Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario

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History of Psychology: A Sketch and an Interpretation
Volume I

James Mark Baldwin (1913)


The Third Period of Greek Speculation -- Objectivism.

Aristotle and the Rise of Objectivism. -- It would seem that Aristotle (384-322 B.C.),[l]without doubt the greatest scientific man, if not also the greatest speculative genius, that ever lived, arose to restore the empirical tradition to philosophy after the plunge into absolutism. The time was ripe for the foundation of empirical psychology, and following his scientific instinct, he founded it. But the time was not ripe for its entire philosophical justification, and he did not justify it. He had the right to found formal logic, and he took advantage of the right. His achievements in natural science, politics, æsthetics, and ethics are also those of a man of the highest constructive genius.

These remarks follow from the one statement that Aristotle developed both the empiricism of method of Socrates and the rationalistic logic that Plato inherited in the Ionic and Pythagorean tradition. Confining ourselves to the psychological bearings of his views, we will look at his doctrine from both sides, taking the metaphysical first.

Aristotle distinguished four sorts of "cause," as working together in things: "efficient," "formal," "final," and "material" cause. Of these, three fell together on the side of form (eidoV), manifested in reason, soul, and God. The fourth, the material cause, [p. 61] is matter ('ulh). This is Aristotle's interpretation of dualism. Aristotle declares that final cause was the relatively new conception which had been clearly distinguished before him only by Anaxagoras.

But matter is not an independent principle: it exists only in connection with form and design. It is a limitation, a relative negation. The only independent absolute principle is God, who is, as in the Platonic teaching, both Reason and the Good.

With such a metaphysics, there is no positive justification of science, psychological or other. Objective nature is teleological, an incorporation of reason, which gives it its form, movement, and final outcome. Life is a semi-rational teleological principle, working to an end -- a vitalistic conception. All form in nature is the product of a formative reason. Natural phenomena are not purely quantitative; formal distinctions are qualitative.

The objective world is thus given its right to be; but it is a world in which reason is immanent. There are two great modes of reason, considered as cause, in the world: a cause is either a potency (dunamiV), or an act, called "entelechy" (enteleceia) or actuality (energeia). Reason or form, when not actual, slumbers as a potentiality in nature. Pure reason or God is pure actuality; matter is pure potentiality. As such God merely exists in eternal self-contemplation, apart from the world. The heavenly bodies are made of ether (not matter like that of the four elements) and have spirits; they are moved by love, directed toward God. In this we have a concrete rendering of the ideas and divine love of Plato.

On this conception, "physics," which deals with phenomenal appearances, including psychology, is contrasted [p. 62] with the theory of causes, "first things," or "metaphysics."[2]

This philosophical conception so dominates Aristotle's mind that he practically abandons, in theory, the subjective point of view. In his view of the soul, he goes over to a biological conception, which is, however, not that of evolution. Natural species, like the types of Plato, are immutable.[3] The soul is the "first entelechy" or formal cause of the body; in essence it is akin to ether. It embodies also the efficient and final causal principles. Man, in the masculine gender, alone realises the end of nature. Psychology, thus fused with biology, extends to plants and animals and so becomes a comparative science. The plants have nutritive and reproductive souls; they propagate their form. Animals have, besides, the sentient and moving soul, which is endowed with impulse, feeling, and the faculty of imaging. In man, finally, the thinking or rational soul is present. This is implanted in the person before birth from without; and at death it goes back to its source, the divine reason, where it continues in eternal but impersonal form. It is two-fold in its nature in man, partaking both of divine reason and of the sensitive soul; it is both active and passive (nouV poihtikos and nouV paqetikoV).

In the theory of the relation of these souls to one another, Aristotle advances to a genetic and strictly modern point of view. They are not separate "parts," having different local seats in the body, as [p. 63]

Plato taught, but functions of the one developing principle. The higher is developed from and includes the lower.

In all this, it is evident that while the objective point of view is maintained, still the doctrine is not the result of a searching of consciousness; nor does it employ a strictly empirical method. It does not isolate the sphere of mind as one of conscious fact, distinct from that of the physical. The results are on the same level for mind, life, and physics in the narrower sense; they are deduced from the immanental conception of nature as a whole. So far Aristotle the metaphysician.

But Aristotle the scientific observer is still to be heard from. It is clear that psychological facts may be observed, just as other facts may be, even in the absence of any clear distinction as to the presence or absence of consciousness. Aristotle set himself to investigate the functions of the soul, looking upon it as the biological principle of form in nature.[4] In this sense, as using an objective method of observation, and as making important and lasting discoveries, he is properly to be described as the pioneer psychologist.[5]

We may now enumerate the most celebrated psychological doctrines of Aristotle, those in which his permanent influence has shown itself.

He divided the mental functions or faculties into two [p. 64] classes, the "cognitive powers" (those of knowledge and reason), and the orectic or "motive powers" (those of feeling, desire and action). This division survived until the threefold Kantian classification of intellect, feeling, and will came in.[6]

Aristotle's theory of knowledge extended from sense- perception at the bottom of the scale to the active reason at the top. There are three stages sense-perception (aisqhsiV), imagination (fantasia), and thought (nouV). He accounted for perception by assuming harmony or correspondence between the sense-function and the stimulating external conditions -- as, for example, between vision and the illuminated object -- the harmony consisting in the form common to the two, and its favourable condition being a mean between extremes of stimulation. The general function of sensation is to take the form of the object, without the matter, over into the mind. He distinguished five senses, correlating them with the physical elements. Colours were compounds of black and white, the original qualities of light. Similarly, all tastes were combinations of sweet and bitter.

For the co-ordination of the various sensations and their formation into true perceptions, Aristotle supposed a "common sense," located in the heart. It is also by the common sense that images arise and become [p. 65] memories, dreams, and fancies. These images in their revival follow three laws of association: "contiguity," "resemblance," and "contrast." It is in the common sense, moreover, that the judgment of things as true or false takes place, and the common "sensible qualities" -- motion, number, shape, size -- are attributed to things. The common sense gives unity to consciousness itself.

Only man has active recollection and constructive imagination (as employed in art). The imaging function is necessary to thought as sensation is to imagination. By the productive imagination the necessary schemata are supplied to the reason.

In the creative or higher reason, Aristotle finds a principle which brings rational certitude into the empirical matter of the common sense. As adding an element of absolute form, it is "active"; as having commerce with empirical data it is "passive." The interpretation, however, of the active as contrasted with the passive reason, is in dispute.[7]

In the investigation of thought proper, the entire body of formal or "Aristotelian" logic was worked out. The theory of syllogistic inference sprang full-formed from the brain of Aristotle. He even suggested, in his treatment of the "practical syllogism," that the laws of conduct might be thrown into similar form.[8]

In his theory of the "categories," of which he finds ten, Aristotle enumerates the different modes of predication possible about the same thing or subject. [p. 66]

Similar fruitfulness attached to the investigation of the motive powers. All perceptions, said Aristotle, are accompanied by pleasure and pain, which also characterise emotion, and issue in impulse and desire. Pleasure and pain are, in general, signs, respectively, of advanced and hindered life. Emotion is a mixture of pleasure and pain, either actual or suggested by percepts and ideas. On the basis of emotional differences, Aristotle founded differences of temperament. These remarkable positions remained the exclusive doctrines in the domain of feeling until modern times; and they are integral elements in the scientific conceptions of to-day.

As to the active and voluntary life, the same rare genius displays itself. Impulse and appetite are stimulated by pleasure and pain; emotion prompts to action. But along with this impulsive spontaneous action, there is deliberate will, which arises in desire. Desire is awakened by ideas or knowledge. There is a hierarchy of active motives and ends, as of intellectual states; stages of desire, will, and rational choice depend respectively upon perceptions, empirical knowledge, and rational insight. This introduces a certain rationalism into the theory of the practical reason, and reminds us of Socrates' theory of the relation of conduct to knowledge. The rational will is free; but the principle of will in general extends into all organic nature, in the form of impulse or potentiality. It is somewhat analogous to the "conatus " of Spinoza and the "blind will to live" of Schopenhauer.

In morals, the doctrine of the "mean" -- virtue being the mean or moderate exercise of a power, tending to self-realisation -- had its influence on the Stoics and Epicureans. [p. 67]

These principles of Psychology and Logic were carried by Aristotle into the domains of "Ethics," "Politics," "Æsthetics," and "Rhetoric" with a success that has made him one of the greatest authorities in all these subjects for all time. In his discussion of art, developed in the Poetics, he holds that the artistic imagination is imitative (mimhsiV), producing a purified or idealised picture of the real. Art is always concerned with appearances (fantasmata), which are semblant of the real. The drama serves to afford an outlet for the emotions of pity and fear -- a function by which the soul is purged and ennobled. In accordance with this view, the universe is a work of art, a whole in which an ideal is presented in sensible form. It is present eternally to the contemplation of God, to whom it responds with love through the spirit which is in it. In this we see the tendencies which were referred to in the case of Plato as being "pancalistic," losing something of their mysticism and taking on more articulate form.

Summing up, we may say of Aristotle that his philosophical theory did not advance or clarify the dualism of mind and body; but that this dualism was re-cast by him in the distinction of "matter and form." This obscured the subjective point of view. It placed emphasis upon the objective to such an extent that mental phenomena, considered as vital form, became matter for objective observation along with physical phenomena. In this way, psychology was treated as a branch of natural history or "physics"; and as such it took an enormous stride forward.

Incidentally, also, the doctrine of the soul as form led Aristotle to combat theories of a spiritistic and "psychosophic" character, such as metempsychosis and [p. 68] pre-natal reminiscence. This was an important gain to the naturalistic paint of view. But Aristotle's vitalism prevented its issuing in a complete scientific naturalism.[9]

But, as we are to see, of the two sides of Aristotle's doctrine the formal, embodied in the new logic, was to gain the ascendency[sic]. With this weapon the Patristics, Scholastics, Casuists, Logicists, and deductive reasoners of every sort hit about them with deadly effect, having their way for centuries, while natural science slumbered under the pall of the Middle Ages.

II. The Post-Aristotelian Schools:[10] The Epicureans. -- Epicurus (342-270 B.C.) reproduced tendencies current before Aristotle, but united them in a more consistent philosophy. The atomism of Democritus, says Epicurus, gives the proper account of the soul; its faculties are built up upon sensation, its desire is for pleasure, and it dies with the death of the body. For psychology, the life of sensation and that of activity [p. 69] in the pursuit of pleasure, sum up the teachings of the school. Sensation is produced by images passing from the object through the air and striking upon the sense organ. A doctrine of freedom, in the sense of caprice, is based upon the postulate of accidental deviations in the course of the falling atoms. This is the first appearance of articulate sensationalism in psychology, and as in its later appearances, in the French Encyclopædists, for example, it is associated with a materialistic metaphysics. It unites the subjective relativity of the Sophists with the physical ontology of the Atomists.[11]

The Stoics. -- Under this heading (derived from the word stoa, a porch) a great variety of tendencies is gathered together and a group of thinkers included. Zeno "the Stoic''(336-264 B.C.) is the founder and the most representative Greek of the group, which includes Greek and Roman literary men, as well as professed philosophers. Chrysippus (cir. 280-207 B.C.) Was the logician. Seneca, Epictetus, and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius were prominent Roman Stoics.

The Stoic movement was a return to sober and practical understanding, after the vogue of high theories of the reason. Knowledge in the interest of practical life; prudence guided by information; freedom as expression of personality in a world ruled by law and subject to fate; social obligation and calm enjoyment over against capricious individual pleasure: such were the Stoic counsels of moderation, justified here and there by personal and eclectic philosophical considerations.[12] Conscientiousness toward man and resignation [p. 70] toward fate are its watchwords. In the Roman group they were embodied in lofty maxims of friendship, duty, and humanity.[13]

Little that is psychologically noteworthy-as distinct from the practically moral-appears in it; and what does appear is suggested rather than explicitly stated. Zeno contended, against both Plato and Aristotle, that the soul was one, a unit function in whose activity all the parts and powers of sense and reason were included. The conception of common sense, considered as a centre of organisation and unity, was expanded into a doctrine of "consciousness," which was of the nature of knowledge -- literally a "knowing together."

Feeling and will were aspects of knowledge, while error and misfortune were due to its abuse or misdirection. Sensation is accepted or agreed to by the understanding.

The soul was corporeal, fire-like, and ethereal, as was also the world-soul or God. The world developed by laws, showing "necessity" (anagkh), the Epicurean "chance" (tuch), being excluded; it embodied reason (logoV)[14] and showed divine Providence or design. There was a cycle of creative periods; and the soul had only the duration of one of them.

On the whole, the Stoics vindicated the Socratic practical wisdom in real life: a tempered and humane enjoyment and a just resignation. Their dualism was that which appears between the values of experience and life on the one hand, and a colourless but necessary world-order on the other. They undoubtedly gave a more positive and lasting meaning to the subjective life, the inner seat of affective and active processes, sharing this with the Epicureans. And in the doctrine of the unity of common sense or knowledge, they transferred speculative interest to the self as the bearer of consciousness and the centre of values. This was the transition of view-point required to give to psychology its restricted sphere and to justify its place as a science of inner or conscious phenomena, after the undue objectivation of the mental by Aristotle.

With the clarification of the inner sphere thus brought about, the analogy with the "subjective" stage in the individual's self-apprehension goes forward. Racial reflection, like that of the individual -- when once the thought of self as the centre of conscious processes is achieved -- never again loses this vantage-ground. Consciousness, the background of the Sophists' scepticism, the theatre of Socrates' dialectic, the object of Aristotle's research, and the postulate of occultism and theological mysticism, is on the point of becoming the presupposition of speculative thought. It had to wait, however, to come actually and fully into its own, for the emancipation of reflection, after the period of the domination of the Church.

III. The Greek Mystics, Neo-Platonism. -- The elements of mystic contemplation found in Plato became explicit in the Greek Mystics. The influence of Oriental thought, notably Jewish, united with this in a revolt against the exclusive pretensions of the reason as organ of apprehension of the world and God. For this the new intuition of the conscious person, the embodiment [p. 72] of the soul, thrown into relief by the Stoics, and soon to be explicitly demonstrated in an anti-materialistic sense by Plotinus, supplied the needed vehicle. It was furthered by the sceptical criticism of the members of the New Academy (e.g. Carneades, cir. 213 B.C.), who developed the theory of relativity of Aristippus and the Sophists.[15]

The world issues from God by a series of emanations or outpourings; by these he is manifested, without loss or impoverishment to himself. In concentric circles, the Divine becomes dilute, its perfections are impaired in the world-soul and in angels, demons, and men. This is the "fall," the descent of man. The ascent is through love and ecstasy, by which the soul rises through a series of embodiments, gains the stars, and finally reaches again its divine source.

In Philo of Alexandria, called Philo Judæus or "the Jew" (cir. 30 B.C.-A.D. 40), the explicit union of Jewish theology with Platonic idealism is effected. In the series of personal beings interposed by Philo between God and man is the "Word of God"; a doctrine in which the "Logos" of the Stoics becomes the "Word" or "first begotten Son'' of the Gospel of St. John. Philo makes the conception of personality fundamental, and depicts the world as the imperfect form in which the perfect reveals itself. In these vital points, he leads the Alexandrian movement.

In the Neo-Platonist group proper, or " Alexandrians," Plotinus (A.D. 205-270) is the commanding figure.[16] In his doctrines, the motives of speculation are clearer, [p. 73][figure][p. 74] since they are more essentially Greek. The emanation theory becomes a philosophy of creation which, as Harms points out, leaves aside the principles of causation and finality, both essential in the rational thought of the time. The world-movement is depicted as one simply of occurrence, happening, the embodiment of a rational principle. God reveals himself in successive pulsations, proceeding from his inner nature; instead of in a hierarchy of ideas, originating In thought. There is a hierarchy of quasi-personal existences, apprehended by the soul as in nature one with itself. The different "souls" of Plato and "mental powers" of Aristotle indicate stages of degradation of the divine person, down to the animal and reproductive soul, and finally to matter itself.

Plotinus argued directly for the spirituality of the soul. His two main positions were, first, that the animate organism could not arise out of the inanimate particles by combination; and second, that continued personal identity is proved by memory. The latter position probably suggested the doctrine of "memoria" of St. Augustine, mentioned below.

To Plotinus, God is a mind, without body or self, in which all ideas arise. He is the first stage in the manifestation of pure identity, or being, or the One,[17] conceived very much in the sense of the substance of Spinoza. After Mind comes the world-soul, which is in turn present in all individual souls. These last are conscious and personal. The individual arises, by a series of intuitions of the successive stages or embodiments, [p. 75] to a state of union with the impersonal and absolute One. This is a state of ecstatic love and contemplation.

The movement is mystic in two senses, both of which are important for the history of the development of dualism. In the first place, God,[18] and with him all concrete reality, is in essence a personal presence, not a rational idea. The movements in the real are likewise inherent and immanent, simply presented as given facts; observed, not accounted for on logical grounds. The dualism, therefore, of objective things and personal soul (whether rational, sensitive, spiritual, or whatever it be) is abolished. Its terms are reconciled through the intuition of unity in their divine source.

Again, the same appears in the method of apprehension of God or the real. It is by an act of contemplation or direct intuition that the human soul vindicates its oneness with the divine. The will goes out in ecstasy, the heart in love; the will subsides in self-repression, the heart in a trance-like calm. The divine presence, not revealed to thought or attained by effort, is taken up in feeling, by a movement of personal absorption. Here we see the legitimate development of Platonic "love," freed from its rational presuppositions.

The "ejective " process, the reading of God and the world in terms of personality, reaches here its culmination. It is the form of pan-psychism which succeeds to the heritage of Ionic hylozoism and the Platonic "idea." With this the motives of reconciliation of dualism appear in personal intuition, contemplation, emotional and æsthetic realisation. In the earlier [p. 76] doctrines, the true and the good were reached indirectly, mediated by ideas: here they are apprehended immediately and directly in an act of communion with God.[19]


[1] Called the Stagirite from his birthplace, Stageira, a Greek colony in Thrace.

[2] The subjects that followed "after physics" (ta meta ta fusika) in the collection of Aristotle's writings made by Andronicus.

[3] Animal forms show a gradation up to man, but they do not represent an actual evolution, as the Ionic philosophers had declared, but incomplete or abortive efforts of nature, which aims at producing man in whom the active reason appears.

[4] In this he anticipated the modern, more explicit attempt to objectivise the mental sphere while retaining the essentially subjective character of its content. It appears later on in Comte's attempt to do justice to psychological facts in connection with social, and in recent definitions of animal psychology as the "science of animal behaviour,'' both matters touched upon later on.

[5] Aristotle's psychological treatises are De Anima (peri yuchV) and Parva Naturalia. A recent work giving a translation into English, with full Introduction and Bibliography, is by Prof. W. A. Hammond, it is entitled Aristotle's Psychology (1902).

[6] In his general psycho-physical conception, Aristotle is startlingly modern, save, of course, in the actual results reached. He gives detailed and conclusive reasons for locating the soul not in the head but in the heart, which, as he discovered, was the centre of the vascular system; for considering heat the material substratum of life and mind; for regarding the veno-arterial system (with the blood) as the channel of communication of sense and motion. But for our knowledge of nerve and brain, we should consider his argument a model of inductive reasoning, as indeed it was taken to be for generations.

[7] See Hammond's account of the different views (Aristotle's Psychology, Introduction). No doubt the best commentary is that afforded by the theoretical developments which followed upon Aristotle's incomplete statements.

[8] Eth. Nic., l147b, 18. The "Nichomachean ethics" is thought be a treatise on morals addressed by Aristotle to Nichomachus, his son.

[9] This has remained a hindrance in the development of the subject-matter of positive science. In the growth of' the modern sciences, psychology has been about the last to attain the full naturalistic point of view. The physical sciences achieved it earliest, that is, the sciences of the purely objective and external. But they were long embarrassed by the intrusion of an ill-defined and mystical postulate of soul or mind or reason, made the explaining principle even in the domain proper to science. It was to be expected that physical, like mental science, would be able to define its subject-matter clearly only after the substantive distinction between mind and matter was achieved and the latter was defined in terms of extension. Only later still -- and not completely yet -- have the biological sciences freed themselves from this sort of intrusion; seen in animism, vitalism, and teleology in its various forms. As to psychology, the distinction between naturalism of content and method, and spiritualism of principle :finds difficulty in maintaining itself to-day.

[10] An able account of the period is to be found in Caird, The Development of Theology in the Greek Philosophers, II, Lect. XV.

[11] The great poem, De Natura Rerum, of the Roman poet Lucretius, presents in not too faithful form the philosophy of Epicurus.

[12] Cf. Caird, loc. cit., Lect. XVII, for an account of the general social bearings of the Stoic movement.

[13] Undoubtedly the loftiest and purest of moral codes based on humanity; it yields only to the Christian ethics of love, expounded so soon after in the "Sermon on the Mount."

[14] The term "logos" was used before this by Anaxagoras in connection with the principle of reason. It passed through Stoicism and Alexandrianism into Christian theology.

[15] To these more intrinsic factors should be added the recrudescence of psychosophy and superstition favoured by the disturbed political and social conditions after the Macedonian invasion.

[16] Assigned to the school of Alexandria, though born in Egypt out of that city, and teaching, after about A.D. 245, in Rome.

[17]According to Boutroux (Historical Studies in Philosophy, Eng. trans., p. 157), Plotinus himself connected his transcendent One with the Absolute of Aristotle, which existed apart, in pure self-contemplation.

[18] Or, with Plotinus, the next lower being, the "world-soul."

[19] The Indian systems, which we have no space to describe, present analogies with Neo-Platonism. They give an exhibition of thought which is in principle intuitive rather than reflective, contemplative rather than logical. We can easily see, on comparing Oriental with Occidental civilisations, which of the two types of thought has proved fruitful for science, including psychology. For a comprehensive exposition of Oriental systems, see J. E. Carpenter, article "Oriental Philosophy and Religion," in the Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology of the present writer. Harms (loc. cit., pp. 193f.) makes an interesting comparison of Oriental and Greek dualisms with that of Descartes.