A History of Scientific Psychology: Its Origins and Philosophical Backgrounds

A History of Scientific Psychology: Its Origins and Philosophical Backgrounds

A History of Scientific Psychology: Its Origins and Philosophical Backgrounds

A History of Scientific Psychology: Its Origins and Philosophical Backgrounds

Excerpt

The present volume is concerned with the history of psychology's efforts to achieve scientific status. It is a long history having its roots in a vast philosophic heritage. After all, those who first envisioned the prospect of a scientific psychology did not start from scratch in the sense of being uninformed about the nature of mind. The founding fathers of the "new" laboratory psychology were conversant with what their philosophical predecessors had had to say about mental life. Many of them wrote and lectured on both philosophy and psychology and thought of themselves as being philosophers as well as psychologists. Their sponsorship of psychology as science was an outgrowth of their familiarity with mental philosophy. The chief objective of the present volume is to survey, at least in broad outline, the philosophic backgrounds from which their prospects for a scientific psychology emerged. Thus, viewed in historical perspective, their advocacy of a scientific psychology was not the advocacy of an unphilosophical psychology any more than the earlier emergence of chemistry and physics had involved repudiation of their roots in natural philosophy.

In this connection it is relevant to note that the concept of experimentation was by no means alien to a philosophic orientation. For example, Newton referred to his scientific work as "experimental philosophy." In the subtitle to Hume's psychological Treatise of 1739, there is a reference to "the experimental method of reasoning." In 1812 Sir Humphry Davy published the results of his chemical experiments in a book entitled Elements of Chemical Philosophy. Furthermore, for years a leading journal for physicists was called the Philosophical Magazine. This title was retained until early in the present century. The phrase "experimental philosophy" that Newton had employed was also retained for a long time. It was still current in the 1880s; Cambridge University had a "professor of astronomy and experimental philosophy" on its faculty. Apparently, astronomy and other sciences had not yet . . .

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