The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions

By Margaret P. Munger | Go to book overview
17. Section XII.
18. I need not examine at length the vis inertiae which is so much talked of in the new philosophy, and which is ascribed to matter. We find by experience that a body at rest or in motion continues forever in its present state, till put from it by some new cause; and that a body impelled takes as much motion from the impelling body as it acquires itself. These are facts. When we call this a vis inertiae, we only mark these facts, without pretending to have any idea of the inert power, in the same manner as, when we talk of gravity, we mean certain effects without comprehending that active power. (Editions K and L: “matter.”) It was never the meaning of Sir Isaac Newton to rob second causes of all force or energy, though some of his followers have endeavored to establish that theory upon his authority. On the contrary, that great philosopher had recourse to an ethereal active fluid to explain his universal attraction, though he was so cautious and modest as to allow that it was a mere hypothesis not to be insisted on without more experiments. I must confess that there is something in the fate of opinions a little extraordinary. Descartes insinuated that doctrine of the universal and sole efficacy of the Deity, without insisting on it. Malebranche and other Cartesians made it the foundation of all their philosophy. It had, however, no authority in England. Locke, Clarke, and Cudworth never so much as take notice of it, but suppose all along that matter has a real, though subordinate and derived, power. By what means has it become so prevalent among our modern metaphysicians?

19. According to these explications and definitions, the idea of power is relative as much as that of cause; and both have a reference to an effect, or some other event constantly conjoined with the former. When we consider the un known circumstance of an object by which the degree or quantity of its effect is fixed and determined, we call that its power. And accordingly, it is allowed by all philosophers that the effect is the measure of the power. But if they had any idea of power as it is in itself, why could they not measure it in itself? The dispute, whether the force of a body in motion be as its velocity, or the square of its velocity; this dispute, I say, needed not be decided by comparing its effects in equal or unequal times, but by a direct mensuration and comparison. (This note was first introduced in Edition L.)

As to the frequent use of the words “force,” “power,” “energy,” etc., which everywhere occur in common conversation as well as in philosophy, that is no proof that we are acquainted, in any instance, with the connecting principle between cause and effect, or can account ultimately for the production of one thing by another. These words, as commonly used, have very loose meanings annexed to them, and their ideas are very uncertain and confused. No animal can put external bodies in motion without the sentiment of a nisus or endeavor; and every animal has a sentiment or feeling from the stroke or blow of an external object that is in motion. These sensations, which are merely animal, and from which we can a priori draw no inference, we are apt to transfer to inanimate objects, and to suppose that they have some such feelings whenever they transfer or receive motion. With regard to energies, which are exerted without our annexing to them any idea of communicated motion, we consider only the constant experienced conjunction of the events; and as we feel a customary connection between the ideas, we transfer that feeling to the objects, as nothing is more usual than to apply to external bodies every internal sensation which they occasion. Instead of this concluding passage there stood in Edition L: “A cause is different from a sign, as it implies precedence and contiguity in time and place, as well as constant conjunction. A sign is nothing but a correlative effect from the same cause.”


Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) did not present an imposing or impressive figure in the lec-
ture hall, with his deformed chest, small stature, and generally poor health. His speech,
however, was phenomenal—complex points made clear with humor, examples from clas-
sical and popular literature, and discussion of the latest scientific findings. Starting in


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The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Part 1 - What is the Mind? 1
  • 1: Plato 2
  • 2: Hippocrates 4
  • 3: Aristotle 20
  • 4: Saint Augustine of Hippo 35
  • 5: Saint Thomas Aquinas 46
  • Part 2 - Mechanisms of Mind 67
  • 6: René Descartes 68
  • 7: John Locke 81
  • 8: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 96
  • 9: David Hume 113
  • 10: Immanuel Kant 127
  • Part 3 - Scientific Methods 141
  • 11: Gustav Theodor Fechner 142
  • 12: Hermann Von Helmholtz 154
  • 13: Hermann Ebbinghaus 168
  • 14: Ivan Pavlov 178
  • Part 4 - Emotion and Instinct in Animals and Humans 187
  • 15: Charles Darwin 188
  • 16: Margaret Floy Washburn 203
  • 17: William James 215
  • 18: Francis Galton 232
  • Part 5 - Human Development 249
  • 19: Milicent W. Shinn 250
  • 20: Sigmund Freud 258
  • 21: Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon 270
  • 22: Hugo Münsterberg 288
  • Part 6 - What is the Goal of Psychology? 295
  • 23: Wilhelm Wundt 296
  • 24: Max Wertheimer 308
  • 25: E. B. Titchener 324
  • Part 7 - Learning 331
  • 26: John B. Watson 332
  • 27: Edward C. Tolman 341
  • 28: D. O. Hebb 357
  • Part 8 - Cognition 367
  • 29: Jean Piaget 368
  • 30: L. S. Vygotski 387
  • 31: B. F. Skinner 399
  • 32: Noam Chomsky 408
  • 33: Sir Frederic C. Bartlett 430
  • 34: Ulric Neisser 447
  • Part 9 - Considerations of Context 467
  • 35: James J. Gibson 468
  • 36: James L. Mcclelland, David E. Rumelhart, and Geoffrey E. Hinton 478
  • 37: V. S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee 492
  • Bibliography of Readings 511
  • Bibliography of Biographical References 513


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