The Concepts of Sigmund Freud


This study was undertaken to explore the hypothesis that the theory of Sigmund Freud is not biological theory in the sense and to the degree that has been supposed. When I say biological theory I refer to a view that holds that gross somatic processes, ontogenetic or phylogenetic, are decisively involved in psychic phenomena. Such a view places prime importance on drives, instincts, mechanisms. Freud's theory started out as biological theory pure and simple. And it is quite clear that Freud was never unequivocally convinced in his own mind that it ceased to be biological theory. Freud depended on the biological frame of reference for his own scientific "security." His concepts, therefore, retained their biological flavor long after they had lost their strict biological reference.

Freud was a stubborn genius. He sensed very early, certainly around the time of the hoax in the "thirteen cases of hysteria," that there was a strong input in personality coming from outside the organism--from interpersonal experience. He tried, long and brilliantly, to take account of this interpersonal experience without radical change in his frame of reference. I, on the other hand, have made it explicit and have indicated what changes in Freud's thought I think it requires. I hope these suggestions may throw some light on the interrelations of that important triumvirate--culture, social organization and personality.

I should make it completely clear that this is a study of a system of changing theory, not a study of psychoanalytic technique nor a critique of psychotherapy. I have no idea which period of Freud's thought is most useful to the practitioner of psychoanalysis, but I have strong convictions that his last period is the most fruitful for personality . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Glencoe, IL
Publication year:
  • 1959


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