Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green
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Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the Western Philosophical Association, held at Lincoln, Nebraska, January, 1901

First published in 1901, Philosophical Review, 10, 162-174.

Posted October 2000


The first annual meeting of the Western Philosophical Association took place at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, January 1 and 2, Igor. 'Tile President of the Association, Professor Frank Thilly, of the University of Missouri, presided at the four sessions held. Members were present from the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Owing to the illness of some, and duties connected with the State Teachers' Association on the part of others, the Colorado members of the Association were unable to be present. Two business meetings were held and the following business transacted.

It was decided to hold the next meeting of the Association at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, at such date as the Executive Committee may determine. The following officers were elected for the ensuing year: President, Frank Thilly, University of Missouri; Vice-President, G. T. W. Patrick, University of Iowa; Secretary-Treasurer, A. Ross Hill, University of Nebraska. Frederick J. E. Woodbridge, University of Minnesota, and Olin Templin, University of Kansas, were made members of the Executive Committee.

The constitution, which had served as working basis for the first year, was adopted by the association, with an additional clause providing for changes by a two-thirds vote of the members present at any annual meeting.

The secretary was authorized to publish proceedings of the meeting, and to distribute copies among the members. The report of the treasurer showed a balance of over $20 for the year.


Secretary-Treasurer.[p. 163]


The Theory of Interaction. (President's address.)[1] By FRANK THILLY.

It is generally assumed by parallelists that the theory of interaction contradicts the law of the conservation of energy. According to some parallelists, this law is a necessary consequence of the laws of thought, according to others, it is the product of experience, but still an inevitable postulate of science. It is not true, however, that the principle of the conservation of energy, rightly understood, violates the interaction-hypothesis. It simply asserts that when one form of energy disappears we have in its place another form, and that there is a constant relation between the amounts of these forms. Interpreted in this sense, the law does not contradict our theory. Some parallelists admit this and declare that the theory violates another law: the law that no physical cause can have anything but a physical effect. But this law cannot be proved. We cannot prove it by saying that every cause must be identical with its effect, or that the like can produce the like only, and hence that no psychical state can produce a physical state, because that would be begging the question. Nor can we prove it by experience; for experience does not show that physical occurrences are produced only by other physical occurrences. If by physical occurrences we mean motion, we cannot say that every physical occurrence causes or is caused by motion. Motion produces heat and electricity, but it is a gratuitous assumption to say that heat and electricity are motion. If by physical occurrences we do not mean motion merely, but also heat, electricity, chemical changes, potential energy, etc., we are no better off than before; for experience does not prove that psychical states do not interfere with physical states. Indeed, experience shows that states of consciousness cause physical states, and physical states cause states of consciousness. This does not mean that a state of consciousness creates a physical state, or vice versa. The state of consciousness is a cause in the sense of being an element without which another element, say a movement, does not and cannot take place.

[1] This paper is published in full in this number of the REVIEW. [p. 164]

The Dominant Conception of the Earliest Greek Philosophy. By FREDERICK J. E. WOODBRIDGE.

The fragments of the philosophies of Heraclitus and Parmenides are both constructive and destructive. On their destructive side, they reveal a criticism and rejection of a well-defined philosophy, which it is natural to refer to their predecessors, and to regard as the dominant philosophy of the earliest Greek thinkers. Both Heraclitus and Parmenides appear to be in agreement in their determination of this philosophy, which, according to them, seems to have based all explanation on the phenomena of sense, and to have regarded these phenomena as in a process of absolute generation and destruction, of birth and death, and to have explained this process through the activity of some material element. Over against this philosophy, they assert, the one, the guiding principle of an unseen harmony, veiled from the senses, but revealed to reason as an intelligent principle, the other, the persistence of an indestructible reality whose absolute nature makes seeming birth and death a real impossibility for thought.

Empedocles and Anaxagoras accept the criticisms of Heraclitus and Parmenides, and in repeating them substitute for the earlier conception of generation and destruction, the mechanical mixing and unmixing of changeless material elements. Thus the significance of Heraclitus and Parmenides for the development of Greek thought seems to have been that they forced the natural philosophy of Greece from a crude physiology, to the beginnings of a mechanical explanation of nature.

That the earliest Greek philosophy conceived of nature as a process of physiological generation is evident also from an examination of the meaning of the term fusiV in the fragments, the term which traditionally embodies the aim and scope of this philosophy. In every case where the term occurs free from ambiguity, it can mean only 'origin' and is a synonym of genesiV ; while in all other cases the same or a related meaning is consistent with the context, often making it clearer than any other rendering. As referred back to the earliest times, the term seems to have meant 'coming into being through a process of physiological generation,' the conception of natural processes which Heraclitus, [p. 165] Parmenides, Empedocles, and Anaxagoras oppose and seek to supplant.

The dominant conception of the earliest Greek philosophy as thus developed is not in harmony with the Aristotelian tradition, which regards this philosophy as an inquiry into the 'material cause' of things. Aristotle seems to have been led into this interpretation by the fact that with him the elements water, air, and fire, which seem to have been important factors in the early philosophy, are to be thought of as material causes alone. On the other hand, it is an anachronism to interpret the philosophy of Thales in terms of the Aristotelian causes. The part played by water, air, and fire, in the early systems seems to have been rather that of principles of generation.

Aristotle places Thales in juxtaposition with the theologians who made mythological parents the causes of generation. In the light of this suggestion, it appears that the significance of the earliest Greek philosophy lies in the fact that it substituted for generation through mythological forces, the conception of generation through a natural, material principle. This conclusion is in accord with what anthropology reveals as the general trend of primitive thought.

Thus the dominant conception of the earliest Greek philosophy seems to be, not a permanent, material, substance out of which all things are made, but that nature is a process of physiological generation, a succession of births and deaths, of coming into existence and passing out of existence, mediated by some natural, material principle as water, or a nameless, inexhaustible substance, or air, or fire.

Martineau's Heredity and Philosophy. By JOHN R. BROWN.

Recalling Martineau's own view that a man's heredity is the only true clue to the manner of growth of his opinions, this paper first traced the history of the Martineau family from their Huguenot ancestors in Brittany, and showed how the traditional morality of the family was voiced in the ethics of this son. Martineau's fundamental position in psychology, ethics, and philosophy of religion, were briefly reviewed, and a high tribute [p. 166] paid to his charms of thought and expression, his candor and appreciation in his estimates of other men's views, his many-sided interests, and his earnestness in seeking for the truth.

The Psychology of Profanity.[1] By G. T. W. Patrick.

The psychology of profanity, when finally written, will throw considerable light upon two unsolved but much-discussed problems: first, the origin of language, and second, the relation between emotion and expression. This paper considers the psychology of ejaculatory swearing only, and not that of legal or popular asseverations. Words and phrases used in profane swearing may be divided roughly into seven classes: 1. Names of deities, angels, and devils. 2. Names connected with the sacred matters of religion. 3. Names of saints, holy persons, and biblical characters. 4. Names of sacred places. 5. Words relating to the future life. 6. Vulgar words. 7. Expletives. The history of profanity is closely connected with the history of religion, since profanity prevailed at those times and among those people where great sacredness attached to the names of the gods, or to matters of religion. In England, for instance, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, after the monkish teaching had implanted a vivid consciousness of the suprasanctity of the body of Christ, and of every scene connected with His death, there burst upon the country a wave of imprecation in which profane use was made of the body and members and wounds of Christ, and of many things connected with His sufferings. Fossil remains of these oaths have come down to us in such expressions as 'zounds,' 's'death,' 'bodikins,' 'odsbodikins,' etc. The significance of this historical circumstance will be seen when we discover that the psychological value of an oath depends upon the force of the 'shock' which it is capable of giving. The occasion of profanity in general is a situation in which there is a high degree of emotion, usually of the aggressive type, accompanied by a certain feeling of helplessness. In cases of great fear, where action is impossible, as in impending shipwreck, men pray; in great anger, unless they can act, they swear. The [p. 167] subjective effects of profanity are characteristic and peculiar. The most striking effect is that of a pleasant feeling of relief from a painful stress. It has a pacifying or purifying effect, reminding us of the Aristotelian kaqarsiV . Phenomena of abnormal psychology, such as progressive aphasia, automatic writing, trance utterances, etc., show that profanity is ancient and deep-seated, and probably one of the oldest forms of language.

Profanity cannot be explained as an expression of emotion according to the Darwinian laws of expression. The central stress, surplus energy, safety-valve theories of expression, do not satisfy the conditions of genetic psychology. The James-Lange theory is equally insufficient here. Likewise the Sutherland theory. The modification and restatement of the James theory made by Professor Dewey best explains all the phenomena in the present case.

In animal life, anger is the psychical accompaniment of a failure to coördinate the usual sensory and motor elements connected with combat. Any modifications of the usual reactions of combat of such a character as to induce in the opponent reactions of flight, will be useful and therefore preserved. Terrifying forms of phonation, such as the growl or the roar, are of this characacter[sic]. As vocal language develops, this vocalization will always select the most terrifying, the most 'shocking' words. All the words actually used in profanity are found to possess this common quality. Profanity is to be understood as originally not an expression of emotion, but as a life-serving form of activity. It does not generate emotion. Indirectly it allays it.

[1] This paper will appear in full in the Psychological Review, March, 1901.

The Primacy of Will. By E. L. HINMAN.

It is an old teaching that Reality is an absolute Reason. But is it not more ? Life seems to involve the feelings and the will more than the intellect; and just as in man we must not lose sight of these factors, so it would seem that we must recognize their existence in the divine life. But this proposed correction is not easily maintained, because metaphysical thought finds that if science is to be defended, absolute science must be at the heart of things. It seeks the ideal of the intellect, and must inevitably [p. 168] find this ideal to be Perfect Intellect. From the very nature of the problem, then, the rationalistic result will naturally issue. If it is objected that this result is obviously one-sided, and ought readily to yield to correction in the interests of the feelings and will, the answer is that in metaphysics, and in all questions of truth, the intellect claims primacy over the will. Feeling and will may desire a result, but reason proves or disproves it. And yet philosophy has found cogent grounds for believing that rationalism in its extreme form is a mistake. Against the pretensions of reason has been raised the doctrine of the primacy of the will. This asserts that there are principles involved in willing, in our active and moral consciousness, which when followed out give deeper insights into the truth and meaning of the world than we could ever gain from mere objective science, read in abstraction from the will. But this points, not to a faith that wanders recklessly beyond the bounds of reason, but rather to a faith that forms the very life of thought and reason itself, and can force thought to acknowledge the validity of its ideals. This doctrine was introduced by Kant. But there are certain defects in Kant's theory of ethics, and indeed in his entire philosophy, which modify injuriously his view of this principle. Kant seems to regard the scientific consciousness as so distinct from the moral consciousness that no genuine reconciliation can be reached. This must be reconsidered. Again, Kant opposes the moral consciousness sharply and absolutely to feeling. Here a revision is necessary; but it should endeavor to retain in some form the thought of reason as practical, that is, of an absolute rational ideal involved in willing. These and other changes lead to a concrete synthesis of reason and will. Schopenhauer's interpretation of the relation of intellect and will must be rejected. The further advance of the doctrine of the primacy of will depends upon the success of our effort to unify the theoretical and the practical reason. Will and intellect may be regarded as two poles of one process, neither a function complete in itself. The speculative significance of the doctrine lies in its effort to avoid the unacceptable results of extreme pantheism and panlogism, without giving up a monistic view of the absolute, or the conviction that reality is rational. [p. 169] It does not necessarily mean that will is more important than reason.

The Postulates of the Psychology of Style. By J. D. LOGAN.

In the nineteenth century there has been one noteworthy attempt at a psychology of prose style. Despite Mr. Spencer's leading in this direction, all reforms in the method of deriving the principles of prose style, whether for purposes of literary criticism, or for teaching the theory and practice of rhetoric, have proceeded as if psychological derivation were not a chief interest, at least of the last half of the nineteenth century. This criticism is well founded. For treatises of rhetoric from Aristotle to Professor Wendell are in method purely philosophical and pragmatical. The Aristotelian method of rhetoric is nothing but the discovery by analysis of all the 'devices' of language for applying an elaborate formal logic -- so elaborate as to be indeed cumbersome and inefficient. The demand for "a brief but sufficient theory of the general laws of expression by means of written words" was readily met, especially in America. But the method of discovering the principles of style remained as before objective, analytic, and dogmatic. Professor Wendell, e.g., derives his principle of mass -- that the chief part of a composition should be so placed as readily to catch the eye, namely, at the beginning and the end -- from the accidental configuration of the English sentence or paragraph. This is to confound accident with necessity, a trick with a principle.

For one who would derive psychologically the structural principles of prose style there are two postulates. First: such an one must search for structural, i.e., universal principles -- principles good for both inflexional and uninflexional languages. Mr. Spencer has but a very special psychology, based upon the exigencies of a particular mode of speech. His law of economy -- to say nothing of its being a negative and derivative law -- would, if it were really operative, transform English, structurally taken, into Latin, and conversely. Secondly: One who would derive the principles of style must view the mind in its functional unity. Such psychological (quasi) derivation of the principles of style as [p. 170] we have to-day, begins either with an effete associationism, or with an hypostetizing of the method of structural psychology. Such teachers of rhetoric have derived, e.g., the principle of coherence thus: 'To determine the proper position of a word in a sentence, look into your mind and see what position the idea corresponding to the word has there. Then, transcribe its position on the written page.' Only a bold associationism could submit that the thought of a sentence which contains the single ideas a, b, c, d, e, ('He shot only a bear') in the order given is the sum of these ideas -- the idea of a + the idea of b + and so on. Style itself is more than parts and physical structure. Thought expresses in any 'thing' it constructs, not as it were physical structure, but its essential nature -- the functional 'unity' of the mind itself.

The Psychology of Imitation. By THADDEUS L. BOLTON.

The problem to be solved in imitation is essentially the problem of determining how learning from experience may be possible. Learning by experience is generally, though not always, accomplished by imitation. Writers upon animal psychology have taken it for granted that an animal of one species on seeing another of his own species perform some act that is characteristic, and at the same time not instinctive, must know how to perform that act.

Popularly, imitation is looked upon as the act of doing over again by one, what another has done in the former's presence. Professor Baldwin describes imitation as an act that nominally repeats its own stimulus. This description needs further limitation. Not all acts that are popularly held to be imitative can be described in Professor Baldwin's language. Consideration must be given whether the description is made from the point of view of an on-looker or of the imitator. Acts that can be described from the point of view of the imitator as repeating their own stimuli are much fewer than those that can be so described from the point of view of the on-looker.

Imitations differ enormously in degree of complexity. The actus purus of imitation is to be found in the immediate reproduction of a totally unfamiliar sound by the child learning to speak. The infant repeats for himself the stimulus that has provoked [p. 171] him to activity. Ontogenetically and philogenetically[sic] imitation succeeds in time of appearance other forms of activity. Children do not imitate with unmistakable clearness much before the age of one year; and only the higher animals display imitative acts, and it is doubtful if many of those commonly so regarded are to be interpreted in this way.

Children begin to imitate only after they have long been active reflexively instinctively, and spontaneously, and have gained a considerable mastery over their muscular mechanisms. Thus they are familiar with most of the acts and utterances that will enter most frequently into their imitative plays. Imitation makes its appearance as an impulse to act, which impulse is satisfied only when the imitation is successfully accomplished. New acts and unfamilar[sic] utterances provoke the child to random movements, among which one by chance may reproduce the stimulus that has provoked the actions.

From the psychological point of view, imitative acts divide themselves into three classes: first, those that are provoked by totally unfamiliar stimuli; second, those in which an unfamiliar element appears associated with familiar ones; and third, those in which all the elements are familiar but the combination is new.

The Theory of Imitation in Social Psychology.[1] By CHARLES A. ELWOOD.

Most prominent among the results of the attempt to apply psychology in the interpretation of social phenomena, is the theory of imitation, formulated first by M. Gabriel Tarde in France, and later, but independently, by Professor J. Mark Baldwin in this country. A theory which has gained so wide an acceptance in a brief time deserves the careful examination and candid criticism of every social thinker; and such this paper will endeavor to give it.

The first and most obvious criticism of the theory is that we do not imitate everybody indiscriminately. Professor Giddings thinks that "consciousness of kind" comes in to limit and control the process of imitation, and that therefore the principle of [p. 172] "consciousness of kind " should be recognized as another factor in the social process, a factor which limits and modifies the action of the principle of imitation. But why stop with admitting a single other factor?

The second criticism of the imitation theory is that it is impossible to understand how a single instinct, 'the instinct to imitate,' has come to dominate the whole process of human society, and alone to constitute the method of all personal and social growth, while many other instincts are plainly discernible, determining the associations of animals below man. The theory violates the 'doctrine of development.'

The third criticism is that the theory makes no allowance for the influence of various forms of natural selection, psychically manifested in determining the direction of social development.

The whole drift of our argument against the imitation theory must now be apparent. The theory divorces the social process from the life process as a whole. It takes no sufficient account of those deeper characteristics of race and species which come to light in the psychical life of the individual, and in the psychical processes of society. It matters not whether we name these race characteristics 'instincts,' 'impulses,' or what not. The process of imitation is at every turn limited, controlled, and modified, by a series of instinctive impulses which have become relatively fixed in the individual through a process of evolution by natural selection. If it be admitted that the process of imitation is limited, controlled, and guided, by numerous innate impulses, or instincts, then it must also be admitted that the unfolding of these is a part of the method of growth, both personal and social. Imitation, then, is but one aspect of the method of personal progress, and of social organization. The social philosopher, in viewing society objectively, sees that nearly all the activities of men are imitative in their outcome, and he therefore falls easily into the fallacy of believing that they are imitative in their process.

To sum up: The criticisms of the theory that imitation is the method of social organization and progress are, in detail: (1) It cannot sufficiently explain the manifest limitations in the process of imitation without introducing other factors in the method of [p. 173] development; (2) it creates a gulf between human society and the societies of the animal world which are organized upon a basis of instinct; (3) it makes no allowance for the process of natural selection to bring about gradual changes in human society; (4) it rests upon no sufficient basis of ascertained facts, but has apparently been built up by a fallacious method of reasoning. In general, our criticism of the theory is that it makes the social process something apart from the life process. It does not link in any definite way the forces which are moulding human society to-day with the forces which have shaped evolution in the past.

[1] This paper is published in full in the American Journal of Sociology for March, 1901.


Professor Arthur Allin, University of Colorado, Boulder, Col.

Dr. H. Heath Bawden, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Ia.

Chancellor E. Benj. Andrews, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.

Dr. Thaddeus L. Bolton, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.

President David R. Boyd, Oklahoma University, Norman, Ok.

Rev. John R. Brown, 2501 Peerey Avenue, Kansas City, Mo.

Dr. W. M. Bryant, Webster Groves, St. Louis, Mo.

President E. B. Craighead, Central College, Fayette, Mo.

Professor Frederick W. Ellis, Washburn College, Topeka, Kan.

Professor Charles A. Elwood, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.

Professor Arthur Fairbanks, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Ia.

Professor J. P. Fruit, William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo.

President Homer T. Fuller, Drury College, Springfield, Mo.

President J. P. Greene, William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo.

Dr. Louise M. Hannum, State Normal School, Greeley, Col.

Professor W. A. Heidel, Iowa College, Grinnell, Ia.

Professor A. Ross Hill, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.

Professor Edgar L. Hinman, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.

Dr. Alice Hamlin Hinman, Lincoln, Neb.

Professor Archibald Hogg, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.

Dr. Edmund B. Huey, State Normal School, Moorehead, Minn.

Mr. D. D. Hugh, State Normal School, Greeley, Col.

Dr. Thomas M. Johnson, Osceola, Mo. [p. 174]

Professor Francis Kennedy, University of Colorado, Boulder, Col.

Professor E. G. Lancaster, Colorado College, Colorado Springs.

Mr. John H. Lawrence, Park College, Parkville, Mo.

Professor John D. Logan, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, S. Dak.

President R. V. Mayers, Highland College, Highland, Kan.

Dr. David R. Major, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.

Professor Cleland B. McAfee, Park College, Parkville, Mo.

President John H. McCracken, Westminster College, Fulton, Mo.

Professor Max Meyer, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.

Professor R. D. O'Leary, Kansas State University, Lawrence, Kan.

Professor G. T. W. Patrick, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Ia.

Professor D. E. Phillips, University of Denver, Denver, Col.

Professor J. H. Powers, Doane College, Crete, Neb.

Professor Carl E. Seashore, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Ia.

Mr. Waiter L. Sheldon, St. Louis, Mo.

Dean L. A. Sherman, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.

President W. F. Slocum, Colorado College, Colorado Springs.

Chancellor D. S. Stephens, Kansas City University, Kansas City, Kan.

Professor Olin Templin, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.

Professor Frank Thilly, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.

Dr. Norman P. Wilde, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

Dr. H. K. Wolfe, South Omaha, Neb.

Professor Frederick J. E. Woodbridge, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.