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 II

James Mark Baldwin (1913)

[p. 134] PART VI.



The Development of Individual Thought.

In the Introduction it was stated that in our exposition we would note the bearing of the analogy between philosophical and individual interpretations of the mental principle: between the race's and the individual's progressive understanding of the self.  In religious places, accordingly, we have pointed out in passing the application of this thought, and our main division of the history into epochs has illustrated it. The epochs designated prelogical (primitive), spontaneous (Greek), and reflective (modern), belong to the history of thought and to the history of the person alike.

The interest attaching to the facts will be enhanced if we state the principle a little more succinctly, especially in view of deciding what it does not imply. This we will first attempt; and then give a brief sketch of the actual course of the individual's normal development, in which the main stages will be thrown into relief. The points of correspondence between the two movements will then become plainer.

The parallelism or concurrence in question is this: the course of human interpretation presents a series of progressive stages which bear analogy both in [p. 135] character and in order of appearance, to the stages of the individual's progressive understanding of the self.

The reason for considering this parallelism as more than an analogy has been intimated above.[1] There is an important sense in which the two series appear to be not really two, but only one. The racial progression is due to a series of assimilations, on the part of society, of the thoughts or interpretations of individuals. Social thought is a re-reading of individual thought. On the other hand, the results reached by individuals are re-interpretations of socially current material. Individual invention and originality always proceed by a re-reading of earlier knowledge, belief, or practice. So far as the mere facts go, therefore, we see some reason for saying that the two series cannot he radically different or dissimilar. How could society, represented by the series of racial thinkers, reach results which were not also normally achieved in typical individual points of view? On the other hand, the individual's capricious imaginings, his atypical and purely personal fancies, would not "set" in the social mould or appear in the historical movement.

This is clearly the case with the topic of our inquiry, the self, whatever may he said of the less fundamental and merely factual beliefs and opinions. The view entertained by the mind is an interpretation of one of the two parts of the great world-cleavage into self and things; and the movements of the individual's thought, like those of the race's thought, represent a very gradual growth in the course of the entire experience of life. The self is achieved; it must be constantly tested and found to hold good; it is the permanent [p. 136] centre of values, both individual and social. Its development, therefore, in the one case as in the other, can go forward only by a series of adaptations reached through struggle and achievement; it is the outcome of a continuous travail.[2]

I. The Rise and Development of Dualism in the Individual. We will now inquire into the series of interpretations of the self and the world reached in normal individual development.

Psychologists find that the child very early comes to recognise in himself a centre of the events taking place about him. That is to say, he is the centre of his own apprehension and experience. But his early self is his whole person, not his mind simply. The physical person is the seat of the self; but it differs, he soon learns, from the things which are not persons.[p. 137] What it is that makes this difference -- the something that is present in the body to make it a person -- he is to learn only very slowly.[3] It is his gradual discovery and interpretation of the meaning of this difference that motives his growth in knowledge. If we designate any sort of distinction between these two factors of personality, between mind and body, that is, as dualism, we may say that at first experience is probably without dualism. In more technical terms, it is "a-dualistic." But the dualism of mind and body takes its rise and passes through certain well-marked stages of development, the details of which we cannot here relate.[4] The principal movements, however, are as follows --

(1) The Projective Stage: the interpretation of all nature as crudely animate, without distinction of living and dead, mental and physical. As giving a first advance toward a sense of the meaning of the self, it is called "projective." Although a-dualistic, still its striking feature, movement, agency, mysterious force, is on the side of what afterwards comes to characterise mind as the self. This character is simply projected forward, along with the other marks of nature; it is not in any sense reserved for the self. It is also, so far as human -- that is as representing human values and beliefs -- a collective or common mode of apprehension. The child accepts the traditional and conventional estimates, methods and sanctions. He cannot [p. 138] be independent or logical, not being yet a complete individual.  He is developing in the social matrix. The larger interest, representing the essential moulding of his personality by society, is all-absorbing to his curiosity and all-imperative for his practice. It is his nature, not his will, that leads him to follow the social trend.

(2) The First Differentiation: the apprehension of persons as different from things, without, however, the apprehension or interpretation of the marks of subjectivity. There is merely the discovery of an actual but indefinite difference; the marks that indicate an inner centre of experience are not separately cognised. The character of this difference appears as the positive marks of the contrasted terms develop (as given just below).

(3) The Rise of Subjectivity: the experiences of the inner life itself, its pains, pleasures, efforts, etc., are apprehended as belonging peculiarly to the self, which is for this reason "subjective." Every person becomes in this sense a subjective centre of personal experience, having emotions and desires which are peculiarly his own. The merely projective marks of personality are taken over from others by imitative absorption and found to be marks of the private self. By his awareness of this he becomes conscious of the individual mental life as a circumscribed area. This is the period of the rise of the subjective.

At this stage, the dualism takes on more definite form, since the objects of the world are those things which do not have the subjective character. The objective exists over against the subjective, the outer over against the inner, dead things over against conscious persons.[p. 139]

The young child's interest does not pass easily over to external objects as such; he treats them as instruments of action, means to ends, tools for the carrying out of personal purposes. His concern attaches in preference to persons, whose acts and attitudes constitute, with his own, the continued and highly interesting panorama of life. The interest so aroused and developed continues to be, as at first, a collective one, a social one; since his distinction of persons from things does not yet amount to the radical separation of persons as individuals from one another. "Man is the measure of all things"; but the meaning of "man" is that connoted by the collective "we."  This is the "subjective-objective" stage.

(4) Ejection. This last-named stage of dualism -- the "subjective-objective" stage -- is confirmed and hardened by the process known as "ejection." By this is meant the tendency to understand other persons, and personality in general, in terms of one's own experience; to take the outline sketch given in one's own subjective life as fit to be placed upon the similar life of others. "They feel," says one, "act, and desire, as I do or as I should in their places. I understand them because they are selves as I am; my growing experience enables me to interpret their conduct constantly more accurately. In short, in the words of the social psychologist, I 'eject' myself into the other person; and that which is thus common to us both and to all individuals is the social self, the socius, of the group. It connotes a self of personal values, sanctions, and duties, in which all individuals by their very nature participate."

It is for this reason that the interests and values of the early life continue to be so distinctly collective and [p. 140] social, even after the objective world as such is fairly apprehended. Only gradually are the motives of individualism released. Even the knowledge of things, resting upon sense perception, and confirmed on occasion by individual observation, is socially tested and supplemented; it is a body of "collective representation," as the French sociologists phrase it. Besides what it merely is for recognition, an object means what it is for use as a social utensil or instrument; just as to us adults, while a lamp-post oil the corner is a post, it means withal a system of good or bad city illumination: it is both a thing and a civic symbol. In all this, there is the further connotation which is due to the survival of earlier collective interests. A child accepts the say-so of parent or teacher, and does not reflect or judge independently. In matters at all removed from immediate apprehension, the social standard and tradition are final and obligatory upon his knowledge and conduct. And even in cases of direct sensation, the social interest so floods over and obscures his perception that an a-logical and mystical meaning may be imparted to the simplest and most commonplace things and events. A similar state of mind is often present in adults, as in the Christian communicant's attitude to- wards the Host or its elements. What Christian, even the sternest Protestant, sees in the Eucharist merely a morsel of bread? Although bread, it is also the Body of Christ.

While, therefore, the individual at this stage of his growth does understand persons as being subjective, it is a social and practical subjectivity that he reaches, not one in which the single personal self and its interests are fully isolated. The character, ends, and objects of thought and life are collective. Everything is [p. 141] socially prescribed and socially judged. The family, the school, the social set, embody the socius which is the subjective principle, over against objective and inanimate things.

(5) The Growth of Objectivism. A similar hardening of the objective term of the dualism goes on, but much more slowly. The child only gradually comes to interest himself in things for themselves and in knowledge for itself, apart from the personal concerns to which they are instrumental. He has to be taught to observe things and describe them accurately, to report exactly what he sees and hears. His definitions are couched in terms of interest and practical use: a stone is "what you throw at birds," ice is "that which cools the water." It requires an enormous mental readjustment to effect the transition of interest to the objective pole of the world-dualism; and this even when all the pedagogical agencies of example, precept, and instruction are exerted to aid in the achievement of it. Never, in fact, do any of us completely emancipate ourselves from the subjective preference which is so largely of social origin. There remain always many of Bacon's "idols of the den": images of social origin and interest which we worship at the expense of the colourless forms of objective and neutral truth.

But the process of logical emancipation does go on. The factors of external reality, which we find to be foreign to us; the actual data of sensation, which restrict our activities; the requirements of accuracy in memory; the need of common results among ourselves in the details of knowledge -- all these things lead to the establishment of a body of facts and truths by which the movements of personal interest and preference are controlled. The boy's knowledge of the topo-[p. 142] graphy of the neighbourhood becomes accurate, just as does the savage's knowledge of the regions of the forest in which he lives. Truth comes to dominate and guide his activities in the direct affairs of life; although preferential interest may continue to lead in the further interpretation, and result in the contortion of truth as soon as these direct affairs are lost sight of. The child knows that "Dolly" is not alive, and treats her on occasion as a mere inanimate thing; "Dolly" is then the objective doll.  But "Dolly" is also the dear child, the preferred playmate, the injured loved one. The larger personal and sentimental interest engulfs the mere objective thing; and the world of persons, subjective and preferential, asserts its superiority with overwhelming force. The two "Dollies," born of the two rival interests, objective and subjective, live together without discord in the one porcelain image. So to the adult the mere thing, which is real enough, disappears in the holy object, the familiar fact in the mystic presence it signifies. In the "legal-tender" note, the mere printed paper merges in the social instrument of exchange and profit.

This doubleness of meaning, attaching to things generally, remains in the mind of most men in civilised society. But the progress of thought in the individual is, nevertheless, not arrested at this point. Individuals may, and many do, learn to reflect upon life and mind, and to attempt to construct science, even though most men remain ignorant of such problems. The passage into what we may call a reflective or logical dualism shows certain further motives at work.

(6) Immature dualism. A continued embarrassment arises in the presence and role of the body, the physical part of the self. It is at once a mere thing and also [p. 143] the intimate seat of the subjective life. The two interpretations to which inanimate things are open, on occasion resting side by side without great inconvenience, now come into flagrant opposition. My friend's body, and even my dog's, can never be to me a mere thing, although it is an external physical object. I always have to treat it as a living or personal body, a centre of feeling and action. So with my own body. It is, of course, a thing; but for me it is not only the instrument, it is the very residence of my self.

One way of escaping from this dilemma is seen in a growing emphasis of the subjective. The agent asserts himself to the extent of seeking to dominate the physical and control the things of sense and fact by force of personal preference and will, or by ignoring the physical altogether.[5] So a pronounced individualism is born. The growing child manifests a series of resisting, aggressive, and "contrary" attitudes; he rebels against authority and refuses to recognise facts. We say he is wilful -- which is true!

In this tendency, the individual subject and its interests tend to free themselves from the social matrix. The sturdy self-assertive person appears, ready to disregard for the time the mere things which he uses as instruments of his efforts and purposes. And he finds in other persons centres of power and individuality like himself. A fruitful opposition of wills arises. Another direction of growth appears in a lapse from the binding conditions of the dualism itself, when resort is had to a temporising personal attitude: a [p. 144] sort of hedonism, opportunism, and scepticism. This appears more simply in the individual than these descriptive terms, drawn from the sphere of reflective thinking, would indicate. It is a state of surrender, impotence, laisser faire. "What's the use?" "I don't care," "No good," are its expressions.[6] It leads, however, to the step taken in advance when both terms of the opposition are given due force and a further development of the dualism itself becomes necessary.

(7) Psycho-physical Dualism. Such a development could have only one issue. The hardening of the mind and body terms -- each assimilating to itself a wide range of experiences -- leads to the separation of the two types of existence into two disparate control-factors or substances. The spiritualism of early religious instruction and of conventional social belief is the refuge of the individual's thought. He believes that he has a "soul," a spiritual substratum, which is nevertheless placed in a body which is in nature and in fact separate from it. The body has a different substratum. Thus a spiritual world and a physical world arise over against each other. Their actual meeting-place is in the personal body. Here the psycho-physical bond is established by which the soul can act through and upon the body for the realisation of the ends of minds. The particular form of this view depends, of course, upon the social environment: upon the influences brought to bear upon the individual. But in essence it is always the same. It is a "substantive" dualism,[p. 145] a dualism of substances, of spirit and matter, irrespective of any further definition of either. Before this the problem was that of separating mind and body in view of their common characters.  This problem is now treated as answered: they are two disparate and separate substances. The problem then becomes the reflective one, how this can be? How are the two substances related to each other? How can mind and body interact, one with the other? From the point of view of theory, we call it the psycho-physical problem.

This is the question -- not urgently asked or asked at all perhaps by the individual -- whose solution takes form in reflective and logical alternatives. Society to-day, and the ordinary mature individuals in it, are and generally remain what we have called substantive dualists. It is the task of logical thought to go further in the way which carries human interpretation on to its more refined issue. The individual has now passed from the childhood period; from the prelogical and spontaneous stages of self-consciousness into the fully logical.

II. The Logical Interpretation of Dualism: the New Dualism of Reflection. The movement by which the logical or reflective faculty comes into operation in the individual mind is on the whole fairly plain. It involves simply the recognition by the individual that all the objects of knowledge -- percepts, images, notions, ideals -- all are, whatever else may be said, in his own mind; all are ideas, whatever they may prove to be besides. Their relative value is that which he, the subject, is justified, for one reason or another, in attaching to them. He thus reflects upon his ideas, upon any or [p. 146] all of them, and judges what they respectively are and mean, beyond being mere ideas. Dreams, for example, are judged to have no further value; images are treated with discrimination, some being accepted as true memories, convertible into facts, others discounted as mere fancies; concepts are judged true or false, ideals worthy or unworthy. There is now, in short, a critical attitude, a further belief or disbelief; the availability of mental states, as representing and mediating something beyond themselves.

In this distinction between the subject and the whole of experience considered as objective to it, we have the further statement of dualism in the form known as "reflection." It is called reflective as distinguished from prelogical and spontaneous. It involves a certain reserve of the self over against the entire body of contents in the mind.

In this sense it affords a new dualism: the self is distinguished from the entire body of its ideas or thoughts; upon these it passes judgment. They are its objects, its ideas, its experiences, no matter what differences of value may be assigned to them as the result of reflection. The dream, the fancy, the memory, the hypothesis -- all come forward as objects of thought for the inspection and judgment of the self which is the subject. The dualism of reflection is a subject-object dualism.

With this the various modes of logical process proper, argumentation and reasoning in its various forms, come into play; and the mind is launched upon its career of more or less independent thinking, speculative construction, and scientific discovery. From now on all sorts of theories of the mind, of the world, and of God are possible.[p. 147]

III. The Development of Imaginative Interpretation.[7] It is of the greatest interest to note that the growing mind does not rest content with the dualisms that its social and practical life constantly produce. On the contrary, even the form of dualism produced by reflection itself demands revision. Along with the early strenuous endeavour to cope with serious situations, we find the child indulging his imagination in various ways to rearrange and re-interpret the more superficial reports of fact.

First of all, the play functions present to him the world of things and persons in a sort of make-believe or semblance, producing an "as-if" world, in which there is remarkable room for preference and readjustment  He delights also in imaginative and mythical stories and legends, in fairy tales and wonder-lore, finding in all this a more immediately satisfying world than that to which the rude laws of nature and life introduce him. This tendency grows stronger with the growing years. We find it constantly taking broader form and evoking wider interest; until the entire content of life is shot through with a re-reading of things in the light of ideals, schematic and assumptive in character, erected by the imagination, and serving as standards of what might be or of what ought to be. Both persons and things take on the meaning which makes them part of a further world [p. 148] in which the terms of dualism are reconciled and its conflicts abolished.  In the personal realm, the ideal of duty arises; in the external world, the ideals of order and truth. All this is semblant in the sense that, while not realised in fact, yet it has the semblance of reality. It is "as-if" real: a sort of prophecy of reconciliation and unity. So far as such an ideal unity is assumed or postulated in the personal and social life, it combines the subjective and ejective in the postulate of God, taken to be a real personality, absolute in character. The child takes this over from his elders as a final solution of the dualism of things; "God made both persons and things," he is taught to say. In this a more or less reasoned mysticism of a religious character -- involving emotional elements of dependence, awe, and love -- identifies the individual's interest with the corresponding racial motives of religion.

These ideals become thus embodied in assumptions or postulates of various absolutes: absolute truth, absolute goodness, absolute beauty. On the objective side, it is in the æsthetic consciousness, in the apprehension and appreciation of beauty, that this movement toward ideal unity and value seems to reach its culmination. In the thing of beauty the individual finds both his personal demands and the requirements of truth realised for the time and in a semblant way. During his full enjoyment of the work of art, he finds the subject-self merged with the objective thing; and it is with a distinct sense of loss and of lessened apprehension of the inner meaning of things that he sees the old dualism of self and object, desire and fact, re-establish themselves when he returns to prosaic life again. He says to himself: "Oh, that things were [p. 149] always beautiful, that satisfactions need not clash with facts, that ideals were universally realised, as the things of beauty shows me they may be!" And when he reaches a state of reflection he may well ask: "May not the æsthetic point of view be, after all, the profoundest? May not the real come by an experience of unity and ideality -- a real which the dualisms of life and logic only serve to mutilate or distort? May not a return to the immediacy of æsthetic contemplation be the true course for our reflection as it is the resort of the spontaneous mental life, when harassed by the perplexities of partial mediation in this direction and in that?"

Be this as it may, the facts are plain. The imagination insists upon setting up its semblant interpretations of things: its postulate, its ideals, its absolutes, its God. It supplements, stage by stage the results of one-sided knowledge and the incomplete ends of will; it abolishes, at least in the imagination, the finality of any sort of dualism, indicating constantly the wider view and holding out the larger hope.

It appears, then, in the light of this brief account, that the course of normal individual development shows marked uniformity in two ways. First, the exigencies of life require and produce adaptations which result in dualism between selves and things, between mind and body, between subject and object. This dualism goes through a series of transformations which, while refining, nevertheless harden and intensify it, up to the rise of the logical and reflective period. It then takes on the most refined and varied forms in the crucible of reflection.

But with this goes, pari passu, the development of the imaginative function, which shows at each period [p. 150] a return to a sort of semblant or ideal unity. At each stage the finality of the dualism of the period is denied; and an immediate intuition of things, as ideally complete and whole, is revealed, extending to the entire mental life. This reaches its fullest form in the æsthetic consciousness, which succeeds to the, earlier, more mystic modes of intuition, and clarifies their results. A thing of beauty, whether in nature or in art, is for the time apprehended as being both ideal as a thing and ideal for the self. It is as if the Creator, in saying of the world "It is very good," had meant "It is completely reasonable and wholly satisfying, because, as embodying my very Self, it is entirely beautiful."

In the individual, in sum, the development of the theoretical reason or intelligence culminates in laws of Truth for him absolute, that of practical reason or will in norms of absolute Goodness, and that of the emotional life, with which the imagination is charged, in rules of absolute Beauty.


[1] Introduction in Vol. I.

[2] This leaves untouched, of course, the question of the nature of the developing principle; to take that up would be only to add our own interpretation to the rest. We are dealing here simply with history.

 It may be well also to point out certain other questions which remain over; to indicate certain things which the principle here announced does not imply. (1) We are not dealing with the history of culture as such, the social attainment of an epoch or people; but with the theory of the mind or soul which we find expressed in the writings of its representative thinkers. (2) It is, therefore, most frequently the advanced thought, not the average social belief that we have to consider. (3) We do not raise the question -- touched upon on another page -- as to the possible achievements of individuals, at this epoch or that, had they been born in some other environment or epoch: the question of a real progress in human endowment. On the other hand, the two valid applications of the analogy in question are these: (a) that which rests upon social historical progress rather than advance in individual endowment; and (b) that which finds in the recorded or reported outcome of progressive human thought about the self an advance parallel with that found by psychologists in the development of individual thought.

[3] For the theory of the social origin of self-consciousness see the writer's Social and Ethical Interpretations (4th ed.). Cf. also Royce, Studies in Good and Evil; Ormond, The Foundations of Knowledge; Mezes, Ethics, Descriptive and Explanatory; McDougall, Introduction to Social Psychology.

[4] On the progressive development of the dualism of mind and body, see the writer's Thought and Things, Vol. I, "Functional Logic."

[5] The psychosophic counterpart of this is seen in the quasi-religious views which recognise certain aspects of the physical while ignoring others because they are disagreeable or painful or "evil."

[6] It is characteristic also of the lapse from reflection after failure and discomfiture, or when the vigour of thought is succeeded by weariness. In old age vigorous sceptics often return to faith, and irreligious rationalists resume their pious practices.

[7] Meinong, Über Annahmen (1902), pointed out explicitly the role of imaginative "assumption" (Annahme) and its place as lying between perception and judgment. The doctrine of the "schema," in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, is an earlier insight into the role of the semblant imagination, justifying the use of "schema" and "schematism" in the discussion of this function (cf. the writer's Thought and Things, Vol. 1, Chap VIII, and Vol. II, Chap. IV), as we have already remarked above.