The Roots of Psychology: A Sourcebook in the History of Ideas

The Roots of Psychology: A Sourcebook in the History of Ideas

The Roots of Psychology: A Sourcebook in the History of Ideas

The Roots of Psychology: A Sourcebook in the History of Ideas

Excerpt

A countryside which is ravishingly beautiful when viewed from a hilltop or from a small plane may lose much of its charm as seen by the modern jet traveler from an altitude of five or six miles. It is thus with history. Seen remotely it may be dull, but there is a favorable distance from which its patterns can be discerned without excessive loss of those details which give it distinctive charm. The purpose of a source book is to help see history close up. Even so, the glimpses it can give are like those caught when flying above a broken cloud cover which hides more than it discloses. In the end, whoever wants to see all the beauty of the countryside must walk. The justification for anthologies is that no one has the time to walk on all roads.

Most previous source books for psychology seem to be imbued with the spirit of Ebbinghaus's famous epigram, that "psychology has a long past but a short history." As one of the great pioneers of modern experimental psychology, Ebbinghaus felt the need to emphasize the independence of the new discipline from speculative philosophy. Today, with that issue long resolved, we feel the contrary need to trace the beginnings of psychological thought before the experimental era. One important lesson to be learned from studying the history of psychology is that the fundamental viewpoints on many controversial issues were formulated independently of all experimental evidence in the modern sense of that phrase and that most men continue to take sides on them without regard to such evidence. Regrettable perhaps, but true. The experiments of psychologists have settled only minor issues in psychology, and too often, like dreams, they are wish-fulfilling. Meanwhile, advances in other sciences, and major changes in social structure, have often exercised decisive influence on the building of psychological theories. It is a major purpose of this book to make such influences apparent.

There are presently four source books in English which try to cover the full historical range of psychology. Each has important merits, and I would like to point these out before saying how this source book differs from them. The oldest is Benjamin Rand's Classical Psychologists (1912). Its . . .

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