Erich Fromm’s View of the Self and Its Influences
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This dissertation analyzes Erich Fromm’s ideas in the light of the books he was reading on Vedanta philosophy, especially Max Müller’s book Vedanta Philosophy. Fromm mentions Max Müller’s book Vedanta Philosophy only once in the footnotes on page 226 of his 1966 work, You Shall Be as Gods: The Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and its Tradition. In that footnote he even quotes from page 62 of Müller’s Vedanta Philosophy. Scholars have thus far argued that Fromm was influenced by Hebrew Bible, but they have not analyzed his ideas in the light of Hebrew Bible. I argue that Fromm even reinterprets the Hebrew Bible in the light of the Vedanta philosophy. Fromm’s engagement with Vedanta Philosophy shaped his ideas of self, love, society, human nature, freedom, productive orientation, biophilia and necrophilia. If we examine his ideas in the light of Vedanta philosophy Fromm can be understood better. Fromm scholars so far have only been either psychoanalysts or sociologists and they have measured his ideas only from these two perspectives. Fromm has been ignored as a philosopher who was interested in more than psychoanalysis and sociology. He was engaged in economics, politics, as well as in religion. vii Fromm was a German Jewish thinker who had immigrated to the US during the Holocaust. In his published works in the US he remains focused on the issue of authority and how it can make an individual into irrational automatons who are capable of great evil. Even in his discussion of capitalism and society, he remains concerned with the issue of authority. When people follow society’s norms, for instance, keep making money even if they do not need more, just because everyone else is doing it instead of thinking for himself, they conform to what Fromm calls an anonymous authority. He wants individuals to develop themselves and achieve freedom by looking within, in stillness, and being present. I will argue that he is advocating Hindu meditation, even though he never mentions it explicitly, as a solution to alienation of man from Himself, and from others.