Returning from this digression to our main topic, namely, the criticism of "consciousness," we observe that Freud and his followers, though they have demonstrated beyond dispute the immense importance of "unconscious" desires in determining our actions and beliefs, have not attempted the task of telling us what an "unconscious" desire actually is, and have thus invested their doctrine with an air of mystery and mythology which forms a large part of its popular attractiveness.
I believe an "unconscious" desire is merely a causal law of our behaviour,* namely, that we remain restlessly active until a certain state of affairs is realized, when we achieve temporary equilibrium If we know beforehand what this state of affairs is, our desire is conscious; if not, unconscious.
Well, I said, would you not allow that assent and dissent, desire and aversion, attraction and repulsion, are all of them opposites, whether they are regarded as active or passive
Admitting this to be true of desire generally, let us suppose a particular class of desires, and out of these we will select hunger and thirst, as they are termed, which are the most obvious of them?
SOCRATES: Do you mean that they think the evils which they desire, to be good; or do they know that they are evil and yet desire them?
SOCRATES: Is it not obvious that those who are ignorant of their nature do not desire them; but they desire what they suppose to be goods although they are really evils; and if they are mistaken and suppose the evils to be goods they really desire goods?
But suppose he desires
to do two opposite things, neither of which will permit him to do the other?
And whether I yielded to drink, as at Benicia, or whether I refrained, as at the laundry, in my brain the seeds of desire
for alcohol were germinating.
When you have purchased the estate I desire, I want constant relays of horses at ten leagues apart along the northern and southern road.
Here I am, ready to give you any explanation you desire.
But that native land was too far off, and for a man going a thousand miles it is absolutely necessary to set aside his final goal and to say to himself: "Today I shall get to a place twenty-five miles off where I shall rest and spend the night," and during the first day's journey that resting place eclipses his ultimate goal and attracts all his hopes and desires.
For the French retreating along the old Smolensk road, the final goal- their native land- was too remote, and their immediate goal was Smolensk, toward which all their desires and hopes, enormously intensified in the mass, urged them on.