This article was first published in Canadian Psychology, 43(1), 35-45
©2002 by Canadian Psychological Association.

Toronto's "Other" Original APA Member: James Gibson Hume

Christopher D. Green
York University

Toronto, Ontario Canada

Many of the documents cited in this article have been made available on-line by Classics in the History of Psychology at


It is well known that James Mark Baldwin held a position at the University of Toronto when he assisted in the formation of the American Psychological Association in 1892, but the proceedings of the preliminary organizational meeting of the APA, held in July of that year, include the name of second Torontonian as well, that of one J. G. Hume.  The present paper outlines the career of James Gibson Hume, who studied with G. Stanley Hall, William James, and Hugo Münsterberg,  and who headed the Philosophy Department at the University of Toronto for over 30 years. He was by no means a great or influential philosopher or psychologist, but the study of his life gives one some insight into what a more common philosopher-psychologist was doing and thinking during the time that Hall, James, Münsterberg, and others were revolutionizing both disciplines.

A look at the first item of the 19 August 1892 issue of Science reveals a report of the preliminary organizational meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA) held some six weeks earlier, on 8 July 1892, at Clark University.  Clark University President G. Stanley Hall had sent out invitations to an unknown number of psychologists, psychiatrists, and philosophers of mind, 26 of whom agreed to join the fledgling organization.  The list includes many of the luminaries of the discipline at that time. In addition to Hall there were a number of figures who had founded the first generation of experimental psychological laboratories in the U.S:  William James from Harvard, James McKeen Cattell of Columbia, and Frank Angell, who has just moved from Cornell to Stanford.  There were also Joseph Jastrow of Wisconsin, E. C. Sanford, who had moved with Hall from Hopkins to Clark, and E. W. Scripture of Yale.  Not all of the original APA members were founders of laboratories -- there were some philosophers as well, such as Harvard's Josiah Royce, and John Dewey, then of Michigan -- but the organization was intended by Hall to be primarily a society of and for the "new breed" of scientific psychologists (see Sokal, 1992).

As is well-known to Canadian historians of psychology, another member of this select group was James Mark Baldwin, who had just established the first permanent experimental psychology lab in the British Empire at the University of Toronto.  Baldwin was an important member of the new organization, being immediately appointed to the first Council of the APA, a body that would oversee its early affairs.  Baldwin was in the process of becoming a highly influential psychologist -- he had just published the second volume of his textbook (Baldwin, 1891a), and would return to Princeton the following year.  Soon thereafter he would co-found Psychological Review (with Cattell), and later Psychological Bulletin, among other achievements. 

But Baldwin was not the only Torontonian on the list.  In addition there was one  J. G. Hume, also of Toronto.  We learn nothing else of Hume in the minutes of that Preliminary Meeting, and it seems unlikely, though not impossible, that he actually traveled all the way to Massachusetts to attended this short conference.  (The list of names in the minutes identifies not just attendees, but "original members who were either present at this meeting or sent letters of approval and accepted membership," p. 104, italics added).  However, by counting the number of APA members at the time of the First Annual Meeting, which was held six months later, in December 1892 at the University of Pennsylvania -- viz., 31 -- and looking at the list of those who were absent, which is included in the proceedings of that meeting, we can be nearly certain that Hume was in attendance, though he did not participate either as a presenter or discussant.  The proceedings of the Second Annual Meeting at Columbia University in December 1893 tell us that Hume was not in attendance, but at the Third Annual Meeting, held in December 1894 at Princeton (co-hosted by Baldwin, who had since left Toronto to take up a Chair at his alma mater), Hume was scheduled to give a paper on the state of psychological teaching and research at Toronto.  It appears that the paper was read, but a note beneath the abstract in the published proceedings says that "This account was presented in the absence of Prof. Hume" (Hume, 1895, p. 172). We are not told why he was absent or who presented his paper.1

So who was this J. G. Hume, a Canadian who seems to have been closely involved with this most elite group of experimental psychologists at the very founding of the discipline's most important scholarly society?  The aim of this paper is to tell his story.  He turns out neither to have been a great scholar nor a pioneer of the emerging discipline of experimental psychology, but an examination of his career gives us a clearer picture of what an average philosopher-psychologist was thinking and doing at the time when James, Hall, Dewey, Baldwin, and others were revolutionizing psychology and philosophy.


I. Background

James Gibson Hume was born in 1860 in Toronto, but his family soon moved to a farm near Barrie, where he was raised. His family was particularly proud of their relation, albeit somewhat distant, to the famed Scottish poet Robert Burns. Hume was Burns' second cousin once removed, and he dabbled in poetry himself.  He joined the "Independent Good Templars" -- a temperance organization -- at the age of 14 and would be a life-long prohibitionist.  After teaching public school for a few years, he enrolled in St. Catherine's Collegiate Institute in 1884 but then transferred to University of Toronto (UT) in his second year, where he was awarded a BA in Philosophy and Classics in 1887.  His primary mentor was George Paxton Young (1818-1889), the long-time UT Professor of Metaphysics & Ethics.  Young was one of a trio of important (relatively speaking) Canadian philosophers who had links to the British idealist tradition, the other two being John Clark Murray (1836-1917) of Queen's early in his career and later of McGill, and John Watson (1847-1939) of Queen's (see, e.g., Hagman, 1999; Jung, 1999; Kenwood, 1999; Tolman, 1996, 1999).  Young was suspicious of utilitarianism and of evolutionism, the latter especially when applied to mental or moral topics (see Young, 1911).  He was also highly critical of the work of Baldwin's mentor, Princeton President James McCosh, who had been trained in the Scottish "common sense" school of philosophy and was working to harmonize evolutionary theory and Christian doctrine. 

After graduation, Hume went to Johns Hopkins University, apparently at the recommendation of Young (Hume 1889, p. 2), in order to obtain an Master's degree in Philosophy, but more specifically to acquire some practical experience in the new experimental psychology with G. Stanley Hall.  Hall seems to have taken to him, describing him as having "unusual energy and ability" and the "promise of eminence" (Hume, 1889, p. 2). But Hume arrived just as Hall was closing up the psychology laboratory and heading for Clark University.  As a result, Hall could only say that after a year of study with him Hume had acquired a "fair theoretical knowledge" of experimental psychology (Hume, 1889, p. 2).  For reasons that are not clear, instead of following Hall to Clark the following year to finish his master's degree, Hume transferred to Harvard, where he earned an AM in 1889.

While at Harvard he took courses with William James and Josiah Royce, among others. The professor he seems to have been closest to, however, was Francis Peabody, a theologian of the social gospel movement, and a prominent American prohibitionist.2  Two of Hume's term papers for Peabody's course can still be found in the UT Archives.  One, naturally enough, is on temperance, a topic in which they both shared a strong interest.   The other is on the respective relations of Canada and the US with their "Indian" populations. Hume wrote that Canada's relations with its "Indians" were better than those of the US because Canada had never broken a treaty with the "Indians"! Apparently Peabody approved, giving the paper an A-.


II. The University of Toronto Appointment

On 20 February 1889, while Hume was away at Harvard, George Paxton Young died suddenly.  He was temporarily replaced by two of his students for the balance of the term, but the effort to find a permanent replacement turned into a bitter struggle among various factions not only at UT, but also around the Ontario Government Cabinet Table.  This story has been told before (e.g., Myers, 1982; Hoff, 1992), but I will briefly review it here.

The Minister of Education, George Ross, was a strong Canadian "Nativist."  The Nativists had once been a strong political force in Ontario, demanding that Canadians -- rather than Britons or Americans -- be given preference in all things.  They were largely a spent force by the late 1880s but still occupied a wing of the Liberal party, which had long ruled Ontario under the Premiership of Oliver Mowat. 

Old Nativists could also be found around the Senate table at UT. The most vocal and powerful was James Loudon, then Professor of Physics.  He and his supporters demanded that a Canadian, preferably a Torontonian, be selected to replace Young. Minister Ross was generally in support, but declared that no clergyman would be hired, thereby substantially reducing the pool of eligible Canadian candidates.  UT President Daniel Wilson was not a Nativist and, being apparently aware of how the "wind was blowing" in philosophy at that time, favored a person with experience in experimental psychology, even if no such Canadian could be found. Premier Mowat was generally in support of Wilson's judgment, but also understood the political necessity of appeasing the Nativists.

By the application deadline of 15 August 1889, some 22 inquiries and applications had been received.  These were quickly reduced to but two -- Hume, who was strongly supported by the Nativist faction, and James Mark Baldwin (1861-1934), then teaching at Lake Forest, a small Presbyterian college in Illinois. The Principals of Knox (Presbyterian) and Wycliffe (low Anglican) Colleges (both federated with UT) had learned of Baldwin through Presbyterian connections to the US and encouraged him to apply.  They also thought Hume too young for the post, saying that he "would merely give forth a weakened echo of Dr. Young's teachings" (cited in Slater, unpublished, ms. p. 99).

And so the lines were drawn and the battle entered into.  It was a very public fight, the local newspapers regularly publishing partisan letters and editorials from one side or the other.  Baldwin clearly had the superior credentials.  After earning a BA from Princeton, he spent a year in Germany learning experimental psychology in Berlin and in Wundt's Leipzig lab.  He returned to Princeton to earn a Ph.D. under McCosh, and then went to Lake Forest, where he wrote and published the first volume of his textbook on psychology (Baldwin, 1889).  Nevertheless, the Nativists were undaunted. They publicly, vigorously attacked not only his work, but also his character. 

As for Hume, there still exists a printed summary of his application, containing two letters to Minister Ross and extracts from a number of "testimonials" (i.e., letters of reference).  Among the most interesting of these extracts are those from Hall (cited above) and from Harvard philosophers Josiah Royce and Francis Peabody. All praise him highly.  Hall, says he would have won "the Fellowship of the Department" over more senior students if the department had not closed down because Hall had left for Clark (Hume, 1889, p. 3). Royce writes: "Mr. Hume came amongst us as an entire stranger, and has within a year produced a marked impression of his ability and promise, and it is in no perfunctory way that I now recommend him to your favorable attention…" (Hume, 1889, p. 3). Peabody says that Hume had "distinguished himself as a mature and zealous student, and in my private relations with him I have come to feel great confidence in his character and purpose" (Hume, 1889, p. 3).  There is no letter from James in the printed summary of the application, but an indication that one will be forthcoming.  In the second of Hume's two letters, he says that James had appreciated his "Thesis on Sensation" so much that he was planning on inserting it into his "new treatise on Psychology" (Hume, 1889, p. 4) -- undoubtedly the Principles of Psychology (1890) which would be published the following year.  A look at Chapter XVII, "Sensation," in the Principles, however, reveals no reference to Hume. Instead, there is a 14-page section attributed to another of James' students, E. B. Delabarre, who would found the experimental psychology laboratory at Brown University in three years' time.

James' letter of reference for Hume was sent, but apparently did not arrive in time. Another letter was requested of James, who sent a second letter which was received. The first one must have come eventually as well because microfilms of both can be found in the Provincial Archives of Ontario.  James says Hume was the third best student he had had in all his years of teaching at Harvard (which he estimates at 15 years in the first letter, 18 in the second).  He seems a little perplexed, however, at why UT would be interested in hiring so inexperienced a scholar (Hume had only just received his Master's) into so senior a position, and recommends instead another applicant: George Howison, then teaching at Berkeley.

The public struggle between Baldwin's supporters and Hume's continued on into October, past the start of the school year.  Finally, on 19 October 1889, both men were offered positions. Baldwin's appointment would be as UT Professor in Logic & Metaphysics and would begin immediately. Hume, by contrast, would be given a professorship in Ethics at University College and a new History of Philosophy professorship at UT.  At his own request, however, he was given a two-year fellowship in order to earn a Ph.D. first.  At first Hume went back to Harvard, but was then off to Albert-Ludwig University in Freiburg, where the one-time student of Wundt's, Hugo Münsterberg, was teaching experimental psychology.  Hume was granted a doctorate in 1891, but his thesis was not in psychology. Instead, it was entitled Political Economy and Ethics (Hume, 1892a), and the primary acknowledgement was not to Münsterberg, but to one Alois Riehl, a prominent philosopher of the day.

In the meantime, Baldwin developed a new course entitled "Psychology" for the 1890-91 school year. Fire destroyed University College in February 1890, but Baldwin used this as an opportunity to see that it was rebuilt with an experimental psychology laboratory.  He had a letter recruiting students published in Hall's American Journal of Psychology (Baldwin, 1891b) and had a description of the new lab published in Science the following year (Baldwin, 1892).

Hume returned to UT in October 1891, giving his Inaugural Lecture The Value of a Study of Ethics (Hume, 1891).  The following year he published one of the few pieces he would produce on psychology, a presentation to the Ontario Teachers Federation entitled "Physiological Psychology" (Hume, 1892b). Hall had suggested in his "testimonial" that Hume "had breadth and insight enough to be not lacking in sympathy and appreciation of [experimental psychology]"  (Hume, 1889, p. 2). If indeed Hall had been right, and this had been true back in 1889, something had certainly changed in the intervening three years.  In the first half of the paper, Hume demonstrates what Hall had called his "fair theoretical knowledge" of the topic, reviewing a number of important experimental results.  In the second half, however, he launched into a tirade against the nascent discipline and against science more generally.  Science, he said, can grasp change, but not unity, and thus when applied to psychology, it can grasp changes in consciousness but not consciousness itself.  What was more, Hume claimed that the experimentalist in psychology was committed to materialism, a position he regarded as being incoherent.  It was, all in all, pretty well the "weakened echo of Dr. Young's teachings" that the Principals of Knox and Wycliffe had warned of.

It is difficult to square this harsh criticism of experimental psychology with the man who would very shortly agree to join a new organization dedicated to its promotion and advancement.  We do not have the letter Hall sent out inviting people to the preliminary meeting -- if indeed Hume received one -- so it is difficult for us to tell how Hall promoted it; he may have "customized" his appeals to various members of his audience, as was his wont throughout his career (see Ross, 1972).  Perhaps Hume was not on Hall's original list of invitees but was convinced to join by one of the other original members with whom he was acquainted: Baldwin, James, and Royce.  To be sure, there were other non-experimental philosophical psychologists included, such as Royce and Dewey.  Soon even John C. Murray, the idealist philosopher then at McGill, would join as well, presenting the paper "Do We Ever Dream of Tasting?" at the Second Annual Meeting in New York.3  But still, the orientation of the APA was undeniably scientific.  Hume's name does not appear to have been on the list merely to fill it out either, for he would travel all the way to Philadelphia that winter to attend the APA's First Annual Meeting and then agree to give a paper at the Third Annual Meeting at Princeton. 

The exact nature of Hume's relationship with this group, whose aims were so clearly in conflict with his own, remains something of a mystery. It might be presumed that he was just maintaining "connections" early in his career, except that he maintained his membership in the APA until at least 1903 (after which point the published Proceedings no longer include complete membership lists). He also presented a paper at the Sixth Annual Meeting in 1897 at Cornell entitled "Contributions of Psychology to Morality and Religion" (Hume, 1898), in which he seems to partially retract his earlier opposition to experimental psychology. The psychologist, "should assist the natural scientists in guarding against the misconceptions of materialism.  A psychology that takes its stand upon the actual, concrete, active self is the most positive refutation of the abstractions of materialism and pantheism" (p. 163). Thus, it appears that his overall orientation had not changed, but by this time he seemed to believe that experimental psychology could be enlisted in its support. "Former objections to experimental psychology from introspective psychologists and natural scientists were due mainly to a misunderstanding and to an abstract dualistic theory" (p. 162).

One other significant aspect of Hume's appointment at Toronto was his teaching.  Young had been a legendary teacher.  Hume, however, appears to have had troubles with students from the start. On 7 November 1894, the UT student newspaper -- the Varsity -- ran an editorial on faculty incompetence. Hume was not mentioned specifically, but Philosophy was first among the list of departments described as having "notorious instances" (Which is it?, 1894).  The following week the Varsity ran a somewhat mysterious denial of an article in another Toronto newspaper that the Varsity Editor had been hauled into the UT President's office and "muzzled" (The Varsity regrets…, 1894).  An Associate Professor of Latin, William Dale, publicly supported the Varsity and was fired early in the new year, leading to a short student strike.  George Ross, still Minister of Education, investigated, reporting afterwards that "Mr. Hume is not always clear, though he appears to know his subject" (cited in Slater, unpublished).  How Ross would have known whether Hume knew his subject is not clear.  We do not know, but it is possible that this crisis may have contributed to Hume's not travelling to Princeton in December 1894 to read his paper at the APA meeting.  Interestingly, ten years later, in 1904, the Toronto newspaper, The Globe, ran a series of pieces on faculty incompetence. Hume was again among the targets. Again, however, it came to nothing.  Nevertheless, it appears that Hume was never a favorite with students.

After setting up the lab, Baldwin attempted to hire an assistant to run it for him.  He wrote to Wundt asking if Oswald Külpe might consider coming.  Wundt replied that Külpe would not, but that another of his assistants, August Kirschmann, would be willing.  Hume interfered, insisting that only a Canadian would do, but after much back-and-forth, the administration agreed to hire Kirschmann.  But Baldwin had had enough of "Nativist" politics -- when Kirschmann finally arrived in Toronto in the fall of 1893, Baldwin had left to join the faculty at Princeton.  There was some talk of hiring Titchener out of Cornell to replace Baldwin,4 but it came to nothing and Kirschmann was engaged to take over Baldwin's courses at a mere Lecturer's salary, plus run the lab. He proved to be popular with the students, and was eventually given a proper position.


III. Hume's Contributions and Publications

Apart from the Ontario Teachers' Association piece on physiological psychology of 1892, Hume rarely published on psychology, nor did he conduct any empirical research. What he did write was mostly locally published, and was mostly about ethics and social policy. He gave fairly frequent public speeches, usually in churches, clubs, or teachers' meetings. He typically adopted a stern moralist stance. He was staunchly Protestant, staunchly pro-English (his Canadian Nativism notwithstanding). From time to time he became particularly exercised about the standardization of English spelling and pronunciation. His primary life-long project, however, seems to have been promoting the prohibition of alcohol. 

The prohibition movement was very active in Canada during the 1890s.  Prohibitionists had arranged for and won plebiscites in Manitoba (July 1892) and Prince Edward Island (December 1893).  On New Year's Day 1894 a prohibition plebiscite was held in Ontario, which passed with a landslide "yes" vote of 63%.  The hope was that enough successful provincial plebiscites would force the federal government to take action.  The Tories in Ottawa, however, were in crisis. In a period of just five years, 1891-1896, two Prime Ministers died in office (MacDonald and Thompson), two resigned (Abbot and Bowell), and then Tupper lost to Laurier's Liberals in 1896. They were in no condition to act on so controversial a measure as prohibition.

In support of the prohibition movement, Hume published a piece entitled "Socialism" in the March 1894 issue of Knox College Monthly. Hume did not mean, by the term "socialism," Marxism. Rather, he meant simply the duty of society to regulate personal life. Prohibition was the primary example. The piece is more polemic than philosophy.  It concludes with the truism that government is needed indeed, but it is a necessary evil and the less of it the better for all.  Of course, for Hume, prohibition fell within the boundaries of the "evil" he considered it "necessary" that governments do.  Nevertheless, we find out quite a bit about what Hume was for and against, more generally.  He was against pragmatism, and against "materialistic naturalism." He was critical of Spencer's social Darwinism.  He was for conventional religion and outlined a kind of religious progressivism in which he declared Christianity to be superior to Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Hinduism; and Protestantism to be superior to Catholicism. He even declared the English revolution to have been "morally superior" to the French Revolution.  He proclaimed that individualism leads to anarchy. The individual must work for the greater good of (a Christian) society.

For the next few years, Hume's pen fell comparatively quiet. He presented a short paper on "The Practical Value of Psychology for Teachers" before the Ontario Teachers Federation (Hume, 1897a), and wrote a short introduction to the Canadian edition of a U.S. book on the relationship between psychology and teaching (Hume 1897b).  As the century turned, he wrote a short article on Christianity for the Varsity (Hume, 1900), and he published a short introduction to a volume of translations of Schopenhauer's work (Hume, 1901).  The reason for Hume's relative lack of academic activity during this time may have been that on 28 September 1898 a Canada-wide prohibition plebiscite was held. Hume was almost certainly involved, but he seems to have published nothing on the subject at the time.  The plebiscite passed handily everywhere but Québec, where it was defeated by a margin of over 4-to-1.  The national total was, thus, just 51% in favor. The prohibitionists went to Laurier, demanding that he bring legislation before Parliament. Because only 44% of eligible voters cast ballots, however, Laurier argued that only 26% of eligible Canadians had voted for the measure, and he would not act on such small numbers. Laurier would be re-elected with an increased majority in 1900, but he lost seats in Ontario, where the plebiscite had received over 57% approval. Only afterwards did Hume publish in a local college magazine Acta Victoriana a two-part article on the topic, entitled "Prohibition as a Problem of Individual and Social Reform" (Hume, 1900-1901).

Again there was a period of quiescence in Hume's academic career. In 1907 Hume gave a lecture at Queen's entitled "Evolution and Personality." It was abstracted in University of Toronto Monthly (Hume, 1907) but would not be published in full for another fifteen years (Hume, 1922), when it appeared in a Festschrift for the Queen's University philosopher John Watson.  The first half of the paper is a rejection of (materialist, naturalist) evolutionism in general, and of Spencer in particular.  Although not mentioned specifically, one wonders if Baldwin's landmark articles "A New Factor in Evolution" (1896a) and "Consciousness and Evolution" (1896b) were unmentioned targets as well.  Evolution, Hume said, cannot be a "natural" law because it implies "moral" progress.  He declared his own position to be "Constructive Idealism," derived from Kantian Idealism (though more proximately from British Idealism, especially the work of T. H. Green). In the abstract (Hume, 1907), Constructive Idealism is said to be "resolutely opposed to both materialism and rationalism," but the position is not detailed in either the abstract or the full chapter (Hume, 1922).  Much of what is presented can be interpreted as an effort to distance himself from the philosophical developments of the new American breed of "scientific" philosophers like James, Peirce, and the Chicago functionalists. In the second half, Hume urged that human "personality" can never be explained by evolution, but only by Constructive Idealism.  He conceived of "personality" in a quite different manner than we do today -- it was regarded as being several different types of consciousness (self-, self-regulative, self-sacrificing, co-operating, etc.), hierarchically arranged to form a kind progressive ladder of morality.  In the end, he concluded that "theism" -- Christianity, specifically -- explains the facts of consciousness better than materialism or pantheism, though he did not actually demonstrate how it does this.  Without wanting to indulge in an anachronistic critique, the content is rather old-fashioned and provincial, even for 1907.  What might have been the legitimate misgivings of a senior philosopher in the 1880s really had little place a quarter century later at a university that regarded itself as being the premier academic institution in Canada.  Putting it more bluntly, UT Philosophy Department historian John Slater (unpublished, ms. p. 146) has described the piece as "a tissue of abstract nouns linked together in the most tenuous way."

Hume was a discussant on the 1908 Presidential Address of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology (Hume, 1909) on the proper relation between psychology and philosophy.  He conceded that experimental psychology is a natural science, but one that is inextricably intertwined with philosophy.  He even paraphrased Kant's famous claim, "psychology without philosophy is blind, philosophy without psychology is empty" (Hume, 1909a, p. 66).5  Hume also joined the American Philosophical Association (AFA) at the Seventh Annual Meeting December 1907, and presented papers at both the 1908 and 1909 conferences.  At the 1908 AFA conference at Johns Hopkins he presented a critique of pragmatism; "Though pragmatism ostensibly defends empirical subjective idealism and attacks objective idealism," he wrote, "it is really reconstructing empiricism so as to approach more closely to objective idealism" (Hume, 1909b, p. 177). At the 1909 AFA conference at Yale, he held forth on the topic of suicide (Hume 1910). He called for more detailed statistical tables on suicide as well as for studies of its physiological, psychical, social, and literary[!]causes.  The abstract lists as being among the topics with which he dealt:

The influence of morbid sentimentalism in poetry and prose representing death as extinction, ignoring or denying the moral element in life conduct and destiny. The influence of dramatic representations of suicide, sometimes as in the case of Romeo and Juliet as the tragic ending of passionate love. (Hume, 1910, pp. 179-180.)

He closed with a demand that "realistic newspaper accounts of suicide … be checked by legislation" (Hume, 1910, p. 180).

As World War I approached, Hume became increasingly interested in the subjects of war and the "German character."  He wrote many popular pieces for the newspapers and gave a number of public lectures on the topic. The content was highly partisan. It seems that he had decided his contribution to the war effort would be to wage a war of his own on German philosophy and philosophers.  He took particular aim at his former Freiburg teacher, Hugo Münsterberg, who had long-since moved to Harvard to direct the psychological laboratory there.  Ever since coming to America, Münsterberg had attempted to act as a kind of cultural liaison, bringing German Kultur to North America (see Hale, 1980, chap. 11). When the war broke out, he attempted to convince Americans of the righteousness of the German cause, contributing much to the decline of his own reputation.  On 5 August 1914, just one day after the British entered the war, a letter of his entitled "Fair Play" was published in the Boston Herald.  He argued that the war was really a kind of legitimate cultural dispute between the German ideal of thought and the Slavic ideal of feeling, but that the English and French had stabbed Germany in the back for their own petty reasons -- the English to protect the control of their colonies, the French to retrieve Alsace from German hands.  He preached complete American neutrality as the only fair response. The letter was soon reprinted in about fifty American newspapers, and then reprinted just a few weeks later as part of a book-length collection of essays by Münsterberg entitled The War and America (1914). Münsterberg followed this up the next year with another similar collection entitled The Peace and America (1915).  Whatever positive effects Münsterberg's efforts might have been having, they were wiped away when the Germans sank the British passenger ship Lusitania in May 1915. At that point American public opinion, which had never favored the Germans, swung heavily against Germany, ultimately leading to American entry into the War in 1917 (Hale, 1980, pp. 174-175).

In November 1914, Hume gave a lecture in Toronto calling Münsterberg's words "vile slanders" and his actions "calamitous and wicked." He also rebuked German philosophers, including Wundt, for defending German military actions in an open letter entitled "To the Civilized World" (see Lutz, 1932, pp. 74-78).  The letter had also been signed by such German intellectual luminaries as physicist Max Planck, zoologist Ernst Haeckel, philosopher Wilhelm Windelband, and Hume's old teacher at Freiburg, now at Berlin, Alois Riehl.  The newspaper report of Hume's speech, however, makes no mention of his criticizing Riehl specifically (Notorious liar…, 1914). During the summer of 1915, Hume announced to the UT President that he had dropped all German works from his course reading lists. In December 1915, he wrote a front-page editorial for the Varsity in which he declared that "outside of Kant and Hegel, very little indeed has been contributed by the German mind to the field of ethics." He suggested that German Kultur has almost "nothing philosophical about it" -- it is a "Machiavellian" doctrine of "blood and iron." He called Nietzsche a "pseudo-philosopher" whose doctrine of the will is a "perversion of popular Darwinism." Finally, he called on the German people to repudiate the "degradation" imposed by their "docile educational system," their "servile state churches," and their "state-owned railways"[!] (Hume, 1915, p. 1).

Just one month later, in January 1916, he published another front-page editorial in the Varsity. This one opened with: "The present war is a conflict between Militarists and Anti-Militarists, between Slavery and Freedom, between Autocracy and Democracy, between Tyranny and Liberty." It closed: "From one end of the British Empire to the other or rather all round the world where Britons dwell, everyone feels the righteousness of Britain's call to her sons to rally in the defence of the Right" (Hume 1916a).  Hume would give no quarter; he would see no "other side" of the conflict that was consuming lives literally by the millions.  As far as he was concerned, the British were right and the Germans were not only wrong, but so corrupt as to be virtually irredeemable. Later the same year, in December 1916, Hume published an obituary of sorts in the Varsity for Münsterberg, who died just months before the entry of the US into the war.  Still, Hume could find nothing good to say about the man with whom he had studied as a graduate student: "When he came to Harvard he soon showed that he was more interested in German politics than anything else." Hume's comments closed with an account of 300 US professors and prominent citizens who had signed a letter attesting to the "perfidy of the Germans, and their guilt in starting the war" (Hume, 1916b, p. 1).

Also in 1916, Hume published a commentary in the University of Toronto Monthly (Hume, 1916c) on a speech by UT biochemist Archibald Byron Macallum (1916) that had been published in Science. Macallum favored William James' pragmatism over what he called "absolutist" approaches to truth.  Hume's critique was of the sort one might expect, given his previous writings, though for the first time he attacked directly his old teacher, William James.  Hume's ideas here are not as interesting as the comparison between him and Macallum.  Although Macallum had started out very much like Hume (BA Toronto 1880, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins 1888), he was far more forward-looking, worldly, and innovative as a mature scholar. He also had far greater impact. Becoming a UT Professor in 1891, Macallum was instrumental in the modernization of the UT Medical Faculty. He discovered one of the first neurotransmitters, and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1906.  In 1917 he left UT to become Chair of the Research Council of Canada, and then he went on to teach medicine in Peking in 1920.  He returned to Canada to take up a professorship at McGill from 1920 to 1929, where he became an outspoken advocate of public educational reform.  It seems that Hume, perhaps, had met his match.6 Macallum represented the future -- indeed, the then-present -- whereas Hume, now in the last decade of his career, was clinging to the philosophical past.


IV. The End of Hume's Career

After running the psychology laboratory for some 15 years, Kirschmann went on leave to Germany in 1908.  While there he fell ill and would never to return to Toronto.  Hume was apparently unable or unwilling to actively run the lab, and so the job fell to a succession of junior members of the Department who could not seem to make a "go" of it.  In 1919 the UT administration, in frustration, took budgetary control of psychology lab away from the Philosophy Department (and from Hume), though it remained nominally under Philosophy's purview for the next eight years.  Effective control of the lab was given over to the famed psychiatrist and eugenicist Charles K. Clarke.  When Clarke retired in 1921, the lab was put in the care of George Sidney Brett, author of the three-volume History of Psychology (1912-1921), who had been in the background at UT philosophy since 1908.

Hume was effectively forcibly retired in 1926, regarded by the administration as being responsible for the poor state of philosophy at UT over the previous 30+ years.  He applied for an extension of his retirement date, but the administration refused him. Interestingly, they agreed to 11 of 12 other similar requests that same year (Slater, unpublished, ms. p. 149).  It appears they were eager to rid themselves of the man.  Brett was immediately made Head of the Philosophy Department.  In 1927 Psychology was made a Department of its own, under the leadership of a one-time UT philosophy student, Alexander Bott.  Bott discarded the experimental orientation in favor of one focused on "mental hygiene," and would serve as Head of Psychology for the next three decades, until 1956.

Hume served as Chairman of the newly-formed Canadian Prohibition Bureau for a time after his retirement. He continued to spend his winters in Toronto near the University, and his summers working the land on his farm in Simcoe county. Hume died at his daughter's house in Brantford, Ontario on 28 January 1949 at the age of 88.



All too often, our vision of a given period in intellectual history is captured solely by those who are at the forefront of the movements that will ultimately prove to capture the field.  So it is with late 19th-century philosophy and psychology that we tend to focus our attention on James, Dewey, Hall, Pierce, and others whose ideas proved to have a lasting impact.  These men were not typical of their eras, however, but rather exceptional.  At the time in question, the debate over the "new" psychology was still under way, and there were many who did not follow the lead of these pioneers, thinking their ideas to be too out of step with deeply-valued traditions to have any staying power.  This majority may have proven to be wrong in the long run, but they were far more numerous than the revolutionaries they refused to follow.  Hume's metaphysical idealism, his devotion to religious and moral aspects of philosophy, and his certainty that scientific naturalism could never be adequate to ground the study of psychology were common positions early in his career, particularly in Canada where strong British traditions were combined with a suspiciousness of American ideas to make this country's institutions resistant to "scientific" approaches to both philosophy and psychology.  By the end of his career, Hume was quite old-fashioned in his thinking -- he was still resisting a "physiological" approach to psychology that was itself being overtaken by behaviorism.  It seems that he had been so dominated by his early experience with Young that his graduate-school interactions with the very philosophers and psychologists who would shape the future of the discipline had little impact on the course of his thought. 



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Author Note

Christopher D. Green, Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3.  Portions of this paper were presented at the York University History & Theory of Psychology Graduate Programme colloquium, and at the meeting of the History and Philosophy of Psychology Section of the Canadian Psychological Association in Calgary, June 2001. I would like to express my deep appreciation of the assistance given me by John Slater of the University of Toronto Department of Philosophy for allowing me to read the unpublished manuscript of his history of the UT philosophy department and for the numerous conversations we have had about these issues.  Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to the author at the address above, or via e-mail at


1. The proceedings of the Preliminary Meeting of the APA, the First Annual Meeting, and the Second Annual Meeting were reprinted by Macmillan in the mid-1990s (APA, no date) from James McKeen Cattell's personal copy of the original, which had been supplied to the Macmillan by Michael Sokal of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA).

2. Peabody would be a member of the "Committee of Fifty for the Investigation of the Liquor Problem" that compiled the book Substitutes for the Saloon (Calkins, 1901/1971).

3. The second Canadian to join the APA was T. Wesley Mills, the McGill comparative psychologist, whose membership was added at the Preliminary Meeting in July 1892, along with those of four others, including Münsterberg and Titchener.  John C. Murray's membership (misrecorded as James C. Murray) was added at the First Annual Meeting in December 1892, along with ten others, including George H. Mead and Charles S. Peirce.

4. In a letter to Wundt dated 17 May 1893 from San Francisco, Kirschmann reported that Frank Angell, then at Stanford, but just previously of Cornell, had told him that Titchener was being courted by Toronto.  Kirshmann further said that he had no desire to work as an assistant to Titchener, whom he regarded as being too "physiological" to be a psychologist, properly-speaking, and that he would take up a position with Scripture (at Yale) if Titchener were hired by Toronto. I would like to thank David Robinson of Truman State University (Kirksville, MO), for making a transcript of this letter, which he found in the Wundt archives in Leipzig, available to me. I would also like to thank Stefan Majumdar and Thomas Teo of York University for translating it for me.

5. Kant's original claim, from the Critique of Pure Reason, was that "Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind." (Kant, 1781/1929, p. 93).  Kant argued that psychology can never be a science, properly speaking, in the opening pages of Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786/1970).

6. There are several other minor publications by Hume that do not merit detailed description here.  These include two shorts articles intended for teachers, "Moral Training in Public Schools" (Hume, no date a) and "Pedagogics as a University Subject" (Hume, no date b). The latter appears to have been published in the proceedings of the Dominion Educational Association, but I am unable to find more specific details. Both can be found bound together with an offprint of The Value of a Study of Ethics in the Robarts Library at the University of Toronto (BJ 66 H85), but it does not appear that they were ever actually published together as a collection. A similar bound collection of offprints can be found in the University of Toronto Archives (Acc.# B1975-0026, folder 05). There was also a University Monthly review of John Watson's book, The Philosophical Basis of Religion (Hume, 1908).  He also compiled a slim collection of writings by his late teacher, George Paxton Young (1911), who had published relatively little during his own lifetime. In addition, Hume wrote a number of letters and editorials for local newspapers in addition to those described above.