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Psychoanalytical Method and the Doctrine of Freud

Nature volume 149, page 563 (23 May 1942) | Download Citation



IT is fitting that a critical survey of Freud's writings should appear at this time. Insistent questions are provoked by the War. We witness the spectacle of a civilized people reduced to barbarism within a few years and wonder how this is possible. Are wars, it is often asked, simply the outcome of unconscious aggressive impulses? How deep is the impress that civilized living makes upon the psyche? Are humane dispositions wholly part of ontogenesis, and can no such dispositions be transmitted genetically? To what extent can re-education in the postwar world nullify the effects of totalitarian propaganda instilled during the impressionable years of youth, and what are the limits of variation in conduct that the same individuals may express under diverse conditions? No satisfactory answer to these and other urgent questions can be attempted without enlisting the aid of psycho-analysis. Indeed, it is probably true to say that without psycho-analysis, contemporary social behaviour is unintelligible and no coherent picture of human failings and aspirations in the modern world can be drawn without invoking its theories, provisional though they may be.

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