chapter  15
13 Pages

Freud and Plato. The mirror and its mirages: Plato, Freud’s forerunner on dreams


In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud quotes Plato on two occasions. In the chapter entitled ‘The Moral Sense in Dreams’, as he reviews various authors’ opinions on the subject, Freud writes: ‘Plato . . . thought that the best men are those who only dream what other men do in their waking life.’1 On the last page of his book, Freud returns once again to the philosopher, agreeing with him and using him to underwrite the distinction between latent and manifest content which makes any judgement of dreams illegitimate:

I think, however, that the Roman emperor was in the wrong when he had one of his subjects executed because he had dreamt of murdering the emperor. He should have begun by trying to find out what the dream meant; most probably its meaning was not what it appeared to be. And even if a dream with another content had had this act of lèse majesté as its meaning, would it not be right to bear in mind Plato’s dictum that the virtuous man is content to dream what a wicked man really does? I think it best, therefore, to acquit dreams.2