Wholeseome Suspicion

THE HISTORY OF PSYCHOLOGY. By W. H. Pillsbury, Ph.D. (W. W. Norton & Co., inc (New York).

THINKS to the popularization of Freudianism and the growing demand for eight-cylinder salesmanship, it is quite a la mode to indulge in pschologizing these days. Nearly everybody seems to be doing it more or less. To the generality psychology often seems to signify the process of discovering highly reprehensible “com-plexes in the other fellow and explaining the apparent best of him in terms of mean motives. To the go-getter it seems to signify a bag is smooth tricks whereby a prospective victim may be induced to buy something he really doesn’t want and can’t afford. (One of the most amusing indoor sports is that of being streanuously pscyhology by a tyro with something to all whose own mental processes is as transparent as a pane of glass.

But it is not only we of the general public who seem to be confused as to this matter of psychology. Even those who cheerily confess that they are experts differ so greatly in alleged fundamentals as to make a layman wonder what the deuce they know about the knower, anyhow. But rash new theory is propounded with such an air of triumphant finality, and such a blare of publicly trumpets that considerable sections of the reading public are certain to accept the latest as the last.

Under the circumstances, it might be well for the generality of us to spend some time in reviewing the history of men’s guesses on the subject by way of arriving at a welcome suspicion. Dr. Pillsbury’s work here noted offers any wonder of average understanding at valuable opportunity. For nine years Dr. Pillsbury was professor of philosophy and director of the psychological laboratory at Cornell University. In 1910 he was elected president of the American Psychological Association. He lectured in psychology at Columbia and in 1923 he was exchange professor at the Sorbonne, Paris. It is now in charge of the department of psychology at the University of Michigan.

Beginning with pre Socratic thinkers Dr. Pillsbury sets forth in a direct and easily readable manner “the story of the development of the interpretation man has put upon his acts and his thinking” through the ages. He ends with Watson in America and Kuhler in Europe. It is a long way, as we view time from the Atomists to the Behaviorists, from Demokritos to Watson: but if these may be regarded as representative of the beginning and the end of thinking about the human mind, many a reader is likely to wonder if any real progress has been made. Happily, as Dr. Pillsbury’s story shows, these are not the beginning and the end. Fashions come and go in theorizing as in everything else, and the time-mood determines the prevailing direction of search. It is not improbably that along the way somewhere some thinker now neglected, may have come much nearer to the truth we seek than either the ancient or the modern mechanist. For a wild guess, Fechner might be named in this connection. And there was one F. W. H. Myers who, naturally enough considering the highly “practical” persuasion of our day, is not mentioned at all by Dr. Pillsbury.