Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario

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History of Psychology: A Sketch and an Interpretation
Volume II

James Mark Baldwin (1913)

[p. 151] CHAPTER VIII.

Historical Résumé. Results of the Comparison of Individual and Racial Thought.

It remains only to throw into relief the progressive line of historical thought about the mind -- its contour, so to speak -- showing the peaks and valleys, from ancient to modern times. This will allow us to utilise the parallelism between the racial interpretation of the self and the individual development of thought, and see how far it holds good.

I. The prehistorical and primitive period represents the true infancy of the mind. Its two great features -- its mystical or prelogical character and its collective or social character -- are equally evident in the child before the rise of conscious individuality and the power of logical thought. If the child could express his thought, we should have the same difficulty in describing and analysing it that the anthropologist has with the thought of primitive peoples. It is in both cases an infantile reproduction of tradition, a mystic participation illuminated by imaginative and romantic elements, and charged with the most poignant emotional possibilities. The child, like the savage in the prelogical period, is a microcosm, reflecting the larger macrocosm of social values, beliefs, rites, and sanctions, and participating in the mysteries of religious belief.

For the race, it is the period of psychosophic representation; of the morally epic and mystical; of magic and fearful religion. For the child, it is the period of [p. 152] heroes, wonders, quaint imaginative constructions and logical impossibilities.

In view of the distinction that comes later on to dominate thought and make it dualistic, this period is to be described as projective: with the rest of nature, the mental is projected before the gaze in a sort of panorama. The prime distinction is not that between spirit and matter, mind and body; but that between the seen and the unseen, the evident and the hidden, the clear and the mystic. Behind the curtain of nature which is projected before the eyes there is a seething body of agencies working for good and ill. For psychology, the period is a-dualistic both to the child whose self is the animated body, and to the savage whose entire world is a mass of animated things.

The transition from this period to that of spontaneous thought takes place through the use of the imagination. Anthropologists tell that the "myth" represents the primitive man's attempt to bring some sort of logical or dramatic coherence into his knowledge. They also find a genuine attempt on the part of the savage to justify and explain his most obscure and illogical traditions.[1] There is a gradual rationalising of social institutions, of games, fêtes, religious and tribal rites, etc., with the beginning of speculative thought, and with the development of political freedom.[2] The child similarly passes out of his bondage to common values and social conventions by the assertion of his individuality and the power of personal judgment, and by the use and abuse of his imagination.[3][p. 153]

The second great racial period is that of spontaneous thought. It appears in the Greek thinkers before Socrates. No better characterisation of its growing logical character can be given than that conveyed by the statement that it shows the rise and early development of dualism.

Dualism in this sense means a departure from the flat, curtain-like vision of the projective period in the direction of the apprehension of a cleft in nature, between the dead and the living, between agencies and effects. It brings forward the agencies which were behind the curtain, and defines them as in some sense minds. A first sketch is made of the distinction between those things that have a self and those that have not.

With the earliest thinkers, the Ionians, this appears in attempts to refine away the cruder features of the elements which are taken to represent life and the soul. Air, warm air, heat, fire, are more subtle and thin than the other elements of nature. Anaxagoras went so far as to call this refined stuff "reason."

Pythagoras took the next important step by subordinating the mere matter of nature to its essential principle of form and order, identifying the latter with reason or the soul. This, however, remained merely a distinction within the one "nature," not a difference between the two sorts of nature. In the "clearing-up" work of the Pre-socratic schools, the seed of "subjectivism" was sowed. But [p. 154] it was a scattered and unintentional sowing.  It was a reaction from attempts to launch the speculative boat, a return upon the beach, upon the thinking mind itself. The Sophists made ready for Socrates by clearing away the wreckage. They brought out the real meaning of the saying "the senses deceive," a saying common to Eleatics and Atomists alike in their attempts to account for the movement and plurality in nature. If the senses deceive, what we have left is merely the senses; not the objects of experience, but only experience. So the mind begins to be looked upon as something a little more certain than the external world; and a line of cleavage appears between mental nature and physical nature.

III. In Socrates the mental took on a more subjective character. This has been sufficiently remarked upon already. It has just the same capital significance in racial thought that the dawning of the sense of subjective personality has in that of the individual. Besides its positive character as a human attainment, it is the basis of the later and fuller achievements of thought. From the subjective soil grow the fairest blossoms of the mind.

In Socrates' thought the two marks of individual self-consciousness appear; it is practical and it is social.[4] For Socrates, the subjective sphere in which truth defines itself is not individual but human, not private but social; and its end and criterion are not theoretical but practical, not logical but moral.

In the two great Socratics, Plato and Aristotle, the motives necessary -- as shown in individual life -- to the development of full self-consciousness, plainly appear. They have been designated in our account as "objec-[p. 155] tive," "ejective," and imaginative or "semblant." Each of these had its explicit development.

Plato stands for the union of truth and goodness in the supreme idea of God. Plato's " ideas" give ejective rendering to the concepts of Socrates, which are thus taken out of the realm of the subjective and given metaphysical value. Moreover, the supreme idea is going on to be personal; it is God. The self becomes the "world eject," the absolute reason.

But God is also the summum bonum, the supreme good, the ideal of the practical life. Thus the moral demand of Socrates is also fulfilled.

Further, the emotional and imaginative cravings for completeness, unity and beauty, satisfied hitherto in the psychosophy of the time -- the Orphic and Pythagorean mysteries, the popular legend of transmigration, etc. -- and in the development of fine art and its folk-equivalent, the dramatic myth, becomes an intrinsic though inarticulate factor in speculative thought. The reconciliation of truth and goodness, the theoretical and the practical, in God, is reached by the exercise of the faculty of emotional intuition or love. In the ideals of feeling, the fully real, at once true and good, is seized by an act of mystic and æsthetic contemplation. By divine love, the human self overcomes all its dualisms of partial apprehension, in a contemplative oneness with God.

The self-consciousness of the individual is advanced also by the movement through which the objective is defined. The objective is that which is in a sense left over; it is the impersonal world of things, physical nature. This appears as a sort of rebound from the movement of subjectivity. In the historical progression Aristotle stands out as the "objectivist," following [p. 156] upon the "subjectivist," Socrates and the "ejective idealist," Plato.

In Aristotle, however objectivism is only what it could be at such a time. It was not the objectivism of modern physical science nor that of a positivist philosophy; much less could it be merely that of the Greek Atomists, which was unaware of the subjective point of view. It was rather an objectivism that carried the mental life over to the objective, restoring the mind to nature. Mind to Aristotle was the form of organised matter; it was not a self-sufficient substance, of independent definition. Matter, also, was not a substance, set up in opposition to mind and free from the form of mind. Aristotle's theory was a re-instatement of the hylozoism and animism of the Ionic thinkers, enriched by the gain of a partial dualistic insight and by the conception of "nature." It was the objectifying of mind, however, that made Aristotle's contribution to psychology important; it enabled him to employ upon mental, along with physical facts, a sound observational method.

IV. In the Post-Aristotelian schools, the embarrassments due to dualism began to assert themselves, as they do in individual thought. The "relativity of knowledge" was extended from the senses to the reason. The development of individualism tended to impair political and social solidarity in practice, as it destroyed universality in thought. The dictum, "Homo mensura omnium," of Protagoras took on riper form in the personal resignation of the Stoics and the reasoned individual moderation of the Epicureans. The downhill tendencies of decaying speculation took effect in the ethical decadence of the Cyreniacs and Sceptics.

Like the individual, however, the racial self does not [p. 157] rest, torn by its embarrassments. The individual resorts to the emotional, mystical, and idealising imagination; he forgets hard facts and stern duties alike in the semblant illusions of play, the fictitious situations of the fairy-tale find drama, and the synthetic representations of art. In the period of which we speak, the beginning of the Christian era, all these had long been familiar. In the speculative realm, Plotinus gave place to the imagination and renewed the "contemplation" by which Aristotle had interpreted the "love" of Plato; but with a fuller sense of "other-worldly," value -- due to the alertness of the new theological interest. The sharp weapons of Christian dogma were tempered by the softer alloy of Alexandrian theosophy. Plotinus, however, was the first to turn explicitly to mystic thought in and for itself; for in Plato it had been an emotional motive, and in Aristotle it was the copestone placed upon a theoretical structure. In Aristotle the mystic interest completed the system; in Plotinus it produced it.

With the Church Fathers, the power of religious authority and the forms of psychosophic faith came to impart new confidence to thought and new vigour to life. The dualism of spirit and flesh justified itself in terms of the philosophical distinctions of "subjective and objective" and "form and matter" of the late Greek period. The result, both in the Patristic and in the Scholastic writings, was a sharpening of the opposition between mind and body in the interest of Christian apologetics. That this outcome was welcomed as a means to religious faith, not as an end to theoretical interest, is seen negatively in the nature of the topics of discussion, and positively in the mysticism of the [p. 158] Christian creeds. In the voluntarism of St. Augustine and the new Aristotelianism of St. Thomas, however, we see the motives of later reflective thought struggling to release themselves.

As in the individual, the struggle into personal independence and individualism is urged on largely by practical motives, so it was in the racial movement also. The motives of religious faith controlled the definition of dogma; and dogma in turn produced apologetic theories of personality -- divine, human, demonic, and angelic. It was from the side of practical considerations, including those of national scope that the pressure came by which the cleavage between mind and body, considered as two distinct substances, was finally produced.[5]

V. The cleavage came with Descartes, as we have seen. Descartes opens the period which is called reflective in the sense that the dualistic results of earlier thinking now become data for a further interpretation and for direct criticism. It was no longer mind and body as distinct terms that were to be interpreted; these had become presuppositions of reflection itself: but it was the dualistic relation as such, together with the assignment of ambiguous data of experience to one category or the other.

It was no doubt because of a waiting for "the fulness of time" that Descartes appeared only so long after St. Augustine. In the latter the definition of the function of reflection; the separation of mind from body and its definition (in terms of will); the use of a method [p. 159] of observation suited to the mental material; all these essentials of scientific psychology were actually present. But the theoretical interest had to wait a favorable turn in the tide of practical and human concerns. It was held for generations in bondage to the theological, awaiting the dawn of the Renaissance.

The case is the same with the individual [6] when he passes into the period of reflective thought. All ideas alike, as we have seen, fall inside the sphere of reflection or judgment. The two control-categories of mind and body are present as presuppositions, nets spread out for the reception of facts. Each idea goes in one class or the other; it is the task of reflection to judge which. It is clear, then, that in Cartesianism, and in the developments known as "occasionalism" and "pre-established harmony" that followed shortly after, racial reflection did what the logical individual also does: it used dualism as point of departure or presupposition for the assimilation and reduction of the detailed events of experience.

This may he called the logical crisis in both series, the individual and the racial alike. It leads to a further reflective dualism, that between the self as thinking and [p. 159] judging principle, and all the objects of thought, the ideas, whether these represent mind or body. The "subject-self" is set over against the "object-self," which is a content or idea in the same sense that presentations of body are. In the history of reflection, this presupposition of subjectivity is the explicit characteristic of idealistic thought. The distinctive problems of epistemology now appear. Besides the problem of knowledge, there is the problem of knowledge-of-knowledge; the subject not only knows objects, but it knows itself as object among others. This doubling-upon itself is characteristic both of the reflective thought of the individual and that of the race. Its problems have been stated and their principal solutions worked out in modern philosophy since Descartes.

It is of great significance that this point was reached through the urgency of emotional or affective motives no less than of those of thinking; in Boehme no less than in Descartes. The distinction of subject and object came, in the one case, out of the embarrassment of thought; in the other, out of the aspirations of faith.

Thinking having appeared, it is evident that reflection may take on protean forms. Modern psychology reflects the alternatives which philosophy has worked out in its varied systems, so far as these concern the mind. Looking upon the movement of thought as it appears in perspective, we see the early alternatives reproduced each for itself, with critical and historical justification, in the modern period. It is in respect to variety and refinement of enterprise, to richness of data and power of criticism, to sobriety of method or its opposite -- deliberate speculative license -- -that the analogy with the individual now holds good. Positivism, rational-[p. 161] ism, and immediatism -- science, philosophy, and faith broadly understood -- are the modern alternatives. As in modern culture, so also in individual thought, the choice among them is largely a matter of temperament.[7]

In conclusion we may say, in view of the confirmation that our study has given of the parallelism between individual and racial thought of the Self, that in the history of psychology we discern the great profile which the race has drawn on the pages of time. On closer inspection it appears to be made up of a great number of smaller profiles, placed on end, coming down the line. Each of these in turn, more distinct in detail and fuller in outline than the last, contributes something to the larger picture which is the portrait the race has made, and is making, of the human Self.



[1] So Boas, The Mind of Primitive Man.

[2] A. W. Benn, History of Ancient Philosophy, Chap. I, notes the influence of the early Greeks sense of justice upon their philosophy.

[3] This is to say that in the individual and the race alike the assumptive or schematising imagination lies between perception and judgment. By its assumptions and semblant constructions, the imagination formulates the solutions and anticipates the confirmations of judgment and thought. The imagination is the experimental faculty among the mental powers.

[4] See the preceding Chapter.

[5] "The complete severance of spirit and nature . . . began with the decay of Grecian life, in the age immediately subsequent to Alexander the Great." -- Schwegler, Hist. of Philos. in Epitome, p. 184.

[6] One might insist upon the analogy here, remarking upon the apparent difficulty the race and the individual alike encounter in passing from a mature dualism to a reflection which interprets experience in terms of this dualism or by means of a criticism of it. The individual rarely becomes a philosopher; and the race had to wait for the rare philosopher who was to be its mouth-piece. Further, Occidental civilisation alone has produced the logical type of thought that embodies itself in speculative system and positive science. We may well imagine the world entire, still living in the practical and mystical types of culture, as represented by the Egyptian and Indian civilizations. The Greek and the western European developments seem to be the two historical cases in which the race has achieved an advanced logical mode of Reflection, so far as historical records show.

[7] See above, Chapter II of Vol. I, ad fin.