A Clue to Holt's Treatment of the Freudian Wish

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A Clue to Holt's Treatment of the Freudian Wish  (1917) 
by Mary Whiton Calkins

A Clue to Holt’s Treatment of the Freudian Wish

I find myself in close agreement with Professor Watson’s recent estimate[1] of Edwin Holt’s brilliant little book on The Freudian Wish. “That Holt’s wish is not Freud’s” (p. 862) and that there is from my point of view, very fortunately—more of Holt than of Freud in the book (p. 902); that we none the less are indebted to Holt for his emphasis on Freud’s genuine contribution to general psychology; that Holt is justified in his effort to replace the sensation as unit of psychology (p. 861) ; that his effort is not wholly successful and that, in particular, he does not present us with a satisfactory substitute for “Meynert’s justly criticized scheme”—to all these conclusions I subscribe very cordially. I also agree with Mr. Watson that the book has a thoroughly “behavioristic tendency” (p. 904), while yet “in many places” it has not rid itself from “subjectivism.” But Watson, I think, has net found the clue to Holt’s apparent see-saw between “hehaviorism” and “subjectivism.” Yet it lies ready to hand: Holt rightly rejects the abstractions of the ordinary sensationalistic and ideistic psychology. When, however—in this study of moral behavior—he is discussing a social situation, then, though he neither acknowledges nor even realizes the fact, he is taking as primary unit of his psychology neither the reflex arc nor the wish, but rather the morally behaving, wishing, willing, self—the “mother” or “father” or “boy” of his masterly illustrations. Thus, to take almost random examples, when Holt says[2] that “the child is frustrated, but not instructed,” or when he insists[3] “that one untruthful word of father or mother will often undermine the child’s confidence forever,” his teaching gains its force from the implicit reference to frustrated or confiding child and to truthful or untruthful parents, not as higher organisms of integrated reflexes, but as purposing selves in social relation.

Mary Whiton Calkins.

Wellesley College.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.


The author died in 1930, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

 
  1. This Journal, Vol. XIV., pp. 85–92.
  2. The Freudian Wish, p. 108.
  3. Ibid., p. 113.