Psychological Doctrine and Philosophical Teaching

ABSTRACT methodology has long seemed to me the dreariest field among all the territories, waste and fertile, occupied by philosophy. That philosophy---which, in the last analysis, means some philosopher---should, by means of a general philosophical position, at; tempt to catalogue the various provinces in the domain of learning, to set forth their respective boundaries, to locate their capital cities and fix their proper jurisdictions, appears to me an undertaking more likely to reveal the limitations of the philosopher's experience, interests, and intelligence than to throw light upon the subject. In discussing the relations of philosophy and psychology, I therefore disavow any attempt to pass upon what psychology must be or ought to be; I am content that psychology should be whatever competent investigators in that field make it to be in the successful pursuit of their inquiries. But a teacher and student of philosophy is within his scope when he reflects upon what philosophy in its own past has done in fixing the standpoints, ruling conceptions, and procedures of present psychology, and in raising questions as to the after-effects of this influence-its hearing, namely, upon present philosophical study and Leaching.

From this point of view, I say without more ado that, so far as I can observe, the larger part of the time and energy of teachers of philosophy is taken up in the discussion of problems which owe their existence-at least in the way in which they are currently formulated-to the influence of psychology. In its dominant conceptions and professed methods, this psychology is a survival of a. philosophy which is daily becoming more incredible and more irrelevant to our present intellectual and social situation. Grant that philosophy has no more to do, intrinsically, with psychology than it has with any other positive science, the fact remains that philosophy is neither taught nor studied, neither written nor read, by discarnate logical essences, but by human beings whose intellectual interests, problems, and attitudes,

( 506) to say nothing of their vocabulary, are determined by what they already know or think they know in cognate fields. Let a man be as persuaded as you please that the relation between psychology and

philosophy is lacking in any peculiar intimacy, and yet let him believe that psychology has for its subject-matter a field antithetical to that of the physical sciences, and his problems are henceforth the problems of adjusting the two opposed subject-matters: the problems of how one such field can know or be truly known by another; of the bearing of the principles of substantiality and causality within and between the two fields. Or let him be persuaded that the antithesis is an unreal one, and yet let his students come to him with beliefs about consciousness and internal observation, the existence of sensations, images, and emotions as states of pure consciousness, the independence of the organs of action in both observation and movement from "consciousness" (since the organs are physical), and he will still be obliged to discuss the type of epistemological and metaphysical problems that inevitably follow from such beliefs. The beliefs do not cease to operate as intellectual habits because one gravely hangs the sign "philosophy" over the shop whence one dispenses one's philosophical wares.

More specifically : The student of philosophy comes to his philosophical work with a firmly established belief in the existence of two distinct realms of existence, one purely physical and the other purely psychical. The belief is established not as speculative, not as a part of or incident to the philosophy lie is about to study, but because lie M s already studied two sciences. For every science at once assumes .and guarantees the genuineness of its own appropriate subject-matter. That much of naive realism even the later study of epistemology hardly succeeds in displacing.

Given this established "scientific" background, it does not require much reflection to effect a recognition of problems of peculiar difficulty. To formulate and deal with these difficulties, then, becomes the chief work of philosophical teaching and writing. If it is asked what are the nature and scope of these difficulties, the simplest way of answering is to point to the whole industry of "epistemology." There are many ways of formulating them with technical specificality, no one of which, however, is likely, within the limits of space I can afford, to receive general assent, even as a bare statement of difficulties. But I venture upon the following: The physical world is, by received conception, something with which we become acquainted by external observation and active experiment. But the true nature of perception and action, as means of knowing, is to be got at only by introspection, for they are, by received theory, purely mental or psychical_ The organ, the instrument, and the method of knowing

( 507) the external world thus fall within the internal world; it is psychology that tells us about them in telling us abort sensations, images, and the various associated complexes that form the psychical apparatus of knowing. But now how can these psychical states, these phenomena of consciousness, get outside of themselves and even know that there is a "real" or "external" world at all, much less whether what is known in any particular case is the "real" object, or is a real object modified by a mental contribution or a mental translation, or whether the sensation or image, as the only object immediately "known," is not itself the real object? And yet since sense-perception, observation of things, and reflective inquiry about these things, are among the data that psychological introspection studies, how can it study them unless there are such things to study? In this simple dialectic situation one may find implicit the endless circle of epistemological realism and idealism in their many varieties. And, one may also search not in vain for traces of attempts to solve these same problems in philosophies that professedly are purely empirical and pragmatic.

Let me attempt, in the interests of clearness, another statement that is not quite so formal. The student of philosophy comes to his work having already learned that there is a separate psychic realm; that it is composed of its unique entities; that these are connected and compounded by their own unique principles, thereby building up their own characteristic systematizations; that the, psychic entities are by nature in constant flux, transient and transitory, antithetical to abiding spatial things; that they are purely private; that they are open to internal inspection and to that only; that they constitute the whole scope of the "immediately" given and hence the things that are directly-non-inferentially-"known," and thus supply the sole certainties and the grounds of all other beliefs and knowings; that in spite of their transient and surface character, these psychic entities somehow form the self or ego, which, in turn, is identical with the mind or knower. The summary of the whole matter is that with states of consciousness and with them alone to be and to appear, to appear and to be certain, to be truly known, are equivalents.

Can any one, I ask, ponder these conceptions and not admit that they contain in germ (and in actively flourishing germ) the substance of the questions most R cutely discussed in contemporary philosophy? If such be the case, then the statement that philosophy has no more connection with psychology than with any other science, expresses not a fact, but a revolution to be accomplished, a task to be undertaken. One has, I think, either to admit that his philosophizing is infected with psychology beyond all cure, or else challenge the prevailing conceptions about the province, scope, and procedure of psychology itself.

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One who has already denied to himself the right to undertake in the name of philosophy the revision and reinterpretation of the work of a special science may well seem to be precluded from making any such challenge. In setting forth such a self-denying ordinance, I also made, however, the statement that a philosopher is within his scope when he looks in a science for survivals of past philosophies and reflects upon their worth in the light of subsequent advance in science and art. The right to undertake such. a critical revision can be queried only by those who measure the worth of a philosophical problem by the number of centuries in which it has been unsuccessfully discussed.

There is, then, at least prima-facie ground for holding that the orthodox psychological tradition has not arisen within the actual pursuit of specific inquiries into matters of fact, but within the philosophies of Locke and Descartes, modified perhaps in some regards by the philosophy of Kant. With all due respect to the scientific findings of any group of inquiries, I can not find it in my heart to extend this disposition of acquiescence to the first tentative escapes from medieval science. I have not the time or the disposition herewith to prove that the notion of psychic states immediately given, forming the sole incontrovertible basis of "knowledge,"---i. e., certainty-and having their own laws and systematizations, was bequeathed by seventeenth-century philosophy to psychology, instead of originating independently within psychology. That is another story, and yet a story whose materials are easily accessible to all. My present purpose is the more restricted one of pointing out that in so far as there are grounds for thinking that the traditional presuppositions of psychology were wished upon it by philosophy when it was as yet too immature to defend itself, a philosopher is within his own jurisdiction in submitting them to critical. examination.

The prospects for success in such a critical undertaking are increased, if I mistake not, by the present situation within the science of psychology as that is actually carried on. On the one hand, there are many developments (as in clinical psychology, in animal, educational, and social psychology) that decline to lend themselves to - the traditional rubrics; on the other hand, a certain discrepancy between the researches actually carried on by experimentalist,-, and the language in which alone it is supposed to be proper to formulate them is worrying an increasing number of psychologists, and is increasingly seeming to impose upon them the restrictions of an irritating and cumbersome artificiality. If one went over the full output of the laboratories of the last five years, how much of that output would seem to call, on its own behalf and in its own specific terms, for formulation in the Cartesian-Lockean terms? Supposing the slate

( 509) were cleared of historic traditions, what would be the natural way of stating the object, method, and results of the inquiries? When psychologists themselves are breaking away, in at least a considerable portion of their undertakings, from exclusive preoccupation with their inherited apparatus, the philosopher is not called upon to assume the whole burden of piety.

As a specific illustration, one may point to the change that will cone over the spirit and tenor of philosophic discussion if the activities and methods of behaviorist psychologists grow at the expense of the introspectionist school. The change could hardly fail to be radical, as soon as there was a generation of teachers and students trained in the behaviorist point of view. It would be radical because the change effected would not be an affair of different ways of dealing with old problems, but of relegation of the problems to the attic in which are kept the relics of former intellectual bad taste.

Even a well-wisher (from the philosophic side), to the behaviorist movement must, however, express a certain fear and a certain hope. To suns them up in a single statement, it is possible to interpret the notion of "behavior" in a way that reflects interests and ideas that are appropriate only to the context of the type of psychology against which the behaviorist movement is professedly a protest. The limitation of behavior, for example, to the activities of the nervous system seems to me to express a by-product of the older problem of the relations of mind and body which, in turn, was an outcome of the notion of the mental (or psychical) as constituting a distinct realm of existence. Behavior, taken in its own terms and not as translated into the terms of some theoretical preconception, would seen to be as wide as the doings and sufferings of a human being. The distinction between routine and whimsical and intelligent---or aimful---behavior would seem to describe a genuine distinction in ways of behaving. To throw overboard "consciousness" as a realm of existences immediately given as private and open only to private inspection (or introspection) is one thing; to deny, on the basis of a behavior of the nervous system, the genuineness of the difference between conscious (or deliberate) behavior and impulsive and routine behavior is another thing. The obliteration of the, conscious in its adjectival sense (as a quality of some types -of response) because it is not discoverable by inspection of the operation of neurones or muscles seems to be the product, of ways of thinking congenial only to a separation of physical and purposive action. And this separation would surely not arise. if one began, with behavior, for the separation implies an ascription of independent existence to the mental, on the basis of which alone some acts may be termed purely physical.

There is certainly every reason to think that the behavior of the

( 510) nervous system is an important element in human behavior; there is reason to think that it is the crucial element in the mechanism of human behavior. But unless we start with behavior as more than physical, as meaning the sum total of life-attitudes and responses of a living being, and take these attitudes and responses at their face value, we shall never be able to discover the existence and importance of the nervous system as the mechanism of behavior. There must be genuine functions of which it is the operative mechanism, if it is to be identified as a mechanism.

Perhaps one example will make clearer what I am driving at. The psychology of immediately given conscious existence was compelled to treat meanings as simply aggregates of elementary states of consciousness, whose existence and aggregation as conscious things are open to immediate introspection. The behaviorist, in reaction from the artificiality and inadequacy of such a view, looks for some fact of ostensible, overt movement, that may be identified with thought, i. e., meaning-functions. Quite naturally he fastens upon physical changes in the vocal apparatus. These movements open to objective detection and registration are what the other school had termed thought---consciousness as meanings, concepts, judgments, seasonings, or whatever. For my own part, I do not doubt that vocalization, including overt laryngeal changes, furnishes the mechanism of the greater part (possibly the whole) of thought-behavior. But to say that we can tell what speech or meaningful behavior is by examining this mechanism is putting the cart before the horse; the fact of speech behavior must be given as a primary fact before we can identify any particular set of structures as concerned in its exercise. The behavior standpoint means, unless it is sheared down in behalf of some unexpressed preconception, that, speech is just what men do when they communicate with others or with themselves.. Knowing the apparatus through which this doing is carried on, we doubtless know more about it than we should otherwise know; by this discovery we bring the doing under better control. But to say that physical movements, when the concrete empirical qualities of language are eliminated, are language is to begin by mutilating the facts. Exactly the same considerations apply to purposive behavior-that is, conscious behavior, the event from which "consciousness" is derived by making an adjective into a noun. Purposive behavior exists and is given as a fact of behavior; not as a psychical thing to be got at by introspection, nor as physical movement to be got at by physical instruments. It is and it exists as movements having specific qualities characteristic of them. We may distinguish between the movement and the quality, and thereby make a distinction between the physical and the mental. The distinction may serve to bring the performance of the func-

( 511) -tion under greater control. But to ascribe independent complete existence to the movement, to say that is deliberate behavior, behavior having meaningful or conscious quality, is a fallacy of precisely the same kind as ascribing complete and independent existence to purpose as a merely psychical state. And it is a fallacy that flourishes only in an atmosphere already created by the belief in "consciousness"-just as the latter belief could hardly have arisen save in an atmosphere where all concrete behavior, all achievable action, was regarded as degraded and insignificant in comparison with religious contemplation that related men to a truly spiritual world, which was wholly extra-worldly, supernatural, and hence wholly nonphysical.

I am only suggesting a continuation of the sane line of thought when I say that in so far as behaviorists tend to ignore the social qualities of behavior, they are perpetuating exactly the tradition against which they are nominally protesting. To conceive behavior exclusively in terms of the changes going on within an organism physically separate in space from other organisms is to continue that conception of mind which Professor Perry has well termed ''subcutaneous." This conception is appropriate to the theory of the existence of a field or stream of consciousness that is private by its very nature; it is the essence of such a theory. But when one breaks loose from such a theory he is authorized to take behavior as he finds it; if he finds attitudes and responses toward others which can not be located under the skin, they still have the full claim to recognition.

The teacher of philosophy has, therefore, at the present time a deep concern with the way in which psychology is developing. In the degree in which he feels that current philosophy is entangled in epistemological questions that are artificial and that divert energy away from the logical and social fields in which the really vital opportunities for philosophy now lie, he will welcome every sign of the turning away by psychologists from subjective immediatism; every sign of a disposition to take a more objective, public, and out-door attitude. The future of the teaching of philosophy for the next generation seems to be intimately bound up with the crisis psychology is passing through. Anything that tends to make psychology a theory of human nature as it concretely exists and of human life as it is actually lived can be only an instrument of emancipation of philosophy.



  1. A paper prepared for the joint discussion of the American Philosophical and Psychological Associations, on the Standpoint and Method of Psychology, New Haven, December 30, 1913.

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