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 Interpretation of Dualism.

I. The Modern Schools. -- With the development of the dualism between mind and body up to the stage it reached in René Descartes (of whom we are now to speak), the period properly to be called "modern" commences. The meaning is not one, however, merely of modernness in time; but of modernness, first of all, in the essential state of the problems of philosophy and psychology. Up to the present, we have traced the progress of the interpretation of the world and the self as it worked out the distinction between mind and matter. The terms of that distinction being now understood, as distinguishing two substances sharply contrasted and actually separated from each other, speculation takes the form of the interpretation of this dualism itself. If we look upon the earlier thought as being a spontaneous or direct consideration of nature and man, we may look upon the latter as being a reflection upon the result of this former thinking. The dualism itself becomes a sort of presupposition or datum; its terms condition the further problem. How can mind and matter both exist and give the appearance [p. 96] of interaction? -- which of the two is the prius of the other?

These questions, as now formulated, show later thought to be an interpretation of dualism, as the earlier was an interpretation of the world in terms of dualism. While the ancient and mediæval philosophies developed a progressive distinction and finally a divorce between body and mind, the modern results in a series of attempts to accommodate them to each other again in a single cosmic household. How can the world contain two such disparate principles, and how are we to conceive of their final adjustment to each other in the nature of reality.

Psychology reflected, for a long time, the alternatives worked out by the earlier philosophical schools. So much so that the theory of the mind remained an appendage or corollary to philosophical doctrine. The alternatives were plainly enough marked, and terms have grown up to characterise them.

One may accept the dualism and devise a theory of mutual adjustment of the two substances to each other. This was the course pursued by Descartes, Malebranche, and Spinoza, and gave rise to a series of doctrines which we know as "dualistic," "realistic," and " absolutistic."[1]

But interpretation may take a different turn; mind may be made the prior term, the basal explaining term, matter being reduced to mind, or its substantial character explained away. This was the method of two great schools of "idealists," one party, the Intellectualists, finding the universal solvent in the intelligence or reason: so Leibnitz, Wolff, Kant, Berkeley, Hegel. [p. 97] They produced the psychology found in the "dogmatic," "critical," and "subjective" systems of philosophy.

The other party of the idealists, the Voluntarists, sought the fundamental principle in will: so Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer, and many others.

These two schools re-introduce the motives of Greek "subjectivism" and Platonism, on the one hand, and of the voluntarism of St. Augustine on the other.

But in like manner the second term of the dualism, matter or body, was given priority equally by others, the independence of mind being denied. So arose reflective "naturalism" and "materialism": Hobbes, Hartley, Condillac, Diderot. In this the motives of Greek "objectivism," Aristotelianism, and Atomism reappear.

Finally, as in the spontaneous development of Greek thought, all of these -- subjectivism, objectivism, dualism -- may be combined in a theory of higher intuition, of the fusion or synthesis of contemplation. This embodies the "mystic" motives of feeling and faith, or makes the speculative claim of uniting the divided and partial motives of the other theories in a higher intuition; so the Mystics, the Faith Philosophers, the Intuitionists, and the æsthetic Immediatists.

In the first period of modern thought, therefore, we may recognise the psychological tendencies going with these philosophical alternatives.

(Modern Psychology) --

I. Philosophical Psychology.

A Dualistic and Realistic.
B. Rationalistic {Intellectualistic. Voluntaristic.}
C. Naturalistic and Materialistic.
D. Mystic and Affectivistic. [p. 98]

This more Philosophical treatment did not deny to psychology its scientific place and method so far as these had been determined. As we are to see, the objectivism and naturalism worked out by Aristotle, St. Augustine, and the Arabian physiologists remained the fruitful instruments of scientific discovery. And in the theoretical development of naturalism in the other sciences -- physical, vital, social -- psychology was to share. An explicit naturalism of subject-matter was to arise, supplemented by an equally explicit positivism of method. This was the line of progress in all the sciences alike. If we describe the new and more scientific psychology as empirical and positive, we may treat of the main groups of thinkers under the headings of theory, method, and matter.

As to theory, the step in advance consisted in a transition from a deductive or logical interpretation of mind, which impaired the purity of empirical observation, to a full and unrestricted empiricism. F. Bacon, Rousseau, Comte, and J. S. Mill are among the important figures in the history of the development of the theory.

In the application of such a theory, variations are again possible, extending from mere description and classification to genuinely analytic, constructive, and experimental procedure. Descriptive psychology as such had its apostles in Locke, Hume, Taine, James Mill, Bain, Hodgson; constructive psychology in Herbart, Spencer, Lotze, William James. Such psychology is often called "structural," from the nature of its results.

Under the heading of method, the change in point of view brought about by the theory of evolution is to be considered. The genetic methods has worked its way into all the sciences of life and mind. Here [p. 99] Darwin, Wallace, Beneke, Romanes, Ribot are names to be cited. Under certain of its aspects, as contrasted with analytic or structural science, this is called "functional" psychology.

The development of recent psychology has resulted, finally, in the growth of certain sub-divisions, each having its own subject-matter, and each adopting the most available method. So " physiological," "social," "comparative," "experimental" and other "psychologies" have arisen. Each has to-day its apostles and its group of enthusiastic workers.

The headings of our treatment of the second period in modern psychology, therefore, will be as follows in the table, which forms the second part of a larger one, the first part having been given just above.

(Modern Psychology) --

II. Empirical and Positive Psychology.

A. As to Theory {Empirical. Positive.}
B. As to Method {Descriptive. Constructive (structural). Genetic (functional).}
C. As to Subject-matter (Physiological, Social, Experimental, Comparative, etc.}

II. The New Departures: The Empirical Method. -- The coming of a new method[2] had its early prophets [p. 100] even among the scholastics; as in Roger Bacon (died 1294) and William of Occam (died 1349), who with Duns Scotus and John of Salisbury investigated knowledge empirically. On the side of physical science, the Copernican theory, through the work of the astronomers Kepler and Galileo, became revolutionary and far-reaching for science in general. In Kepler, the theory of physical action took on a more mechanical and quantitative character. Many analogies drawn from the old animistic conception of nature were banished. Movements of attraction and repulsion were accounted for on mechanical principles.[3] Newton's demonstration of universal gravitation was alone needed to vindicate the conception of natural law; and mechanical analogies began to creep into psychology in the form of attraction, repulsion, and interference -- full mechanical interplay, in fact -- among ideas.

The names of Vives and Francis Bacon are of especial note in the Renaissance period.

Ludovicus Vives (1492-1540) proclaimed the independence of mental phenomena, considered as the matter of psychology, and protested against the metaphysical point of view, with its empty discussions of the essence of the soul. He was also an early investigator of the laws of association of ideas.

Francis Bacon (Lord Verulam, 1561-1626) is usually called the father of empirical scientific method. His work consisted in an attempt at restoring knowledge to the path of fact and to the service of utility.[4] He [p. 101] led a revolt against formalism of view and prejudice of temper. He pointed out the various hindrances (idola[5]) under which the pursuit of truth is prone to labour. He attempted to classify the sciences,[6] to limit and define philosophy, and to formulate a sound experimental method whereby the sum of knowledge might be augmented. This programme was of service, of course, to all the sciences alike, mental as well as physical. It proved most difficult of realisation, however, in psychology and the moral sciences.

The Renewal of Mysticism. -- After an interval of two and a half centuries, the tradition of mystic illumination renewed itself in Italy and Germany. A group of mystic thinkers in whom the romanticism of the Renaissance shows itself is composed of Paracelsus (1493-1541), Telesius (1508-1588), Campanella (1568-1639), Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) and others, principally Italians.[7] These men show a breaking up of classical theories into disjecta membra, and (as seen in Telesius particularly) the bizarre rearrangement of the fragments, mingled with detached original aperçus. A valuable departure was made, however, in the view of the imagination which runs through their writings. The imagination (imaginatio) is looked upon as, in various ways, mediating between sensation and reason; [p. 102] it completes the detached data of sense, building them up into ideas, and offers preliminary schemata or ideal constructions to the reason. This is an anticipation -- and on the whole a clearer statement -- of Kant's view of the "schematising imagination"; it also suggests the very modern doctrine of the assumptive and experimental function of the imagination, with the application of that view in the analysis of the "semblant" products of play and art.

It is interesting that this should have been hit upon by writers of a mystic cast of thought. It constitutes an important step in the development of mysticism out of the status of emotion and sentiment into that of a rational constructive theory. If the imagination accomplishes in its normal working the results formerly attributed to emotional intuition and ecstasy, then this type of apprehension may be put down as one of the recognised functions of cognition. This means that the psychology of the imagination takes its place among the larger problems of the theory of knowledge.

In Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), the full dualism of the pre-Cartesian era is as urgent for expression as in Descartes; and the antithesis between the two is very interesting. The one, the Academic philosopher and acute mathematician, argued from the standpoint of universal doubt and made the fewest, only the necessary, assumptions. The other, a plain workman, seeing by intuition and speaking by "revelation," made known the mysteries of faith.

Boehme reverses the method of that other great mystic, Plotinus, who proceeded to transcend all dualism in the abstraction of the impersonal and absolute One. Boehme finds that only by dualising itself in subject and object could the divine principle become [p. 103] self-conscious spirit and be apprehended as such. Opposition, limitation, and reconciliation are necessary for the manifestation of the attributes of reason, will, and love. God is self-generated, through opposition arising in his own nature. Knowledge and self-consciousness are possible only through opposition and duality.[8]

In regard to both these relations -- Boehme's relations to Descartes and Plotinus (and similarly to Spinoza) -- the following passage may be quoted from Schwegler[9]: "Compared with Descartes, Boehme has at least more profoundly apprehended the conception of self-consciousness and the relation of the finite to God. But his historical position in other respects is far too isolated and exceptional, and his mode of statement far too impure, to warrant us in incorporating him anywhere in a series of systems developed continuously and in a genetic connection." We must take exception, however, to the last statement made in this citation; for though isolated in fact, still Boehme was not isolated as to the "genetic connection" of thought understood in a sense larger than that defined by the term "systems." The clear light of the dualism of subject and object, kindled by meditation on Christian truth, illuminates his page through the lens of mystic intuition; just as the same light, kindled by philosophical reflection, falls upon the page of Descartes through the lenses of reason and doubt.[10] In the dialectical process of the self-generation of God, a process of progressive oppositions and reconciliations, Boehme supplied the main motive to the subsequent logical idealism of German philosophy.[11]

The Individual Analogy. -- The course of spontaneous philosophical reflection has been seen to present striking analogies with that of the individual. We have seen that they both proceed upon the same lines up to the full dualism of mind and body which precedes the function of reflection upon that dualism itself. We are now in the presence of the transition in racial thought from the spontaneous to the reflective type; and we cannot better understand its factors than by making brief comparison again with the similar transition in the individual, referring to the chapter on this subject (Chapter VII, Vol. II) for further details.

The individual becomes logical or reflective when he becomes aware that the material of his experience is not at once and immediately available in the form in which he takes it to be real -- as, body, soul, truth, etc. -- but that he has to work by means of his consciousness, by the instrumentality of his memories, ideas, and concepts. He judges of his experience, criticises his images, selects from appearances, rejects phantasms and illusions; in short, he interprets the data presented in his consciousness, and thus establishes results that he finds fit to be trusted and acted upon. This is reflection. The entire body of life's [p. 105] events, all the happenings of every kind, are set up in the mind; the objective facts are, as me say, "mediated" by ideas. The subjective point of view asserts itself; and it is only by taking account of it and working through it that mind and body are confirmed and interpreted.

This interpretation is in all cases conditioned by the dualism already established by spontaneous experience. The individual's ideas come to him bearing the marks or co-efficients of their origin in the realms of matter and mind respectively. His further task is confined to affirming, denying, criticising these two forms of existence-so far as the contents in mind are not altogether fugitive and meaningless.

In doing this, further, he finds two available methods; there are two sorts of mediation effected by ideas. Ideas serve as instruments to secure voluntary ends (the thought of a danger, for example, leads to safety in flight); this is the mediation of the good or of value. But ideas serve also to mediate facts or the true (my idea of a locality enables me to go to that locality or to make true inferences regarding it). In these ways, the idea mediates both the actually good, which is an end for the self, and the actually true, which is a system of things apart from the self. The terms mediated, therefore, are the self and the not-self: the thinking self and the object of thought. This is the dualism established by reflection. It results from the interpretation of experience, found to be subjective, in terms of the dualism of mind and body.

Further, the individual has another course open to him by the use of his imagination; by this he idealises experience in the manner described more fully below.[12] [p. 106] He indulges in hypotheses, postulates ideals of value and truth, erects absolutes of beauty, personality, etc., and by these explains, in some further term of unity, the dual actualities of thought and things. He then leaves the realm of the actual, and becomes in some sense an "idealist," possibly a "mystic."

It is clear, then, that to the individual, if he is of the sort to think upon the problems of life and mind, certain alternatives are open. (1) He may remain simply a dualist, the self and the world being equally real and ultimate; or (2) he may accept as valid the reference of ideas to things, the mediation of facts and truths; and build up a scientific view of the world that is naturalistic and materialistic. The other sort of mediation, that of the good or the self, is neglected or denied. Or again, (3) he may accept the mediation of the good, establishing the reality of the self, but finding that it in turn subordinates or abolishes the other term, the world of things. Again, (4) he may not stop with such a result of actuality or fact of either sort; but go on to reach an imaginative ideal, either in terms of intelligence, giving finality to ideas as such, or of will, giving finality to ends as such. He then becomes either an intellectualist or a voluntarist . Or yet again, (5) he may make appeal to some more inclusive mode of reality, not exhausted by these two sorts, but including and reconciling them: the ideal Good, the Beautiful, God as absolute principle.

It will have become clear to the reader that these alternatives re-state the main directions of modern philosophy; and that under one or other of its headings each of the great currents of thought may be set down. We now see that these are likewise the alternatives open to individual reflection. If one ask one's casual acquaintances [p. 107] for their views of the nature of the world, one will find among them some common-sense dualists, some scientific positivists and materialists, some idealists either intellectualistic or voluntaristic, and some mystics, full of ideals of faith and beauty, but unlike all the rest unable to tell just why. Each is a potential member of an honourable historical school; each is, in fact, a spiritual brother of some one of the company of prophets -- Democritus, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Plotinus -- by whom the great alternatives of modern speculation were first thought out in simpler form.


[1] In an interesting passage, Harms (loc. cit., p. 243) makes the very valid point that it was only the radical dualism of Descartes that made possible the theories of "occasionalism," " harmony," etc., of his successors.

[2] Apart from method -- which was the main thing for science -- certain events and influences made the period truly remarkable. The discovery of America, the revival of letters in Italy, the German Reformation, all illustrated the new spirit of vigour and enterprise. The mystical thought of Bruno and Campanella faced forward toward the universal doubt of Descartes, rather than backward toward the universal authority of the Church.

[3] Kepler made interesting contributions: to the physiological psychology of vision, establishing the colour changes of after-images and the fact of the formation of the visual image on the retina.

[4] See R. Adamson's citation of passages showing Bacon's insistence on the utilitarian or pragmatic function and value of knowledge, in the article "Bacon," Encyclopædia Britannica, 10th edition. The object of knowledge to Bacon is the control of nature by man (imperium hominis).

[5] Novum Organum, Part I, English edition, with Notes and Introduction by Fowler (2nd ed., 1889).

[6] Bacon's classification is based upon the analysis of the faculties of knowledge into memory, imagination, and reason, which underlie respectively history, poetry, and philosophy with science.

[7] A sympathetic recent work is by R. Steiner, The Mystics of the Renaissance, Eng. trans. (1912).

[8] See the elaborate study, "Boehme," in Boutroux' Historical Studies in Philosophy, Eng. trans. (1912).

[9] Schwegler, History of Philosophy in Epitome, Eng. trans. (1886), p. 99.

[10] In the Christian mystics, the direct result of the profound realisation of sin and redemption, as set forth in the Christian theology, is a sharpened distinction between the divine Person and the human self. Self-debasement, laceration of spirit, adoration and praise, take the place of the personal absorption and union with God of Greek mysticism.

[11] On this account he was called -- as we are told by the arch "dialectician " of the entire movement, Hegel ---the "Philosophus Teutonicus."

[12] Chapter VIII, Vol II.