An internet resource developed by
Christopher D. Green
(Return to Institutions Collection index)
Edited by Christopher D. Green,
© 2001, 2006 Christopher D. Green
Posted August 2001
revised November 2006
Introduction to Section III: The Founding of the Associations
1. Early in 1892 G. Stanley
Hall, then president of
Frank Angell, Stanford University
J. H. Hyslop, Columbia College
2. It is worth noting that
not all of the original members of Hall's group were experimental
psychologists. There were also two alienists (Cowles and Noyes), two
pedagogists (Burnham and Gilman), and several philosophers (Dewey,
Wesley Mills, McGill College
Hugo Münsterberg, Harvard University
A. T. Ormond, Princeton College
Edward Pace, Catholic University
E. B. Titchener, Cornell University
4. Of the 31 AΨA members, only 18 attended the First Annual Meeting, the 13 absentees being Angell, James, Patrick, Cowles, Noyes, Royce, Delabarre, Mills, Scripture, Dewey, Ormond, Wolfe, and Gilman. The election of 11 additional members, however, brought the total membership to 42, The new members were:
A. C. Armstrong, Jr., Wesleyan University
John C. Murray, McGill College
A number of these
individuals -- particularly
5. The new organization
grew rapidly, adding psychologists of both experimental and philosophical
orientations each year. The Second Annual Meeting was held in December of 1894
6. The presidents and locations of the first 10 AΨA meetings were as follows:
G. Stanley Hall, Clark University
Location of AΨA Meeting
7. As the meetings grew
larger, the relative proportion of theoretical and philosophical papers began
to grow. Most were on psychological topics. Some, however, were not. As early
as the second AΨA meeting, there were papers on the
17th-century Puritan moralist John Bunyan (by Royce), and on the ancient Greek
philosopher Anaximander (by
8. There is a fairly standard story told by historians of psychology about the relationship between the experimentalists and the philosophers in the AΨA. It contends that the AΨA was founded by experimental psychologists, for experimental psychologists, expressly against the philosophical approach to psychology that had gone before. This claim is usually evinced by facts such as Hall's efforts at both Johns Hopkins and Clark to insulate psychology from the influence of philosophy (see, e.g., O'Donnell, 1985, pp. 141-143) and by Article I of the first AΨA constitution which read: "the object of the Association is the advancement of Psychology as a science. Those are eligible for membership who are engaged in this work" (Cattell, 1895). In addition, during the middle and late 1890s, there appear to have been a number of attempts to isolate the philosophers into a section, or even a separate association, of their own in which they wouldn't irritate the experimentalists. Eventually, so the story goes, the philosophers were effectively pushed out of the AΨA by unhappy experimentalists and forced to set up their own organizations.
9. Perhaps not
surprisingly, historians of philosophy have a somewhat different version of
10. So let us examine in more detail what happened during the AΨA meetings of the 1890s. First, was Article I of the AΨA constitution designed to exclude philosophers from the organization? Most probably not. The term "science" covered a much broader range of activities than simply working in a laboratory. Indeed, there was a great deal of talk at the time about whether philosophy itself was or would soon become "scientific" (see Wilson, 1990, esp. chap. 4). This question meant different things to different individuals. In general it did not refer to philosophy becoming "experimental" in some sense, but rather that it would be rigorous, logical, reliant on empirical research for facts about the world, and more generally that it would become the province of recognized experts and professionals. The implicit contrast here was with the narrow and dogmatic theologians who had served as professors of philosophy in most American colleges up to that time (see, e.g., Hall, 1879). Did the members of the AΨA all accept this characterization of "science"? Some did and some didn't, but given the number of philosophers who were members of the early AΨA, it is unlikely that it was written with their exclusion specifically in mind.
11. There were a number of attempts to isolate or oust the philosophers from the AΨA, but it is important to note that none of them wholly succeeded. It is true that some philosophical papers were presented having little to do with psychological matters, and these may well have irritated some AΨA members, but it appears that the majority was happy to have papers on philosophical psychology included in the program. For instance, at the 1895 meeting of the AΨA, the topic of forming a "philosophical society or philosophical section" was brought up in the business meeting (we do not know by whom), and was "referred to the Council [the ruling body of the AΨA] with full power to act" (Sanford, 1896, p. 122). In 1896, an anonymous editorial in the American Journal of Psychology lamented that "the retirement of the experimentalists, -- emphasized further by the proposal to devote a certain amount of the time of each meeting to philosophical enquiries, -- cannot but be regretted" (Anonymous, 1896, p. 448). "It is not that the systematic [philosophical] psychologists are forcing their way unduly to the front," the writer continued, "but rather that the plan and restrictions of the meetings are of a kind to favor them, and to debar their experimentally inclined colleagues from playing any large part in the session" (Anonymous, 1896, pp. 448-449). Perhaps as a result, at the 1896 meeting the "papers of a distinctly philosophical character" were grouped together into a single session. Also at the 1896 meeting Lightner Witmer of Pennsylvania moved that the AΨA Council "select only such papers and contributions to the program of the annual meeting as are psychological in subject-matter." He also requested "a plan for the formation of an American Philosophical or Metaphysical Association," and that the names of nominees for membership be presented "together with a statement of the [nominee's] contribution or contributions to psychology" (Farrand, 1897, p. 109). Note however that, if adopted, this motion would not have excluded philosophers per se from the AΨA, only those who were not working on psychological topics.
12. At the AΨA meeting of 1897, the afternoon session of the first day was divided into two -- "Section A meeting for the discussion of physical and mental tests, and Section B, with Professor Creighton in the chair, for the reading of psychological[sic] papers" (Farrand, 1898). The wording is somewhat odd -- weren't all AΨA papers "psychological papers," at least in principle? Possibly it is typographical error, and should have been "philosophical papers." Given that Creighton was an idealist philosopher from Cornell, and that there were a number of clearly philosophical papers (most, but not all, were on psychological subjects) among the abstracts in the proceedings, this is a likely supposition.
13. Again at the 1898 meeting, a motion was put forward, this time by E. C. Sanford of Clark:
First, that the matter of the organization of the Association with reference to a possible philosophical section be referred to Council, to be reported on at the next meeting; Second, that the Secretary be instructed in arranging the programme for the next meeting to gather philosophical papers as far as practicable into the programme of one session; Third, that the Secretary be instructed to send out during the course of the year a circular letter requesting, for the information of the Council, the opinion of the individual members of the Association on the above mentioned question of the organization of the Association. (Farrand, 1899, p. 147-148)
Because few members were
actually present at the business meeting, a final decision on Sanford's motion
was postponed (Bliss, 1899). The only published comment on the motion was by
Charles B. Bliss, who opposed it in part on the grounds that "our best
psychologists are among our best philosophers," and that
"philosophical papers are already welcome whenever they offer
contributions to psychology" (Bliss, 1899, p. 237). We do not know the
outcome of the mail-in poll of the members on Sanford's motion, but the 1899
meeting of the AΨA saw the last two days (of three) of
the program divided into "Section A (Experimental)" and "Section
B (Philosophical)." Perhaps this means that
14. Three days after the
1899 meeting of the AΨA, a group of
philosophers met in
G. T. W. Patrick,
Carl E. Seashore,
Norman P. Wilde,
H. K. Wolfe,
Of the 4 AΨA members living west of the
15. The character of papers presented at the first WΦA meeting show how intimately philosophy and psychology were connected at the time. Thilly's presidential address was on mind-body interactionism. Patrick delivered a paper on the psychology of profanity which later appeared in Psychological Review. E. L. Hinman gave a paper on the will, J. D. Logan on the "psychology of style," and T. L. Bolton and C. A. Elwood presented papers on the psychology of imitation. Indeed, only two papers were not on obviously psychological topics: F. J. E. Woodbridge's on Greek philosophy, and J. R. Brown's on the philosophy of just-deceased Unitarian theologian James Martineau.
16. In the spring of 1902,
a larger group of philosophers met at
I don't foresee much good from a philosophical society. Philosophical discussion proper only succeeds between intimates who have learned how to converse by months of weary trial and failure. The philosopher is a lone beast dwelling in his individual burrow. -- Count me out!" (cited in Gardiner, 1926, p. 148)
Of course, James ultimately did join the AΦA in 1904 (the year of his second presidency of the AΨA, incidentally), and became AΦA President in 1907 (Gardiner, 1902).
17. The papers at the first meeting of the AΦA were not dominated by psychological topics to the same degree as were those at the first WΦA meeting. J. E. Creighton's presidential address was on the purpose of a philosophical association. Of the 14 other papers presented, only two were clearly on psychological topics -- H. H. Bawden's "The Functional View of the Relation Between the Psychical and the Physical" and G. S. Fullerton's "The Atomic Self." A few others had some relation to psychology: E. H. Sneath's "The Æsthetic Element in Human Nature," E. B. McGilvary's "The Consciousness of Obligation," and J. A. Leighton's "On the Study of Individuality."
18. The founding of the two new philosophical associations, the larger of which drew almost two-thirds of its members from the AΨA, seems to have had little impact on the AΨA's own membership numbers. At least initially, few philosophers dropped their AΨA memberships to join either the WΦA or the AΦA. Indeed, at the Winter 1902-1903 meeting the AΨA's membership was 135, an increase 8 members from the previous year. The AΨA met in conjunction with the WΦA or the AΦA (among various scientific groups) several times during the first decade of the 20th century.
19. In December 1904, a
fourth group, this one composed of both philosophers and psychologists, met in
20. Almost from their beginnings, there were multiple efforts to bring about an amalgamation of the WΦA, the AΦA, and the SSΦΨ into a single national philosophical organization. Various discussions were held and proposals tabled, but little came of them. It was not until 1914 that the WΦA and AΦA even held a joint annual meeting. In 1919 the AΦA more or less unilaterally voted itself to become the Eastern Division of a largely hypothetical greater AΦA that would ultimately include the WΦA as the Western Division. In 1922 the two Divisions held a joint conference. In 1924, a newly formed Pacific Philosophical Association was invited to join as Pacific Division of the (still rather amorphous) greater AΦA. It was not until 1927 that an agreement was worked out giving the greater AΦA a national executive (made up of executive members of the three Divisions). To the present day, however, the three Divisions (now Eastern, Central, and Pacific) of the AΦA meet separately and elect their officers independently . The SSΦΨ never joined, and continues on as a separate organization (see Pate, 1993).
21. One other development
during the first decade of the 20th century warrants notice. At the 1900
meeting of the AΨA, some of the western members --
mainly Dewey, Bryan, and Jastrow -- complained that the conference was always
held in the east, making it difficult for them to attend. One immediate response to this was to hold
the 1901 AΨA meeting in
-- Christopher D. Green
 Despite this, it is interesting to note that Hall described the history of philosophy as being his "first love" (cited in Bringmann, Bringmann, & Early, 1992) and insisted that many of his students study the topic.
 Technically there were only 60 AΨA members in the list of charter members of the AΦA because J. H. Hyslop of Columbia and A. T. Ormond of Princeton, both of whom had become AΨA members in the first year of its existence, dropped their AΨA memberships just before joining the AΦA, and so their names do not appear in the list of AΨA members for the 1901 meeting.
Anonymous. (1893). The American Psychological Association. Science, 21, 34-35.
Anonymous. (1894). Proceedings of the American Psychological Association [Preliminary Meeting, First Annual Meeting, Second Annual Meeting]. New York Macmillan.
Anonymous. (1896). The American Psychological Association. American Journal of Psychology, 7, 448-449.
Baldwin, J. M. (1894). Psychology, past and present. Psychological Review, 1, 363-391.
Benjamin, L. T. (1979). The Midwestern Psychological Association: A history of the organization and its antecedents, 1902-1978. American Psychologist, 43, 201-213.
Benjamin, L. T. (1993). The
Eastern Psychological Association. In J. L. Pate & M. Wertheimer (Eds.), No small part: A history of regional
organizations in American psychology (pp. 69-95).
Bliss, C. B. (1899). Proposed changes in the American Psychological Association. Psychological Review, 6, 237-238
Bringmann, W. G., Bringmann, M. W., & Early, C. E. (1992). G. Stanley Hall and the history of psychology. American Psychologist, 47, 281-289.
Buchner, E. F. (1905).
Proceedings of the first annual meeting of the Southern Society for Philosophy
Cattell, J. M. (Ed.)
(1894). Proceedings of the American Psychological Association (pp.
Cattell, J. M. (1895). Report of the secretary and treasurer for 1894. Psychological Review, 2, 149-152.
Farrand, L. (1897). Report of the secretary and treasurer for 1896. Psychological Review, 4, 105-110.
Farrand, L. (1898). Report of the secretary and treasurer for 1897. Psychological Review, 5, 145-147.
Farrand, L. (1899). Report of the secretary and treasurer for 1898. Psychological Review, 6, 146-148.
Gardiner, H. N. (1902). Proceedings of the first annual meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Columbia University, New York, March 31 and April 1, 1902. Philosophical Review, 11, 264-286.
Gardiner, H. N. (1926). The first twenty-five years of the American Philosophical Association. Philosophical Review, 35, 145-158.
Hall, G. S. (1879).
Philosophy in the
Hill, A. R. (1901).
Proceedings of the first annual meeting of the Western Philosophical
Association, held at
Ladd, G. T. (1894).
President's address before the
Münsterberg, H. (1894).
[Abstract of] The problems of experimental psychology. In J. M. Cattell (Ed.), Proceedings
of the American Psychological Association (pp. 10-11).
O'Donnell, J. M. (1985). The
origins of behaviorism: American psychology, 1870-1920.
Pate, J. L. (1993). The
Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology. In J. L. Pate & M.
Wertheimer (Eds.), No small part: A
history of regional organizations in American psychology (pp. 1-19).
Russell, W. A. (1993). The
Midwestern Psychological Association. In J. L. Pate & M. Wertheimer (Eds.),
No small part: A history of regional
organizations in American psychology (pp. 43-67).
Sanford, E. C. (1896). Report of the secretary and treasurer for 1895. Psychological Review, 3, 121-123.
Sokal, M. M. (1992). Origins and early years of the American Psychological Association, 1890-1906. American Psychologist, 47, 111-122.
Wilson, D. J. (1990). Science,
community, and the transformation of American philosophy, 1860-1930.