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Hartmann, H. (1948). Comments on the Psychoanalytic Theory of Instinctual Drives. Psychoanal Q., 17:368-388.

(1948). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 17:368-388

Comments on the Psychoanalytic Theory of Instinctual Drives

Heinz Hartmann, M.D.

The field that the psychoanalytic theory of instincts, or drives, is meant to cover is not too well defined. It may well be true, as Freud himself felt, that some aspects of this theory do not show the same degree of lucidity we find in many other tenets of analysis. It seems, therefore, advisable to review, from time to time, the place of this theory in the whole of psychoanalysis, particularly in view of the ways in which analysis has developed so far. Progress in one direction has frequently implied changes—at least changes in emphasis—which often have not been explicitly stated. The empirical foundations of analysis are manifold, its theories are complex, verification is difficult and time consuming; therefore the actual interrelation of its various parts on (chronologically speaking) the same level has not always been clearly realized. Despite incomplete attempts towards a more or less systematic presentation, we may say that even at present an understanding of analysis is hardly possible without a detailed knowledge of its history. When working on some analytic proposition without such knowledge, one is likely to find one's way encumbered by hypotheses which actually belong in quite different stages of its development. This state of affairs is troublesome for the understanding and, of course, for the teaching of analysis. The endeavor to promote architectonic adjustments, a better coördination of factual and theoretical aspects, may also help us gain some new insight into certain problems which are either neglected or incompletely understood.

As this sounds like a rather ambitious program, I hasten to state that my aim is limited to the discussion of a few aspects of the theory of instincts.

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