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Brunswick, D. (1954). A Revision of the Classification of Instincts or Drives. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 35:224-228.

(1954). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 35:224-228

A Revision of the Classification of Instincts or Drives

David Brunswick, Ph.D.


In this paper I have first briefly traced three historical stages in the development of Freud's views on the classification of instincts, leading to the present view most widely held by psycho-analysts that there are two basic classes of instincts or drives, the sexual or erotic instincts and the aggressive-destructive instincts.

Next I have proposed a revision of this basic classfication, based upon three lines of reasoning, adding explicitly defensive instincts or drives and classifying them with the aggressive-destructive drives as opposed to the erotic or libidinal instincts, so that the classification becomes (1) vital-libidinal instincts, and (2) defensive and aggressive instincts. I have tried to show why defensive instincts have not been explicitly recognized as such in psycho-analytic theory, although they were implicit in Freud's early writings on hysteria and on 'The Defence Neuro-Psychoses'.

Finally, in leading up to the view that vital-libidinal instincts are more fundamental than defensive and aggressive ones, I have developed a physiological concept of primary and secondary instinctual sources of stimulation for the various instincts, both vital-libidinal and defensive-aggressive. I believe that consideration of the primary and secondary physiological instinctual sources can be otherwise of great importance for our theories, especially of the affects and of pleasure-displeasure—but this goes beyond the scope of my present thesis.

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