The deceiver may be personified (Descartes's "evil genius") or limited to a physical or physiological cause (the illusions of the senses), or even an ontological structure (the Platonic myth of the cave).
Thirty-five years later in "A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis," Freud would refer to false recognition (déjà vu, déjà raconté) as a part of the "illusions in which we seek to accept something as belonging to our ego, just as in the derealizations we are anxious to keep something out of us" (1936a, p. 245).
There is a certain amount of ambiguity concerning the simple criterion that defines illusion as something that doesn't exist in reality, to the extent that the concept of reality is reconsidered in psychoanalysis as mental reality.
Moreover, the single stable criterion used to define illusion in psychoanalysis is a belief motivated by the realization of desire:
"[W]e will call a belief an illusion when a wish-fulfilment is a prominent factor in its motivation, and in doing so we disregard its relations to reality, just as the illusion itself sets no store by verification."
This pessimism, or realism, is first associated with the illusion that lasting sexual satisfaction is possible ("'Civilized' Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness," 1908d) and that social rules should be modified to procure happiness for individuals.
Freud then assumes the position of a defender of a realist position, which includes negativity instead of ignoring it:
"Because we destroy illusion we are accused of endangering ideals."/blockquote>
He further distinguishes two types of illusions: those that are not harmful since the illusion is obvious, and those that are dangerous because they take the place of an objective apprehension of reality (philosophy, ideology, and especially religion).
"Art is said to be almost always harmless and beneficent; it does not seek to be anything but an illusion." (1933a , p. 160).
In what sense is art an illusion?
Freud is forced to make use of the concept of reality to determine this.
"The substitutive satisfactions, as offered by art, are illusions in contrast with reality, but they are none the less psychically effective, thanks to the role which phantasy has assumed in mental life."
Illusion, and especially the ability to take pleasure in it, would therefore be the result of the magical omnipotence associated with the beginnings of mental life, which led to the separation of the life of the imagination from the mental life grafted to reality.
"At the time when the development of the sense of reality took place, this region [imagination] was expressly exempted from the demands of reality-testing and was set apart for the purpose of fulfilling wishes which were difficult to carry out."
But reality-testing is difficult to manage when defining illusion.
Freud emphasizes it when he distinguishes illusion from delusion:
The example chosen (the illusion of a young woman of modest means of being able to marry a prince) is not convincing, because within the framework of erotomaniacal delusion, that same idea (not illusory since it is realizable, Freud says) would indeed appear to contradict reality.
The desire they realize is that of being protected and loved by a father who is more powerful than the real father.
Infantile distress is the origin of religious need, which Freud criticizes because of the weight it places on education.
He also feels—and this may sound paradoxical—that it is necessary to maintain religious teaching as a basis of education and human life in common.
"If you want to expel religion from our European civilization, you can only do it by means of another system of doctrines; and such a system would from the outset take over all the psychological characteristics of religion—the same sanctity, rigidity and intolerance, the same prohibition of thought—for its own defense."
The philosophical illusion that believes it can deliver an image of the world that is coherent and without gaps is undermined by the progress of science; and political illusion, such as communism, is an example of a substitute for religion.
This ability is strictly dependent on what the mother allows the baby to feel.
In other words, the reality test is experienced as a frontal shock, but the reality is initially constructed by the baby who perceives it as being part of himself.
During a subsequent period, it will appear to be independent, but only gradually:
"The mother's eventual task is gradually to disillusion the infant, but she has no hope of success unless at first she has been able to give sufficient opportunity for illusion."
But illusion as a form remains and serves as a binding factor:
"We can share a respect for illusory experience, and if we wish we may collect together and form a group on the basis of the similarity of our illusory experiences. This is a natural root of grouping among human beings."
This differs from the Freudian point of view, which remains dependent on a certain proscientific militancy, while Winnicott situates himself at a level that is both more metaphysical and more affective.
"It is assumed here that the task of reality-acceptance is never completed, that no human being is free from the strain of relating inner and outer reality, and that relief from this strain is provided by an intermediate area of experience which is not challenged (arts, religion, etc.). This intermediate area is in direct continuity with the play area of the small child who is 'lost' in play."
- 1927c, p. 31
- 1910d, p. 147
- 1930a , p. 75
- 1930a , p. 80
- 1927c, p. 31
- p. 51
- 1927c, p. 54
- p. 95
- p. 95
- p. 90
- p. 95
- Freud, Sigmund. (1901b). The psychopathology of everyday life. SE,6.
- ——. (1927c). The future of an illusion. SE, 21: 1-56.
- ——. (1933a ). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 22: 1-182.
- ——. (1936a). A disturbance of memory on the Acropolis (an open letter to Romain Rolland on the occasion of his seventieth birthday). SE, 22: 239-248.