The materialistic point of view in psychology can claim, at best, only the value of an heuristic hypothesis.— Wilhelm Wundt
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The task of physiological psychology remains the same in the analysis of ideas that it was in the investigation of sensations: to act as mediator between the neighbouring sciences of physiology and psychology.
From the standpoint of observation, then, we must regard it as a highly probable hypothesis that the beginnings of the mental life date from as far back as the beginnings of life at large.
We speak of virtue, honour, reason; but our thought does not translate any one of these concepts into a substance.
Physiology seeks to derive the processes in our own nervous system from general physical forces, without considering whether these processes are or are not accompanied by processes of consciousness.
Philosophical reflection could not leave the relation of mind and spirit in the obscurity which had satisfied the needs of the naive consciousness.
Physiology is concerned with all those phenomena of life that present them selves to us in sense perception as bodily processes, and accordingly form part of that total environment which we name the external world.
Physiology and psychology cover, between them, the field of vital phenomena;
they deal with the facts of life at large, and in particular with the facts of human life.
The distinguishing characteristics of mind are of a subjective sort;
we know them only from the contents of our own consciousness.
There are other sources of psychological knowledge, which become accessible at the very point where the experimental method fails us.
Physiological psychology, on the other hand, is competent to investigate the relations that hold between the processes of the physical and those of the mental life.
Hence, even in the domain of natural science the aid of the experimental method becomes indispensable whenever the problem set is the analysis of transient and impermanent phenomena, and not merely the observation of persistent and relatively constant objects.
Now, there are a very large number of bodily movements, having their source in our nervous system, that do not possess the character of conscious actions.
Contractile movements arise, sometimes at the instigation of external stimuli but sometimes also in the absence of any apparent external influence.
The animal kingdom exhibits a series of mental developments which may be regarded as antecedents to the mental development of man, for the mental life of animals shows itself to be throughout, in its elements and in the general laws governing the combination of the elements, the same as the mental life of man.
On the other hand, ethnic psychology must always come to the assistance of individual psychology, when the developmental forms of the complex mental processes are in question.
Experimental psychology itself has, it is true, now and again suffered relapse into a metaphysical treatment of its problems.
Some say that everything that is called a psychical law is nothing but the psychological reflex of physical combinations, which is made up of sensations joined to certain central cerebral processes... It is contradicted by the fact of consciousness itself, which cannot possibly be derived from any physical qualities of material molecules or atoms.
The general statement that the mental faculties are class concepts, belonging to descriptive psychology, relieves us of the necessity of discussing them and their significance at the present stage of our inquiry.
The attitude of physiological psychology to sensations and feelings, considered as psychical elements, is, naturally, the attitude of psychology at large.
In the animal world, on the other hand, the process of evolution is characterised by the progressive discrimination of the animal and vegetative functions, and a consequent differentiation of these two great provinces into their separate departments.
Child psychology and animal psychology are of relatively slight importance, as compared with the sciences which deal with the corresponding physiological problems of ontogeny and phylogeny.
Physiological psychology is, therefore, first of all psychology.
Physiology, in its analysis of the physiological functions of the sense organs, must use the results of subjective observation of sensations; and psychology, in its turn, needs to know the physiological aspects of sensory function, in order rightly to appreciate the psychological.
In Aristotle the mind, regarded as the principle of life, divides into nutrition, sensation, and faculty of thought, corresponding to the inner most important stages in the succession of vital phenomena.
We know, from ordinary life, that we are not able to direct our attention perfectly steadily and uniformly to one and the same object... At times the attention turns towards the object most intensely, and at times the energy flags.
Psychology, on the other hand, seeks to give account of the interconnexion of processes which are evinced by our own consciousness, or which we infer from such manifestations of the bodily life in other creatures as indicate the presence of a consciousness similar to our own.
In the course of normal speaking the inhibitory function of the will is continuously directed to bringing the course of ideas and the articulatory movements into harmony with each other. If the expressive movement which which follows the idea is retarded through mechanical causes, as is the case in writing ... such anticipations make their appearance with particular ease.
Hence, wherever we meet with vital phenomena that present the two aspects, physical and psychical there naturally arises a question as to the relations in which these aspects stand to each other.
Thus ordered thinking arises out of the ordered course of nature in which man finds himself, and this thinking is from the beginning nothing more than the subjective reproduction of the regularity according to the law of natural phenomena. On the other hand, this reproduction is only possible by means of the will that controls the concatenation of ideas.
The results of ethnic psychology constitute, at the same time, our chief source of information regarding the general psychology of the complex mental processes.
Many psychologists ... thought by turning their attention to their own consciousness to be able to explain what happened when we were thnking. Or they sought to attain the same end by asking another person a question, by means of which certain processes of thought would be excited, and then by questioning the person about the introspection he had made. It is obvious ... that nothing can be discovered in such experiments.
The old metaphysical prejudice that man 'always thinks' has not yet entirely disappeared. I am myself inclined to hold that man really thinks very little and very seldom.
If we take an unprejudiced view of the processes of consciousness, free from all the so-called association rules and theories, we see at once that an idea is no more an even relatively constant thing than is a feeling or emotion or volitional process. There exist only changing and transient ideational processes ; there are no permanent ideas that return again and disappear again.
Our mind is so fortunately equipped, that it brings us the most important bases for our thoughts without our having the least knowledge of this work of elaboration. Only the results of it become unconscious.
Psychology must not only strive to become a useful basis for the other mental sciences, but it must also turn again and again to the historical sciences, in order to obtain an understanding for the more highly developed metal processes.
Now the word-symbols of conceptual ideas have passed so long from hand to hand in the service of the understanding, that they have gradually lost all such fanciful reference.