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B., D. (1922). General: W. M. Wheeler. On Instincts. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1920–21, Vol. XV, p. 295.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 3:333-334.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: General: W. M. Wheeler. On Instincts. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1920–21, Vol. XV, p. 295.

(1922). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 3:333-334

General: W. M. Wheeler. On Instincts. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1920–21, Vol. XV, p. 295.

D. B.

The author in this interesting and in parts humourously written article first of all gives a brief survey of the literature on Instincts from the theological, the mechanistic or physiological, and the psychological or anthropomorphic points of view. He then says that the methods of investigating instincts may be treated under three heads, the experimental, the historical and the psychopathic. He goes on to show how the experimental method supplemented by the historical can be applied in the interpretation of behaviour in three typical insect instincts, namely, the spraying instinct of the Formica rufer, the balloon-making instinct of the Empidid flies and the spinning instinct of the caterpillars of moths and butterflies. He considers that the third method, the psychopathic, is the one that promises important results.

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His remarks on psycho-analysis and psycho-analysts are worth quoting somewhat fully as coming from an entomologist. He says, 'Now I believe that the psycho-analysts are getting down to brass tacks. They have discovered that the psychologist's game which seems to consist in sitting down together or with the philosophers and seeing who can hallucinate fastest or most subtly and clothe the results in the best English, is not helping us very much in solving the terribly insistent problems of life. They have had the courage to dig up the subconscious, that hotbed of all the egotism, greed, lust, pugnacity, cowardice, sloth, hate, and envy which every single one of us carries about as his inheritance from the animal world. These are all ethically and aesthetically very unpleasant phenomena but they are just as real and fundamental as our entrails, blood and reproductive organs. In this matter, I am glad to admit, the theologians, with their doctrine of total depravity, seem to me to be nearer the truth than the psychologists. I should say, however, that our depravity is only about 85 to 90%.'

To me one of the most striking indications that the psycho-analysts are on the right road is the fact that many of their theories have such a broad biological basis that they can be applied, exceptis excipiendis, to a group of animals so remote from man as the insects'. 'There are even cases of repression and sublimation as in the workers of social insects, and did time permit I could cite examples of multiple personality or of infantilisms, i. e. larval traits which survive or reappear in the adults of many species.

The great fact remains that the work of the psychiatrists [psycho-analysts?] is beginning to have its effect even on such hidebound institutions as ethics, religion, education and jurisprudence, and that the knowledge that is being gained of the working of our subconscious must eventually profoundly affect animal no less than human psychology, since the subconscious is the animal mind.

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Article Citation

B., D. (1922). General. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 3:333-334

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