Psychology has a long past, yet its real history is short. For thousands of years it has existed and has been growing older; but in the earlier part of this period it cannot boast of any continuous progress toward a riper and richer development. In the fourth century before our era that giant thinker, Aristotle, built it up into an edifice comparing very favorably with any other science of that ti...
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s edifice stood without undergoing any noteworthy changes or extensions, well into the eighteenth or even the nineteenth century. Only in recent times do we find an advance, at first slow but later increasing in rapidity, in the development of psychology.The general causes which checked the progress of this science and thus made it fall behind the others can readily be stated:—“The boundaries of the Soul you cannot find, though you pace off all its streets, so deep a foundation has it,” runs a sentence of Heraclitus, and it hits the truth more fully than its author could ever have expected. The structures and functions of our mental life present the greatest difficulties to scientific investigation, greater even than those presented by the phenomena, in many respects similar, of the bodily life of the higher organisms. These structures and processes change so unceasingly, are so fleeting, so enormously complex, and dependent on so many factors hidden yet undoubtedly influential, that it is difficult even to seize upon them and describe their true substance, still more difficult to gain an insight into their causal connections and to understand their significance. We are just now beginning to recognize the full force of these difficulties. Wherever in recent years research in any of the many branches of psychology has made any considerable advance,—as in vision, audition, memory, judgment,—the first conclusion reached by all investigators has been, that matters are incomparably finer and richer and fuller of meaning than even a keen fancy would previously have been able to imagine.There is, besides, a second obstacle. However difficult it may be to investigate the nature and causal connections of mental phenomena, everybody has a superficial knowledge of their external manifestations. Long before these phenomena were considered scientifically, it was necessary for practical human intercourse and for the understanding of human character, that language should give names to the most important mental complexes occurring in the various situations of daily life, such as judgment, attention, imagination, passion, conscience, and so forth; and we are constantly using these names as if everybody understood them perfectly. What is customary and commonplace comes to be self-evident to us and is quietly accepted; it arouses no wonder at its strangeness, no curiosity which might lead us to examine it more closely. Popular psychology remains unconscious of the fact that there are mysteries and problems in these complexes. It loses sight of the complications because of the simplicity of the names. When it has arranged the mental phenomena in any particular case under the familiar designations, and has perhaps said that some one has “paid attention,” or has “given free rein to his imagination,” it considers the whole matter explained and the subject closed.To be continue in this ebook...