chapter  Chapter Four
14 Pages

Freud’s evolutionary thinking

ByRobert Langs, James O. Raney, David Smith

This chapter presents the question of the extent to which Sigmund Freud made use of and incorporated evolutionary precepts into psychoanalytic theory. The early Darwinian theory that Freud embraced was fraught with confusion. The basic principle of natural selection eluded Freud, who was inclined towards a Lamarckian, instructionistic way of thinking. The Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest and of competition for resources was a factor in Freud’s strong investment in conflict theory. Freud made little use of Darwin’s key principle of natural selection, thereby neglecting economic and survival issues. Freud’s distance from evolutionary principles has left with a relative absence of adaptive thinking in contemporary psychoanalytic theory, a void that a small group of psychoanalytic evolutionary writers have been attempting to fill. Several major deficiencies in the fundamental theory of psychoanalysis have persisted because most analytic theorists have not incorporated the principles and constraints of evolutionary theory and biology into their thinking.