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Deontology and the Superego

Deontology and the Superego

(p.113) Chapter Eleven Deontology and the Superego
Moral Stealth
University of Chicago Press

Deontology refers to one's obligations and personal imperatives, the language used to inform these, and their origin and development. Most analysts and therapists claim that the concept of the superego is the psychic repository of duties and ethical obligation. The psychoanalytic study which is devoted to the development and status of the superego is often mistakenly understood as coterminous with the broader field of deontology and ethics in general. A separate area of the superego has been identified as the ego ideal; the primary affect associated with problems in this psychic structure is shame. The explanations offered by Sigmund Freud and classical psychoanalysis assume that a normative principle operates in superego and ego ideal formation. Lawrence Kohlberg proposed that moral judgments exhibit the same structure in all cultures. His ideas followed the form of cognitive development that was formulated by Jean Piaget, and were an effort to universalize moral points of view. Such efforts are debated regularly in philosophical circles, and Kohlberg aimed to solve these debates by a scientific study of the psychological development of morality.

Keywords:   deontology, superego, morality, ethics, Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis, Lawrence Kohlberg, Jean Piaget, moral judgments, ego ideal

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