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Pratt, J.S. (1958). Epilegomena to the Study of Freudian Instinct Theory. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 39:17-24.

(1958). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 39:17-24

Epilegomena to the Study of Freudian Instinct Theory

John Sheals Pratt

The Influence of Theoretical Biology upon Psycho-Analytical Theory

That the early nineteen-twenties were a period which saw a decisive turning-point in the development of psycho-analytic theory is often emphasized in historical surveys and, especially latterly, it has been usual to give particular emphasis to the developments at that time in ego and in superego theory. The period, however, was equally crucial for the development of instinct theory: in what particular respects it is partly an endeavour of this paper to recall. Now the later (post-1920) development of instinct theory was certainly influenced by the fact that the psycho-analytical and biological theories had coincided in a curious way. The earlier (pre-1920) clinical theory of neurosis, empirically derived, of conflict between the conscious 'ego' and the unconscious sex drive, was reflected as the duality of ego and of sexual instincts (phase 1 of instinct theory). As is well known, and as Freud also noted, this classification appeared to be identical with contemporary classification of instinct in theoretical biology into self-preservative and race-preservative (however vague this biological concept was, and however different from that of Freud's 'Triebe'). From the standpoint of logical status, however, the two classifications were entirely dissimilar. Whereas the biological classification was of an armchair or metaphysical variety (as has been subsequently well demonstrated by the observational data of the ethologists), the Freudian classification rested upon a sound empirical basis.

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