A Hundred Years of Psychology, 1833-1933

By J. C. Flugel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
SYSTEMATIC PSYCHOLOGY--THE GREAT TEXTBOOKS, BRENTANO TO JAMES

IT is now time to pick up the story of what from want of a better term we have called "systematic psychology", i.e. psychology which was not predominantly experimental, physiological or biological, but which may be looked upon as in the tradition of the older psychology established by the earlier, more philosophic writers. Within this field the first important writer after Bain was Franz Brentano, whose Psychologie vom empirischen Stand punkte, published in 1874, proved to be a very influential work, though actually it is one that is but little read to-day by English-speaking students. Brentano is looked upon as the founder of "act psychology", as distinguished from the "content psychology" that was predominant among the early experimentalists. We have seen that for long there had been two dominant, though not always clearly differentiated, conceptions of how the mind worked. According to the one notion, which found its fullest expression in the extreme associationists, the mind was essentially a mechanism, automatically elaborating the material provided for it by the senses. According to the other, it was itself an active and creative agency. Those who favoured the first view endeavoured to conceive of mind in terms of material causality, those who held the second believed that the most essential phenomena of mind were left out of account in any such reduction. Since the experimenters had physics and physiology before them as their ideals, it was only natural that they should tend to adopt the former,

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