self-esteem has suffered three great vexations or humiliations.
These three humiliations are cosmological, biological and psychological:
- The man believed the Earth in the center of the universe. But it is not.
- The man believed himself superior to the animal. But it is not.
- The man finally believed himself the master of his own soul. But it is not so.
Each of these vexations has been inflicted by scientific research.
- The first vexation was thus inflicted by Nicolaus Copernicus; at least we attribute it to him. For already before him, the Pythagoreans and Aristarchus of Samos (3rd century BC) had proposed the idea that the Earth was not the center.
- The second vexation was inflicted by the work of Charles Darwin. It is thanks to him that we know that the human being is an animal like any other, and that there is no “gap” between the essence of animals and that of human beings.
- The third vexation – even if Sigmund Freud does not name himself – was inflicted by the discovery of the unconscious. The idea that the soul has several instances, with drives, and that it is therefore not sovereign.
Revealing the loss of reference points of human beings, these explanations undoubtedly contributed to the designation of Sigmund Freud as a “philosopher of suspicion”.