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individual of a species in such a manner as to render it peculiarly sensitive to the presence of the group as a whole, and to stir up feeling and activities which normally end in action of that kind which is in the interest of the group as a whole. This sensitiveness to the group presence and the tendencies to common or harmonious action which are initiated is suggestion in its essence, unqualified by the various additional factors which arise from the operation of free ideas and reason.
The same view is accepted and worked out by W. Trotter. For him suggestibility is essentially sensitiveness to the voice of the herd, a characteristic which is indispensable to the homogeneity of the herd. Every member of the herd tends to follow the lead of other members, and in turn to act as leader; but the leader who is most representative of the normal will be the most followed. Looking at this, so far as possible, from within, and assuming a species thus instinctively endowed and also self-conscious, it is clear that "impulses derived from herd feeling will enter the mind with the value of instincts—they will present themselves as “a priori syntheses of the most perfect sort needing no proof but their own evidence??” This feeling will not be limited to specific acts, but will be characteristic of any opinion derived from herd suggestion. We are thus led to see that suggestion is not a peculiar process which happens only when we are dealing with abnormal people, but as we know it, in its various forms, it is still the same essentially instinctive mechanism which operates throughout the wide field of animal mind, only modified and artificialised by the interaction with it of other and later developed mechanisms of mind. The physician, the priest, or the orator who communicates ideas or stirs up feeling and action through suggestion is stimulating the psychic traces of the gregarious instinct in those upon whom he practises, though he may also be skilfully combining other methods of influence with that which is rooted in instinct. The growth of intelligence indeed renders it difficult to present a case of pure instinctive suggestion, for in all experiment, whether in therapy or in a laboratory, the process is no longer of the unwitting character which it is in its simplest and most elementary form. Even the widespread phenomena of herd suggestion to which Trotter points in the everyday life of modern society do not display the process in the quite unwitting form; there is a good deal of witting manipulation on the part of ‘leaders' of public opinion, and a good deal of 'faith' on the part of many who are the subjects of suggestion. This interpretation of suggestion will be found to cover all the actual 1 W. Trotter, Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War.
2 Ibid. p. 30. J. of Psych. (Med. Sect.) III
facts of suggestion as they appear in human society, and also to link these facts up with that larger range of facts which is involved in the thoroughgoing application of the doctrine of evolution to mind. It is impossible to attempt to demonstrate this in detail within the limits of this paper, but reference may be made to one outstanding question which is frequently discussed, but which cannot be answered by reference to any objective standard on the merely therapeutic or abnormal theories of suggestion. . Why are there the remarkable variations which experience presents us with in suggestibility? In view of all the facts the reply that it is a sort of mental disease or weakness is no reply at all. We are all suggestible, more or less. The majority of us are far more so than less. If we judge by mere numbers and apply the term “abnormal' at all those who are most indifferent to suggestion are the abnormal people—which only shews, incidentally, as Trotter has insisted, how futile the term is as ordinarily used. But once the essential fact is grasped that suggestion is an original mechanism of the mental equipment, it becomes simply a matter of psychological analysis to trace the course by which this original mechanism is overlaid and modified by the growth of intelligence, and the building up of instinctive and emotional raw material into organised sentiments. The tendency is for suggestibility in general to decrease in proportion to the increase of general education. In the language of Freud the more the libido is directed towards objects which form a rational system, so that mental energy is being usefully and intelligently expended, the less libido is available for being side tracked by suggestion. But there are few who can claim that the whole of their mental activity is satisfactorily engaged upon a completely rational system of ends or purposes, and therefore there are few who are not in some measure, and at some point liable to suggestion. The variation of suggestibility in different persons thus depends upon two main factors: (1) the amount of instinct energy with which they are endowed, (2) the extent to which this energy in any person is under the guiding control of organised sentiments and rational purposes. The ordinary person is only rational in some few more or less specific directions. He may be rational in his business, but wholly irrational in politics, religion and so forth, and consequently suggestible in these directions. Consequently the only way to eliminate suggestion altogether would be to eliminate ignorance altogether. Until such time all members of the human herd will be suggestible in varying degrees, the variations depending on the extent to which reason is actually and continuously at the helm.
FREUD'S THEORY OF WIT.
By J. Y. T. GREIG.
It is my purpose to examine certain opinions on wit set forth by Professor Freud in his masterly Wit and its relation to the Unconscious!. His theory, like most of his other contributions to psychology, has been misrepresented, not only by hostile critics, but by friendly interpreters as well. It is a theory very easy to sum up in a catch phrase, and the temptation to sum it up in this way has been too strong for one at least of the Freudians, Mr E. B. Holt, who, in the attempt to be bright and interesting to the general reader, has succeeded in being grossly inaccurate. Writing in The Freudian Wish, he says: “After reviewing the long list of theories and definitions of humor, which is as dense a jungle of misconception as anywhere exists, Freud caps them all with his simple formula that every form of wit or humor is nothing but a means of ‘letting the cat out of the baga.”” A mere glance through Freud's book should have been enough to make it clear that his distinction of wit, the comic, and humour, one from another, is fundamental, that 'letting the cat out of the bag' is not a suitable formula for his views on either of the two last—though Holt speaks of every form of wit or humor'-and, what is more, that if it is a suitable formula at all, it can be applied only to what Freud calls tendency wit, and not to what he calls harmless wit. We are not concerned here with Freud's conclusions on the comic and on humour, but only with his theory of wit. But in view of such misrepresentations as that of Holt it is important to make clear at the outset what his theory of wit is not. It is not a theory of laughter, or of the comic, or of humour; it is exactly what it sets out to be, a theory of wit.
Freud classifies wit under two main headings, harmless wit and tendency wit. Harmless wit is its own end; it serves no purpose beyond itself; it is not aimed; it manipulates thoughts or words for the mere pleasure of such manipulation. This pleasure Freud concludes to arise from economy of psychic expenditure. A detailed examination of the techniques of wit-an examination that cannot be followed out here---leads him to the
1 All quotations are from the English translation, by Brill. 2 Op. cit. p. 17; italies mine.
idea that the common factor in them all is economy. “A compressing or -to be more exact-an economic tendency controls all these techniques?.” Even harmless wit, however, is not the first stage, for in harmless wit which would be recognised unmistakably for what it is, as distinct from mere play or jest, the thought expressed has been fortified in some degree, as Freud puts it, “against the impugnment of the critical judgment?” To be effective at all, a harmless witticism must say, or appear to say, something a little out of the ordinary. Nevertheless-and this is the point in Freud's theory on which I wish to fasten--it is a mistake to look for the source of the pleasure in the content of the witticism; "we are forced to connect the feeling of pleasure with the technique of wits," with technique, that is to say, the characteristic of which is economy.
Wit of the second kind, tendency wit, makes use of the same techniques as harmless wit, and thus depends in part on the same sources of pleasure. But in addition it is enlisted into the service of more or less repressed tendencies, sexual or hostile, which succeed in getting past the censor by its means and so obtain indirect satisfaction. The pleasure of tendency wit is thus doubly conditioned; on the one hand by technique, and on the other, by the sexual or hostile tendency it satisfies. Tendency wit is aimed, at a person, or at a group. At the same time, the principle of economy reappears in a new form. Psychical expenditure is saved by the removal or the eluding of moral or social inhibitions which would have prevented the tendency from coming to expression in any but a witty form. Holding fast to this principle, Freud, at the end of his book, sums up his theory of wit in a sentence, "It has seemed to us that the pleasure of wit originates from an economy of expenditure in inhibition 4."
That is the theory of wit in outline, as I understand it.
Now since there is much in this theory with which I am in serious disagreement, it is well to say frankly at once that I am in almost complete agreement with what I take to be the most important part of it, namely that dealing with tendency wit. Working at the same subject from another angle, I have come to certain conclusions in relation to laughter which I do not mean to discuss at present but which have at least this merit, that they fit well enough into Freud's theory of tendency wit. I believe it is incontestable that tendency wit is always serving either a hostile or a sexual impulse-using the term 'sex' in the broad
1 Freud, op. cit. p. 50.
2 Ibid. p. 211.
sense in which Freud uses it. But I do not intend here to make any attempt to prove this belief. I have nothing to say that Freud has not already said much better.
The trouble lies further back. The whole conception of harmless wit is elusive, and in the last resort, I conjecture, untenable. Is there any such activity? Can we give any proper psychological meaning to the notion of words and thoughts being manipulated for the pleasure of such manipulation? Is not harmless wit, like tendency wit, aimed, even though vaguely and uncertainly? These are the first questions to be asked, and they all arise ultimately from suspicion of the manner in which Freud, and still more the Freudians, use such terms as ‘pleasure, 'fore-pleasure,' 'the pleasure mechanism,' 'the pleasure principle,' and so on. For the purposes of psychotherapy the vagueness with which the psycho-analysts speak of pleasure and pain (displeasure) may not greatly matter; it matters for the purposes of what may be called pure psychology. We all know, from the recent writings of Dr Jung and his followers, to what lengths-I nearly said depths-initial vagueness in conception may lead in the end; and it is much to be desired that the concepts of pleasure and displeasure,—and still more the concept of 'affect,' which is hopelessly confused-should be given more precision in the writings of Freud and Jones and Brill.
In the next place, suppose it to be granted that the technique of wit depends on economy of psychic expenditure: why should this be pleasant? Can we ever get pleasure out of not-behaving? But is there any such economy to be observed in the behaviour of wit? Does the technique not actually force us to the exact opposite of economy, increased expenditure of psychic energy?
Pleasure, it may be shortly said, is the feeling equivalent of successful behaviour, displeasure the feeling equivalent of unsuccessful (obstructed) behaviour. But how are we to tell successful from unsuccessful behaviour, apart altogether from the feeling which values it? Admittedly it is no simple matter. Successful behaviour is that which is moving, comparatively without impediment, towards its end-result, which is contributing towards the purpose we have found by observation that such behaviour is designed to serve, or, at least, does actually serve. To be able to attach the adjective successful in any particular instance, we must obviously have first classified behaviour into kinds, marked down an end-result for each kind, inferred its purpose from that end-result, and referred the particular instance to its appropriate kind. Everything depends on the classification we start with; this may be made, so to speak, in plan