William McDougall on Psychology, Rationality, Childhood and Civilization (Part 1)

William McDougall on Psychology, Rationality, Childhood and Civilization (Part 1)

In his previous post on W.H.R. Rivers, Simon Cook described Rivers’ complex notion of the interconnection between reason and the instincts and the role of the unconscious as the ‘storehouse’ of these accumulated psychological residues.  With this discovery, psychology had become, according to Rivers, the task of understanding the process through which human beings sort through those habits and instincts acquired through evolution which no longer suited their present environment. Man, through his social evolution, developed new ways of addressing the chaos of the world; this did not mean that the old defenses from terrors disappeared completely.  Rivers’ account of the instincts and the unconscious was an important part of what Simon has christened the ‘Cambridge Mind’, which  from 1860 to 1920 emerged as the principle grounding for a new science of man and society.

This account of mind underscored that instincts and intelligence could be placed within the same scheme where the difference between the two is simply one of degree.  Rivers took this model of mind to mean that the springs of human action, the origins of human behavior, were far less guided by reason alone than had classically been argued, and the behavior of the masses in particular underscored the supremacy of instinct over that of reason.   William McDougall (22 June 1871 – 28 November 1938), one of Rivers’ unjustly neglected students who emigrated to Harvard after being recruited by William James, began from the position of the interconnection between intelligence and instinct. What follows is McDougall’s gloss on the ‘Cambridge Mind.’

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The Grote Club and Beyond

The Grote Club and Beyond

Welcome to our first Grote Club posting.

In future posts John Gibbins will be writing about all aspects of the mid-Victorian philosopher John Grote. John regards Grote as the most overlooked thinker of the last few centuries; and I suspect he has a point. But my own concern is with Grote’s institutional and intellectual legacy.

Grote took over the newly instituted Moral Sciences Tripos in 1855. This was a new venture at the University of Cambridge, at which a liberal education had traditionally consisted of Classics and Mathematics (Oxford did not even have Mathematics). In its first few years the new tripos had been under the guidance of the great Victorian polymath and conservative William Whewell, who had sought to bring moral philosophy into harmony with history and law in order to present a systematic refutation of what he took to be the godless and industrial radicalism of metropolitan moralists like J.S. Mill.

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