Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development


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THIS volume is a continuation of the studies in genetic psychology begun in my Mental Development in the Child and the Race. As was announced in the earlier work, I had intended to publish the volume of `Interpretations' under the same general heading of 'Mental Development' and to include in it certain educational `Interpretations' also. It seems best, however, for the sake of unity of treatment in this volume, —and also on account of its size,—to omit the educational matter for the present, and also to make this volume quite independent of the former work, except in so far as the natural connection requires somewhat frequent reference to it. This departure from my original plan also enables me to include in Book II. certain chapters which were written with reference to the question set by the Royal Academy of Denmark.[1]

I have also endeavoured, in view of the lack in English of a book on Social Psychology which can be used in the universities in connection with courses in psychology,

(viii) ethics, and social science, to make my essay available for such a purpose. This has led to such expansions — some may call them repetitions—of the fundamental ideas of the work as seemed necessary to a fairly complete working-out of the social element in connection with each of the greater psychological functions. Book I. is thus made, as far as its topics are concerned, a more or less complete study of social and ethical psychology. Certain of the sections have already been printed, as footnotes of acknowledgment to the journals show.

The writers to whom I am most indebted are referred to in locis. I find my opinions in the matter of the social function of imitation lying near to those of M. G. Tarde. The agreement is, however, more a coincidence than a direct connection, as readers of my Mental Development may remember. I take pleasure in recognizing a more fundamental agreement on many of the main conclusions of both my volumes with those of my friend, Professor Josiah Royce, whose views in the general field of social psychology, I regret to say, remain still unpublished in complete systematic form. The frequent references made to Professor Royce in my text and in the Appendices will show the advantage I have had from his criticisms and counsels. The general knowledge also that he was reaching similar conclusions on many points has given me the sense of social confirmation on which, as readers of my book will see, I put more than customary emphasis.

The motto of Book I., the quotation from St. Luke, was suggested to me by my friend and colleague, Presi-

(xi) -dent Patton, who preached from it a remarkable sermon —his latest baccalaureate discourse in Princeton. In this sermon he made use of the idea of the identity of ego and alter in our thought, much on the lines on which, as I think, the social philosophy of the future will be developed.

Besides the thin volume of `Educational Interpretations' which I hope to get ready in a reasonable time, I have a more remote intention of some day gathering into another thin volume of 'Biological Interpretations' the considerations on evolution upon which a more adequate exposition of the principle of Organic Selection[2] would rest.

J. M. B.


  1. "Is it possible to establish, for the individual isolated in society, rules of conduct drawn entirely from his personal nature; and if such rules are possible, what is their relation to the rules which would be reached from the consideration of society as a whole?" A brief analysis of my essay, drawn up by Professor Höffding in the report to the Danish Academy, may be seen in the Comptes Rendus de l'Académie du Danemark. (Reprinted in the Philosophical Review, July, 1897.)
  2. Cf. Appendix A.

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