In The Weekly Standard, Joseph Epstein makes a nice distinction between those who see man’s essential self as defined by what he hides and those who see man’s essential self as defined by what he does. Hiding Man is a Freudian trope where outward actions result from uncomprehended inner drives lurking like bogeymen in the dark closet of individual being. Doing Man is concerned only with results, not psychoanalysis; Doing Man says “judge me on my actions, regardless of my motives, desires, doubts, or fears. I am what I have done.” A Hider is cynical, always on guard for the concealed jack-in-the-box in others or the monster under her own bed. Epstein says
More people who have been infected by contemporary college education are likely to fall into the Hide camp than people who have been brought up free of higher education. But among those who have been to college further distinctions can be made. Business school and science graduates are likely to be Do’s; those in the humanities and most of the social sciences Hides. The Do camp has a moral grandeur wanting in the camp of Hides that comes from taking responsibility for one’s actions. If one believes that we are what we hide, responsibility drops away because we are hostage to inner demons that, behind the scenes, are really calling the shots.
Epstein’s dichotomy resonates with something Mark Edmundson said here the other night about higher education, that its goal seems to be “to undermine all aspirations to idealism.” Reveal, debunk, demystify, revise, expose the Hider in each and all is the postmodern academy’s gloomy project. If becoming therapeutically adjusted to our hidden demons is the best we can hope for, life becomes just the search for jolts of pleasure from briefly-satisfied hungers and desires. As Philip Rieff suggested, Freud (and the academy) offer man only “how to live with no higher purpose than that of a durable sense of well-being.”