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although in a fleeting and curtailed fashion-the structures of all the forms from which the animal is descended, instead of hastening along the shortest path to its own final shape."
In Leonardo da Vinci (1910) also we find a reference to recapitulation. Page 60. "Important biological analogies (my italics) have taught us that psychic development of the individual is a short repetition of the course of development of the race." Note here he refers to analogies, and that in Totem and Taboo (p. 265) he warns us: "We must not let our judgment about primitive men be influenced too far by the analogy with neurotics" (italics mine). From the form of these earlier pronouncements, from the absence of reference to phylogeny in Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory (which is concerned with the causes of development) and in The History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, and particularly from his hypothesis of 'unconscious tradition' (which renders the recapitulatory hypothesis superfluous), I am inclined to suppose that Freud did not originally found upon the 'biogenetic law,' but accepted it from others.
Consider what precision, what explicitness, what evidential justification appears in these quotations particularly what use the theory is to psycho-analytic theory or technique. Is it not a dead end or cul-de-sac of psychological investigation—a moral extinguisher upon all enquiry? There is here no actual and observed parallel between developmental and evolutionary processes-no resemblance close and detailed enough to demand a causal interpretation. Freud appears only to infer recapitulation on biological grounds and because he fancies he has excluded the possibility of ontogenetic influences. There is no specific phase or character which is alleged to follow the biogenetic law. Vague and obscure phenomena, abstract reactions such as "the symbolic mode of expression" are suspected to "hark back to ancestral levels."
Where Freud does attempt to make a close application of the theory, as in the second quotation, he is surely reducing it to an absurdity.
In the second reference he is suggesting that oral, anal and muscle erotisms are psychological vestigial phases, representing and homologous with certain organic adult ancestral forms. He implies that, though evolution has changed the form so that the sexual organs are no longer closely associated with mouth, anus or limbs, yet the reactive disposition of sex, in the course of its development, passes inevitably through phases in which it is closely associated with and influenced by alimentary, excretory and motor functions. That is to say, the instincts are supposed to recapitulate, as a rudimentary functional association, an ancestral
spatial association of their respective organs, which organic recapitulation fails to record. Mental recapitulation in this way will be able to tell us not only about the behaviour of ancestral forms, but even about their structure! Disregarding innumerable difficulties this raises, consider that Freud is here implying (a) that all the types of organization he mentions appear in the human ancestral series, and (b) that they appeared in evolution in the order in which he here mentions them. Unless these things are so, his recapitulatory interpretation of libidinal development breaks down. He does not even seem to be aware that his argument turns on these two points, and makes no attempt to demonstrate them or to cite biological opinion in favour of his assumption. He apparently regards all non-human animals as ancestral forms, and imagines himself at liberty to arrange them in any genealogical sequence he pleases. The results of such a method are "readily apparent, I should suppose," and the most exasperating feature is that, having permitted himself such liberties with biology and with scientific method in general, he makes no use of the conception, and does not develop or apply it in
Yet to be demonstrable and to be of any use in interpreting facts, the Recapitulation Theory must be capable of close application to the details of clinical psychology. As an example I might quote J. E. Lind1: "Of course, strictly speaking, we are not able to say definitely that any delusion, hallucination or mannerism goes any further back than the life-history of the individual. We can only surmise from the nature of some of them that they belong to the race-consciousness." In regard to a demented negro, who says he ate his wife because he loved her, Lind remarks: "We feel that such an expression is something more than ontogenetical." The hallucinations of a deteriorated praecox patient, who saw cows' heads on the wall of his room, "might not ordinarily attract much attention, but when we remember that throughout nearly all Africa the natives are an agricultural people and cattle are their chief possession (?), it takes on a different aspect." One can only remark that, if our memories cannot be trusted in regard to elementary facts learned in the schoolroom, we will have to be chary of trusting them in regard to ancestral experiences of events and conditions thousands of generations ago. Among this author's examples of supposed phylogenetic thinking we find this: "Patient dreamed of 'chockchuckoo'... and that one day he made 4000 children"-the good old days, we presume. Lind further remarks: "I have often thought that a careful 2 1 Psychoanalytical Review, 1917, IV, 324.
study of neologisms among negro psychotics might result in the discovery of many African roots." He thus regards language as germinally transmitted.
Comment on this wild interpretation is clearly superfluous, but I maintain that the only alternative open to mental recapitulationists is to leave their theory so vague and inapplicable that it is useless and undemonstrable.
3. Recapitulation explained the appearance in embryogeny of nonadaptive, relatively useless characters. It held that the latter indicated that the ancestry of the organism had once possessed them in a functionally useful form. For example, 'lanugo' appears and then disappears, and this otherwise inexplicable fact is interpreted as showing that the human ancestry passed through a phase of evolution in which adults were wholly covered with hair.
This brought all such round-about, indirect modes of development into line with the striking facts of rudimentary organs reported by the comparative anatomists, as also with atavisms and other abnormalities. At one stroke the Evolution-Recapitulation Theory explained them all and harmonized these 'vestiges' with the prevalent opinion that all organs must have utility. It is not wonderful then that the doctrine of recapitulation was at that time highly convincing and highly valued; but we should note that it has not and never has had this utility for psychology. Genetic psychology does not show us any examples of non-functional mental structures. Mental activity has at least an hedonic function for the infant. We do not know of any definite mental activities which are meaningless, functionless, non-responsive-so wholly artistic and endogenous—as for example the transient appearance of gill-clefts in the ontogeny of man. There is not therefore, I suggest, this particular reason for postulating Recapitulation in Psychology. One of the main values of the theory exists only for Biology.
4. The interest of Biology, at the time when the Recapitulation Theory was at the zenith of its fame, was very largely centred on the problems of Evolution. Anything that promised to throw light upon the phylogenetic series was welcomed with more enthusiasm than discretion. Haeckel was the great protagonist of the Biogenetic Law, and, though he was not perhaps in the front rank of biological thinkers and investigators, yet his influence was supreme in impressing this theory upon popular tradition. I think, moreover, that it is from popular tradition and from the biology of fifty years ago, that psycho-analysis imported this theory. At any rate their advocacy of mental recapitulation
does not seem to be tempered by doubts from current biological opinion.
Haeckel said (Evolution of Man): "We may draw our conclusions with the utmost certainty as to the nature of the ancestral form, from the features of the form which the embryo momentarily assumes."
Plainly this means that he thought it allowable to infer from demonstrated instances of onto-phylogenetic parallelism, that every developmental phase has its ancestral homologue. Haeckel is here commending Recapitulation to us because it will enable us to reconstruct in imagination the course of evolution from our observations of the course of development.
I strongly suspect that the psycho-analytic acceptance of the Recapitulation Theory has been mainly motivated, not by a desire to explain, predict and control mental development, but by a desire to penetrate the mysteries of the past. This is all very well as archaeology, and I would be the last to deny that the psycho-analytic interest in primitive culture has been legitimate or fruitful. It is, however, suspiciously like an attempt to explain the known in terms of the unknown, and in any case—as I shall attempt to show-it is bad psychological method.
At this moment, however, I wish merely to point out:
1. That it is an interest not strictly relevant to psychopathology which determined the Freudian acceptance of the Biological Theory.
2. That the corresponding biological attempt to discover the course of evolution by a study of ontogeny has been totally unsuccessful.
It was indeed abandoned by Haeckel himself, who had to admit "in most cases the correspondence is very imperfect" (that is, the correspondence between ontogeny and phylogeny).
The illusion, that it is possible to reconstruct evolution from observations of development, did not indeed last long enough to save Haeckel from contradicting himself within the limits of one chapter, as the quotation given above will show.
Sir Archdall Reid-a convinced recapitulationist says of the resemblance between ontogeny and phylogeny, "it may and usually does, become unrecognizable,...as a result we cannot with any degree of accuracy trace the early ancestry of our race by watching the development of the individual." "No one having an elementary acquaintance with the facts has ever alleged that recapitulation is ever other than incomplete and inaccurate" (Laws of Heredity). He refers also to complete obliterations and falsifications of the record. Comparing this with
Haeckel's statement above ("We" may infer "with the utmost certainty," etc.) we may see how completely biological opinion has changed in regard to recapitulation as a valid generalization.
These admissions are so handsome that it seems almost ungrateful to ask what is the use of declaring that development must recapitulate evolution (as Sir Archdall does) while, at the same time, it is admitted, that in point of fact it does no such thing?
In comparing the validity of the Psychological with that of the Biological Theory of Recapitulation we have to note the following:
1. That psychological observations of development are relatively vague-far more difficult to identify with certainty than features and phases of organic development.
2. That we have, in psychology, no phylogenetic data comparable to that supplied to biology by palaeontology.
3. That for these and other reasons the mental parallelism and Recapitulation Theory can never be of the same significance for our understanding of evolution, as were the corresponding organic facts.
4. Biology recognized always a class of exceptions to the Biogenetic Law, which were called cenogenetic characters. These are special adaptations to embryonic or adult environment. Mind, as the most adaptive of all characters, should prove such a 'cenogenetic' character. Clearly it has far more in common with the selective responses to external stimuli (which do not recapitulate), than with the standardized and stereotyped processes of development which do and which are unmodifiable by any special circumstances compatible with the life of the individual.
On a priori biological grounds therefore Mind does not recapitulate Method.
5. The onto-phylogenetic parallelism and the Theory of Recapitulation have a very direct bearing on the problem of the mechanism of evolution, inheritance, etc. These are biological, not psychological problems, and, consequently in this respect at least, the Biogenetic Law has not the same significance for Psychology as for Biology.
In fact the contrary is the case, since the theory plainly implies that the mechanism of Recapitulation is the Germ Plasm. Lamarckians and Weissmannians, though they differ as to the ultimate origin of variations, agree at least that the vehicle of inheritance-the link by which the ontophylogenetic parallelism is maintained-is the Zygote. Therefore, only in so far as mental characters are innate or germinally determined can they recapitulate. In alleging that any character recapitulates we deny that it depends upon any special stimulus in the life-history of the organism.