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WHAT IS THE MIND? By G. T. W. Patrick. (Macmillian).

IT IS probable that no one who read “The Psychology of Relaxation,” which appeared some-thing like 15 years ago, has forgotten Dr. Patrick, even though his later work, “The World and Its Meaning,” may have been overlooked in the literary confusion of the day. That was a genuine light-giving book, and when one looks back over the past quarter of a century it is surprising to note how few, relatively, are the works that one remembers in that way.

In his latest offering, “What is the Mind?”, Dr. Patrick runs true to form, having a very definite contribution to make. Briefly stated, he offers here a constructive criticism of behaviorism in its extreme Watsonian form, denying nothing of the immediate practical results of that theory, but showing why it must be regarded merely as a foundation for a far more comprehensive conception of human psychology.

In commenting on John B. Watson’s latest dissertation on his pet thesis that mind is no more than “gut reactions” to physical stimuli, this writer ventured to remark that the dogmatic mechanist in our day, far from being “advanced,” is really a long way behind the scientific procession. Dr. Patrick’s discussion of the mind supports the remark in no doubtful way, and shows in what direction the vanguard of the scientific army is now moving.

The earlier portion of the work is given over to a survey of the various conceptions of mind and [?] that have been held from Plato to John B. Watson. The author then examines the several forms of the behavioristic theory thence launching forth upon his constructive criticism. “Since so much is made of behavior,” he says, “onecannot understand why the springs of behavior are so constantly ignored. Too much emphasis is placed upon the organism as a mere stimulus and response mechanism, a sensory-motor reaction system and too little attention is given to its spontaneity and initiative.” He shows why consciousness in spite of the mechanistic psychologist’s determination to ignore “is a distinct feature of the mind and its position though subordinate, cannot be ignored.” Another error of radical behaviorism, as Dr. Patrick points out, “is its strong philosophical bend, its determination to show that there is some peculiar prerogative about the laws of physics and chemistry, [?] them power to explain everything in the universe.” (This exaggerated faith in physical science as a universal explainer has been called the characteristic superstition of our time.)

Dr. Patrick insists that “the [?] step in clearing up the situation is to unlearn our lesson of the nineteenth century that the REAL things of the world are certain so-called entities, such as inert and passive matter, or the motion of such matter in space. Matter and motion it was said, are the real things in the world, while life and mind are secondary and derived. This is the lesson that we have to unlearn —In the first place, there are no inert and passive atoms or elements and in the second place, reality is found not alone in elements, but in happenings and events and in the quailties, powers and activities which proceed from structure.”

Thus we are led to the vital point in Dr. Patrick’s book, a consideration of organisms, as distinguished from the original components thereof, and the new values that come into being as a result of organic structure. Mind, consciousness, Dr. Patrick contends are such new “emergents” and can no more be explained by the most careful analysis of the unrelated component parts of the human organism than the phenomenon of life can be captured and examined by cutting a living body into pieces and killing it in the process.

The argument in support of this conception of mind as an “emergent” in organic evolution is so clearly and persuasively stated that anyone capable of sustained attention should be able to follow it. Here and there one might ask why such arguments are of any practical value. The answer will be obvious to those who get what Dr. Patrick is driving at, and it is concerned with the difference between progressive humanness and progressive brutality. Men cannot but live by their conceptions of themselves and the world, and the result of persuading men that there is nothing in humanity more significant than “gut squirmings” need not be discussed.

The strong drift of modern thinking toward the organismic view of man and the world is the most hopeful sign of the times for it is a drift away from the anarchic, the purely analytical obsesssion that is playing havoc with all values. That it is not merely an isolated movement among visionaries is proved by the fact that the same drift toward the organic conception in economics has already gone far. The effect of this drift upon popular notions and attitudes cannot be pronounced until its corresponding movement in the economic world shall have reshaped the general social pattern. But when the new conception, now developing in a few of the better minds of the world, shall have percolated into the general consciousness as an unconsidered persuasion, then there will be considerably less of the idiotic in our literature, art and ethics, and far more meaning in life than is now discernible.