In the Ego and the Id, Freud—if memory serves and it serves poorly lately—says in effect that the sense organ of the Ego is the skin. Or to say the Ego is rooted in weight of the body; and the skin might be considered the parameters, all over, of the body—the boundaries as it were. Of course, the Ego is not precisely the skin; rather the function of the Ego is to guard those parameters and boundaries, to make sure they are not inflicted with pain and, contra wise, to make sure they are generally as comfortable as possible (Pleasure).
So the Ego is the reality tester; reality being defined, in this instance, as more or less physicality. Or the fact, as it was of physicality. Descartes, when he concludes cogito ergo sum, enters into a world of utter unreality and shows himself totally unfit for survival. Since he cannot be certain about any of the “knowledge” derived from the senses, he concludes that world of the senses is somehow unreal. Descartes was no doubt a very bright man, but under this aspect, the aspect of the Ego, he is a complete idiot.
But what is reality testing. In the most brute sense, it might mean sticking your hand in a fire to find it hurts, or stubbing your toe and concluding you would rather not do that again. With enough instances of this kind one concludes that one does not have to hit one’s head with a hammer to know it would hurt. This seems to me a fairly solid inference based on evidence as I know it.
But once we step into the realm of inferences we have left the immediacy of the skin behind. The ego’s function is more complicated than just kicking things. If one is standing in line and feels for example, the sudden urge to pinch the behind of the woman standing in front of one, the Ego must ask what would happen if one did that, and if the Ego concludes that damage might be done to one’s own skin, it says “stop.” The function of the Ego is completely non or unmoral. It doesn’t stop because it is wrong to pinch the behind of female strangers, but because damage might befall one.
I am thinking about his issue because of that guy, Tim, at the club whom I previously mentioned, as the person engaged in an Ahab like conflict with Moby Gopher. I was sitting in the steam room with Tim and a guy came in and asked Tim how hot the pool was that day, and Tim said it was 81 degrees and the Jacuzzi was 102 degrees and he knew that for a fact because he had used his own thermometer. So here is a guy that doesn’t believe the people who work at the club when they tell him that the pool is so and so degrees. More than that, for some reason, he doesn’t even trust the thermometers the club uses and to which he has ready access. Instead he brings his own thermometer. For some reason he trusts that thermometer; possibly because it’s his own.
I am not sure I want to think about this anymore. But Tim’s thermometer is a reality tester for sure and he uses it to detect the temperature of the water against his skin. Not however because he fears the heat or cold of the water, but because he doesn’t trust the word or even the tools of his fellow humans. Perhaps I don’t want to think about this anymore because doing so might mean coming better than I do already to understand the reality testing of the paranoid.
Or: the Ego gone Mad.