and Theory of Psychology: An early 21st century student's perspective
F. Ballantyne, Ph.D. 2008©.
and Psychology: In Darwin, Romanes, Morgan, James, Dewey, and the Chicago Functionalists
are turning now to various important disciplinary developments in England and
America (1859-1930) which ran both contemporaneously with and beyond those in
Germany as covered in Section
3. These include: (1) the organic and mental evolutionary theories of Charles
Darwin (1859, 1871, 1872), George Romanes (1882, 1884, 1888) and C. Lloyd Morgan
(1894/1903, 1923/31, 1930; 1933); (2) the naturalistic emergent approach to psychology
of William James (1890, 1892) and John Dewey (1896); and (3) the Functional psychology
movement at the University of Chicago (James R. Angell, 1903b, 1904, 1906, 1907,
1908, 1909, 1913, 1918, 1920; Harvey Carr, 1925; 1927; 1930).
Darwin's theory of organic evolution (regarding species differentiation)
was a truly revolutionary shift away from Platonic essentialism in biology, his
continuity theory of mental evolution was lacking in certain respects which
were only remedied by the subsequent corrective efforts of Romanes who raised
the issue of the qualitative distinctness of human mentality and C.L. Morgan who
sketched out some sound methodological guidelines for comparative animal-human
research along the lines of emergent evolution. The implied utilization of these
methodological remedies as well as the explicitly progressive psychological arguments
made by James and Dewey will be highlighted, but it will also be demonstrated
that these advancements were not carried over sufficiently into the early 20th
century "functional" psychology of Angell and Carr which underwent an
unfortunate (and unnecessary) methodological shift toward behaviorist analysis
Organic Evolution and Mental Continuity Doctrine
important consideration for us to note regarding Charles
Darwin (1809-1882) is the methodological contrast between his position on
organic evolution which recognized and incorporated continuous and discontinuous
arguments and his views on mental evolution which contain mere continuity arguments.
So, after mentioning the general intellectual context for his initial proposition
of evolutionary theory, we will take up each of these in turn.
of the end for essentialism
Origin of Species (1859)
was a major step in restoring the dynamic world view of the Presocratic philosophers
of Greece which had been effectively stifled by Plato (see Section
1) and then by successive eras of mechanical (see Section
2) and natural theology positions up to the early 19th century. His theory
of evolution was a clear break with the former tradition of essentialism in biology
-i.e., the belief that things are only imperfectly patterned on an eternal archetype
or abstract ideal. An animal, thing, or event in the world would no longer be
thought of as what it is by virtue of possessing some eternal essence; like the
"catness" of Plato's eternal forms, or the immutable species designations
of the theologically based "argument for design." Animal species are
what they are because of what they have become -i.e., they change, they develop,
are not merely classifiable on the basis of similarity and differences of their
currently observable surface characteristics (as in Aristotle's scala natura
or as in the 1758 Linnean
classification) but also on the basis of the natural and sexual selective
pressures which brought about those observable phylogenetic differences.
(1859) put forward the theory of natural selection to explain the occurrence
of species differentiation under the long and relatively continuous effects of
climate; population isolation; predation by other animals; and sexual selection.
Thus both passive adaptation and active adjustments of the organism were incorporated
into his analysis.
was a profound shift in theoretical thinking away from a focus on "being"
(in the sense of Platonic essentialism) toward one on "becoming"
(along the lines of Heraclitean
flux). While our current understanding of the genetic mechanisms involved
(DNA and mutational processes) have moved well beyond anything Darwin imagined
in the 19th century, the evolutionary theory of natural selection had an enormous
impact on virtually all areas of the natural and social-historical sciences.
to Darwin, various theories regarding the origin
of geological formations, plant life, and animate organisms were part of the
early-to-mid-19th century intellectual ferment in Europe (see Wendt, 1971; McCown
& Kennedy, 1972). But Darwin succeeded where the others
had failed because like Heraclitus he allowed himself to imagine that nature could
be contradictory. He suggested that organic discontinuities in kind between species
not only exist along side of continuities but they were in fact produced by continuities.
In short, that there is an internal relation, an objective rather than merely
logical contradiction, between continuity and discontinuity in the evolutionary
process of species differentiation.
(1859), for example, points out that "specific characters" of a given
species are more variable than "generic characters" common to groups
of species (Darwin, 1859/1936, pp. 114-118). The secondary sexual characteristics
of male birds (e.g., colorful plumage) vary considerably between species (these
are the discontinuities) but the plumage is generally displayed in the same parts
of the body. This observational regularity suggested to Darwin that currently
distinct bird species are descendants of a common progenitor, "from whom
they have inherited much in common" (p. 117).
arguments were made over a decade later by Darwin with regard to the organic evolution
of human beings. Thus, in Descent of Man (1871),
he could ask and answer questions as follows: Are we primates? Yes, we are continuous
with all primates. Are we something other than our hominid ancestors and are we
distinct as human beings? Yes, there is continuity and discontinuity which require
and do not exclude each other in the evolutionary account of human organic evolution.
legs-first and jaw-first model of human descent is a fine example of his articulate
and careful recognition of the inherent contradictions of the organic evolutionary
process. It was the descent from the trees creating selective pressure for upright
posture which indirectly brought about the increase in brain size through the
freeing of the hands for the use of tools. Under such selective pressures the
hominid cranial bones, freed from the limiting effects of a constricting musculature
(by the refining of the jaw) allowed an accompanying expansion of the brain size
over a long period of time (see Ballantyne,
2002, Chapter 1 for an account of how Darwin's model had to supplant the brain-primacy
Darwin's careful statements regarding human organic evolution (1871) were
not accepted for some time, his lesser forays into the mental evolutionary realm
(1871; 1872) were adopted both readily and widely. This is ironic because Darwin
was decidedly unDarwinian when considering the evolution of mind.
Descent of Man (1871),
for instance, Darwin's most lucid moment on the point of human mentality seems
to suggest both continuity and discontinuity when he writes: "a savage who
uses hardly any abstract terms, and a Newton or Shakespeare... are connected by
the finest gradations.... [and] it is possible that they might [have at some distant
time passed] into each other" (Darwin, 1871/36, pp. 445-446).
by the end of three fateful chapters on mentality, Darwin had fallen back from
this position. First
of all, his two chapters on the "Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and
the Lower Animals" were specifically tailored to "show that there is
no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties"
(p. 446). His
discursive goal was not to denigrate human mentality but to argue that even human
faculties (intellectual and moral abilities) must have evolved gradually from
lesser forms. He was attempting to show that the mental faculties of "civilized
man" were not divine, occasional, gifts of a deity, but a product of the
long and continuous workings of natural selection. In order to support this
position, Darwin attacks the various past arguments for mental discontinuity:
made a collection... of such aphorisms, but they are almost worthless.... It has
been asserted that man alone is capable of progressive improvement; that
he alone makes use of tools or fire, domesticates other animals, or possesses
property; that no animal has the power of abstraction, of forming general
concepts, is self-conscious and comprehends itself; that no animal employs
language; that man alone has a sense of beauty, is liable to caprice,
has the feeling of gratitude, mystery, &c.; believes in God, or is endowed
with a conscience" (Darwin, 1871/36, p. 451; emphasis added).
presenting largely anecdotal evidence, he concludes in the following chapter that
the "difference in mind between man and the higher animals great as it is,
certainly is one of degree and not of kind" (p. 494). It was in this negative
manner that the continuity of mental evolution doctrine was first proposed.
These two initial chapters on mental evolution are very different in style from
the inclusionary approach Darwin takes elsewhere in The Descent.
style difference is pointedly accentuated in the third such chapter "On
the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties during Primeval and Civilized
with respect to the organic evolution of human beings, Darwin suggests (along
with Wallace, 1868) that tool use and labor not only overcomes the limits of bodily
and sexual selection
but also created new possibilities of existence and adjustment beyond them ("civilized"
manipulation of the environment): "When he migrates into a colder climate
he uses clothes, builds sheds, and makes fires; and by the aid of fire cooks food
otherwise indigestible.... Even at a remote period he practiced some division
of labor" (Darwin, 1871/36, p. 496).
discussing mental evolution therein, however, Darwin becomes quite Lamarckian.
He not only recognized this contrast in his own position, but laid particular
stress upon it: "The case, however, is widely different,... in relation to
the intellectual and moral faculties of man. These faculties are variable; and
we have every reason to believe that the variations tend to be inherited"
(1871/36, p. 496).
mental continuity arguments were also made in his Expression
of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) which argues
that similar bodily expressions indicate the same state of mind in animals
and humans. The raising of hair in all mammals, the showing of the teeth,
or the enlargement of the body in many other animals indicate the same aggressive
state of mind (see Ballantyne, 2002, Chap. 1).
his intent to trace the evolutionary origins of human faculties, the end result
of Darwin's analysis was to denigrate human mentality by appealing to inheritance
of acquired characteristics as a mechanism for mental development. Under such
a dictum, later called Social Darwinism, it is difficult to see how one mental
form might pass into another because the very style of analysis tends to totally
negate any difference (except with respect to quantity).
and C.L. Morgan (Cultural evolution recognized)
was Darwin's loyal fan and literary executor George
who made the mental continuity doctrine explicit by claiming in Animal Intelligence
(1882) that all animate creatures possess some degree of reflex, instinct,
and reason. In his elaboration of the mental continuity doctrine, Romanes
combined Darwin's notes with his own thorough and critical search of available
anecdotal-observational evidence. His method of exposition was to pass through
"the animal kingdom in review in order to give a trustworthy account of the
grade of psychological development... presented by each group" (p. vi). In
the chapters on ants, bees, and spiders Romanes (1882) presents numerous anecdotal
examples of "intelligent adjustment" in insects. The "reasoning
power" of ants, for instance, although shown by past observational evidence
to be "almost nil," is suggested by Romanes to be "not quite nil"
and so on up the phylogenetic tree for rodents, dogs, or humans respectively which
differ with respect to the relative proportion of reflex, instinct and
Romanes also published two other comparative psychology texts (1884, 1888) which
illustrate his retreat from this initial pure continuity view of mind.
His Mental Evolution in Animals (1884), for instance, provided a detailed
diagram "of the probable development of Mind from its first beginnings in
protoplasmic life up to its culmination in the brain of civilized man" (p.
63). But, while constructing the diagram, Romanes considered carefully whether
it would not be better to truncate it "at the level where mental evolution
in animals ends..." (p. 65).
importantly, by the time of Mental Evolution in Man (1888), he was recognizing
"cogent" evidence that the continuity doctrine of descent alone does
not adequately account for the "mental constitution" of human beings
(p. 390). The continuity doctrine, as he now put it, is applicable
to the "whole of organic nature, morphological and psychological, with the
one exception of man" (p. 390).
Romanes, the "distinctively human qualities of ideation" (e.g., conscious
reflection) formed the "undeniable" evidence of the "qualitative"
difference between humans and brutes. The following ontogenetic argument is the
means by which Romanes put across this delicately equivocal point. We should
note that it is virtually indistinguishable from the standard analysis still used
in general psychology textbooks today:
whatever may have been the origin or the history of human intelligence in the
past, as it now exists... it proves itself to be no exception to the general law
of evolution: it unquestionably does admit of gradual growth from a zero level
[this is the continuity aspect], and without such a gradual growth we have no
evidence of its becoming. Furthermore, so long as it is passing through the lower
stages of this growth [i.e., in the fetal and the childhood stages of mental growth],
the human mind ascends through a scale of faculties which are parallel with
those that are eminently presented by... the psychological species of the animal
kingdom -a general fact which tends most strongly to prove that, at all events
up to the time when the distinctively human qualities of ideation are attained,
no difference of kind is apparent between human and brute psychology"
(Romanes, 1888, p. 391; emphasis added).
having asserted the existence of these "distinctively human qualities,"
Romanes (1888) can't be said to have elaborated upon their origin or implications
for empirical method. The terms "quality" and "quantity" are
used many times but his comparative analysis remains de facto a method
of additive "scale of faculties" (analysis of degree and not kind).
Instead of explicitly suggesting that animal and human abilities form a nested
structure of transformationally different abilities (as Darwin had done for organic
evolution of hominids), Romanes suggests that human influences on and development
of mind go on in "parallel" with a more general "brute" psychological
continuity (p. 391). This had the effect of leaving unscathed the older
associationist doctrine that human abilities are simply superimposed upon or added
to the abilities that already exist to a greater or lesser degree in animal psychology.
the Romanes (1888) account, ideation can be considered as a higher rung on an
additive mental ladder. The "brute psychology" is still there
but is simply overlaid with this singular human novelty, "Ideation."
While Romanes (1888) explicitly demurred from the pure
continuity view by asserting that the recognition of a mental discontinuity between
the adult human mind and that of even our closest ancestors or animal counterparts,
is important he also failed to provide a theoretically nuanced argument
or to sketch out an accompanying program of empirical research. The
mental continuity doctrine, therefore, did not end with the early views of Romanes
but was adopted directly into both mainstream animal psychology (see Ballantyne,
2002, Chap. 2) and the "intelligence"
or "ability testing" movement in America (see Ballantyne, 2002, Chap.
of the missing progressive empirical guidelines and theoretical nuances, however,
were provided by C. Lloyd Morgan (18521936) in a
series of works including: An Introduction to Comparative Psychology (1894
Emergent Evolution (1923
& 31); The Animal Mind (1930); Animal Conduct (1930); and Emergence
of Novelty (1933).
of all, in 1894, Morgan proposed his famous, yet much misunderstood methodological
"canon" in order to remedy the problem of anthropomorphism (the
uncritical attribution of human abilities to animals): "In no case may we
interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of a higher psychical faculty,
if it can be interpreted as the outcome of the exercise of one which stands lower
in the psychological scale" (Morgan, 1894, p. 53).
canon, as this statement came to be known, assumed that both higher and lower
forms of mental abilities exist and that the terms used to describe these are
not interchangeable. While initially directed against anthropomorphic excess,
it applies equally well against the contemporary reductionist excesses of figures
such as E.L. Thorndike, Jacques Loeb, or John B. Watson.
for instance, in his so-called "animal intelligence" research using
cats, denigrated the mentality of his feline subjects (not by merely utilizing
various artificial and roughly-hewn experimental puzzle box situations, but by
interpreting the results as if these creatures where nothing more than mechanical
Morgan realized the canon was being misused as a rhetorical device to advocate
such reductionism (rather than as a general methodological caution), he introduced
the following qualification into the second edition of his Introduction to
Comparative Psychology (1903):
however, it should be added, lest the range of the principle be misunderstood,
that the canon by no means excludes the interpretation of a particular activity
in terms of the higher processes, if we already have independent evidence of the
occurrence of these higher processes in the animal under observation" (Morgan,
second major point to note regarding Morgan is the respective relationship of
his approach to the earlier views of Romanes. While it was Romanes (1888) who
first began referring to "qualitative" and "quantitative"
change in mental evolutionary stages, it was Morgan's Emergent Evolution
that provided the first inklings of an important methodological argument;
that once culture appeared evolution itself was transformed into a qualitatively
different cultural kind of process (as distinct from merely biological or social
the doctrine of "emergent evolution" as put forward by C. L. Morgan
(1923; 1926, 1929, 1933) was initially accompanied by a "supplementary"
postulation of a de-anthropomorphized deity as the source of energetic movement
of matter, Alex Novikoff (1945) later put forward a secular "Integrative
Levels" form of the doctrine. Emergent evolution in either form maintains
that transmutations of matter must be in some sense discontinuous with what existed
before. Such transmutations are more than simple reshuffling or proportional growth
of fundamental units. The development of matter is seen as "continuous because
it is never-ending, and as discontinuous because it passes through a series of
different levels of organization -physical, chemical, biological [psychological]
and sociological" (Novikoff, 1945, p. 209).
matter evolved, new properties arose with each new qualitative leap. The higher
levels, although dependent upon the prior ones, are not entirely explicable on
their terms, since they contain properties not before seen in the lower levels.
The fact that novel qualities arise at each new level necessitates the production
or presence of new laws, which, in conjunction with the old laws, govern those
novel qualities. Within psychology, emergent evolutionary analysis is the primary
means by which the phylogenetic, ontogenetic, and social-historical aspects of
general psychological subject matter can be both distinguished and studied in
their concrete empirical relations.
I have stated elsewhere (see Ballantyne,
December, 2003) and as will be elaborated in Section 5 of this course, however,
the contemporaneous scope of psychological science at the time in which Morgan
was outlining his emergent evolutionary approach to comparative mental analysis
was narrowing toward a Logical Positivist form of emphasis upon operational definition
and noncommittal theoretical eclecticism.
Lewes, and Dewey
of the impetus behind the susceptibility of early 20th century general-experimental
psychology to operationism can be traced to the inability of American "functional
psychology" to maintain a consistent methodological identity through its
various proponents: James, Dewey, Angell, and Carr. While functional psychology
was based upon evolutionary thinking, it's later proponents encountered great
difficulty maintaining a consistent position on mental continuity-discontinuity
issues. This point will be made by contrasting the emergent naturalism exemplified
in the work of James, Lewes, and Dewey with the relatively additive continuity
approach exemplified successively in Angell and Carr.
comments on Jamesian methodology
are two points I want to lay out as a preparatory foundation for our coverage
of William James (1842-1910).
These points will indicate in general terms how his efforts compare and contrast
with some of the other figures we have covered thus far. Most importantly, the
first point is that James was a very concrete thinker. He not only made constant
distinctions between concrete vs. abstract knowledge in each of the philosophical
topics he covered, but also explicitly favored concrete humanly related knowledge
in all the psychological matters with which he was grappling. The second
point is that he achieved this concreteness (relatedness) by way of accepting
objective contradiction, motion, and teleology into his world view.
regard to the first point James is someone who understood, at a very intuitive
level, that there is a distinction to be made between abstract and concrete
knowledge. James was a very Baconian thinker in this respect because Bacon
was also clearly interested in knowledge that had some sort of practical utility.
Recall that in the opening of Section
2 (on Bacon through to Kant), a distinction was drawn between pure reason
(being the individual, ivory tower, and abstract-absolute legacy of Socrates,
Plato, and the mediaeval scholastics) versus instrumental reason being
the practical, useful, kind -how to pump water out of mines and how to best set
up educational institutions.
was also suggested that while pure reason relies on an idealist metaphysic (it
starts from the individual mind and works outward), instrumental reason leans
heavily upon a materialist metaphysic (it starts from the outside and works inward
to investigate, guide, and assess the outcomes of the secular concerns so important
during the enlightenment era). The respective positions of Locke, Berkeley and
Hume (which were concerned with abstract logical themes) versus Bacon,
Galileo, and Thomas Reid (whose theoretical and empirical concerns were aimed
at the worldly domain), provided the contrast from that era.
Kant, like the majority of the disciplinary bridging-figures covered subsequently
in Section 3 (including
Johannes Müller, Fechner, Helmholtz, and Wundt) waffled rather precariously
between these two general distinctions, James will be the first psychological
figurehead to remain soundly within the second instrumental-concrete knowledge
classification. For James (like Bacon) knowledge is always for something, it serves
human interests. So, if you can at the outset of our coverage just begin to grasp
that to conceptualize knowledge otherwise is to distort it from the actual
life activities toward which it is related, for which it is required and by which
it is produced, then you will be prepared to appreciate what James was about.
the 1890s-1912 era in which James' major works appeared, the relevant disciplinary
contrast in this respect is with Titchener who didn't want anything to do with
the applied aspects of science. Titchener (1898), for instance, drew up the disciplinary
"battlefield" lines between his "structural" psychology and
the new "functional" school just then asserting itself along such purist,
must remember that experimental psychology [i.e., Wundt's approach] arose by way
of reaction against the faculty psychology of the last century. This [faculty
approach] was a metaphysical, not a scientific, psychology.... There is...
[at present] the danger that, if function is studied before structure has been
fully elucidated, the student may fall into that acceptance of teleological explanation
which is fatal to scientific advance: witness, if witness be necessary, the recrudescence
of vitalism in physiology.... In a word, the historical conditions of psychology
rendered it inevitable that, when the time came for the transformation from philosophy
to science, problems should be formulated, explicitly or implicitly, as static
rather than dynamic, structural rather than functional.... [With regard to]
whether this conservatism is wise, and... is likely to persist.... I believe that
both should be answered in the affirmative.... unless... the demands laid upon
psychology, by the educationalist become so insistent as partially to divert the
natural channels of investigation..." (Titchener,
The Postulates of a Structural Psychology, 1898, pp. 454-455, emphasis added).
great historiographical irony here, is that while Titchener ostensibly claimed
to have abhorred "metaphysics" as unscientific, his own empirical methodology
was permeated by various "idols
of the theater" including mentally reductive elementism, and the representationalist
theory of perception. These were the problematic albeit systematic forces which
served to make Titchener's psychology so abstract (so void of practical utility
or relevance to human affairs).
James, on the other hand, had no fear of metaphysics. More specifically, James
was always seeking ways of tying things down in terms of their concrete relations
and if that led him into a consideration of so-called metaphysical issues, that
was fine. He actively engaged and sought to resolve philosophical debates
in order to provide a workable basis upon which to conduct psychological science.
As we will see, the ultimate results of his combined disciplinary-building and
philosophical efforts include both a "functional" nonreductive "natural
scientific" approach to psychology and a "pragmatic" theory of
Preface for his
two volume tome, Principles of Psychology (1890) is instructive in this
regard. It opens with the philosophically realist assertion that psychology
assumes as its data thoughts and feelings; as well as a physical world which they
know (p. vi). He then proceeds to adopt a broadly inclusive natural scientific
methodology which, while avoiding "irresponsible" associationist and
spiritualist forms of metaphysics, still allows reference to and investigation
of the goal-directed, teleological aspects of both human action and consciousness.
The practical ends of both are emphasized throughout.
if we also consider practical disciplinary aims to be important -I certainly do-
then we should take this opportunity to become aware of the theoretical tools
James utilized to obtain such an account of psychological processes. He did not
always achieve the concrete-relational account he was striving for in each of
the subject areas he covered for this was a fairly early attempt at this sort
of analysis, but when he did, it is instructive to note the kinds of theoretical
tools he uses. In short, James achieved concreteness by way of accepting objective
contradiction, motion, and teleology into his world view. Let's briefly consider
how these were expressed in his approach to the "self" concept and the
kinds of questions he asked about "conscious mental life."
of all, unlike Hume, James accepts that there is objective contradiction in the
world (in the dialectical rather
than the merely formal logical sense). To understand any aspect of the world
concretely, including psychological processes, one has to investigate it from
all its sides and to discover the manner in which these sides are related. So,
objective contradiction (to see that a part is a whole and a whole is a part;
that all beginnings are also endings, etc.) is something we'll see him accepting.
This becomes most marked in his writings on the concept of "self" -that
which would now be called personality theory.
that Hume, who was not a concrete thinker but rather a careful formal-logical
thinker in the Aristotelian manner, could not accept the internally contradictory
nature of self. When he analyzed the workings of his own personal mind (the self)
he found both diversity and identity at the same time and felt compelled
to choose between the two with respect to which was more fundamental. His effort
to remain logically consistent led him to a rather spurious conclusion -that the
unitary self which we undoubtedly experience is an illegitimate concept which
is formed merely as the result of a mistaken though conventional habit of the
mind. For him, selfhood, personal identity, was merely a label we put on the actual
diversity of our transient thought processes. For James, on the other hand, the
self is real and he unapologetically describes its various conflicting material,
social, and spiritual aspects in all their contradictory richness.
of my favorite Jamesianisms from his section on the "Rivalry and Conflict
of the Different Selves" reads as follows:
who for the time have staked my all on being a psychologist, am mortified if others
know much more psychology than I. But I am contented to wallow in the grossest
ignorance of Greek. My deficiencies there give me no sense of personal humiliation
at all. Had I 'pretensions' to be a linguist, it would have been just the reverse.
So we have the paradox of a man shamed to death because he is only the second
pugilist or the second oarsman in the world. That he is able to beat the whole
population of the globe minus one is nothing; he has 'pitted' himself to beat
that one; and as long as he doesn't do that nothing else counts. He is to his
own regard as if he were not, indeed he is not.
puny fellow, however, whom every one can beat, suffers no chagrin about it, for
he has long ago abandoned the attempt to 'carry that line,' as the merchants say,
of self at all. With no attempt there can be no failure; with no failure no humiliation.
So our self-feeling in this world depends entirely on what we back ourselves
to be and do. It is determined by the ratio of our actualities to our supposed
potentialities; a fraction of which our pretensions are the denominator and the
numerator our success: thus, Self-esteem = Success / Pretensions. Such a fraction
may be increased as well by diminishing the denominator as by increasing the numerator.
To give up pretensions is as blessed a relief as to get them gratified; and where
disappointment is incessant and the struggle unending, this is what men will always
do. The history of evangelical theology, with its conviction of sin, its self-despair,
and its abandonment of salvation by works, is the deepest of possible examples,
but we meet others in every walk of life. There is the strangest lightness about
the heart when one's nothingness in a particular line is once accepted in good
faith. All is not bitterness in the lot of the lover sent away by the final
inexorable 'No.'" (James, 1890, "The
Consciousness of Self," Vol. 1, pp. 310-311).
while James achieved concreteness (relatedness to the world) through his acceptance
of objective contradiction in the matters he investigated, he also achieved it
through his acceptance of motion, change, and development. His use of the term
"stream of consciousness" is not an accident. It reflects and emphasizes
the concreteness that we find in another philosopher's thinking who talked about
the Jamesian concept of self, we have a rather transparent example of how acceptance
of motion, change, and development give us a much better feel for the object we
are trying to conceptualize. Hume's logical analysis had resulted in the so-called
paradox of identity which asks: How can one be both the same person you were at
10 years old and yet a different person now? While this was a logical paradox
for Hume, it wasn't for James. The contradictory nature of the self, he suggested,
was merely an experiential truism that needed to be explained by way of concrete-relational
decks are consequently cleared for the struggle with that pure principle of personal
identity which has met us all along our preliminary exposition, but which we have
always shied from and treated as a difficulty to be postponed. Ever since Hume's
time, it has been justly regarded as the most puzzling puzzle with which psychology
has to deal; and whatever view one may espouse, one has to hold his position against
heavy odds. If, with the Spiritualists, one contend for a substantial soul, or
transcendental principle of unity, one can give no positive account of what that
may be. And if, with the Humians, one deny such a principle and say that the stream
of passing thoughts is all, one runs against the entire common-sense of mankind,
of which the belief in a distinct principle of selfhood seems an integral part"
(James, 1890, "The
Consciousness of Self," Vol. 1, pp. 330).
solution he puts forward appeals to commonsense and common experience. It affirms
that we can be both different and the same, and one of the ways he is able to
accept this experiential truism is to view selfhood in terms of its inherent motion
while Hume set up his analysis in terms of a logical contradiction between identity
versus difference, James made it an issue of change and continuity. James,
in other words, considers the problem of selfhood over time. He moves beyond the
traditional static-logical account toward a dynamic-experiential analysis
of us when he awakens says, Here's the same old self again, just as he says, Here's
the same old bed, the same old room, the same old world.
sense of our own personal identity, then, is exactly like any one of our other
perceptions of sameness among phenomena. It is a conclusion grounded either on
the resemblance in a fundamental respect, or on the continuity before the mind,
of the phenomena compared.
it must not be taken to mean more than these grounds warrant, or treated as a
sort of metaphysical or absolute Unity in which all differences are overwhelmed.
The past and present selves compared are the same just so far as they are
the same, and no farther. A uniform feeling of 'warmth,' of bodily existence (or
an equally uniform feeling of pure psychic energy?) pervades them all; and this
is what gives them a generic unity, and makes them the same in kind.
But this generic unity coexists with generic differences just as real as the unity.
And if from the one point of view they are one self, from others they are as truly
not one but many selves. And similarly of the attribute of continuity; it gives
its own kind of unity to the self - that of mere connectedness, or unbrokenness,
a perfectly definite phenomenal thing - but it gives not a jot or tittle more.
And this [experienced] unbrokenness in the stream of selves, 'in no [way logically
negates the]... plurality in other respects (James, 1890, "The
Consciousness of Self," Vol. 1, pp. 334-335).
question of unitary selfhood is not one of logical identity (in the static sense)
it is one of experienced continuity. The diversity of selfhood is not
an issue of difference in any absolute eternal sense, it's a question of change
over time. So the acceptance of motion, time, and development are central ingredients
of the Jamesian approach to self.
James achieved concreteness by his acceptance of teleology (goal directedness)
in both nature (as in the sense of final causality) and in human action (goals,
motives, intentions). This theoretical tool is expressed most markedly in the
kinds of questions he asked about conscious mental life. Here he asks two questions:
What is conscious mental life like?; and What is it for? The first question can
be answered in either a very static or a more dynamic way (as in the cases of
Titchener versus James respectively) but the other was a question that
was almost new. One can well imagine what Titchener's immediate response would
be to this new question: "What do you mean, 'what's it for'? Don't talk to
me about what anything is for; function is something that leads to teleology and
we all know that this leads to metaphysics and that ain't scientific, so don't
ask about functions! Stick to structures, static structures."
deserves credit for recognizing that conscious mental life (which he viewed as
an emergent product of evolutionary development) was not being done justice to
by the kind of pre-evolutionary static and structural approach that both Wundt
and Titchener were taking. Nor was it something which would be done away with
(eliminated) by way of reduction to physiology. It needed a different kind of
discursive language -one of process. So, James is like a breath of fresh
air for the discipline because the question of function (i.e., what is
it for?) puts conscious mental life back into relation with the world, with human
experience, and with practical concerns of conduct.
Unformalized Nature of Jamesian Psychology
functional psychology movement started as an extension of the late 19th century
process mode of thought which was increasingly present in many fields of
science (Young, 1968, 1970, 1973, 1985). It was James (1890, 1892), however, who
first pointed out to a North American audience that since the mind and world have
evolved together, "mental life is primarily teleological; that is, our various
ways of feeling and thinking have grown to be what they are because of their utility
[their function]" (1892, p. xxvii).
a psychology was to treat psychological processes (e.g., perception, learning,
memory, motivation, and personality) as functions in the same two main
senses in which biologists commonly use the word: (1) as activities of living
organisms (or of parts of living organisms); and (2) as utilities -the
usefulness or survival value of those activities or processes (Ruckmick, 1913;
Dallenbach, 1915; Heidbreder, 1969).
many of the facts obtained from the mental physiology tradition (e.g., cerebral
localization, sensory summation) could be retained, the reductionism and or
mentalist forms of analyses which accompanied their discovery -the doctrine
of reflex, and the fruitless search for sensory elements- were rejected by James.
He is abandoning both of these analytical extremes because they detract from an
adequate account of psychological processes as activities and utilities of real,
regard to his rejection of reductive materialism, James (1892), for instance,
portrayed his own position as "in one sense... materialism: it puts the Higher
at the mercy of the Lower" (p. xxix). But having said this, he also considered
it important to point out that "we do not in the least explain the nature
of thought by affirming this dependence, and in that latter sense our proposition
is not materialism" (James, 1892, pp. xxix-xxx).
in (1890) he rejects mentalist conceptions of pure disembodied consciousness
for much the same reasons. That kind of analysis is abstract:
of consciousness as a purely cognitive form of being, which is the pet way of
regarding it in many idealistic-modern as well as ancient schools, is thoroughly
anti-psychological, as the remainder of this book will show. Every actually existing
consciousness seems to... be a fighter for ends... [functions]" (James,
1890, Vol. 1, p. 141, bold-text added)
can and has been argued, therefore, that a nonreductive naturalist methodology
is at the very heart of the Jamesian approach to psychology (see Tolman, 1989a).
Such a functional psychology was a departure from both the mechanical materialist
physiology tradition and the mental-associationist tradition. The emphasis
upon dynamic activities and the adaptive utility of psychological processes are
the main features which distinguished his account from the other two respectively.
all its good points, however, James' psychology, was neither a finished system
nor a provider of final conclusions, but a "collection of vivid and informed
personal reflections on all of the major areas of the emerging new science"
(Fancher, 1990, p. 255). As James (1890) put it: "The reader will in vain
seek for any closed system in the book.... That will perhaps be centuries hence..."
(James, 1890, Vol.
1, p. vii).
methodological concerns, and applications
manner of discourse is one of a rambling (though entertaining) consideration of
past positions which he soundly demolishes and then sometimes replaces with tentative
Thus after opening his Principles (1890)
by defining psychology as the "Science of Mental Life, both of its phenomena
and of their conditions" (Vol. 1, p. 1); James proceeds in the next five
chapters (including one called the "Functions of the Brain") to side
rather definitively against various problematic positions on the mind-body
issue (epiphenomenalism, parallelism, mind-stuff theory, master homunculus
theory) and to propose an albeit implied naturalistic-emergent functionalism in
rejects epiphenomenalism (which he called the "Automaton-theory"),
for instance, as an "unwarrantable impertinence in the present state of psychology"
which was beginning to be guided by evolutionary theory (James, 1890, Vol. 1,
p. 138). Evolutionary theory suggests that if we have something as sophisticated
as the human hand, then it must have gotten there because it is adaptive (for
Darwin's account of this see Ballantyne,
2002, Chapter 1). The same goes, James argues, for the evolutionary usefulness
of the human mind. It is therefore inconceivable that consciousness should have
nothing to do with the "efficacious" intentional ends and practical
utilities which it seems to serve.
in the chapter against "Mind-Stuff theory" (what we would now call physiological
or physical reductionism) he suggests we should recognize a "break"
or "undeniable discontinuity" between the physical, physiological, and
psychological realms: "In [their] story no new natures, no factors
not present at the beginning, are introduced at any later stage.... But [according
to James] with the dawn of consciousness an entirely new nature seems to slip
in, something... not given in the... atoms of the original chaos" (James,
1890, Vol. 1, p. 146).
order to drive his discontinuity point home, James adopts his typical rhetorical
style to repudiate this particular form of psycho-physical continuity as the search
for "an aboriginal atom" of consciousness: "According to it there
must be an infinite number of degrees of consciousness, following the degrees
of complication and aggregation of the primordial mind-dust" (James, 1890,
Vol. 1, pp. 149-150).
when searching for James' positively stated emergent counter-argument to reductionism,
we are relegated to sifting through the fine-print of his footnotes:
reader must observe that we are reasoning... about the logic of the mind-stuff
theory, about whether it can explain the constitution of higher mental
states by viewing them as identical with lower ones. We say the two sorts
of fact are not identical: a higher state is not a lot of lower states; it is
itself.... we have not for a moment pretended that a higher state may not emerge.
In fact it does emerge... and our Chapter IX [Stream of Thought] will be mainly
devoted to the proof of this fact. But such emergence is that of a new psychic
entity, and is... different from... an [additive] 'integration' of the lower states
as the mind-stuff theory affirms" (footnote in James, 1890, Vol. 1, p. 162).
this footnoted passage, James seems to recognize that the seeds of a systematic
means for dealing with the vertical (higher and lower) aspect of mentality rests
in some sort of "emergent" argument rather than in any mechanical associationist
integration argument. It is unfortunate, therefore, that he did not seize this
opportunity to introduce to the North American audience the many explicitly stated
insights of G.H. Lewes (1817-1878)
in this regard.
while referencing Lewes (1859-60) and (1877) at various points, James seriously
misrepresents the Lewes account rather early on by lumping Lewes in with "arguments
from continuity" (1890, Vol. 1, p. 134). This is a shame because the Lewes
"scheme" on the relationship between higher and lower mental processes
was, in fact, far more progressive, concrete, and explicit than even James'
(1874) had distinguished, for instance, between "emergents" the novel
component of change and "resultants" the continuous component
of change (Lewes, 1874, Vol. II, p. 412). Further,
he had argued that the recognition of identities between the higher and lower
aspects of psychological processes (nervous system and mind; spinal sentience
and conscious cortex; function and faculty; the logic of feeling and the logic
of signs; etc.), do not discredit their diversity of kind. Rather, "having
established this entity and diversity we have solved the problem" (Lewes,
1877, p. 393).
special interest to psychology, Lewes (1879) went on to provide a surprisingly
modern, nonreductive, system of psychology in his posthumous volumes: Study
of Psychology and Mind as a Function of the Organism (2 vols., George
Eliot Editor, 1879). In particular, he used the distinction between function
and faculty for no less than his definition of psychology: "Psychology
is the analysis and classification of the sentient functions and faculties, revealed
to observation and induction, completed by the [appreciation of]... their conditions
of existence, biological and sociological" (Lewes, 1879, Vol. 1, p. 6).
"stand for the native endowment of the organ, and faculty for its acquired
variation of activity" (Lewes, Vol. 1, 1879, p. 27). For Lewes, some of the
psychological "functions" include: instincts, feelings, sensations,
and perceptions. Some of the psychological "faculties" (distinctly human
modes of employment of functions) include: language, moral sense, and human intelligence.
He also argued that it is through "socio-logical" and "historical
relations" that these distinctly human higher powers of the mind are developed
(see Ballantyne, 1994).
this missed opportunity on the part of James, it is clear that after introducing
his basic methodological concerns, many of the remaining chapters of The Principles
outline the implications of his implied emergent naturalism for our understanding
of psychological subject matter fairly well: (i) thought resembles a Heraclitean
stream in which both the "transitive" and "substantive"
aspects flow from one object of attention to another in an uninterrupted, unitary
way; (ii) particular thoughts are not constructed from constituent simple ideas,
they are single indivisible pulses of consciousness built around associations
between complexly related objects of attention (things
thought of); (iii) the person having these thoughts or feelings -the human
self- has various aspects including the material,
social, and spiritual which form a larger unity; and (iv) this unified self,
an automaton nor absolutely "free" (unconstrained) is a "willing"
agent that can "decide" between actions dependent upon the "amount
of effort" and "training" such actions might require.
list of implications held much promise for guiding the course of subsequent empirical
psychology (whether it be introspective
in the Jamesian sense; experimental; or comparative) because it shifted analysis
away from detached "mental content" (Wundt and Titchener) toward
a consideration of psychological processes and their relations to the world.
It is arguable too that Lewes, James, Dewey, and Morgan all held to the same core
"emergentist" position regarding the phylogenetic, ontogenetic, and
socio-historical continuity and discontinuity of psychological abilities. We will
make that case for Dewey shortly. However, since James' methodological position
on continuity and discontinuity (his emergentism) was implicit, and since his
analysis tended to concentrate (like Wundt's) on the individual adult human mind,
it remained open to both inconsistent application and understatement (even within
his own writings).
James, the immediate consequence was that some chapters of The Principles
remained quite inconsistent with the general methodological outline above. An
early chapter, for instance, enumerates a number of human "Instincts"
including: vocalization, emulation, pugnacity, sympathy, hunting impulse, and
parental. These are quite arguably very loose terms for James to be using. Similarly,
the chapter on Emotion,
argues that what we call emotions are mere epiphenomena of more basic (and constituent)
physiological processes. This 'sorry because we cry' theory raised many opponents
even within the ranks of the functionalist school.
(1879), it should be pointed out, did better on these topics than either James
or his critics by elaborating the kind of careful analytical language necessary
to express the new aspects of human versus animal mentality in these regards.
Recall that in Darwin's (1872) continuity view of emotion, similar bodily postures
in different animals including human beings indicated the same "emotional
state." Lewes, however, suggested that Darwin had overstated the case.
Lewes "feelings" are experienced by animals and human
infants. But these are transformed through subsequent social and cultural relations
into linguistically labeled emotions ("sentiments") in adult human beings.
Thus he makes an explicit qualitative distinction between the "logic of
feeling" (in animals) and the "logic of signs" in human beings.
"I have seen
a monkey to whom a nut was given, failing to crack it with his teeth, return it
to the giver. If this was not reasoning, one knows not what deserves the name.
Yet, although the logical process in this case is identical with the logical process
manifest in the highest reaches of reasoning it is distinguishable as the Logic
of Feeling, not the Logic of Signs" (Lewes, 1879, Vol. 1, p. 141).
is, of course, a valuable ontological distinction to make and it is still one
that is routinely overlooked in ape and human infant studies today. The relevance
of such distinctions to Morgan's suggestion, in Emergence of Novelty (1933),
that the term biological or social "significance" should
be used when discussing animals whereas the term "meaning"
should be used when discussing adult human beings (see Ballantyne,
December, 2003) is also nicely preluded in an example where Lewes contrasts
the (fear of consequences vs. true conscience, or "remorse"):
hiding himself after a conscious misdemeanor, and not to be brought back by coaxing,
having more fear of the stick than belief in forgiveness, is not a very inadequate
comparison for that stage of human remorse which consists in the... mere terror
of the vengeance... from supernal powers... But in a mind where the educated tracing
of hurtful consequences to others is associated with a sympathetic imagination
of their suffering, Remorse [i.e., the emotion] has no relation to an external
source of punishment... it is the... contemplation, of the wound inflicted on
another" (Lewes, 1879, Vol. 1, p. 150).
Lewes also recognizes that the specific linguistic labels (the cultural significations)
we use for emotions vary across cultures:
many sentiments [i.e., the linguistically labeled emotions of Western culture]
and conceptions are not possible even to human beings until social evolution has
brought them in its train. So far from their being innate, they are utterly unknown
to the vast majority of mankind" (Lewes, 1879, Vol. 1, Sect. 59).
that Lewes (1879) was writing at a time before the indigenous tribes of North
America had been fully subjugated; and in which the vast majority of Asia and
Africa also retained their own distinct non-Westernized cultural practices including
their own linguistic labels for the emotions which those distinct cultures produced.
Both Darwin (1872) and Romanes (1888) had made a fundamental error by relying
upon missionaries and doctors to report on the "emotional states" of
those respective peoples. They had pooled the wrong population of subjects, a
mistake which would only be partially righted by later ethnographic research.
this respect, Lewes made various references to the importance of "social
evolutionary" processes and to "historical relations" in an effort
to both chart out the proper structure of, and predict the likely results of subsequent
conspicuous mental differences between a Goethe
and a Carib cannot be assigned
to differences in their organisms and functions but solely to their developed
faculties" (Lewes, 1879, Vol. 1, Sect. 15).
is therefore to History and the observation of man in social relations that we
must look for data which may supplement those of Introspection and Physiology.
The conditions of existence of mental phenomena are not only biological but also
socio-logical studies (Lewes, 1879, Vol. 1, Sect. 60).
the mental functions are a function of the individual organism, the product, Mind,
is more than an individual product. Like its great instrument, Language, it is
at once individual and social. Each man speaks in virtue of the functions of vocal
expression, but also in virtue of the social need of communication
words spoken are not his creation, yet he, too must appropriate them
when coming upon another culture, since] he has a similar vocal function,
their novel combinations of speech; and because he has similar
experiences he can understand their novel combinations of thought
(Lewes, 1879, Vol. 1, Sect. 118).
our researches over various races [i.e., cultures] and epochs, we come upon seeming
. And, since men differ more in their
social relations than in their physiological relations, it is in the former that
we should first seek the explanation of intellectual and moral differences
It is here also we must seek for many uniformities" (Lewes, 1879, Vol. 1,
"socio-logical" point, of course, is one that is alluded to sporadically
by James but it was not as a rule carried over into the analytical categories
he most often used which remained largely organismic and sometimes reductive too.
Even the much quoted Jamesian chapter on Habit
"the enormous flywheel of society" (James, Vol. 1, p. 121) tends to
reduce the cultural-historical level of human existence to a mere aggregation
of individual experience. An obvious instance of this occurs at the very end of
that chapter when James equates the societal training of professional competence
with the mere amount of individual effort expended:
"Let no youth
have any anxiety about the upshot of his education, whatever the line of it may
be. If he keep faithfully busy each hour of the working-day, he may safely leave
the final result to itself. He can with perfect certainty count on waking up some
fine morning, to find himself one of the competent ones of his generation..."
(James, Vol. 1, p. 127).
individualized advice was of no real help to early-to-mid-20th century students
of the social sciences at Harvard or elsewhere. Trends and fads including eugenics
and behaviorism had come and gone in the discipline leaving many productive individuals
(e.g., B. Rand, A. Roback) whose theories happened to be out-of-step with predominant
views to be reduced to historical footnotes along the way. Above and beyond persistent
effort, one has to have some idea of where the tide of history and even the politics
of one's own department are leading in order to be judged "competent"
in the first place.
inconsistency between chapters was then repeated in The Briefer Course
(James, 1892). Ironically, it is likely that such inconsistencies actually increased
the use of James' (1890; 1892) texts for both graduate and introductory classrooms
respectively. Allport's (1943) article on the "productive paradoxes"
of William James makes precisely this point. It seems that nearly everyone could
find something they liked in either the James or the Jimmy!
long-term disciplinary consequences of his inconsistencies on fundamental issues,
however, were less benign. Subsequent adherents of functional psychology encountered
major difficulties selecting which positions to support and which to abandon.
Functional psychology as a school underwent telling changes through its three
subsequent major figures: Dewey, Angell, and Carr. In particular, Charles Tolman
(1990) points out that on the issue of evolutionary continuity-discontinuity,
functional psychology was anything but a monolithic position. As will be argued
below, explanatory discourse about psychological processes along functional lines
reached a "peak" with Dewey's (1896) article against the reflex arc
concept, and subsequent to that degenerated into theoretical eclecticism and operational
Critique of the Reflex Arc
was E.B. Titchener who first identified Dewey's (1896) critique of the reflex
arc concept as an example of "functional psychology" (Titchener, 1898,
p. 451). That label, I believe was entirely accurate. In 1891, for instance, John
Dewey (1859-1952) had abandon the use of his own Psychology (1886)
-written from the perspective of neo-Hegelian idealism- in favor of the "new"
text written by James. Thus, in his "Reflex
Arc Concept in Psychology" (1896), we see Dewey combining his early Hegelianism
with James' evolutionary naturalism. True to his Hegelian roots, Dewey's critique
argues convincingly that the reflex arc account of human action is inadequate
because it contains an apparent logical paradox (or physical-mental dualism) which
is not resolved until the discourse of investigation moves upward to an intentional
level of analysis. An "explanatory" account of animal or human action,
he argues, needs to include this larger, intentional unit of analysis.
are two valuable lessons contained in Dewey's 1896 article: (1) an explicit message
that a truly functional analysis of psychological acts must be both organismic
and intentional (this being the "larger coordination" or "unit"
he is emphasizing throughout); and (2) an implied message that this "larger
unit" of analysis is not only biological and individual but also social (and
by extension cultural). While the first was at least partially brought into the
portrayal of early functional psychology by Angell and also Carr; the second was
only stated explicitly in Dewey's late 1910s onwards works on educational topics
-i.e., after the initial flame of the functionalist school had been kindled
but had not as yet fizzled out.
the Cryptic Nature of Dewey's Article
should be mentioned upfront that Dewey's (1896) article was an exceedingly difficult
piece of philosophical writing. Not only did contemporaneous figures such as Titchener
have difficulty with it, but so did subsequent general psychologists and historians
of psychology. So we will start with his cryptic opening statement and move on
cautiously from there:
the greater demand for a unifying principle... in psychology should come
at just the time when all generalizations and classifications are most questioned....
is natural enough. It is the very cumulation of discrete facts... that also breaks
down previous lines of classification. That material is too great in mass and
too varied in style to fit into existing pigeon-holes... The idea of the reflex
arc has... come nearer to meeting this demand for a general working hypothesis
than any other single concept.... In criticizing this conception it is not
intended to make a plea for the principles of explanation and classification which
the reflex arc idea has replaced; but, on the contrary, to urge that they
are not sufficiently displaced, and that in the idea of the sensori-motor circuit,
conceptions of the nature of sensation and of action [derived from the nominally
displaced association psychology] are still in control (Dewey, 1896, p.
357, emphasis added).
began John Dewey's 1896 article "The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology"
an exceedingly difficult, though conceptually coherent, piece of philosophical
writing. Its historical import is said to be that it contains a powerful criticism
of behaviorist psychology years before that school even become established. I
think it does provide a powerful argument. But Dewey's argument is not the one
portrayed in past psychology texts nor even in contemporary history of psychology
main culprit here is not Dewey himself, but rather our own lack of imagination
about what a non-associationist and nonreductive psychology would be like; and
especially, what it would mean for the daily empirical practice of experimental
of his argument
most common solution, when faced with this visionary gap has been to oversimplify
Dewey's position into something we feel relatively comfortable with the reflex
circuit view. That is, to portray him as calling for a "circuit"
rather than an "arc" view of reflexive acts.
Arc View (A)
Reflex Circuit View (B)
as this are intended to make a distinction between "two conceptions"
of a reflex act: the reflex arc (A), and the reflex circuit view (B). That which
Dewey was 'against' appears uppermost, and that which he is said to be
'for' appears bottom-most (From Benjafield, 1996).
ever since the time of James (1890) the reflex arc concept has provided us with
a convenient straw-man model of environmental contingencies imposing their
will on a passive organism. It is obviously problematic because it implies a one-way
causal chain of events where a detached sensation or stimulus in the environment
"hits" the passive organism with an inevitable response being produced.
In fact, if contemporary general psychology can be said to be "functionalist"
at all, it is in this very recognition of the necessity of asserting some form
of active or practical relationship between the nature of the organism and the
contingencies of the environment.
reflex circuit view, on the other hand, has long been suggested to be the viable
functionalist alternative to this older arc view. In the reflex circuit, a bi-directional
interaction between the environment and an organism involving some sort of active
processes like a sensory-motor feedback loop is said to be involved. By placing
the "organism" or a "mental process" in the middle we are
supposed to have solved the problem of environmental immediacy.
another glance back at Dewey's (1896) opening statement that: "in the idea
of the sensori-motor circuit, conceptions of the nature of sensation and of
action [derived from the nominally displaced psychology] are still in control"
should indicate that this now standard claim about his position is not entirely
accurate. In fact, this circuit portrayal of human acts is more in line
with the views of early experimental functional psychologists (such as Angell
or Carr) or with the later S-O-R/ S-M-R views of Robert S. Woodworth (see Section
5) than it is in any way related with Dewey's views (who explicitly rejected
it as too limiting).
Angell (1907) as the spokesman for the "Province
of Functional Psychology," was the first to explicitly portray Dewey's
argument in the now standard arc vs. circuit manner. This seemingly incidental
understatement had the immediate effect of smoothing over the theoretical differences
with the contemporaneous experimental mainstream (of physiological and structural
psychology) but it also relegated the finer points of Dewey's argument against
environmental immediacy in particular to the province of antiquity.
clearest and most Americanized portrayal of the circuit view I have found from
this period appears in various versions of Howard Warren's aptly named Elements
of Psychology between 1918-1930. Reflex circuit view of "seeing and acting"
(from Warren, 1930).
is interesting to note how the use of this popularizing device by Warren is reminiscent
of those used by Edward Scripture's 1890s era Americanization of the reaction
time concept. After all, what could be more ecologically valid and animated
for an American than baseball? The similarities, however, go far further back
than the immediate disciplinary need to popularize successive manifestations of
the New psychology to the textbook reading audience of American students. The
long associationist/elementist traditions behind the reaction time concept are
virtually identical to that of both the reflex arc and the reflex circuit
view of acts; both of which Dewey (1896) rejected as too limiting
on the new psychological science.
(1896) first illustrates his actual case by carefully considering the deficiencies
of the reflex arc account of a child's initial and subsequent encounters
with a candle-flame.
encounter with the candle flame left and subsequent encounter right
which entails an active avoidance of being burned (From James, 1890; Vol. I, chapter
2, pp. 24-27). We know, writes James, that 'the burnt child dreads the fire'
and that animals with intact hemispheres act in "anticipation of future...
or distant good and ill" but how shall we best understand and describe these
facts? Should they be understood in terms of the (above depicted) reductive mechanical
"switch-board" of movements and sensations? James and Dewey both view
this switchboard scheme as an "unreal abstraction" (i.e., as a confusion
of the physiological with the intentional-psychological level of analysis).
logical paradox of the reflex arc account lies in the fact that the initial child-candle
encounter can be analytically described, either in terms of physical motion
(responses), or in terms of the transformation of sensory stimulation. That
is, the reaching and seeing aspects of the child's encounter with the flame -when
considered from the motion side- can be described as "one uninterrupted,
continuous redistribution of mass in motion" (Dewey, 1896, p. 364). But the
same encounter -when described from the sensory side- appears as a "visual-heat-pain-muscular
[quality], transformed into another visual-touch-muscular [quality]" (p.
364). Dewey points out that the standard reflex arc account never bothers to resolve
this logical contradiction of its discourse, and therefore, it leads a spurious
and oversimplified abstract double-life.
An adequate account of the child's varied encounters with the flame requires a
larger unit of analysis capable of including some sort of "teleological"
goal-oriented aspect. The candle can not be accurately described as a stimulus
until the child looks at the candle. In the same way, the movement of the
hand toward the flame can not be described as a response until we know that the
child intends to touch the flame (in the initial encounter) or avoid
touching it (in the subsequent encounter). In other words, the so-called,
stimulus and response have "a special genesis or motivation and a special
end or function [utility]" rather than a detached "preexistence"
(Dewey, 1896, p. 370).
According to Dewey's terminology, by the act of attending to some aspect of its
environment, an organism "constitutes" that aspect as a stimulus.
Similarly, by manipulating some aspect of its environment or part of its
body the organism "constitutes" that movement as a response.
Thus the above mentioned "genesis" of the stimulus or response is not
to be sought outside but inside the act (which is a larger intentional
"coordination"). These smaller functional units do not have "detached
preexistence". They can only be understood by reference to the larger intentional
unit in which they reside.
summary argument ran as follows: "Neither mere sensation, nor mere
movement, can ever be either stimulus or response; only an act can be that..."
(Dewey, 1896, p. 367; emphasis added). Their functional status as a stimulus or
response depends on the part they play in this larger intentional coordination.
with regard to their "development in the individual, or in the race, or from
the standpoint of the analysis of the mature consciousness" (p. 360), the
two acts (seeing and reaching) fall within a "still larger coordination"
in which conflicting ends -whether in the same, different, or successive
situations- must be considered. These conflicting intentional properties are not
there at the component reflex arc or even reflex circuit level of analysis.
second example should help clarify the difference between his approach and that
of the standard "detached" stimulus-organism-response analysis. In particular,
Dewey opposes any analytical "mutilation" of intentional acts
into this standard three-moment reflex circuit view:
an instance we may conveniently take Baldwin's analysis of reactive consciousness....
[quoting Baldwin's Feeling and Will, 1891, p. 60]:... "First,
the receiving consciousness, the stimulus -say a loud, unexpected sound; second,
the attention involuntarily drawn, the registering element [organism or mind];
and, third, the muscular reaction following upon the sound -say flight
from fancied danger." Now,... [argues Dewey] such an analysis is incomplete;
it ignores the status prior to hearing the sound.... If one is reading
a book, if one is hunting, if one is [walking] in a dark place on a lonely night,
if one is performing a chemical experiment, in each case, the noise has a very
different psychical value; it is a different experience. In any case, what proceeds
the 'stimulus' is a whole act, a sensori-motor coordination. What is more
to the point, the 'stimulus' emerges out of this coordination; it is born
from it..." (Dewey, 1896, p. 361; emphasis added).
for the practical disciplinary implications of shifting our analysis away from
the standard merely "sensori-motor" (S-R or S-O-R) toward an
"organic" understanding of larger shifting intentional coordinations,
Dewey suggests that the point "is in its application" but those, he
said, must be "deferred to a more favorable opportunity" (p. 370). His
(1896) analysis is therefore to be read as a prolegomenon
to later possible applications which (as noted below) were indeed "deferred"
at least within experimental psychology.
Wider unit of analysis
what, exactly, is the wider intentional unit of analysis that Dewey seems to be
envisioning for psychology like? I view his article as a prelude to what would
later formally be called an emergent evolutionary or even life-span developmental
understandings of psychological subject matter. As portrayed by Dewey, in
the case of individual development, an expanding series of psychological "coordinations"
with conflicting ranges and ends (goals, intentions, and motives) -which the
constituent acts refer to and fulfill- implies a conception of psychological
subject matter in which successive envelopes within envelopes of experience
are encountered (and "constituted") by that individual.
Horizon Widens as He Matures" (From Prothro & Teska Psychology: A
Biosocial Approach, 1950).
rejecting both sensationist associationism (i.e., the "nominally displaced
psychology"); and material reduction (reflex arc psychology); as well
as anything resembling the three-moment (S-O-R or S-M-R) psychology which combines
the two into a circuit, Dewey (1896) was hinting at a third "emergent"
psychological alternative. This would be a psychology in which the "units"
of psychological analysis would recognize and retain the features of (refer to)
that which is important to the particular ontological-developmental level of psychological
processes being discussed (i.e., phylogenetic, ontogenetic, sociohistorical).
sort of analytical scheme, I believe, fulfills Dewey's 1896 requirement that any
adequate account of the actions of organisms be understood not as detached additive
elementary components (like stimuli or responses) but as functional aspects of
the larger intentional wholes in which they reside (see Dewey, Human Nature
and Conduct, 1922). It also addresses the implied requirement of both his
1896 article and successive works in the area of education (The School and
Child and the Curriculum (1902); Schools
of Tomorrow, 1915; Democracy and Education, 1916,
1932; and The Teacher and Society, 1937): That any
adequate (non-"mutilating") description of our psychological
abilities, actions, and educational practices, requires the analysis of distinctly
human means of appropriating cultural patterns of action and meanings (internalization
and externalization of culture) in all their varied continuity and discontinuity
with other forms of mentality.
later works by Dewey all indicate that the child is an active dynamic being with
impulses, interests, and activities of its own. The role of the teacher-educator,
therefore, is not to induce such activities (from outside) but rather to
ascertain their current development and furnish appropriate opportunities for
their expression to guide and direct them in ways that will connect them up with
the wider requirements of society. A school is not merely a place where lessons
are imparted in isolation from, but rather in relation to living in a given
society. These lessons are learned by way of experience with meaningful concrete
learning situations which encourage the child to think and act creatively. A school
is to become a cooperative community, an miniature society, which seeks to not
only fulfill the individual proclivities of the child -to promote individual development-
but also to produce a productive participant in socialized activity.
happened to "Functional" Psychology?
long fallow issue of whatever happened to functional psychology became more pressing
during the early 1990s with the publication of celebratory "centennial"
texts and articles (e.g., Johnson & Henley, 1990; Owens & Wagner,
1993; Donnelly, 1992; D.N. Robinson, 1993; Taylor, 1992, 1996) honoring the discipline-building
influence of two seminal textbooks by William James: Principles of Psychology
(2 Vols., 1890) and The Briefer Course (1892). While the role of these
texts (known under the names "James and Jimmy" respectively) in providing
an argument for a nonreductive natural science approach to psychology was
granted by most contributors, the related methodological issue of the role of
functionalism on shaping the professional aims and empirical methods of 20th century
"general psychology" remained largely unresolved. Given
that we are now approaching the centennial of J.R. Angell's (1904) Psychology:
An introductory study of the Structure and Function of human consciousness
(the place where functionalism first met the practical necessities of carrying
out empirical research), the following details will provide the basic groundwork
for reconsidering this issue.
the early potential of a "functional" psychology
its infancy, functional psychology held great potential for dealing with psychological
processes in a systematic and eventually explanatory way. Certainly, James (as
early as 1904) thought so. In his review of Studies in Logical Theory (1903),
which was edited by Dewey and contained a chapter by Dewey's student Angell on
Relation of Structural and Functional Psychology to Philosophy", James
has a School of Thought! -a school of thought which, it is safe to predict,
will figure in literature as the School of Chicago for twenty-five years to
come. Some universities [i.e., Harvard]
have plenty of thought to show, but no school; others [i.e., Cornell]
plenty of school, but no thought. The University of Chicago,
by its Decennial, Publications, shows real thought and a real school. Professor
John Dewey, and at least ten of his disciples, have collectively put into the
world a statement, homogeneous in spite of so many coöperating minds, of
a view of the world, both theoretical and practical..." (James,
1904, p. 1; emphasis added).
(1904) also pointed out two weaknesses, however, and these speak directly to the
topic at hand because Angell's Psychology text was to appear that same
are two great gaps in the system, which none of the Chicago writers have done
anything to fill, and until they are filled, the system, as a system, will appear
defective. There is no cosmology, no positive account of the order of physical
fact [ontology], as contrasted with mental fact, and no account of
the [epistemological] fact (which I assume the writers to believe in) that different
subjects share a common object-world. These [two methodological] lacunae can hardly
be inadvertent -we shall doubtless soon see them filled in some way by one or
another member of the school" (James,
1904, pp. 4-5; emphasis added).
it happened, James himself proceeded to fill these "lacunae." On the
epistemological side, he presented both his Pragmatism: A New Name for Old
Ways of Thinking (1907) and an important rejoinder called: "The
Pragmatist account of truth and it misunderstanders" (1909a, republished
in 1911). In both, he expands upon an argument which was first made in his "Sentiment
of Rationality" (1879) and which was then psychologized in his Principles
(where he proposed that we form associations between "objects" of experience
and not between sensations or images).
in the 1890 work, James recognized that from an evolutionary point of view, representationalism
does not make any sense. The 1907 argument contained in his Pragmatism,
however, develops this kind of evolutionary-based direct realist argument
further as follows: Since the perceptual abilities of human beings have been formed
by evolutionary processes they (and we) directly reflect the world; and consequently,
if we are faced with a situation where two or more beliefs are conflicting with
each other, it is to the practical outcome of one belief versus another that we
should seek for truth. A belief is true if the outcome of that belief is satisfactory
to us. In the 1909a/1911 rejoinder, designed as a corrective against subjectivist
interpretations of the aforementioned "pragmatic" view of truth, James
clarified this point still further arguing that: Facts are not true, they simply
exist, and our beliefs are true of them. It was by these combined and successive
means that James firmly, adamantly, and convincingly rejected representationalism
in all its varied past forms.
the ontological side, his A Pluralistic Universe (1909b)
served to flesh-out many of his earlier implicit emergent positions and in doing
so adopted various dialectical arguments somewhat lacking in his Principles;
where he expressed disdain for "Hegelizers" (1890). James can be said
to have subequently theoretically converged with Dewey in this respect. Here,
the static "block-universe" (of past ontological monism) is met
with a Heraclitean pluralistic monist position by James (see Tolman, 1989a;
Viney, 1989) which expressed the unity in diversity of not only the universe but
of living organisms and human beings as well. In particular he was against any
simplified either monism or pluralism argument. Referring to his own form of pragmatism
James wrote: "With her criterion of the practical differences that theories
make, we see that she must equally abjure absolute monism and absolute pluralism
(James, A Pluralistic Universe, 1909b, p. 105).
by way of bridging the two above stated (1904) "physical" and "mental"
fact affairs, we have his posthumously published Essays in Radical Empiricism
(1912). Here, James (1912) emphasizes the difference between Classical empirical
doctrine (which is riddled with, and confined by, many idols
of the theater) and his "Radical" form of empiricism; the defining
feature of which is a return to a Baconian object-centered and human-centered
approach to discourse and discovery. He comes up with marvelous rhetorical arguments
(framed in practical commonsense language) that are rather unexcelled. He asks,
for instance, when you blow out this candle on the table, whose candle do you
blow out? and answers: When you blow out your candle, you blow out my
candle too. Similarly, when you hold one end of a rope and I take the other, whose
rope are we pulling on? It is the self same rope between us.
cardinal principle which guided all of this later Jamesian philosophical
work was the effort to put the human being back into the account so that the resulting
discourse and practice would become more concrete. But alas it was, at least for
the psychological portion of the Chicago school, too late. during their formative
intellectual years, the emergentist aspects of both James and Dewey's early psychological
writings were an entirely implicit and somewhat inconsistent affair. The immediate
disciplinary outcome of this was that J.R. Angell's Psychology (1904, 1906,
1907, 1908) can be said to have taken up only the "superficial aspects"
of those writings in this ontological regard. Angell's later Introduction
(1918, 1920), however, can be seen to have done a somewhat better job. Similarly,
James' successively stated Direct Realist views on epistemology while referenced
in the perception chapters of Angell's respective texts were not adopted systematically.
Angell in short, presents a mixed bag which sometimes follows James and
sometimes not. Carr, however, maintained positions on the vertical (ontological)
account of comparative species mentality that were at clear variance with
that of Dewey and held to his own account of space perception which was thoroughly
representationalist (more details on this follow below).
attempts by Angell and Carr to formally characterize and popularize the "province
of functional psychology" to an American Psychological Association audience
reflect the contemporaneous shifts toward both eclectic and then behaviorist
methodology in mainstream general-experimental psychology. The first shift
is exemplified best in Angell, while the second is most strikingly exemplified
in Harvey Carr (1925, 1930); who ended up advocating a position which was behaviorist
in all but name. The language used in both accounts remains predominantly organismic
rather than cultural (though in Angell 1918, 1920, it was often "social"
too). Roughly speaking, this is what happened to functional psychology.
for James' (1904) "safe" prediction, we must note two points. First
it was a rather equivocal prediction. In the sense that the Chicago school of
pragmatist philosophy was an ongoing affair, it can be said to have come true
with much help from James. Secondly, however, in the sense that James suggested
that the important "gaps" would "undoubtedly" be filled in
by members of the Chicago school, it must be said not as far as psychology
is concerned to have come true. The rest of this Section, therefore, will
outline the details of this gradual degenerative transition from "functional
psychology" to behaviorism in the hope that a few methodological object
can be learned about the likely remedies still required by 21st century psychology
in these regards.
on Mental Evolution
history of psychology texts will indicate that the manifesto for functional psychology
was put forward by J.R.
Angell (1869-1949) in his 1906 APA
presidential address (published 1907). In the address, Angell suggests that
if functional psychology ever becomes "dogmatic and narrow" it will
likely be replaced by "some worthier successor" (p. 91). It should be
noted, therefore, that in the spirit of openness Angell intentionally adopted
a restrained (or muted) tone whenever entering open debates on the "proper"
nature of psychological methodology. That is, rather than saying too much, he
often said too little.
the spirit of his earlier proclamation, for example, Angell (1909) tried to steer
a middle path between those who advocated various versions of mental continuity
and discontinuity without openly throwing in his lot with any existing or past
alternative. Similarly, Angell (1913) even took an overtly appeasing tone when
evaluating the rise of behaviorist psychology. So let's consider these two articles
in some detail before reviewing Angell's general psychology textbooks.
on Mental Darwinism, Psychology, and Behaviorism
(1909) article on the "Influence of Darwin on Psychology" provided an
opportunity to openly investigate the conceptual core of the functional understanding
of mental evolution. For the most part, Angell seems to have been well informed
about the possible historical and contemporaneous alternatives as they stood at
that point. He clearly rejects the two most extreme positions but this is done
on a somewhat equivocal state of the art basis. Darwin's "convictions
as to the continuity of mental evolution from animal to man," for instance,
is rejected because it relied too heavily upon "anecdote" (pp. 159-160).
"Dissenting views," such as St. George Mivart who argued for a "break,
separating the human and spiritual, from the merely sentient and brute,"
are also rejected because they "always" contain "a certain stripe
of religious belief" (p. 160).
neither of these modes of classification affords us any real insight into psychic
types. If Darwin's fertile investigations are to bear fruit in this direction
in psychology, we must be able to portray the entire range of mental processes
belonging to the great divisions of animal life, to show where and how these dividing
lines part company with those which now bind animal forms together on structural
lines" (Angell, 1909, p. 168).
to the fact that Angell appears to be aware of the full range of alternative methodological
positions existing at that point, it may be merely the above state of the art
argument about not having enough data yet rather than any firmly held theoretical
objection that leads him to ignore or downplay the importance of the Lewes scheme
(which distinguished between sentience and consciousness; function and faculty;
use the terms apparently and maybe here because while Angell (1909) mentions Lewes
by name in Section II (on the debate over the origin of instinct), he does not
mention Lewes again when assessing the various dissenting arguments (against Darwin's
continuity view of mental evolution) in Section III. This leads me to suspect
that he was not as conversant with Lewes as he could have been.
should be noted, however, that Angell at this point clearly sympathizes with the
possibility of eventually obtaining both an exact account of the quantitative
"range of mental processes," and of describing the qualitatively distinct
"psychic types" or "stages" of mental evolution (pp. 168-169).
But his account of how to do this is another matter, and Angell's insinuation
that the Darwinian account of mentality might "bear fruit in this direction"
is, I believe, both counterproductive and misleading. Darwin's continuity view
of mentality should have been rejected by Angell as wrong. As indicated
above, Darwin's account of mental evolution is (stated bluntly) inferior to his
account of organic evolution.
Angell to have read Lewes (1879), he would have seen laid out in a clear fashion
not only a distinction between psychological "functions" (in animals)
and "faculties" (in human beings), but also an equally viable account
of "sentience" (in the spinal cord through to the cerebral basil ganglia)
and "consciousness" (at the higher intentional cortex-organism level).
That position was built up from relatively hard-nosed comparative physiological
evidence stretching back quite a ways (see Lewes, 1874; 1877) as well as on emergent
naturalist arguments and anecdote. Lewes had improved on Darwin in all of these
at least at this point in his career, simply suggests that the "present"
psychology had "only the beginnings" of the necessary data for the solution
to the general problem of mental evolution. He ends on this exact note:
these and dozens of other items of information needful for the execution of the
program proposed will require long years of patient labor. Nevertheless, until
this work is done, we shall remain powerless to describe the great stages of developing
mind. The task is eminently worth while and is certain to be accomplished. Only
when it is accomplished will it really be possible to entertain an intelligent
judgment concerning the fundamental contentions of Darwinism concerning the evolution
of mind" (Angell, 1909, p. 169).
(1909) restrained attitude toward past views on mental discontinuity is mirrored
in his subsequent handling of the burgeoning behaviorist doctrine. In the article
regarding "Behavior as a category for psychology," Angell (1913) gave
"sympathetic acceptance" (p. 259) to the behaviorist's effort to incorporate
objective methods into psychological practice.
however, was by no means a theoretical capitulation nor an endorsement of behaviorist
doctrine. After all, as Angell points out, the functional psychologist as evidenced
by the child-and-the-flame example "has persistently emphasized the entire
act from sense organ to muscle" as the appropriate subject matter for psychology
(p. 258). It is, says Angell, therefore "easy to welcome a category like
behavior which... accents... objective action" (1913, p. 258). This, of course,
is a major understatement of Dewey's position and even of James' (1890) treatment
of the child and flame example. Both of those figures emphasized the importance
of internal dynamics of actions, but behavioral analysis looks outside
the organism's act for material or efficient cause to push it into motion.
is subtly suggesting, of course, that behaviorists look at only part of
the proper subject matter of psychology. Both the disciplinary motive for, and
limits of, Angell's cordial reception of behaviorist doctrine are clarified
in the following statement which appears near the end of the article: "I
want to see just how ideas and feelings embody themselves in action and a psychology
which makes objective description its main concern must inevitably further this
interest... When it comes to discarding introspection I demur" (Angell, 1913,
stated the limits of his sympathetic acceptance, Angell points out the practical
difficulties of actually implementing the behaviorist "flanking movement"
(p. 256) around conscious phenomena. Psychologists could conceivably limit the
study of humans to the same methods which apply to animals, but Angell questions
why such a limitation would be necessary. After all, if we wish to know more about
unobservable events, we can simply ask our human subjects for further information.
contrast in professional tact between Angell and Dewey is interesting to note.
When Dewey reviewed the reflex arc concept, he assertively names it a "mutilation"
of the proper (and larger) subject matter of psychology. Angell, on the other
hand, merely appeals politely to the supposed commonsense of the reader. Having
tiptoed around the rather fundamental theoretical issues at stake for some time,
he eventually sums up by providing both wise council and cautionary comments
that could only have been aimed at J.B. Watson himself:
can be shown, as it has not yet been shown, that introspection is... fundamentally
incompetent... it is good judgment to use it. Refine it, check it, train it, but
do not throw away a good tool until you certainly have a better in hand. And do
not forget that in much which offers itself as objective method, introspection
is really involved either directly or indirectly.... Let us then bid the movement
toward objective methods and objective description in psychology God-speed, but
let us also counsel it to forego the excesses of youth" (Angell, 1913, pp.
Approach to General Psychology
noted Angell's cautious professional demeanor, it is logical to ask how this may
have manifested itself in his general psychology texts. Not surprisingly, the
successive editions of Angell's respective texts (1904, 1906;
1918, 1920) are peppered with opportunities to further the theoretical and empirical
basis of functional psychology. But in reading these texts, it is hard to avoid
the conclusion that Angell does not for the most part succeed in doing so.
example, when comparing the reasoning abilities of animals and men, Angell (1920)
correctly indicates that the breadth of this evolutionary break could not have
been predicted by looking at anatomy alone. This recognition that more than biology
or comparative anatomy is involved is a step in the right direction.
one does not mean... to urge any radical discontinuity of development between
the higher animals and man, because the human child gives abundant evidence in
its earlier years of behavior which is substantially identical with that of the
animals. But one can allege that, considering behavior as an expression of intelligence,
the evolutionary break between man and the animals is far greater than would be
suggested by a casual observation of their anatomical organization. To be sure,
the human brain differs in important particulars from even the most highly developed
animal brain. But the differences are not such as would ever have suggested the
gross disparities in intelligence, which the study of behavior clearly discloses"
(Angell, 1920, pp. 187-188).
when it comes down to disclosing the best way to understand the nature of this
mental/behavioral evolutionary break Angell simply appeals to various organismic
adaptations, or adjustments to a given social environment. In other words, Angell's
language of analysis lacks sufficient reference to the transformative role of
language and culture. In his chapter on "reasoning," for instance, he
portrays "language as an accessory" (p. 187) in the same way that Darwin
had 60 years earlier. As with Darwin and Romanes, Angell argued that culture is
supplemental -i.e., something added onto our biological existence.
Angell utilizes the Watsonian evidence against the physiologically reductive James-Lange
theory of emotion but does not also draw in the Lewes
distinction between the "logic of feeling" (biological significance)
and the "logic of signs" (cultural specific, linguistically labeled
emotions). In this case, Angell is stuck at the transitional phase of systematic
thought first exemplified by Romanes. He refers to or even recognizes qualitative
breaks but can not explain them in anything other than continuous terms. Angell
is only half right, therefore, in the following concluding statement at the end
of his chapter on emotion: "It cannot be said that the Darwinian explanations
have at all completely solved the riddle of certain of our emotional reactions,
but they will at least serve to suggest the lines along which it may perhaps be
found..." (Angell, 1920, p. 211).
that Romanes (1888) and Lewes (1879) before him had recognized that Darwin's particular
pure continuity view of "emotional reactions" (1872) was unDarwinian.
Hence they sought an alternate evolutionary "line" of inquiry (which
can be labeled qualitative differences and emergent naturalism respectively).
For Angell to have labeled the "lines along which" an answer might be
found as "Darwinian" instead of as "Darwin's" own (as he had
in 1909) may indicate his own dawning awareness of the difference between the
two terms, but the allusion is still unfortunate.
same transitional half-step status can be observed in Angell's treatment of the
topic of "instinct" where his analysis takes on a distinctly eclectic
one wishes to uncover the distinctly genetic phases of instinct, then a classification
like that of Ribot or McDougall... would be best. If one desires to throw into
the foreground those considerations which pertain most distinctly to the evolution
of society and its relation to the individual, then such a grouping as was last
mentioned [i.e., dealing with issues of interpersonal affection, and welfare of
the tribe or social unit] is likely to be most convenient. There is an added advantage
in this [latter] type of classification in that it lends itself rather readily
to use in connection with the modern evolutionary conceptions of mind" (Angell,
1920, p. 220).
should be remembered that these "modern evolutionary conceptions of mind,"
as defined earlier by Angell (1909), include reference to Lewes. The above discussions
of emotion and instinct are a perfect opportunity for Angell to further the systematic
standing of the functionalist position by providing an explicitly transformative
analysis which follows that particular modern evolutionary conception of mind.
Instead, he immediately portrays "civilized society" as being thrust
upon the organism's adjustment of the instincts rather than as emerging out of
is, rather than recognizing as Lewes did that societal relations transform the
very nature of human adjustments into a qualitatively different realm ("appropriation"
of "socio-logical" practices), Angell portrays the human condition in
a merely Jamesian light; as a "balance between those instincts which tend
to exploit the individual at the cost of society and those whose tendency is in
the opposite direction" (1920, p. 221). As stated above, James failed
us in this regard and so does Angell.
"society" (culture) is viewed by Angell as a variable which periodically
imposes itself upon the more stable instinctual "intrinsic love of
the mother for the child" (1920, p. 225; also see Angell, 1922). To speak
figuratively and ahistorically for a minute, let's be clear as to which methodological
practices are being overlooked and which are being preluded: Gone is the integrated
levels approach laid out by Lewes and in marches the variable psychology which
is so very characteristic of mid-to-late 20th century psychology! This is surely
the end of living and the
beginning of survival for functional psychology as a school.
put it less figuratively, Angell appears to have inadvertently capitulated to,
or even detract from, the Romanes view of qualitative mental evolution at the
expense of providing a progressive system for general psychology to follow. Thus
he suggests, the "instincts and reflexes are dominant in the primary stages
of our life history, intelligent control comes in at an early age to modify [but
not transform] these inherited forms of behavior" (1920, p. 224). Angell's
psychology is one of socially modified organismic functions rather than
of the transformation of internally dynamic organismic functions of individuals
into social functions and then distinctly cultural human faculties.
is important to note that aside from these limitations, Angell (1920) also has
his moments of glory. It should not be surprising that, given the early influence
of James and Dewey on his early psychological training (see Angell's
autobiography, 1936/1961), one finds these moments in the chapters on voluntary
action and self. After all, James was at his own emergent best when discussing
the teleological nature of consciousness and the unity of self. We now, however,
have to turn to the account of functional psychology proposed by Angell's disciplinary
successor Harvey Carr.
Carr on Mental Evolution
to his well-known article on functional psychology for Murchison's Psychologies
of 1930, Harvey A. Carr (1873-1954)
is often cited as the figure who "preserved functional psychology" during
the era of behavioral research. Heidbreder (1933), for instance, suggested that
functional psychology was initiated by Dewey, developed under Angell, and preserved
as a definite influence by Carr (p. 209). Henle & Sullivan (1974), however,
provide a convincing counter-argument that, in actuality, Carr presided over the
systematic decomposition of functional psychology as a school. In accordance with
this reassessment, the following subsections will touch briefly on Carr's views
of mental evolution (1925, 1927, 1930) as an indication of both his intellectual
intentions and systematic limitations.
Carr's Honorable Intentions
Psychology: A Study of Mental Activity (1925) certainly provided an opportunity
for him to not only bring the functionalist camp into line with but also improve
the systematic footing of the then flourishing empirical-experimental psychology
tradition. The breadth and detail of his opening definition of psychological subject
matter as the "study of mental activity" immediately leads the reader
to expect that Carr's intention is to achieve such a dual goal.
is primarily concerned with the study of mental activity. This term is the generic
name for such activities as perception, memory, imagination, reasoning, feeling,
judgment, and will.... Stated in comprehensive terms... mental activity is concerned
with the acquisition, fixation, retention, organization, and evaluation of experiences,
and their subsequent utilization in the guidance of conduct" (Carr, 1925,
progressive aspect of this definition is that, along with Dewey, Carr seems to
be providing a larger unit of analysis for psychology. That is, "activity"
in its various manifestations, includes both external and internal processes in
one large unit of analysis. Larger that is, than other possible units such as
introspective elements (Titchener, Dallanbach), reaction time (Scripture), reflex
(Pavlov), or behavior (Watson, and later Skinner).
Carr, as was the case with James and Angell, the intended inclusiveness of the
subject matter necessarily implied the need for a broad understanding of empirical
methods. Thus, introspective observation, physiological-anatomical,
experimental, and anthropological investigations are all presented as relevant
and important parts of psychological practice. In consequence, he had little concern
over the lack of firm demarcation lines between the sciences:
"It is thus
apparent that any fact is a psychological datum whenever it can be utilized in
comprehending the nature and significance of the mental operations. The same fact
may be significant to several sciences such as neurology, psychology, and physiology,
and such a fact will constitute a part of the data of each of these branches of
knowledge. Psychology like the other sciences utilizes any fact that is significant
for its purposes irrespective of how or where or by whom it was obtained... The
various sources... supplement each other and psychology is concerned with the
task of systematizing and harmonizing... in order to form an adequate conception
of all that is involved in the operations of mind" (Carr, 1925, p. 11).
also sides with the Jamesian desire to keep psychology relevant. That is,
to produce psychological knowledge which makes a practical difference both within
and outside the discipline: "Psychology in turn is interested in making whatever
contributions it can to all allied fields of thought and endeavor such as philosophy,
sociology, education, medicine, law, business, and industry" (Carr, 1925,
Carr's 1925 work is clearly intended as a systematic elaboration of the
functional psychology tradition, the details of his analysis of psychological
functions tell a very different story. His chapter 4 "Some Principles of
Organic Behavior" and chapter 14 "Volition," are indicative. They
contain much that is at odds with the guiding principles of analytical wholeness,
of internal dynamics, and of the goal-directedness of human actions as
set forth by James (1890) and Dewey (1896).
Adjustment; motivating stimuli; and volitional "control"
Carr's (1925) text the focus is on "adjustive activity" of organisms
rather than on the "adaptive acts" we saw in Angell (1918, 1920). There
is a gradual retreat from questions of mind, of consciousness, and even of mental
activity toward a biologized account of adjustive movement (observable
behavior) with the latter being understood in largely passive terms resulting
from bodily and environmental contingency.
chapter 4, Carr opens with an organismic, self-looping "circuit" view
of the child and flame example which is virtually identical to the kind
of three-moment (S-O-R) approach that Dewey had set out to supplant. His account
of such acts comes down to a "serial" combination of a preexisting
which motivates a resulting Response by way of a "continuous" organismic
"interaction" between the two (p. 69). "An
adaptive act involves a motivating stimulus, as sensory situation, and a response
that alters that situation in a way that satisfies the motivating conditions"
account of motivation here is especially problematic. "Motivation"
is defined as a "relatively persistent stimulus that dominates the behavior
of an individual until he reacts in such a manner that he is no longer affected
by it" (p. 73). Motivation is implicitly presented as an organismic avoidance
of an annoying environmental or bodily stimulus. Notice the difference from
Dewey. For Dewey, the coordination for an act (its motive, its end, its function)
is inside the act. But for Carr, it is not even inside the organism. Motives are
just directing influences from outside which determine the direction which activity
underlying, implied logic of Carr's arguments for this account seems to go as
Reference to mental processes are controversial and complicated, so let's focus
in on observable adjustive behavior. Carr, of course, never comes out and says
this, but that is effectively what he does.
is best exemplified when he carries out a rather spurious (questionable) overgeneralization
from the "mental activity" of larvae -hatching out at the base of trees
and crawling up to inadvertently obtain food from the leaves (without awareness
of the survival value of their activity)- to human beings. But let's be clear
about this point before criticizing what Carr did with it.
is correct about larvae and somewhat correct about the nest-building activities
of birds. Neither of these organisms reflect the ends of their activity. Birds,
it should be added simply do it because (as James, 1890, put it) it feels right
to them (see also Leontyev, 1981, on sensory
psyche). The larvae utilize adjustive photosensitive tropism to survive and,
similarly, birds build nests without ever carrying out the kind of logical-ideational
operations we might be tempted to impart to them. Or as Carr put it: "crawling
up the tree was not motivated by an idea" (p. 80); and it "is the eggs
in the nest that motivate [stimulate] the incubating act" (p. 81). But having
noted this seeming similarity between larvae and birds (cf. Leontyev,
1981 who makes further distinctions), Carr does not then attempt to come up
with an account of how human mentality is qualitatively different (when we
obtain food, build houses, etc.). Instead, he adopts the reductive route
of denigrating human mentality by equating it with a mere "modification"
or "supplementation" of the adjustive activity of lower animals.
mind is... quite prone to rationalize its own acts, i.e., to assume that
they are motivated by an idea of their consequences. A person feels a draft and
gets up and closes the window. Upon being questioned as to his motives, he may
reply that he closed the window in order to avoid catching cold..., while as a
matter of fact any such thought never entered his head until the act was completed.
In other words, the attainment of beneficial results in the realm of either
human or animal behavior does not necessarily indicate that the realizing acts
were motivated or influenced in any manner by those results.... Unlike some
of the lower organism, man is not endowed with any very complex and well organized
adaptive reactions. An individual's native reaction tendencies must undergo a
considerable amount of modification, reorganization, and supplementation
before he can react to the world in an effective fashion" (Carr, 1925, pp.
81-82; emphasis added).
a concept of modified adjustment, is even too limited and constrained to account
for the vast majority of adaptive acts in dogs and cats let alone human beings.
If Carr is arguing here that not all activity (a rather general category as outlined
above) is ideationally reflective, he is essentially correct. But he seems to
be arguing a different case too: That since we can find examples of non-ideational
activeness in lower organisms, we should therefore treat all higher manifestations
of mentality as mere complications of such activeness.
to impart larvae with ideational processes would be a mistake. The benefits they
derive through their wriggling, squirming, crawling, and chewing existence are
inadvertent. Yet to attempt to separate even such a lowly order of advantageous
activness from its utility is to analytically abstract them both from their
concrete mutual relations. Functionalism itself is undermined in that attempt!
was a central part of of Dewey's (1896) message:
We do things because we know they produce some kind of result; and there would
not be any result if we didn't do something. The activeness of the organism and
the utilities derived from that activity are mutually related. This is true for
not only human beings but also for dogs and cats too. Recall that Pavlov had already
demonstrated this in his experiments on the systematic production and extinction
of a dog's salivary reflex (Pavlov, 1906, 1927, 1928). Do the dogs reflect upon
the fact that they salivate when they expect food to arrive? Perhaps not. But
they do expect the food to arrive (and it is to that end which they attend).
The part played in an act is what constitutes any aspect of that act as
a stimulus or a response. Hence a bell will cease to become a stimulus if over
time it is no longer indicative to the animal that food will soon arrive. It no
longer affords the desired end (i.e., the food).
encountered this pure mental continuity account in chapter 4 of Carr's
work, the reader wonders what he is going to talk about in his "Volition"
chapter. What about those things we humans do intentionally and self-reflectively?
Are they adequately captured in Carr's (1925) psychology? No, and that is part
of the problem.
chapter 14, Carr opens by at least recognizing an hierarchical relationship between
automatic, involuntary, and voluntary actions:
I wish to make my heart beat faster, I can readily do so by indulging in vigorous
exercise, and I can likewise disturb or promote the digestive operations by engaging
in strenuous work or lying down for a rest after a hearty meal" (Carr, 1925,
well organized and complicated activities such as talking, walking, reading and
playing the piano contain many parts that function in a purely automatic fashion,
and only the occasional intervention of voluntary control is requisite for their
successful performance" (p. 313).
is all well and good, but the issue at stake here is whether Carr will carry the
day by providing an adequately functional account of this proposed hierarchical
division. We find the first indication that he will not by noting his term "volitional
control" above (more on this later).
main methodological concern in this chapter, is to demarcate psychological science
off from the old Cartesian view of free-will (as lack of "constraint").
Before considering Carr's treatment of the issue, we should note that James (1890),
in his chapter on "Will,"
had felt compelled to accept the problematic notion of "free-will" thereby
bringing himself into an inconsistent discursive conflict with the otherwise naturalistic
treatment of "conscious mental life" as a regulative, evolutionarily
selected and functional agency elsewhere in that work. James failed us
here by equivocating from his otherwise commonsense account and by suggesting
that "the question of free-will is insoluble on strictly psychologic grounds"
(Vol. II, "Will,"
p. 572). But while James let the traditionally abstract notion of "free-will"
stand as a mysterious entity (despite his suggestion that it was not) Carr will
biologize and mechanize it.
main logical problem with the Cartesian free-will concept can be ascertained by
asking the question: What is lack of constraint, anyway? Randomness. Further,
on largely commonsense introspective criteria, the old free-will concept is a
vulnerable account of freedom and volition because our experience is not
one of absolute unconstrained freedom, but one of the relative freedom to
act, to choose, to join, to refrain, etc. Carr certainly
recognizes this point and this is the best part of his chapter overall: "No
one maintains that the will is wholly free.... In fact this world would be a topsy-turvy
land if we all were endowed with the Aladdin-like power of gratifying our every
wish and whim" (p. 331).
criticizing the Cartesian notion, Carr is attempting to reinsert naturalism
back into the functionalist account of human "volition." While we are
not absolutely free, nor are we suggests Carr, thoroughly determined by environmental
contingency; but only relatively so. For Carr, the regulation and control (and
therefore relative freedom) of human action comes from an interaction between
heredity, bodily and environmental contingencies. His analysis is not one
of "free" voluntary acts per se but rather of the respective
"mechanisms" of volitional control: "The term 'volitional control'
of activity may thus be defined as any initiating, inhibiting, directing, energizing,
or selective influence that is exerted in the interest of attaining some end or
of avoiding those things which we dislike" (Carr, 1925, p. 314).
language of Carr's treatment of the free-will issue, however, can be said to have
bitten down a little harder on the mechanistic bullet than did even James'
naturalistic account. In the lead-up to his notion of "self-determination"
Carr seems to be openly opting for mechanism: "Psychology as a science
must necessarily proceed upon the assumption that all phases of mental life can
be reduced to mechanistic terms, while any psychologist ceases to be a scientist
insofar as he admits that any of his data are not amenable to a causal treatment"
(Carr, 1925, p. 327).
Carr's (1925) psychology is one bordering on behaviorism but still in functionalist
guise. To elaborate just a little bit on this point, however, let's note
that Carr attempts to advocate a "self-determination" (a relative
freedom to act) which is defined by him variously as: (i) "the absence of
any exclusive determinism on the part of a particular group of conditions"
(p. 328); and (ii) the view that "man is free just insofar as his actions
are determined by conditions inherent in his own nature" (p. 329). This can,
therefore, be classed as a relatively weak (mild) rather than a hard mechanical-environmental
the very least, it was these sorts of apparent digressions from the functionalist
fold -his continuity view of mind and his emphasis on contingency or control-
that led Henle and Sullivan (1974) to question whether Carr was equally the intellectual
descendent of Dewey and Angell. They concluded that Carr had tried to buildup
functionalism without breaking away sufficiently from traditional mechanical and
atomistic concepts. The relation of Carr to the school launched by Dewey, they
suggest, is more geographical than systematic. I
agree wholeheartedly with their analysis as does Tolman (1990); who points out
rather cogently that Carr's first year at Chicago (as a graduate student) was
Dewey's last at that institution. There was little opportunity, therefore, for
him to have picked up very much from Dewey directly during those formative years.
Instead, it is a testament to the profound personal and intellectual influence
of J.B. Watson upon Carr (see Tolman,
1999) that the span of his beloved functionalism becomes so tightly constricted
and thoroughly biologized under his account.
for Carr's methodological dualism
of the major systematic stumbling blocks of Carr's two later attempts to elaborate
on functionalism (1927, 1930) was his open adoption of a "methodological
dualism" toward the two domains of animal and human research. It is but a
small step from his (1925) account to full-fledged behaviorism and Carr, we should
note, subsequently took that step so far as the animal mind is concerned. So,
we will now turn to an elaboration of this stumbling block and suggest why it
occurred in the first place.
APA Presidential address on the "Interpretation of the Animal Mind"
(published 1927), was intended solely as an analytical postmortem of the debate
between the previous APA president (Margaret
Washburn) and the behaviorist John B. Watson regarding the soundness of drawing
inferences about the mental life of animals. In historical retrospect, however,
the most poignant aspect of the article is that it is so indicative of how Carr's
system of psychology is devoid of any logical grounding in emergent thought.
first points out that the most recent edition of Washburn's Animal Mind
(1926; originally published 1908), argues that some degree of "anthropomorphism"
is necessary in order to study the consciousness of animals. Much of Washburn's
discursive language, however, was within the context of the times considered exceedingly
anthropomorphic. Certainly Carr considered it as such. Of particular repugnance
to Carr was the material under Washburn's, chapter III subheading on "The
Mind of the Amoeba" (pp. 40-47):
what light does the behavior of Amoeba throw upon the nature of the animal's possible
consciousness? The first thought which strikes us in this connection is that the
number of different sensations occurring in an Amoeba's mind, if it has one, is
very much smaller than the number forming the constituent elements of our own
experience" (Washburn, 1926, p. 40).
argues that Washburn's equivocal language is more of a defense against potential
behaviorist attacks than any real doubt about the actual existence of mind in
such lower organisms. While Carr was disposed to postulating mental processes
in animals he also felt that the criterion of consciousness is often set far too
low. Responsiveness to stimulation, for instance, is not a valid index because
inanimate objects such as a "bouncing ball" or a "violin"
would also be considered as conscious "and they are not" (Carr, 1927,
Carr claims not to sponsor "any particular criterion of the conscious"
he does suggest that "limited inferences" as to the nature of consciousness
in animals are possible as long as they are based on their "degree of similarity"
to human behavior and structure (pp. 94-95). Carr's article contains no explicit
attack of the behaviorist position regarding our inability to postulate the animal
mind. While it is clear that Carr is averse to the generalization of the reductive
conclusions which Watson drew from animal evidence to human beings, he suggests
that the debate over the status of the animal mind had already been "dropped
by mutual consent" (p. 88) owing to the fact that neither extreme view provided
a workable path to follow.
important point to note, here, is that Carr postulates a common argument
between these two extremes. They agree on some similarity of kind between the
Amoebae and man, and that a wide degree of behavioral differences may manifest
themselves within the context of this similarity. This much of Carr's argument
is correct. Both anthropomorphism and psychophysical reductionism hold to the
pure continuity view of mental evolution. In consequence to this observation,
however, Carr draws the following erroneous conclusion regarding the contemporaneous
understanding of mental evolution:
uncertainties and disagreements concerning the conscious status of animals are
not reflections of any defects or differences in our logical operations, but they
are rather due to defects and differences in the major premises for which we start,
viz., what we think we know or do not know about man. I do not think that we have
at present a sufficient amount of accurate and generally accepted knowledge of
the organic condition of human consciousness to make any very convincing statements
concerning many aspects of the psychic life of animals" (Carr, 1927, p. 104).
first half of Carr's conclusion that no "defects" exist in the "logical
operations" used in the understanding of animal evidence is, of course,
at variance with the whole history of the development of the discipline that I
have so very pedantically been elaborating so far in this course. Major differences
in logical operations (dynamic versus static; relational versus abstract; inclusive
versus exclusionary; dialectical versus formal) have been noted to exist
in every era of thought that we have covered (including the presocratic, enlightenment,
associationist, and evolutionary eras) and as for the "major premises"
with regard to what we know about man are concerned, this is precisely the
point. There has been a consistent pattern of progressive and practical implications
arising from adopting the first of every one of the above named logical stances!
James, most certainly knew this as did Dewey, but not so with Carr.
only Carr's lack of acquaintance (in 1927 at least) with the emergent evolutionary
alternative, set forth successively by C.L. Morgan (1923, 1926), could
have accounted for his comfort with what he described as a methodologically "dualist"
approach to animal and human research:
somewhat sceptical of the validity of our major premises, and not much interested
in the nature of animal consciousness, it is not at all surprising that I am somewhat
of a behaviorist in the field of animal psychology, although I do not class myself
as such so far as human psychology is concerned.... It is thus entirely possible
for a person to be a behaviorist in animal psychology and yet to retain the subjective
mode of approach to the study of the human mind without being guilty of the charge
of inconsistency" (Carr, 1927, p. 104).
in Harvey Carr (1927), the polite discursive cautiousness of Angell has slipped
into a noncommittal theoretical eclecticism. Even in 1930, when Carr was
explicitly trying to distinguish the "functionalist" position from the
rising behaviorist tide, he assumes the same mental continuity view as Watson.
In consequence, he concludes that if functionalism is to be defined solely in
terms of its point of view (without any regard to what it studies), then "the
various behaviorisms are functional psychologies" (1930, p. 77; emphasis
added). This statement, of course, directly mirror's Watson's earlier statement
that "behaviorism is the only consistent form of functional psychology"
(Watson, 1914, p. 9).
his 1927 statement regarding Washburn versus Watson, Carr summed up the 1930 article
by suggesting that a "truce" of "mutual respect" had already
been attained between the behaviorist and functional approaches:
one can study behavior in two ways: (a) One can assert that the object of psychology
is to describe behavior, and that it can be described only in terms of its constituent
elements, viz., reflexes.... [or]... (b)... one can adopt the functional program
of studying functional interrelations of the temporal parts of a complex act,
its functional relation to organic needs, its dependence upon previous behavior,
and its relation to the structural and physiological characteristics of the organism"
(Carr, 1930, pp. 76-77).
this apparently complacent attitude toward behaviorism, Carr is in clear contrast
to the passionately held position of Dewey who made a point of discrediting any
analytical mutilation of the larger subject matter of psychology.
Carr (like Angell), attempts to leave it up to the reader to decide which "approach"
to adopt, but it must be pointed out that his particular account of the functionalist
approach has become severely degraded. The functional psychologist, says Carr,
is concerned with the "biological process of adjustment" and
regards mental processes as a means for an individual organism to "adapt"
itself to its environment "so as to satisfy its biological needs"
(1930, p. 61, emphasis added). We are thus forced to conclude along with Buxton
(1985), that it was under Carr's watch that the campaign for a functional psychology
was "wound down" (p. 134).
slip into Operationism
compound the problems produced by the above methodological dualism, Carr's (1930)
definition of "function" was a further and perhaps final blow to the
implied systematic corpus of American functionalism. For it is here that Carr
equates the term function with mathematical covariance (i.e., where X is a function
in my opinion, use the term function whenever they are dealing with a contingent
relation irrespective of whether that relation is also one of act and structure,
cause and effect, or means and end. A contingent relation and a functional relation
are synonymous expressions" (Carr, 1930, p. 62).
this definition was intended to demonstrate the inclusiveness of functional psychology.
Carr suggests, for instance, that some of these "correlations" may include
"teleological" analysis (which entails reference to: use, utility, adaptation,
purpose, or the means-and-ends of acts). This is manifested in Carr's claim that
the Dynamic psychology of R.S. Woodworth, "which included the... motives
of organisms," is one of the "contemporary elaborations of the functionalist
approach" (p. 76).
implicit agenda (in equating the term function with mathematical covariance),
however, is to link up his "systematic" functional psychology with the
general psychology of the day; which was becoming more measurement oriented and
theoretically noncommittal (see Section
5). With the above correlational definition of function as the new official
doctrine, the stage was set for Woodworth's eclectic-style embrace of empirical
methods (Winston, 1990) and also for the appeal of subsequent empirical psychologists
(like S.S. Stevens, 1935 onwards) to mere operational definitions. By 1943, Woodworth
himself described the new empirical research tradition as a broad and unsystematic
functionalism which is present whenever the questions "how and why"
rather than simply "what" are asked.
the historiographic post-mortem of functional psychology
1964, when Mary Sheehan (the posthumous coeditor of the last edition of R.S. Woodworth's
Contemporary Schools of Psychology) was able to look back on Woodworth's
long career, and to insert a telling section on the exemplary colleagues who were
"Carrying on the Chicago Tradition" (1964, pp. 32-36), she was really
only talking about Woodworth's own eclectic, "middle of the road," general
experimental psychology (see Section
5). No formally functionalist general psychological research program had ever
been achieved in the Americas. I suggest that this is the major point of agreement
between the otherwise varying historiographic accounts of Henle & Sullivan
(1974); Buxton (1985); C.W. Tolman (1990, 1993); Taylor (1992, 1996); and D.N.
Robinson (1993) regarding functional psychology.
it should be mentioned that the above evidence regarding the inability of Angell
and Carr to formalize functional psychology into a viable empirical system, counts
against what seems to be the basic premise of the volume edited by Owens &
Wagner called: Progress in Psychology: The Legacy of American Functionalism
(1993). The editors of that text, though not all of the contributors, assume that
the implicit but progressive theoretical core of functional psychology
was adopted by North American general-experimental psychology. This, quite clearly,
was not the case and there is still much work to be done in this regard.
Remarks for Section 4:
This Section began with an account of the 19th century processes mode of thought
as exemplified in Darwin's theory of organic evolution and which reaches a peak
for North American psychology in 1896 with Dewey's critique of the reflex arc
concept. That article was the taking-off point for the "functional psychology"
school, but what we noted thereafter was a gradual slippage of the argument
through the successive disciplinary figures of Angell and Carr up to 1930. Unlike
James and Dewey, these later figures encountered major difficulties dealing with
three intimately related methodological issues: (1) objective contradiction in
the nature of psychological processes (difficulties in appreciating the developmental
relations between conflicting aspects of, or between higher and lower manifestations
of psychological processes); (2) analysis of internal and external relations of
animal or human actions; and (3) establishing an unequivocal theoretical position
on the the continuity and discontinuity of mental evolution (the issue of the
qualitative differences between animal and human mentality).
world for which individual human beings are biologically prepared by evolution,
and into which they must develop, is a social and societal-cultural one. While
Dewey's educational works addressed this issue rather openly, his contemporaneous
functional psychologist colleagues did not. Angell's work (1903-1930s) tended
to biologize and individualize psychological processes. Similarly, Carr
(1925, 1930) not only did the same but also retreated from the issue of final
cause (teleology) which was such an important part of even Dewey's 1896 article.
Finally, as we will see in the next Section, R.S. Woodworth's (1930s onward) insistence
on the S-O-R formula in place of the older S-R (reflex) view did not mark an essential
difference between the positions, nor did his greater tolerance for teleological
point of the above considerations has not been for us to sit back from our present
historical vantage-point and derive amusement about the fact that these
figures had great difficulties dealing with these methodological issues, but rather
to emphasize that the initial founders of general-experimental psychology were
struggling to overcome 300 years or so of exclusionary logic, mechanical-external
analysis, and continuity views of mentality. Their struggles are historical
exemplars indicative of an important methodological object
which is still with us today: To maintain a nonreductive process mode of thought
is not an easy task.
specifically to maintain a relevant, relational, dynamic, practical, and ethically
responsible methodology while carrying out empirical psychological research is
not easy. For one thing, it requires a constant checking of one's own fundamental
assumptions. Do they avoid the set of idols
Francis Bacon warned us about? Secondly, it requires a consideration of the technical
adequacy or societal appropriateness of one's empirical practices. As
we will see in Section
5, those considerations go well beyond the seemingly technical issue of whether
the methods to be utilized are introspective; observational; experimental; comparative;
nomothetic or idiographic (etc.). They raise further ethical issues of whose interests
are being served by a given course of research, and even whether it is in any
tangible way relevant to actual human affairs at all. Further, though relatedly,
one has to consider whether the right kinds of conclusions have been drawn
out from the empirical evidence produced by such research. Do the conclusions
we have drawn reflect the nature of the development of the psychological process
under study? Or, for instance: Do they merely conform to the nature of the empirical
techniques utilized to study that process, or to the assumptions and biases we
started with before even carrying out that research?
by way of an intellectually honest reference to these checks or
considerations (both with regard to oneself and with regard to others), will it
be possible to frame the kinds of disciplinarily productive questions that will
be useful for the next round of empirical investigation to pursue. For as psychologists
-that aspect of the Jamesian "social self" which each of us have currently
staked our all- it is our communal
construction, pragmatic application, and interpretation of empirical research
that provides the common ground for the scientific,
ethical, and theoretical imperatives to meet up.
while in progress:
March, 2004; Minor Grammatical changes: January & April, 2008.
Section 5 |
Course Intro |