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Rosen, V.H. (1965). Symbol Formation. An Organismic-Developmental Approach to Language and the Expression of Thought: By Heinz Werner and Bernard Kaplan. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1963. 530 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 34:456-459.

(1965). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 34:456-459

Symbol Formation. An Organismic-Developmental Approach to Language and the Expression of Thought: By Heinz Werner and Bernard Kaplan. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1963. 530 pp.

Review by:
Victor H. Rosen

The authors of this penetrating study of a complex process attempt to 'order and to integrate' developmental observations of linguistic behavior and experimental data on the processes of symbolization, especially as they are exemplified in language. The study, distilled from a variety of sources including original research by the authors and their students, is the result of years of effort, mainly at Clark University where Freud gave his first American lectures. It seems quite natural therefore that the 'organismic' approach of the authors finds many points of contact with psychoanalytic theory.

In a lecture to a linguistic study group at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, Professor Kaplan said of the term 'organismic': 'It has sometimes been used as a synonym for "holistic", sometimes as an equivalent of "systemic", sometimes as suggestive of "visceral" or "bodily", sometimes as a less odious alternative to "teleological", and often as an affective expression of metaphysical pathos'. Speaking more definitively, he said that the concept refers to the 'ontological as well as logical priority of the whole'. In other words, in a given system the value of any part is determined by the other parts of the system and by the whole system to which all the parts are subordinate. The term 'organismic' also implies intrinsically directed activity (in this sense it is said to be teleological), including maturational as well as instinctual drives. The structurally conceived, biologically based metapsychology of psychoanalysis and the psychic system that it postulates seems compatible with the 'organismic' concept although psychoanalytic theory differs from it in many details.

Werner and Kaplan attempt to show that the development of language is a special case of the development of symbolic representation in general.

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