Classics in the History of Psychology

An internet resource developed by
Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario

ISSN 1492-3713

(Return to Institutions Collection index)

Proposed Changes in the American Psychological Association

Charles B. Bliss (1899)
First published in Psychological Review, 6, 237-238.

Posted October 2000

At the recent meeting of the Association in New York, certain members proposed the formation of a separate section to be devoted to the reading and discussion of philosophical papers. On account of the small number present when the matter was brought up, decision was postponed until the next meeting, and the Secretary was requested to send out cards to all members asking for a general expression of opinion on the point.

Certainly, every member should have an opportunity to be heard with reference to a proposition which logically involves changes in the name and constitution of the Association, but a vote taken without discussion will fail to express the thoughtful wishes of the members. I venture to suggest that questions of sufficient importance to be referred to a vote of the whole Association ought to receive some attention in the pages of the REVIEW, and beg leave to restate some of the reasons why, in the interests of philosophy, as well as psychology, the proposed action seems unwise at the present time. Most of these reasons were mentioned in the discussion at the meeting.

First, judging from the experience of the programme committee, it would be difficult to arrange a programme for such a section without interfering with the regular meetings.

Second, our best psychologists are among our best philosophers, and their withdrawal from even a part of the meetings of the Association would be a serious loss. At the same time the greatest need of psychology at present is more of sound philosophy, and the greatest need of philosophy more of sound psychology. Closer union is more to be desired than further separation.

Third, philosophical papers are already welcome whenever they offer contributions to psychology or show the bearing of psychology [p. 238] on problems of philosophy. This offers a wide range of subjects for those who are interested in ally branch of philosophy, and such papers always form a part of our programme. So far as possible, they are grouped together in the same sessions.

Fourth, when it comes to the making of interesting programmes, philosophical subjects are by no means equal to scientific subjects. As a rule the papers are too long. Scientific theories and results can be stated briefly, but it takes time to set forth philosophical opinions. Such are not suitable subjects for general discussion, and discussion ought to be the most important feature of these meetings. There is no object in coming together to listen to papers which can be read at home. As a matter of fact, at our own meetings philosophical papers never called forth as much interest as the scientific, while attempts in other places to hold meetings for the exclusive discussion of problems in philosophy have repeatedly ended in failure.

Finally, the Association is now making splendid progress and is becoming a source of inspiration to workers in the field of psychology. At the same time it is doing a real and lasting service for philosophy in furthering the development of scientific spirit and methods in the realm of mental phenomena. Nevertheless much remains to be done before psychology comes into right relations with the rest of the sciences. There is need of all the wisdom and energy available to improve the character of our scientific work, and it is extremely important that no step be taken which will weaken the Association.