The Uncanniness of Heimlich

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Before reading Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny, the only Heimlich I knew of was the Heimlich maneuver. Though technically the term for the maneuver was named after the first doctor to describe it, it is still interesting to finally find the meaning of the word itself in a totally unrelated work of text.

The distinction between the definition of ‘heimlich’ and ‘unheimlich’ (or perhaps the lack thereof) was at first pretty confusing and difficult to wrap my head around. For a pair of words to be both antonyms and synonyms of one another is still strange to me, and I am unsure if I have completely absorbed the idea yet. Nevertheless, Freud’s interpretation on their connected linguistic uses is valid enough to be intriguing and stop me from complaining about him (if only momentarily). If I am correct in reading this, his idea is that the usage of the word ‘heimlich’ has extended into its opposite because what was originally familiar has been repressed so that once we come into contact with it again it is now strange and unfamiliar (see page 241 of The Uncanny). Perhaps it can be fancied to be a Schrodinger’s word, for it to be both familiar and alien at the same time. It is also interesting to note that the feeling and atmosphere it brings is uncanny, and the experience as a whole can be categorized in the uncanny’s noun form.

If I’m honest I do think his linguistic explanation of the word ‘heimlich’ or ‘the uncanny’ is a fascinating thing to think about (which I must point out is a super big compliment to Freud considering how much I hated him in my high school psychology classes and how petty and contrary I can get where his ideas are concerned) and I hope it can be fully dissected and discussed in our following seminars.

Thoughts of Man vs. Nature on Darwin’s Theories

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During the lecture there was a section on natural theology of the 19th century, which was the culture Darwin was raised in. It was interesting to know the decline in Darwin’s faith in it as he went on with his research, proposing ideas far removed from the theology, like Natural Selection. Then, to what extent does the idea of natural selection affect one’s understanding of religion? Though it may argue against the belief that nature is governed directly by a divine creator, it allows enough room for people of faith to hear it without abandoning their religion. Science and religion are not exactly married, but that doesn’t mean it has to be mutually exclusive either.  The Tree of Life doesn’t disprove god, as one can still ask, who planted the tree?

Another question that came to mind while reading “On the Origin of Species” was this: would nature’s products be better than a Man’s for individuals in modern society? Why or why not? Darwin mentions that though man can and has produced many great things, it can’t really compete with nature. However, one of his arguments is that while “man selects only for his own good” (Darwin 177), nature does so only for the good of the being tended to. Then with that logic, shouldn’t it be, in the perspective of Men, that men’s selections are better than nature’s own for the men? Darwin also adds in that because of our short life spans, our views on natural selection will be imperfect as we see only the incomplete stage of development. With that, it is assumed that nothing of nature has yet come to the perfection it has striven for for all of the ages. Then, what good is that to a society with such short time? Men are impatient enough to try to recreate and reform the works of nature, and seek for immediate benefit. We are also selfish enough to destroy those natural works. However, if we are to talk as individuals, a man-made product may be of more use than a natural kind. (As a side note, I am talking about nature vs man in terms of banana production and domestic breeding, not arguing for deforestation or burning fossil fuels. I am considering the literal products of nature and man.)

Though religion and inventions are usually separated, they can both be found questioned in his writings. His enthusiasm and reverence of nature are quite interesting to read, but they bring me to think of a rather dangerous idea: would it be possible for mankind to ever overcome nature?