Inquiry into Inquiries: Essays in Social Theory

By Arthur F. Bentley; Sidney Ratner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
The Jamesian Datum1

I
MISSTATEMENTS
Having listened to a number of James Centenary addresses, and having read several more, I have turned to such other characterizations as come readily to hand. I learn that:
1. James admitted the importance of the world of conscious awareness, but said it was no business of psychology ( Dunlap, 14, p. 308, p. 313).
2. James's psychology was a thoroughgoing "consciousness-psychology" ( Spoerl, 57, p. 5).
3. James's life-work was definitely materialistic, when you get down to it, and what comes out of him and after him is physiological psychology, and rightfully nothing else ( Holt).2
4. James employed an atomistic approach, and saw the larger integrations as a sort of mental chemistry ( Skaggs, 56).3
____________________
1
In a correlated paper (2) I have examined the general status of "factuality" with respect to "truth" and "reality" as James came to view it in the course of his development. The reader will, I trust, note that in neither of these papers are citations introduced as if they were outpourings of a man's mind, or -- in different figure of speech but to similar purport -- as if they were pins to fix a specimen bug on a shelf, or racks, perhaps, of torture. Always the passages cited enter as human behaviors -- linguistic behaviors -- specific ways of man's reacting upon other reactions -- phases of his on-going living, requiring localization and description in situations extensional and durational -- to be understood thus always in full durational sweep, and to be "smoothed" in their successive manifestations as a statistician might smooth a curve or as a geographer might appraise a mountain slope disregarding ravines and ridges for his better view of the ascent. The difference between pin-point mental treatment of human affirmation or assertion, and a full durational-behavioral view, is radical -- and in future prospect, enormous.
2
From an address by Edwin B. Holt at the James Centenary meeting of the Conference on Methods in Philosophy and the Sciences, New York City, November, 1941. The published version of Holt's remarks ( 60, p. 46) is less vigorous, but elsewhere he has written: "Radical empiricism . . . means, and I believe that it so meant for William James, that conscious phenomena are to be explained entirely, without reserve or residue, in physical terms, and specially of course in the terms of physiology" ( 16, p. v). What James would have thought about this is adequately expressed by the "decidedly not" which he wrote marginally to Mach's suggestion that psychology take as its domain the dependence of sensations or elements on the nervous system ( 48, II, p. 389).
3
"We doubt seriously if there ever was a thoroughgoing atomist among psychologists since the time of James and Wundt" ( 56, p. 347).
From Journal of Psychology, Vol. XVI ( July, 1943), pp. 35-79.
Parenthetical boldface figures refer to References at end of chapter.

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