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The Collected Papers of Roger Money-Kyrle

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Thirty-five papers from a variety of technical and intellectual journals trace fifty years of distinguished service to psychoanalysis, sociology, politics and anthropology.

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1. Belief and Representation (1927)

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Galileo and the Inquisition are only in error in the single affirmation in which they both agreed, namely that absolute position is a physical fact – the sun for Galileo and the earth for the Inquisition.

A. N. Whitehead, The Principles of Natural Knowledge, p. 31

INTRODUCTION

The thesis that will be advanced in this paper is that what have been considered rival beliefs are often in reality rival representations of the same belief. It may be said of one representation not that it is truer but that it is more convenient than the other. In particular it will be argued that the differences between the main conceptions of the world, theistic, mechanistic, and idealistic, are at least in part differences of this type, that is that they differ more in convenience than in truth.

I. BELIEF AND REPRESENTATION

Belief

It is usually assumed that at least we know what we mean when we assert that anything exists, but that we can doubt the truth of this assertion. It is these assumptions that I propose to question. Propositions are often said to be true if there is a fact which corresponds to them and false if there is not. They are supposed to assert the existence of this fact. Thus if I say, ‘The tree exists’ or ‘the electrons exist’ or ‘other people’s minds, or God exists’, I am supposed to be making statements which are capable of truth or falsehood, and are true or false according as to whether there are or are not corresponding entities. If I consider what I mean by these assertions, I find myself increasingly bewildered as to what I do believe when I make them. I shall start then with a theory of belief which does seem to me intelligible, and which is applicable to conditional propositions. From this point of departure I shall return to consider what, if anything, is meant by the existential type.

 

2. The Psycho-physical Apparatus (1928)

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An Introduction to a Physical Interpretation of Psycho-analytic Theory

The psycho-analytic doctrine is divided into two parts which should never be confused; into facts, and into the pictures that represent them. Freud himself has been careful to make this distinction and has repeatedly affirmed that his pictures are not to be mistaken for existences. If, however, we take as pictures something which does exist, and which has an independent correlation with the facts that it is to represent, certain advantages are won. Thus, if we know that there is a correlation between neural and psychic processes, the former, which are more easily visualized, may be used to represent the latter. Such a representation has the advantage over purely fantastic analogy in that it is less likely to deceive, and more likely to suggest undiscovered uniformities. Brain physiology is itself the object of a science. Two sciences known to be correlated advance twice as quickly after the correlation has been observed. Knowledge of both is pooled. Each illustrates points in the other that hitherto remained obscure. Advance in one is immediately transferable to the other. Thus, two geometries that had been studied independently doubled their rate of progress after the discovery that the points of one were correlates of the straight lines of the other.

 

3. Morals and Super-men (1928)

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Some Ethical Problems from the Psycho-analytical Standpoint

1977 Introductory Note – Only dead sciences fail to develop. But in a vital science, such as psycho-analysis, the theoretical substructure tends to develop fairly rapidly. The following paper, written in 1928, was based on theories which have largely been modified or replaced since then. I would have written it quite differently today, but have left it in for the benefit of those who might be interested in comparing it with the different way I have tried to deal with similar subjects in later papers – and in particular after the Second War by which time I had had an analysis with Mrs Klein.

Moreover, if the title seems pretentious now, the notion that such a mythical being as a ‘perfectly analysed man’ could exist and be free from ‘inhibitions’, the notion that he might also be free from morals could then have seemed well worth investigating.

INTRODUCTION

Religion has been defined as: ‘un ensemble de scrupules qui font obstacle au libre exercice de nos facultés.’1 But definitions that are epigrammatically expressed seldom cover more than half the common connotation of the concepts to which they are applied. And this is no exception; for the totality of a man’s inhibitions does not, as a rule, exhaust his religion. I suggest, however, that such a description is adequate to delineate the scope of morals.

 

4. Critical Abstract: Roheim’s ‘After the Death of the Primal Father’ (1929)

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Abstract of Dr Giza Roheim’s paper, ‘After the Death of the Primal Father’ (read at the Berlin Congress of 1922 and published in the ninth volume of Imago).

It is difficult for two reasons to do justice to Dr Roheim’s paper in a short abstract. Firstly, because the value of his investigation consists as much in its wealth of material and incidental suggestions as in its positive conclusions. And secondly, because the topics with which it deals are not always separated in a way which makes them easy to summarize. I shall, however, try to present his main conclusions, and some of his evidence for them, as clearly as I can; though I know that I shall run the risks both of missing some important parts of his argument and of misinterpreting others.

Dr Roheim’s arguments are mainly of two types, arguments from the present to the past, or from a later to an earlier date, and arguments from the past to the present, or from an earlier to a later date. I will try to treat these separately and will label them respectively Reconstructions and Applications.

 

5. The Remote Consequences of Psycho-analysis on Individual, Social and Instinctive Behaviour (1931)

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In this paper I have made use of a rather behaviouristic interpretation of psychological mechanisms which I am elaborating elsewhere,2 but which must be briefly recapitulated here.3

The organism, as I understand it, is so constructed that it must react to the primary stimuli of injuries and needs until they are removed. It also reacts to the secondary stimuli of threats as if they were primary and so avoids real injuries and needs; and its removal and avoidance reactions often involve as preliminary reactions the seeking of means.

The terms used in this paragraph more or less explain themselves; but, since they will be employed throughout the subsequent discussion, it is perhaps desirable to illustrate them by examples. Two primary types of stimuli were distinguished and called injuries and needs. A cut or a burn is an injury; hunger or sexuality a need. Two types of secondary stimuli were also introduced, threats and means. The visual impression of a candle is a threat to the burnt child. The visual impression of a beef steak is a means to a hungry man. So much for stimuli. Among reactions three main types were distinguished, removals, avoidances and seekings. Withdrawing the hand is the removal reaction to the primary injury of a burn. Withholding the hand is the avoidance reaction to the threat of the candle flame. Eating is the removal reaction to the primary need of hunger. Hunting game may be a seeking reaction which is a necessary preliminary to this removal.

 

6. A Psychologist’s Utopia (1930)

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INTRODUCTION

A society may be said to be secure when its members are protected from each other and free when their natural desires are not inhibited. An Utopia may be defined as a society which is both secure and free. Most societies are neither secure nor free; for the inhibitions which are intended to protect them are a cause of discontent.

Many have attempted to construct utopias. Theologians, politicians, lawyers and economists have made proposals. But their efforts have not been rewarded with success. A psychologist may perhaps be permitted to try his hand, even though he has been warned by the greatest master of his science that the problem is insoluble.2

I. THE DEMON OF CIVILIZATION

The offensive weapons of the males of many species appear to have been first evolved as an aid to the sexual instinct before they were adapted for the pursuit of game or for self-defence. (They were, perhaps, used to master the resistance of the female even before they were adapted for sexual combats.3) We may suppose that instincts fall into the same order of precedence and importance as the structures which they use. Thus, aggression in the mastery and defence of a mate is probably the most fundamental kind of aggressiveness there is. Indeed, this view is confirmed by the intimate association which still subsists between sex and aggression in all species. The carnivor may attack its prey and the herbivore may fight in self-defence; but the most ferocious battles are between rivals for a mate.

 

7. A Pyscho-analytic Study of the Voices of Joan of Arc (1933)

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The psycho-analytical enthusiast, who is not a practising physician, may turn to history for patients on whom to try his hand. But, whereas the practising analyst has the free associations of the living patient before him, the psycho-analytical historian must be content with dead records, which, by comparison, may seem hopelessly inadequate. Often they may be misleading, and sometimes positively false. Moreover, he cannot question them further, to confirm or to correct his views. At best, therefore, he can only hope to depict a personality which is psychologically coherent and consistent with the most plausible tradition. He cannot even guarantee that his portrait is the only one which satisfies these two conditions. But he may comfort himself with the reflection that, though his difficulties are greater than those of the practising physician, his responsibilities are less; and that his mistakes are unlikely to do harm.

The most reliable data for an analysis of Joan of Arc are to be found in her answers to the judges at her trial.1 But, since these alone are scarcely sufficient, they must be supplemented from the traditional representations of her character. These fall mainly into three groups. The first, which depicted her as a sorceress, has been revived in a modern form by Professor Margaret Murray, to whom Joan was the incarnate goddess of a pagan cult – a rustic survival from neolithic times. The second tradition depicts her as the epitome of all abstract chivalrous and Christian virtues. This view began during her life and received official sanction at the Trial of Rehabilitation. It still remains the chief inspiration of the more sentimental biographers. The third tradition is the product of a rational age. To Anatole France, Joan was a bemused hysteric, who happened to be a useful mascot to the army in a superstitious age. But, even to M. France, she was no ordinary hysteric. Indeed, to me, her image by this iconoclast seems more superb, because more real, than that painted by her declared adorers. My own view of Joan approximates to that of M. France – except that I credit her with more intelligence and with a more heroic end.

 

8. A Psychological Analysis of the Causes of War (1934)

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Many different theories of the origin of war have been suggested. Quite possibly they may all be true. Each of them may help to explain some wars; some of them may help to explain all wars.

We can divide these theories into two main types: those which deal with what medical science would call precipitating causes and those which deal with predisposing or constitutional causes. Take, for instance, the analogy of a cold. Here exposure to infection, or to the weather, are precipitating causes. But these alone would not be enough to produce a cold without some constitutional disposition – a weak chest, enlarged tonsils, or whatever it may be.

So it is, I believe, with the social disease of war. Many things, sometimes quite opposite things, may be precipitating causes: such as political assassinations, or having an army so big that it annoys your neighbours or so small that they are tempted to ignore you. These may be compared with going out in the rain or forgetting an overcoat. There remains, however, the constitutional disposition. People who dislike pacifism often say that it is human nature to fight and that human nature can’t be changed. How far is this true?

 

9. The Development of War (1937)

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A Psychological Approach

I. MOTIVES OF WAR

According to Bacon, we should collect our facts before we start to theorize. But facts are so numerous that the pure Baconian would never get beyond the collecting stage. In practice we all start with a theory and look for facts to fit it, and are sufficiently scientific if we are prepared to modify the theory every time they fail to do so. In other words, we proceed by a series of approximations.

(1) Conscious Motives

As far as conscious motives of war are concerned, many theories have been suggested. In the first place, it has been attributed to necessity and the struggle for existence, that is, to the pressure of the population upon the food supply. And those who hold this view usually accept it as the common lot of animals as well as men. But among rabbits, over-population brings starvation and disease, not war – and biologically this may be more beneficial to the species. Even the higher carnivores do not, so far as I know, prey upon their own species when food is short. Man, of course, does fight for food and land to grow it in; but he fights quite as often for other causes, or for no sound cause at all. Indeed, I imagine it would be true to say that primitive man fights most readily when all his economic needs are satisfied. The season of plenty is the time of war. Mars was a god of spring as well as battle – and significantly enough of marriage too.

 

10. The Psychology of Propaganda (1941)

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I. INTRODUCTION

Propaganda has always been the means by which different political or religious bodies sought to make their wills prevail; but in the past its range was short and its spread comparatively slow. Its range – at first no greater than that of the orator’s unaided voice – was only gradually enlarged by the use of written circular letters, like the Epistles of St Paul, and then by the invention and slow development of printing. But in the last few years, with the coming of cheap newspapers, of the cinema, and above all of wireless, audiences or readers of a few hundred have suddenly swelled to many millions. Its range now covers the whole world, and no one outside a desert island can escape its influence. For this reason, the psychology of propaganda, or what is perhaps the same thing, the psychology of mass suggestion, has suddenly developed an enormous practical importance.

If man were wholly rational, and influenced only by such propaganda as told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, there would be no problem. But unfortunately evidence and judgment are by no means the sole determinants of his beliefs and feelings. He has always been a credulous animal, easily convinced and easily inflamed by oratory. Sometimes he can be almost hypnotized into accepting anything that is asserted with sufficient authority and force. Our problem is to discover why.

 

11. Towards a Common Aim: A Psycho-analytic Contribution to Ethics (1944)

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I. INTRODUCTION

1. Ends and means. Two relatively distinct problems have always faced individuals, societies, and humanity at large: the problem of choosing the best means to achieve a given end, and the problem of choosing the end to be achieved. I say relatively distinct, because what from one point of view is an end, may be a means from another. For instance, good housing is an end from the point of view of the Ministry of Reconstruction, but a means from that of the Ministry of Health. From the point of view of the physiologist, the only ultimate ends are perhaps the satisfaction of the primary instincts,2 and the psychologist would probably agree that all other ‘ends’ are the result of sublimation and are therefore, in the last analysis, indirect ‘means’ to the satisfaction of these instincts. But the word ‘end’ is commonly used in a much wider sense to denote any conscious aim which is not obviously and consciously a means to some other more remote end. It is only in this wider sense that we can distinguish between the two problems: choice of means and choice of ends.

 

12. Social Conflict and the Challenge to Psychology (1947)

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1. THE PSYCHOLOGIST’S DILEMMA

For more than three decades, psychologists have been saying that the problems of the world are not purely economic, but also partly psychological. They have been saying, in effect, that it is ill. And behind their words, there may have been a phantasy that it ought to come to them for treatment. At first there was no sign of the world recognizing its illness, or of accepting the implied advice. But, by degrees and especially since the Second World War, there has been an increasing tendency to turn to them with rather more attention. It is this new attitude of a society, now more than ever aware of its discomforts, which presents psychology with its present challenge.

The challenge may be felt both as an opportunity and as an embarrassment. We may feel that our bluff has been called, and that we have much less to give than we unconsciously imagined. But this is perhaps not our major difficulty; for it does not prevent us from giving what we can. A greater difficulty, at least in my view, is that the challenge seems to raise – and in an acute form – the old problem of the relation of science to ethics, and in particular to politics. The conflicts which threaten the future happiness, and even the existence, of society are ideological. How are we to intervene? If we use our specialist learning to defend our own ideals, have we departed from the narrow path of science? If we remain ‘scientifically’ neutral, have we evaded the challenge? I do not know how widespread this feeling is; but it may be sufficiently general to deserve some preliminary investigation. I will call it the psychologist’s dilemma.

 

13. Varieties of Group Formation (1948)

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Forenote [1977] – I now find this paper, written in 1939 and published in 1950, a meticulous deduction from slightly obsolescent theories and rather dull.

INTRODUCTORY NOTE

This paper was originally given as an open lecture at the British Institute of Psycho-Analysis in the spring of 1939. (It was one of a series of six, delivered by different analysts which, but for the war, would have been published in book form.) The examples I chose to illustrate my particular thesis were the events and attitudes most familiar to an English audience at that critical period. The fact that they can now be considered in retrospect may in some ways be an advantage and, for this reason, I have not brought them up to date–except occasionally by adding an explanatory note in brackets.

As to the thesis itself, this is an elaboration of Freud’s theory as expounded in his Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921). He then described a primary group as ‘a number of individuals who have substituted one and the same object for their ego-ideal (later called the superego) and have consequently identified themselves with one another in their ego’. This formula, which I accept as fundamental, has been my starting point. But while Freud was concerned mainly with the paternal imago, we know that both parent figures must play some rôle. Moreover, they must do so in each of the two aspects–ideally good and ideally bad – into which they are split in the child’s early unconscious fantasy. (This splitting of an object as a defence against the anxieties aroused by ambivalence towards it has been especially stressed by Melanie Klein.) Some elaboration of Freud’s formula to include the rôles of both parent figures, in their bad as well as good aspects, in the formation of groups does therefore seem to be required. To supply it is the primary aim of this paper. Of course, many other factors, both psychological and social, would have to be included before our theoretical picture or model of a group could be regarded as anything like complete. I have concentrated only on filling what seemed to me a particular gap.

 

14. Some Aspects of State and Character in Germany (1951)

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Introductory Note – This paper may still be of some interest as showing the attitude of people like myself just after the Second World War. But I now feel that, because of its selection of only a very few determinants out of a vast number of neglected and unknown ones, it is too oversimplified to be a reliable guide to action.

PREFACE

This paper, based as it is on some ‘field work’ in the Germany of 1946, may today in 1951 seem to have no more than an academic interest. I believe the results of work of this kind, incomplete and selective as they were, should be recorded, and from the point of view from which they were then obtained. But I also think they should be related to the very different practical problems that have arisen since. I have therefore added a postscript for this purpose.

It has always been known that character is the combined product of heredity and environment. But, before the psychoanalytic discoveries of Freud, almost the only environmental influences considered were the example and deliberate pressure of parents, teachers or companions. And as these often failed to produce their expected or desired results, the relative importance of the hereditary factors (which could always be postulated if only in the form of some long dormant but now reawakened trait) was much exaggerated. It was left to Freud to discover the enormous influence of those forgotten experiences of early childhood that so often far outweigh the influence of both heredity and deliberate education.

 

15. Towards a Rational Attitude to Crime (1953)

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The official attitude to crime, that is, the attitude implemented in the actual treatment of criminals, has undergone enormous changes in the last hundred years. Some people think the movement has gone too far; others that it has not gone far enough. It has certainly been a movement towards greater humanity. Has it also been a movement towards greater rationality? Or to make the question more comprehensive: what is a rational attitude to crime?

First we must be clear about the sense in which any attitude may be described as rational or not. A belief is rational if it is probable upon the evidence. But an attitude – for example about sentences, that they ‘should be’ stiffer (or milder) – is not the same as a belief; it is a desire at most conditioned by a belief – for example, that stiffer (or milder) sentences diminish crime. So it can be rational only in a derivative sense: namely, when it is conditioned by beliefs and when these are themselves rational.

We all know that attitudes are often not rational, but merely ‘rationalized’. This is the case if the belief that stiffer (or milder) sentences diminish crime is held without evidence to justify an attitude based only on vindictiveness (or sentimentality). What is less obvious is that the same mechanism, which operates so clearly in this example, may operate again at deeper layers of the mind. If we have an impulse which expresses feelings we do not like to admit, we become over-ready to believe it to be merely instrumental to some more acceptable desire. In other words we embrace an irrational belief about the external world (that the impulse is instrumental to this acceptable desire) in order to maintain a false one about ourselves (that we do not have these unacceptable feelings). But at the next level of analysis, we must expect to find that these feelings (of vindictiveness or sentimentality), which may not be so very deeply hidden, are in turn only there as defences against the acceptance of some still more unpalatable fact in our inner world of ‘psychic reality’.

 

16. The Anthropological and Psycho-analytic Concept of the Norm (1955)

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Any major new idea in one branch of science is nearly always fertile in many other branches too. But just because it is so potent, it seldom escapes the fate of being occasionally fertile in fields where it is not appropriate. So, for example, the nineteenth-century idea of evolution contributed in no small measure to the crude philosophy of twentieth-century militarism – a bastard Titan, by Darwin out of Hegel, which perhaps both parents would have indignantly repudiated.

One of the major new ideas of the twentieth century is that of relativity in physics. It has certainly been fertile in other fields in which perhaps it too has sometimes been applied without enough discrimination.

The application to be considered here is that which has led to a theory of social, and in particular ethical, relativity (Westermarck, 1932). Often the opposite and older view, which assumed the existence of some absolute standard or norm of attitude or behaviour, is now felt to be not only false but illogical. For, just as it was once assumed that an absolute, or unique frame of reference not only did, but must, exist in physics, so now it is often assumed that such a frame not only does not, but cannot, exist in either physics or sociology.

 

17. Psycho-analysis and Ethics (1955)

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I. THE TRANSFER OF AN ETHICAL PROBLEM FROM PHILOSOPHY TO SCIENCE

Philosophers are now divided into two main schools of thought: those who try to ask and answer metaphysical questions, and those who try to show that all metaphysical questions are meaningless.1 But if logic is on the side of the second school, we still need not dismiss all speculative philosophy as a sterile pursuit. The questions it formulated may often have been grammatically meaningless, but those who formulated them were clearly wrestling with some problem which they felt to be important. What was wrong was not that there was no problem, but that there was a failure to formulate it in such a way that an answer would be possible. So the essential difference between science and philosophy would seem to be, not that science deals with significant and philosophy with meaningless problems, but that science deals with those that are clear cut and philosophy with those which have not got beyond the stage of being only dimly felt.2 Many centuries of philosophical endeavour may be required before such questions get beyond this stage, and when they do they cease to be philosophical and are immediately transferred to science. In other words, the task of philosophy is perhaps always a preliminary one: that of formulating new problems for science.

 

18. An Inconclusive Contribution to the Theory of the Death Instinct (1955)

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Before coming to my main theme of the death instinct, a few words on the concept of instinct in general may not be out of place.

If, as external observers, we study any animal, we note that it has certain dispositions to behave in certain ways in certain situations.1 We say these dispositions are partly innate and partly acquired, but a difficulty arises when we try to say which part is which. At least in the higher species, and especially in man, every behaviour pattern is the joint product of heredity and environment. We know that the two contributions are not separate entities like the foundation and superstructure of a building, but we often speak of them as if they were, and so become involved in such misleading dichotomies as that between what is there at birth and what develops subsequently, or between what develops in a ‘normal’ environment and what deviates from it in an abnormal one. We should come nearer the implied distinction if we regarded what is innate as a range of potentialities, and what is acquired as an actuality selected from them under the influence of a particular environment. Thus we have an instinct to eat and acquire specific eating habits.

 

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