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Riggall, R.M. (1926). General: Ian D. Suttie. An Unwarranted Accretion to the Freudian Theory. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 1925, Vol. V, p. 83.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 7:248-248.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: General: Ian D. Suttie. An Unwarranted Accretion to the Freudian Theory. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 1925, Vol. V, p. 83.

(1926). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 7:248-248

General: Ian D. Suttie. An Unwarranted Accretion to the Freudian Theory. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 1925, Vol. V, p. 83.

Robert M. Riggall

This paper is a criticism of Freud's acceptance of the Recapitulation Theory in mental development. Suttie's objections are based on some of the following factors. Freud's theory does not assist our understanding of evolution and does not claim any heuristic validity on that ground. Onto-phylogenetic parallelism is much less pronounced in regard to behaviour than in regard to structure. Because this parallelism is not obvious it fails to form a natural starting point for further enquiries as in the case of organic recapitulation. If the evidence for mental recapitulation is convincing, why is it never adduced? In Totem and Taboo, Freud develops a theory of 'unconscious tradition' in order to explain the resemblance between infantile and archaic thought processes. Later, in what the author considers a most irritating and casual way, he resorts to biological interpretations. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud refers to recapitulation as an accepted fact. References to recapitulation are also quoted from the Introductory Lectures and Leonardo da Vinci. Suttie supposes that owing to his hypothesis of 'unconscious tradition' and the absence of reference to phylogeny in his earlier works Freud did not originally found upon the 'biogenetic law' but accepted it from others. Freud implies that because evolution has dissociated the genitals from the mouth, anus or limbs, the reactive disposition of sex passes through alimentary, excretory and motor phases. There is thus an instinctive recapitulation which organic recapitulation fails to record and which tell us not only about the behaviour of organic forms but about their structure! Having taken such liberties with biology and scientific measures, Freud fails to develop or apply his theory. It is suggested that there is not the same reason for postulating recapitulation in psychology as in the case of biology. Mental activities are not meaningless, functionless or non-responsive as, for example, the transient appearance of gill-clefts are in the ontogeny of man. The psycho-analytical acceptance of the recapitulation theory is a bad psychological method, it suggests an attempt to explain the known in terms of the unknown. It is an interest not strictly relevant to psycho-pathology. The corresponding biological attempt to discover the course of evolution by a study of ontogeny has been totally unsuccessful and was abandoned by Haeckel.

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Article Citation

Riggall, R.M. (1926). General. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 7:248-248

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