Psychology in America: James and Pragmatism

The Social Context in United States of America

Leahey (2001). Decribes the background of : Revolution, liberty, capitalism, "the American Dream", the "wild west", civil war, Ripley, Fowler's Phrenology

 Scottish "Common Sense" Philosophy: Logic and Morals

 Benjamin Franklin - Natural man -Enlightenment electricity

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): American Romanticism, transcendentalism

Ralph Waldo Emmerson: Self reliance

Henry David Thoreau: Waldon

The Boston Metaphysical Club (1871-72)

Oliver Wendel Holmes (1841-1935)
Chauncy Wright (1830-1875)
Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914):
Physicist & Logician
Pragmatism: No certainty, only "practical significance"

Thoughts function to produce actions and "effects"
Meaning (& truth) are found in consequences to living

William James (1842-1910) The founder of American Psychology

Conway (1992): Identity crisis and two worldviews
Natural scientist and Humanist
Tough minded and Tender minded

(Henry Sr & Swedenborg)

1875 Informal psychological laboratory

 The Principles of Psychology (1890)

Methods and snares of psychology: Language...

The Self

"a man's Self is the sum total of all that he CAN call his,
not only his body and his psychic powers, but his
clothes and his house, his wife and children,
his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works,
his lands and horses, and yacht and bank account"

 Self is both:

"I"      and      "Me(Bodily, Social , Spiritual)

Subjective       vs.       Objective
           vs.       Known
            vs.       Content


Two kinds of knowledge: Acquaintance & Knowledge About

Acquaintance                       Knowledge About
Immediately intuitive            Descriptively conceptual

        Spiritual self
: Thoughts, hypotheses and conceptions of the world and the self

          Social self: Recognitions and reputations (fames and honours) and "club opinions"

         Material self: Feeling of "warmth" or intimacy for body and possessions

Hierarchy of conceptions of including moral ones


The "I": The stream of consciousness

    1. Every thought tends to be part of a personal consciousness
    2. Within each personal consciousness thought is always changing
    3. Within each personal consciousness thought is sensibly continuous
    4. It always appears to deal with objects independent of itself (Intentionality)
    5. It is interested in some parts of these objects to the exclusion of others (Choice)

    Jame's Self still very relevant to contemporary theoretical psychology

Functions for survival
Metaphor of flashlight (attention)


"The bodily changes follow directly the perception
of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the
same changes as they occur IS the emotion"

The will to believe (1892)

"an essay in justification of faith, a defense of our right to adopt a believing attitude"

Radical Empiricism: Facts as hypotheses revisable by experience

The varieties of religious experience (1902)

"Religion... shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude,
so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to what ever they may consider the divine

Discusses topics of: Religion and neurology, healthy mindedness, conversion, and mysticism

Pragmatism (1907): Camping with Squirrels and Philosophers

A method for settling metaphysical disputes
whose orientation of attitude is "looking forward
towards to last things
, fruits, consequences, facts"

 Note: May have "conversion" of self through letting go of "older truths" for new ones (world order).

" . . . if you should expose to a converting influence a subject in whom three factors unite: first, pronounced emotional sensibility; second, tendency to automatisms; third, suggestibility of the passive type ... sudden conversion" (James, 1902, p.194, emphasis added).


Hugo Munsterberg (1863-1916): Motor Theory of Consciousness
Consciousness is an epiphenomenon to the physiological process

 Neo-Realism& the Motor Theory of Consciousness (Leahey, 2001) Represented a step towards the loss of consciousness in psychology

        Thaddeus Bolton (1902): Mind is publicly observable through bodily action

     James Roland Angell (1869-1949): Adjustive Functionalism

                Functionalism (3 meanings):
                        Mind as a biological function: Adapting
                        Consciousness as a physiological function: MTC
                       Socially useful for education mental hygiene, abnormal states

Heath Bawden: Consciousness under circumstance of challenge "Accomadatory process" of adjustments to challenges

Ralph Barton Perry (1876-1957)
Can publicly read the contents of consciousness through:
Analogous states, "Expert knowledge",
Bodily sensations (No mind)

Edgar Singer (1873-1954)
Succeeded Munsterberg with a reductionistic MTC

E. B. Holt (1873-1946)
Consciousness: Reduced to a specific response
to an object in the environment
 (Leahey, 1994)


G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924): Firsts for American Psychology

First American PhD. Philosopher/Psychologist
Professionalized the Discipline of Psychology and established:
American Journal of Psychology
Pedagogical Seminary (1891)
The American Psychological Association (1892)
Journal of Religious Psychology (1904)
Journal of Applied Psychology (1916)

    Instrumental in bringing Freud and Jung to USA (1909)


John Dewey (1859-1952):
Instrumentalism & Progessive

Colleague of George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)
            who studied with Dilthey, Wundt, & James

Mind, Self and Society: Symbolic interactionism
Internalization of society: "Generalized Other"

1894 Chair of department of philosophy, psychology & education

 1896 "Reflex Arc": Critique of reductionism in psychology

Nature consists of a continuity of evolved Transactions

  1. Human experience: Language, communication, community
  2. Psychophysical: Functional theory of consciousness
  3. Physicochemical: Physiology and physics

Holism is central to the experience of these "plateaus" of action

 Mind is instrumental in adaptations of self and society

Aesthetic qualities are essential to all experience

Knowledge (inquiry) is based upon self correcting
interpretations that are situated within community contexts

 Learning by doing: Education based upon Praxis & teleology
fair mindedness, openness, courage, character
Phronesis: Ethical knowledge of practical action is highest virtue

 Legacy is to have a big impact on educational psychology

Women in the early history of psychology in America

In general women were not permitted to join academic psychology programs including research networks and associations. Most were accepted only to tertiary institutions and "normal schools" (Walsh, Teo, Baydala, 2014. However,....

Mary Whiton Calkins
Founded lab at Wellesley (1891)

APA president in 1905
Paired Associate technique
Theoretical system of Self

 Christine Ladd-Franklin
Theory of Colour vision
comparable to Aristotle


Margaret Floy Washburn
First woman to achieve PhD. in psychology
The Animal Mind

APA president 1921

1906 - These 3 were among 50 psychologists in "Men of Science"