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Bibring, E. (1969). The Development and Problems of the Theory of the Instincts. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 50:293-308.

(1969). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 50:293-308

The Development and Problems of the Theory of the Instincts

Edward Bibring

The following pages set out to give a short and simplified survey of the development of the psychoanalytical theory of the instincts. It is based essentially upon the works of Freud, since, however tempting it may be to take into account the whole of the psychoanalytical literature on the subject, to do so would complicate our exposition too much. … The survey follows a chronological order (except in one place, in connection with the fourth step in the history of the theory) but naturally this does not apply to the detailed discussion of certain points.

Before embarking on my actual theme, let me say a few words about the subdivision of the branch of knowledge of which the theory of the instincts is only a part. The psychoanalytical study of the instincts is made up of two main parts, a general theory of the instincts and a specialized one. The general theory includes, besides the concept of instinct, the theory of the instincts in the narrower sense, that is, the question of the number and nature of the instincts, the question of the criteria of their classification, and the question of their causation and function; the general theory further includes the theory of instinctual transformation, i.e. the question of the variability of instincts and the laws which such variations (which are in part the same as what are called instinctual vicissitudes) obey; and it includes, finally, the concepts and problems connected with the energic aspect of the instincts. The specialized theory is concerned with the development of the instincts in the individual, together with the working hypotheses which that development entails and the problems to which it gives rise.

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