Psychology Defined
William James


Psychology is the description and explanation . . .

that is,
the study of the causes, conditions, and immediate consequences
so far as these can be ascertained,

of states of consciousness . . .

such as sensations, desires, emotions, cognitions, reasonings, decision, volitons, and the like.

in human beings.


Psychology is to be treated as a natural science.

As do all natural sciences, psychology assumes that a world of matter [a material world] exists altogether independently of the perceiving mind.

In addition, psychology assumes additional data peculiarly as her own.
These data are:

  1. thoughts and feelings [transitory states of consciousness]
  2. knowledge, gained by way of thoughts and feelings, of other things [these "things" may be material objects and events or other states of mind of oneself or of other people in the present or at other times; i.e.,

    • knowing a thing [procedural knowledge, conditional knowledge],
    • knowing a fact [declarative knowledge],
    • knowing oneself [self-reflection? intrapersonal intelligence?],
    • knowing another's feelings or intentions [particularity? intersubjectivity]

Because psychology is a natural science, it aims to acquire "a provisional body of prpositions [facts and laws] about states of mind [thoughts, feelings, and knowledge] and about the cognitions which they [these states of mind] enjoy."

At "the proper time" these provisions "will work in with the larger truth [that Philosophy will provide] and be interpreted by [the larger truth]..."

Moreover, mental facts cannot be properly studied apart from the physical environment of which they take cognizance. [i.e., thoughts, feelings, and knowledge can only be understood within a social-cultural context -- see Vygotsky, Bandura]

Mental life is primarily teleological [teleology is the view that natural processes are not determined by mechanisms but rather by their utility in an overall natural design; basis of functionalist view].

All states of mind are motor in their consequences.

The immediate condition of a state of consciousness is an activity of some sort in the cerebral hemispheres [physiological basis for behavior--mind as function (effect) of brain (cause)].

The study of psychology may be divided into three fundamental conscious process and their conditions, i.e., the states of consciousness [thinking, feeling, knowing] in correlation with their probable neural conditions].

  1. Sensation - anatomically, the fibres which carry currents [affect].
  2. Cerebration or Intellection - the organs of central redirection of them [cognition].
  3. Tendency to Action - the fibres which carry them out [motor].
from Psychology

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