"History" is a troublesome word in the English language, having a number of meanings and usages.  We often use the term without really considering the underlying concepts it represents.  For instance, we use "history" to stand for actual events that took place in the past -- "It is a fact of history."  We may use the word to stand for the writings that record those events -- "This book is a history of England."  We use it to stand for the documents, memories and artifacts on which the writings are based -- "This letter is an interesting piece of history."  We even use "history" to stand for some presumed underlying but unseen  dynamic force that ties events together, carrying some ideas along quickly and holding others back -- "History was not ready for that discovery," or "History will judge the correctness of her actions."




            The most common use for the word "history" is in regard to knowledge of the events of the past.  This poses perhaps the greatest challenge to the historian's art.  The German historian Leopold van Ranke wrote once that the goal of the historian is to show the past as it really was.[1]  It is easy to come away from a well-written biography or social history and feel that we have made contact with the past.  Such feelings should be tempered by the realization of just how hard it is to know how anything really was.

            Anyone who has dealt with the descriptions given by several people who witnessed or were involved in a minor automobile accident knows just how difficult it is to find out what happened.  The two drivers often have widely differing views on who was at fault.  A bystander who caught only part of the event out of the corner of his eye, but  who wants very much to give a report, may think he knows what happened.  Another who "saw the whole thing" from a block and a half away may think she knows what happened, too.  Even two unbiased witnesses who were in a position to see everything are likely to give accounts differing significantly in details.  Differences in human motivations, ability to observe events, interpretation and the tendency to fill in gaps of observation with what "must" have happened, makes it difficult to come to any judgment about what really happened in a simple event, even one that took place only a few minutes ago. How much more difficult it is to know what happened fifty or five hundred years ago.

            Historiographers, writers of history, are rarely participants or even witnesses to the events described in their writings.[2]  The closest they typically get to the event is through examination of documents left by those participants or witnesses. Such documents may be written, such as letters, diaries, notebooks, autobiographies or in oral form, such as interviews or recordings of speeches.  If we assume that judgments of the individuals involved in the event we are studying differ in the same way as our witnesses to the auto accident, we will not be surprised to find conflicts in such documents.  The historian's work is even more difficult, however, since only a fraction of the total observations of the event in question are ever documented.  The remainder died with the observers. Of the documents created that describe the event, only a few may still exist and of those only a few may have been collected and fewer yet available for study.  Of those that are available, the historian, because of linguistic limitations or difficulty of travel may be able to study only part of the total. 

            The historian collects all the evidence available, tries to untangle the conflicting descriptions and then make the best interpretations possible as to the nature of the event.  Of course the historian is also a human being and makes interpretations that may be biased by personal motivations and background.  Were historical interpretation  not fallible, it would not be necessary for each generation of historians to rewrite the history of their predecessors.  New documents are located, new perspectives are found, new theories espoused, the motivations of past historians questioned and so forth.

            This book, like all histories, is a second-hand account of events of the past based on fragmentary and often conflicting documents which, themselves, may have questionable objectivity.  All this is not meant to discourage the reader, but should serve as a warning to carry historical "truths" lightly.  Read with caution and healthy skepticism.  This is about all we can do until time machines are devised that will allow us to go back and see the events of the past ourselves.  Then we will be at least at the level of the observer of our auto accident.

            The term "historical event" also has its difficulties.  There are some clear cut events -- the assassination of Lincoln, the sinking of the Titanic -- but most of the events covered in this book are not so clearly defined. The history of psychology deals with the origin and development of ideas and so does not usually have dramatic, outwardly visible behaviors.  The "event" itself may be mundane.  Consider Wilhelm Wundt's "establishment" of his psychological laboratory at Leipzig, Germany in 1879.  Were we to go back to 1879 in a time machine, about all we would see would be Wundt giving his key to his graduate student, Max Friedrich.  We would still know nothing about the factors that led Wundt to the view that his students should do psychological work in the laboratory or the part the students played in prodding Wundt to let them work there or even the various facts that led Wundt and his students alike to believe that it was possible to do laboratory research in psychology at all.  The "event" of the opening of the laboratory for graduate research in psychology was only one of a long train of events, many of which are subjective processes in the thoughts of people long dead.  The particular event takes its meaning from the context of a wide range of other events.  It is one of the historian's jobs to tie the events together and communicate the "flow" of history -- the interconnections of events.  This necessitates a great deal of interpretation on the part of the historian.  As a matter of fact, the real distinction between the antiquarian, one who merely collects the documents and artifacts of the past, and the historian is the interpretive contribution.




            The view of history as a collection of events, a flow of actions and reactions is as old as human curiosity about things that happened before their own time.  The human mind has always seemed to seek consistency in things, perhaps more than is really to be found.  Certainly in terms of the flow of historical events, humans have not only accepted that this flow existed, but also attempted to explain the nature of it and the forces behind it.  There is a tendency in human thought not only to tie events of the present and past together as a connected fabric but to find a purpose for it all.

            From these attempts to understand and explain the flow of historical events at least three main views of the dynamic of historical progress have evolved:  spiritualistic theory, personalistic theory and naturalistic theory.[3]


            Spiritualistic Theory.  The earliest view of the progression of events revolved around the action of spirits.  Animism, the view that everything contains spirits and so has a "mind" of its own, is one form of this position.  In ancient times, humans explained the flooding of rivers and the damage or benefits derived from it as coming from the animosity or beneficence  of the spirits of the river.  The coming of the rains, important for crops, was attributed to the spirit of the rains and drought was due to its anger.  A rock that fell on Uncle Harry might be surmised to have had some grudge against him. 

            This concept of nature spirits entering into the affairs of humans was given more definite form in later years in the pantheon of the Greek gods and other such collections of spirits who controlled the actions, not only of rocks and rivers but even of human beings.  These spirits, usually in human form and with the reasoning powers, emotions, and often the faults of humans, were believed to enter quite regularly into earthly events.  In fact, in early times, it appears that humans did not interpret their behavior  as derived through their own control at all, but through the influence of external, supernatural forces on them.  The ancient poets felt the need to call on the Muses to breath into them, literally to "inspire," their great poems.  This would later become a mere poetic convention, but in early times, it seems to have been a serious belief.  The creative process is still mysterious and to credit spirits with the way in which ideas seem to "pop" into a writer's head is really no poorer a theory than any other.  How better explain the acts of fools or madmen than that they were being controlled by spirits beyond the human realm?  How better could a young man or woman explain the sudden change in their attitudes about the opposite sex than that they had been affected by some external force -- the influence of Eros or the arrow of Cupid?

            If such events ruled in the present, then the past could be explained in similar fashion.  In some traditions, these interventions into the affairs of humans were seen to be fairly random, as in the case of the Greek myths.  Here events took place because one deity was angry with another and by way of revenge, persecuted a  human favorite of that other deity.  If that human were the king of a great nation and the nation fell because of his death or madness, so be it.  Homer's Iliad starts like this.  The reason for the war with Troy stemmed from the infatuation of Paris for Helen, an infatuation imposed on Paris by some jealous goddesses because of Paris's judgment in a supernatural beauty contest on Mount Olympus. 

            In more personal religious concepts, such as Yaweh, the God of the Hebrews, there is a more consistent plan of history.  Every event in the lives of humans and in the lives of their nations is for a purpose, part of some large, cosmic plan about which the great religious leaders of the time could only guess.  The Greek myths and the Bible, then, represent spiritualistic histories, dealing with the intervention of supernatural forces into human affairs.

            The spiritualistic view of history is still alive today and is perhaps the most widely held view of historical progress in the general population.  Anyone who believes in the efficacy of prayer believes to some degree in the intervention of forces beyond mankind into human affairs and thus believes in some sort of spiritualistic theory of history.


            Personalistic Theory.  The spiritualistic view has had to share the allegiance of mankind with a variety of other views, however.  Its primary competitor has been the personalistic view, sometimes called the "great man" theory.  This view is also quite ancient. As E.G. Boring tells us:


The Great-man theory of history is as old as history, as old as the kings who caused the records of their deeds to be cut in stone in order to let posterity know how it was that they had so carved out human destiny, as old as man's belief that he himself is a free agent who chooses his acts to shape his own life and the life of those others whom his deeds affect.[4]


            There are at least two forms of this view.  One, the "great man as emissary" blends somewhat into spiritualistic view and states that some individuals are chosen by supernatural forces to lead or to rule in order to carry out some cosmic plan of history.  The other form, the "great man as individual" holds that some individuals are independent of external forces, the "captains of their own fate," endowed with extraordinary abilities that allow them to exert their will on the lives of the common people.  What these two forms have in common is the belief that some individuals shape the course of history.  Their plan, from wherever it comes, becomes part of the plan of history for their lifetimes and often for many lifetimes to come.

            In the "great man as emissary" we find humans acting either as messengers from supernatural forces to the people of Earth or as agents from a supernatural force with orders to carry out a particular task on Earth.  Moses and the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures and many of the Christian saints, like Joan of Arc, can be viewed in this emissary role.  Other individuals are given a specific right to rule, usually from a supernatural source.  All the kings and queens of history who have claimed the "divine right to rule," a right given not to just one individual but to an entire family line, have made use of this concept.  The ceremony of coronation is the manifestation of this belief in a special relationship between a monarch and a supernatural force.  The opposite version of this idea is the notion that certain races, nationalities and classes of people were ordained by supernatural forces to serve those endowed by a superior status.  For example, the "mark of Ham" was used to rationalize the enslavement of black Africans by their lighter skinned masters.

            In the "great man as individual" we find individuals acting quite independently from the influence of the gods, perhaps even in opposition to them. This position was inevitable with the rise of the concept of the individual.  It is the position of the "self-made man," the individual who has reached a position of power and influence through great personal effort. The tendency in such people  is not to attribute the final success to the intervention of a supernatural force or even to imagine that they are emissaries from a supernatural force but to assume that there is some inner quality that has allowed them to do great things.  "Genius" is one term used for this internalized power.  The origin of the term has definite spiritualistic overtones, but the way in which it was used, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries was completely secular.  There was some vagueness on just where this genius came from by 18th century writers, but with the coming of the theory of evolution in the 19th century, a secular, biological origin was touted -- inheritance.  Sir Francis Galton, who had a great impact on nineteenth and twentieth century psychology was a proponent of this view.  It was a view that fitted in with the aristocratic Englishman's view of life as well, where "good breeding" will always tell.  In a number of volumes, beginning with the Hereditary Genius in 1869, Galton developed a rather extreme form of personalism.[5]  He believed that greatness is derived from this hereditary genius, that it was completely determined biologically and that the environment into which the individual was born had little if any influence on the expression of this genius.  "Genius will out" no matter what cultural or social factors were operating, Galton thought, and fame and reputation are proper indicators for genius and greatness.  Other, less extreme personalistic theorists held that there was an interaction between the genetic and environmental realms in the determination of genius and greatness.[6]

            Personalistic views in one form or the other are still widely held, primarily because personalism seems so obviously correct to many individuals.  Anyone asked to give the names of people who have changed the course of history can do with no difficulty.  Names like Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Darwin, Newton, Elizabeth I, Lincoln, Hitler and the like come to mind immediately.  All of these individuals have influenced those around them and have left their mark on their own age and perhaps ours as well.

            The most common form of historical exposition taking the personalistic view is biography.  Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881) a believer in the "great man as emissary" view is often quoted to exemplify the entire personalistic position.  In his Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History, Carlyle makes the statement that "...The history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here."[7]

            Personalistic histories, then, center around the lives of particular individuals.  The few great leaders, the monarches, military leaders, and the like are the poles around which the important events whirl and by understanding their lives we can understand the events they determined.  This position still influences our every day way of looking at  history.  When we hear the phrase, "the history of England" most people think of the lives of the English monarches and their conflicts with other monarches or major figures within their courts.  The lives of a few dozen individuals are used for an understanding of the progress of nations made up of millions of people, most of whom had no contact with the monarch or court.  The personalistic view is difficult to refute and yet, the old question still lingers, do people do great things because there is some quality of "greatness" in them or do we merely attribute greatness to  individuals who happen to be caught up in great or important events? 


            Naturalistic Theory.  Just as the personalistic view arose out of the concept of human individuality, so the naturalistic theory arose out of the notion of human society.  While the personalistic view depends on genius, charisma and power in the hands of a few, the naturalistic theory depends on the mass of individuals who make up society and the lawfulness of their interpersonal relations. There are as many naturalistic theories of history as there are naturalistic historians, but the underlying basis for all naturalistic views of history is that society operates in a regular, lawful manner and, if a certain set of determinants occur, a particular social outcome will also occur.  The naturalistic view requires a determinant.  There are several basic forms of these determinants of which two will be discussed here -- physical and psychological. 

            The physical form of the naturalistic view emphasizes the influences of the physical world in determining human behavior and the development of society and thus historical progress.  Examples of this are geographical and climatic determinants.  A simple version of this argument would state that societies that exist in northerly regions where the climate is severe at times during the year must develop socially and technologically to overcome the harshness of their environment.  Societies that live in warmer climes where food grows wild and plentifully have not been forced to develop advanced governments, agriculture or technology.  This view would suggest climate as the main differentiation between the development of the primitive and advanced cultures and thus is a prime determinant of their different historical development.

            The psychological form of naturalism depends on the lawfulness of human ideas and behavior.  A given individual with a particular background, placed in a particular situation can be expected to act in a predictable manner if all the determinants are known.  Expand this into the social sphere and it is possible to postulate the actions and development of a society as the sum of the actions of the individuals who make it up.  The laws of society, if they are determined by the laws of human behavior should also be predictable -- if we know all the determinants.  History, in this view, is merely the lawfully determined process of society over time.  The view  in its extreme form denies free will on the part of individuals.  Individual judgments and actions are determined by the individual's past experience and present situation.  Free will, in this case is considered to be an artifact of the psychological process, an imaginary experience correlated with our lawful reactions.

            There have been many such naturalistic views of history.  In the eighteenth century, the view was presented along the lines of God's having invented the universe, establishing the laws of nature, including those of human nature, and then having walked away to let the universe go its own way, like a clock maker, setting his clock in motion and moving on to other things.

            It is in the nineteenth century that we find a more elaborate form of this psychologically naturalistic history. Leo Tolstoy developed such a theory in his novel, War and Peace.  A novel seems a strange place to develop a theory of history, but nevertheless, anyone who has read this substantial work knows that in book nine, Tolstoy sits back from his story of individuals caught up in Napoleon's war with Russia and gives a discourse on the nature of history.  Tolstoy defines history as the "unconscious life of humanity in the swarm..." in which a man must "inevitably follow the laws laid down for him."[8]  History, in Tolstoy's view, has no plan.  The flow of events that makes up history is a great stumbling accident, a convergence of countless actions and reactions, much like vectors in some complicated physical analysis of the movement of a physical body.  There are no "greats" in Tolstoy's view.  They are merely artifacts of the way we look at events.  They do not determine the events of history.  On the contrary, the events determine their behaviors and in truth, creates the "great."


In historical events great men -- so called -- are but the labels that serve to give a name to an event, and like labels, they have the least possible connection with the event itself.... Every action of their that seems to them an act of their own free will, is in an historical sense not free at all but in bondage to the whole course of previous history, predestined from all eternity.[9]


            In Tolstoy's novel, Napoleon's war with Russia is viewed not in terms of Napoleon's will versus the will of the Czar, or even the French generals versus the Russian generals.  It is in terms of events like that of a Russian artillery commander who does not hear the call to retreat and so continues to order the shelling of the French forces, holding the field for his forces.  It is in terms of a multitude of random events that sum together to form a whole that is interpreted by humans as having purpose and coherence.  Tolstoy's theory is a vector theory of history, where every action of every person who participates in a given event determines the final outcome of the event to some degree.  The behaviors of the multitudes from past generations are determinants in part of events going on now.  Each individual exerts a small force on the progress of events, pushing them this way or that.  The direction the flow of events takes is determined by the sum of all these minuscule social forces.  The "great" may exert a stronger force on the flow of events than those around him or her, but his "choice" of those activities is determined by the pattern of vectors that make up the society in which he or she arose.  The existence of the "great" in this view is only a short-hand notation for the highly complicated dynamic factors that are actually operating.

            This naturalistic view is highly environmentalistic.  It is education, social class, patterns of belief, prejudices, fears -- all the things that make up the social inheritance of the individual and produce the antecedent conditions of human behavior that underlay the progression of history. 

            Perhaps the prime difficulty with the naturalistic theory is that is not possible to relate every event in the life of every person involved in some historical happening.  There is no way to relate all the antecedent conditions that determine a given event.  Even if we could do so, it would be a very difficult history to read.  No one has really seriously attempted such a history in detail.  In order to get around these difficulties, writers of naturalistic histories have devised their own short-hand concepts, larger units than individual behavioral vectors that can be more easily identified and understood.

            Tolstoy, for instance, used a very broad short-hand in his own descriptions of historical progress.  In fact, Tolstoy went so far as to approach personification of these social vectors into an entity which he calls "History."  "History makes every moment in the life of kings its own..."[10]

            Another "shorthand" term for the complex underlying forces that make up historical events is Zeitgeist.  The term was used in the 19th century by the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel and was popularized again in the twentieth century by  E. G. Boring.  Zeitgeist means, the "spirit of the times," and was used in Boring's reincarnation of it as shorthand for the pattern of societal "forces" that push historical events along.[11]  It has been a useful concept, but as so often happens when a complicated process is summarized by a simple term, the term becomes reified into an entity that has the traits of a human being.  One can describe the reason why a particular invention was discovered by a number of individuals within a short time of each other, none knowing of the existence of the others.  This description can entail all the social and cultural events that lead up to a readiness for this new invention or concept.  Such a consideration would entail study of the more basic discoveries and the ideas generated by them without which the new discovery or invention would have been unlikely to have been made.  This would be quite an involved study, but certainly a legitimate undertaking.  One can summarize all these influences under the term Zeitgeist and say that the Zeitgeist, that is, this pattern of past events had prepared society to accept this new invention.  There has been an active discussion of the value or lack of value in the Zeitgeist and similar concepts.  The tendency to oversimplify and personify when using such short-hand concepts has cast this technique into disrepute in recent years.[12]  At the extreme, the personification of the naturalistic vectors of history becomes nothing more than a secular replacement for the gods of the spiritualistic view.

            Karl Marx, who developed his own form of naturalistic theory of history, was reacting against the 19th century to reify the historical process into something like an intellectual entity.  He wrote:


History does nothing; it `does not possess immense riches,' it does not fight battles.'  It is men, living men who do all this, who possess things and fight battles.  It is not `history' which uses men as a means of achieving -- as if it were an individual person -- its own ends.  History is nothing but the activities of men in pursuit of their own ends.[13]


            Marx chose for his purposes a more limited shorthand, economics.  The economic process is itself the result of the behaviors of the individuals who make up society.  To Marx it was the major summation of social forces in the overall flow of history.


In the social production of their lives men enter into definite, necessary, relations that are independent of their will, productive relations that correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The totality of these productive relations forms the economic structure of society, the real basis on which a juridical and political superstructure arises....[14]


            The historical whole, then, is to be understood by Marx in economic terms.  The defeat of the Confederacy in the American Civil War, in Marx's view, was determined from the beginning of the war in terms of its overwhelming inferiority in the means of industrial production necessary for war and by its smaller population when compared to the Union. 


            Historical Analyses of Psychological Thought.  The three major views of history just considered represent broad strokes in the consideration of the dynamic of history -- the uniting of historical events into a meaningful flow.  This list does not exhaust the differing views on the subject.  There is no way to know which view is correct, if, indeed, any one view can be correct.  The point of importance is that the view taken, whether explicitly or implicitly, influences how events will be interpreted.

            What is the point of view of this book?  The title Great Psychologists suggests that it is a personalistic or "great man" history.  To some degree it is and has to be since it would be very difficult to consider the tremendous variety of ideas and positions covered in any other way but by picking representative, major positions.  Those major positions are closely identified with individuals.  So a survey of the major ideas in the history of psychology involves an investigation of the major thinkers. Carlyle was quite justified in his belief that an understanding of major figures casts light on the activities going on around them. 

            The book is more than that, however.  As its subtitle, "A History of Psychological Thought" indicates, it seeks to cast the individuals and ideas under consideration against other events and ideas of their times, so that the reader will understand that the "greats" were significant forces in their times but were as much a product of those times as they were determiners of them.  The reader should always be aware that the creativity and influence of a "great" is only one vector or set of vectors in a sea of influences.  A book of this sort can do little more than give a partial and fragmented picture. 




            The subject-matter under consideration in this book is the history of psychology.  Psychology has a variety of characteristics that set it apart from the older, more established sciences such as physics and biology.  Thomas Kuhn, in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, has pointed out that psychology, unlike physics and biology, has no paradigm.[15]  That is, psychology has no conceptual, methodological, or explanatory system that is generally accepted throughout the discipline as a whole.  While behavior is dominant today as the subject-matter of psychology, it is far from being the universal subject-matter.  The cognitive psychologist and the operant conditioner both use the term "behavior" but mean very different things by it.  There are as many methodological approaches as there are sub-fields in psychology and a number of competing modes and levels of explanation for psychological phenomena.  Modern psychology is not even entirely a science.  Unlike physics and biology, psychology has never separated its theoretical functions from its technological or applied functions.  In some respects, present-day psychology has developed on the fringe of the natural and social sciences.  Psychology has linkages with physiology, biochemistry, physics, medicine, sociology, anthropology, education, and occasionally with history and linguistics.  This allows modern psychology to act as a bridge among a number of disciplines.  For that very reason, however, there is no fundamental agreement among psychologists on the basic approach to psychology or its subject-matter.  Psychology is a pre-paradigmatic discipline.  It still lacks its Isaac Newton or its Copernicus, although, as we shall see in later chapters, more than one psychologist has viewed himself in that role.  While it can be argued that psychology in its early experimental days, before the behavioral revolution, may have come close to a paradigm -- the study of consciousness --the method of study was never generally agreed upon.  It is not possible to analyze most eras of psychological thought under a single, universal heading in terms of subject-matter or method.




            For the very reason that the subject matter, method, and explanatory categories of psychology are so multifaceted, it is of great importance to analyze the approaches of individual psychologists, the schools of thought they represent, and even the intellectual era in which they worked.  There have been several attempts at this sort of analysis, but perhaps the most succinct of these has been that taken by Robert I. Watson under the label of Prescriptive Theory.[16]  These Prescriptions are conceptual dimensions, each bounded by a pair of opposing terms.  One can describe or define a given psychological position in terms of the relationship among these dimensions. The arrangement of these prescriptions in contrasting pairs makes for clarity, since one is given not only a summary of what the attitude is, but what it is not.  In almost all instances, at one time or another, the pairs were seen as diametrically opposed to one another.  However, it must be added that on other occasions interrelation within pairs and in patterns of prescriptive allegiance exist which are not bipolar.  What prescriptions represent more than anything else is the approach taken to the psychological subject-matter, the attitude of an individual, group or even an age.  Watson lists 18 such prescriptions:

            1.  Conscious mentalism - Unconscious mentalism.  Is the emphasis on conscious mental processes or on processes below the level of conscious awareness?  For example, are our motives conscious or do we act on the basis of unconscious wishes and desires?  The theory or individual who held more to unconscious  explanations would be more to the unconscious mentalism end of the dimension.

            2.  Contentual objectivism - Contentual subjectivism.  Are the acceptable data (contents) for psychology considered to be behavioral; externally objectifiable acts or are they considered to be internal, subjective experiences or activities?

            3. Determinism - Indeterminism.  Are psychological events pre-determined by previous events or are they independent of such conditions?  The concept that humans have free will, that is, that they can make judgments independent of influences around them is a position of indeterminism.  A theory that held there was no free will, that individuals make judgment strictly in response to influences beyond the individual would be a determinism.

            4. Empiricism - Rationalism.  Is the primary source of our knowledge through experience (empiricism) or is it already in us, to be released through the power of reason (rationalism)?

            5.  Functionalism - Structuralism.  Are the relevant categories of psychology in terms of the activities of mind, what mind does for us (functional) or in terms of ideas, the contents of mind (structural)?  For example, functionally oriented psychologists emphasize what mind does for us in adapting to the environment.  Structurally oriented psychologists emphasize what mind is, the experiences that make it up.

            6.  Inductivism - Deductivism.  Does investigation begin with observations, constructing the more complex concepts from the simpler (induction) or are there assumed truths or general principles from which specific expectancies are derived (deductive)?

            7.  Mechanism - Vitalism.  Are psychological phenomena explainable in terms of mechanical or physio-chemical processes (mechanism) or is there some other determinant beyond mechanical nature operating, such as a soul (vitalism)?

            8.  Methodological objectivism - Methodological subjectivism.  Are the methods used so designed as to be socially verifiable or are the methods employed used to obtain subjective and not necessarily externally verifiable results?  The method of behaviorism is methodological objectivism, that of introspection is methodological subjectivism.

            9.  Molecularism - Molarism.  Are the data that make the whole of psychological phenomena describable in small units such as elements (molecularism) or in larger units (molarism)?

            10.  Monism - Dualism.  Is the basic underlying principle of psychological phenomena of one kind or of two kinds?  For instance, one form of psychological monism states that mind and body are not two things but only one -- body.  Mind in this view is nothing more than the function of the brain.  The dualist view would say that mind and body (experience vs. brain processes) are two qualitatively different events, which may or may not be directly related in some way.

            11.  Naturalism - Supernaturalism.  Can psychological phenomena be sufficiently explained in natural terms or is there a need for explanations that transcend experience, for forces beyond our direct knowledge?

            12.  Nometheticism - Idiographicism.  Is the emphasis on discovering general concepts or laws or is it in explaining particular events or investigating individuals?  Nomothetic approaches emphasize the average behavior of large groups while the idiographic emphasizes factors that may be unique to one individual or one class of individuals.

            13.  Peripheralism - Centralism.  Is the emphasis upon explaining psychological events at the periphery of the organism or is it in the more central recesses of the brain?  A peripheralist explanation of visual phenomena would emphasize the role of the retina, for instance, where a centralist explanation might deal with cortical currents.

            14.  Purism - Utilitarianism.  Is knowledge sought for its own sake (purism) or to be applied toward some goal (utilitarianism)?

            15.  Quantitativism - Qualitativism.  Are the descriptions or data reducible to numerical form or is it in terms of qualitative differences, differences in kind rather than in amount?

            16.  Rationalism - Irrationalism.  Is the emphasis upon data supposed to follow the dictates of good sense and intellect (rational thought) or are there intrusions or domination of emotional and conative factors on the intellectual process?  Is man ruled by his intellect (rationalism) or by his emotions (irrationalism)?

            17.  Staticism - Developmentalism. Is the emphasis on a cross-sectional view, across individuals at one age or time (staticism) or is it longitudinal, how individuals or groups change over time (developmentalism)?

            18.  Staticism - Dynamicism.  Is the emphasis on enduring aspects or upon change and the factors making for change?

            As can be seen, some prescriptions are primarily methodological, expressing favored ways of proceeding, such as the use of rational rather than empirical means of study.  These methodological preferences are shared by later sciences and philosophers.  Other prescriptions are concerned with definition and classification of psychological phenomena.  For example, contentual subjectivism, the idea that psychological data are mental, will be found to dominate for most of the history of psychological thought while contentual objectivism, considering psychological data as behavioral, became prominent only during the twentieth century.

            Prescriptions will be used throughout this book as a descriptive tool to help clarify the differences and similarities among various conceptual positions and their authors.  Not all of the prescriptions are relevant for a given concept or period and some have been more actively studied than others. 




             In delving into the history of a field like psychology, or the history of any other scientific field, for that matter, there are a few things to keep in mind so as not to get lost in the detail or to gloss over ideas that might be of real importance.

            1) First and foremost, remember that a written history is a mediated experience.  The historian is always between you and the historical event.  The historian's preconceptions, the selection of data, and a thousand other factors makes it important to remember that  a given history is according to some particular historian.  This has already been discussed, but it bears repeating.

            2) If an explanation of a complicated historical event seems to be too simple and pat, chances are that it is.  Historical events are seldom neatly packaged affairs.  Usually there are some strings running loose here and there.   It is unfortunate that in historical surveys like this one, in order to cover the broad spectrum of time and events required, we must snip these strings and give more coherence to events than really exists.

            3)  While it is important to understand what a particular writer had to say on a given topic, it is sometimes more important to the understanding of historical progress to know what that writer was thought to have said by those who were influenced by him.  The history of thought, particularly psychological thought, is fraught with misreadings and misunderstandings.  It is often the misunderstandings, what a seminal writer was thought to have said, that had a greater effect on the development of psychological thought rather than what he really said.  Sir Francis Bacon, for instance, is said to have been moved to his extreme empirical view in reaction to his misunderstanding of Aristotle.  The important point is the nature of the "spark" that ignited action leading to developments in the field.

            4) Whether a given psychological theory in the past turns out, in our present perspective, to be true or false is really irrelevant to our study.  To start with, the correctness or falsity of a concept is always from our present context.  The future may consider our context false and reverse all our value judgments about the past.  What should be of importance to us is how a given school of thought or systematic position influenced the thought of its own time and how it deflected the course of psychological thought.  Phrenology, the study of "bumps on your head," is considered by modern psychology to be mere trumpery and illegitimate from beginning to end.  That may be, but as we will see in later chapters, the influence of phrenology on the development of modern psychological thought was perhaps far greater than some other lines of thought contemporaneous with it which we still consider legitimate.

            5) Ideas seldom, if ever, die.  They may go underground for a while, but they will almost always re-emerge, perhaps with a different name and in a different context.  None of the basic concepts on which modern psychology is based is new to this century or even to this millennium.  It is a rash statement to say that a given idea originated with this psychologist or that philosopher.  The origination of ideas is one of the most complicated and least satisfying type of history to read and probably the least reliable.  It is how an idea carries along the flow of psychological thought that should concern us and not who thought of it first.

            6) Human thought, rather than being unlimited and eternally original turns out to be surprisingly limited and repetitive.  There are really only a few basic premises that underlie psychological thought throughout history.  The fact that Watson's prescriptions can analyze psychological thought in so few dimensions points this out quite clearly.




            The term "history" has a variety of meanings and while these terms are often used uncritically by historians and laymen alike, the various uses indicate implicit assumptions about the nature of historical progress.

            Considerations of the dynamic of history, the unseen "force" that moves the events along can be classified in three broad categories, 1) spiritualistic theory, 2) personalistic theory and 3) naturalistic theory.  The spiritualistic view holds that the events of history are brought about by the intervention of some intelligent force beyond mankind.  This intervention by forces beyond man into human events presupposes that human actions are influenced which means spiritualistic theories view human actions to be somewhat under the control of these supernatural forces.  The personalistic view holds that there are some humans who are "great", superior to the common people and who make their own plan the plan of history.  The naturalistic theory holds that there is no plan to history, that events are determined by an interaction of social and physical events.  There are no "greats" in this view.  People are carried along by the flow of these historical vectors, responding to the conditions of their environment.  In an extreme position, this naturalistic view virtually merges into the spiritualistic, where history becomes personified into a being not unlike a god or spirit. 

            Psychology, according to T.S. Kuhn, has no paradigm, no descriptive, explanatory or methodological approach universally held throughout the discipline.  Because of this, analysis of the various approaches to psychological thought requires a multi-dimensional approach.  One such approach discussed was R. I. Watson's prescriptive theory, a set of 18 dimensions with terms at each extreme.  By viewing these dimensions as vectors of human thought, the psychological position of an individual, a school or of an historical era can be analyzed and compared with others.




1Ranke's intent was to encourage historians to be as close to documentary facts as possible.  See, Georg G. Iggers and Konrad von Molike, eds., The Theory and Practice of History. New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1973 for a representative collection of Ranke's writings.

[2]The term "historian" will be used throughout the book to denote both the student of history and the writer of history.

[3]There are many such theories and varieties of theories.  A good general review of the personalistic and naturalistic theories can be found in Sidney Hook, The Hero in History.  Boston: Beacon Press, 1955 (1943).

[4]E.G. Boring, "Great Men and Scientific Progress,"  Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1950, 94, 339.

[5]Francis Galton.  Hereditary Genius:  An Inquiry into its Laws and Consequences.  London:  Macmillan, 1892.

[6]See, for instance, the second and third chapters in  Herbert Spencer, The Study of Sociology,  London: C.K. Paul, 1873.

[7]Thomas Carlyle.  On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History.  New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1976, 2.

[8]Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.  tr. Constance Garnett.  New York:  Random House, ND, Pt. 9, I, 565.

[9]Tolstoy, War and Peace, 566.

[10]Tolstoy, War and Peace, 565.

[11]Boring, A History of Experimental Psychology.  New York:  Appleton Century Crofts, 2nd ed., 1950, 3-5.

[12]Dorothy Ross, The "Zeitgeist" and American Psychology,  Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 1969, 5, 256 - 262.

[13]Karl Marx,**

[14]Marx, Gesamte Werke, Vol. 13, 8 - 9.  Quoted in Helmut Fleischer, Marxism and History.  Tr. Eric Mosbacher.  New York:  Harper and Row, 1969, 144.

[15]Thomas Kuhn.  Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1970, 2nd Ed., 1970.

[16]Robert I. Watson, "Prescriptions as Operative in the History of Psychology,"  Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 1971, 7, 311 - 322.