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J., E. (1924). An Outline of Psychology: By William McDougall, F.R.S. (Methuen & Co., London. Pp. 456. Price 12 s. net.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:496-498.

(1924). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 5:496-498

An Outline of Psychology: By William McDougall, F.R.S. (Methuen & Co., London. Pp. 456. Price 12 s. net.)

Review by:
E. J.

The products of this interesting and prolific writer become increasingly reactionary in tendency, and increasingly charged with uncontrolled emotion, two features possibly not unrelated. Apparently enraged by noticing how 'rampant' in America are the antics of what he terms 'a most mis-shapen and beggarly dwarf, namely, behaviourism', as well as cognate developments in psychology, he enters here a passionate plea for a return from all mechanistic, i.e. scientific, psychology to what he well calls 'purposive psychology'. We say 'well calls', for it becomes more and more plain as one reads the book that, though what he intends to assert is that the materials of his psychology, i.e. the working of the mind, are purposive, it is the psychology itself which, as unconsciously indicated in the phrase, is really purposive.

McDougall points out that there are two principal alternative routes of approach to psychology: '(1) that of mechanistic science, which interprets all its processes as mechanical sequences of cause and effect, and (2) that of the sciences of mind, for which purposive striving is a fundamental category, which regard the process of purposive striving as radically different from mechanical sequence' (p. vii). He insists, and we would agree, that the question of the relative merits of these two routes is 'the most important issue before psychologists at the present time, the one which divides them most fundamentally'. It then appears that 'purposive psychology' is little more than a new name for the belief in a self-creating independent soul and in free will; in other words, that it is another form of vitalism. By the favourite expedient of stating it in his own terms, McDougall is able to pronounce the deterministic argument to be 'obviously foolish'.

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