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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

JUNE, 1908




THE MOVEMENT TOWARDS "PHYSIOLOGICAL" PSYCHOLOGY. I
By Professor R. M. WENLEY

UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

LIKE many words of broad sweep and intensive significance, the term "soul" has descended to us laden with centuries of righteousness—and iniquity. Even yet some folk roll it as a sweet morsel under the tongue; while others, seeing it is neither hot nor cold, would spew it from their mouths forthwith. Consequently, whereas the very title "psychology" means a study of the soul, to-day one seldom hears the too suggestive name inside a psychological laboratory, for there we have no inclination to the double entendre. And the impression has gone abroad that this altered attitude dates from very recent times. Accordingly, it is necessary to point out, first, that traces of a psychology rooted in physiology, that is, of psychology as a natural science, did not begin yesterday, indeed, they may be said to antedate physiology itself. Thus, while it may be needless to consider Pythagoras's alleged discovery, that the tones in an octave are results of relations between physiological movements capable of numerical measurement, or Aristotle's extraordinary prevision, of the study of xxx as a matter for the physiologist,[1] we can not omit reference to post-Renascence thought.

As happens so often, especially when a recent movement attains its heyday, the "heroes before Agamemnon" are apt to be robbed of all credit. Flushed by the success of experimental methods, some have tended to forget that the forerunners did but what they could. To accuse them of interrogating themselves "without information, experience, apparatus, or means of procedure,"[2] to blame them for their inexactness and mysticism, or for their subservience to preconceived beliefs, to individual fancies and predilections, is to evince lack of

  1. De Anima, I., i., 403a 25.
  2. "German Psychology of To-day," Th. Ribot, p. 5 (Eng. trans.).