A natural propensity can be calibrated either with the help of reason,â either thanks to different forms of education, or by entering in competition with other innate or acquired propensities.28 There is passion, according to Lamarck, when a propensity manifests itself without being contained by reason, education, or acquired propensities.29 The innate central purpose of these propensities renders them recognizable as independent from the modifications brought about through education. To drink at a spring demands a different series of coordinations than to ask a dinner companion to pass the carafe of water at a banquet. In this example a common core instinctual procedure is included in two different propensions.30 This flexibility of the behavioral organization of the organism has had a profound impact on the development of human social behavior.
According to Lamarck, it was always thus that the initial human propensities developed and differentiated gradually as more complex social systems made the social exploitation of the propensities’ flexibility possible. This complexity is such that its organization is necessarily nonconscious. This is why the diverse developments of the natural propensities form today, in every human being, a web of activities unbeknown to himâ and that continuously govern himâ (Lamarck, 1820, II.II.1, p. 207; translated by Marcel Duclos).31 As a good systemic thinker, Lamarck does not defend a linear development that would have first occurred in one’s imagination, then at the level of the propensities, and then in social organization.32 All these factors structure each other continuously.
Lamarck already introduces the idea, exploited by Darwin, that this network of influences is not necessarily coherent and leads to conflicts of interests between the different heteroclite constituents of a propensity. The propensities, such as they exist today in humans, connect a network of natural and acquired propensities that calibrate every behavior. Even when it consists in being thirsty, the natural stakes can be associated to other interests like those of manipulating a speaker by the way one holds a cup of tea: Therefore, for those who know how to study humans, it is curious to observe the diversity of masks under which one can disguise a personal interest according to their status, their social ranking, their power, etc.â (Lamarck, 1820, II.II.1, p. 209; translated by Marcel Duclos). The relevance of this analysis for the psychotherapist is that we must advance prudently when we try to reduce behavior to a unique biological constituent. For example, asking for more tea to protect oneself by controlling others and the need to drink enough water for self-preservation both activate different mechanisms, which are nevertheless associated to the core of the same instinct. These two ways of using thirst are so intermingled that any attempt to understand them by a cause that might be more basicâ than others could lead to an error in understanding.
Lamarck seems to center his psychology on schema,33 skills, or action systems34 that inevitably lead the psychotherapist to approach the human being as if it were but a combination of gestures and thoughts. Thoughts move the body, and gestures create thoughts. To analyze a representation without taking into account the behaviors associated to it often leads to an incomplete analysis of a person’s propension.35
Lamarck is fascinated by the power with which an instinct mobilizes the resources of the organism needed to accomplish a task. From the point of view of consciousness, all that is perceived is an imperative feeling experienced as a rational desire. It shows that the study of the evolution of the mind is possible only by studying how physiology and behavior are coordinated.36 His knowledge of evolution allows Lamarck to understand how certain biological dynamics become active components of the psychological development of individuals.