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Wisdom, J.O. (1936). The Natural History of Mind: By A. D. Ritchie. (Longmans, London. Pp. viii + 286. Price 15 s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 17:384-385.

(1936). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 17:384-385

The Natural History of Mind: By A. D. Ritchie. (Longmans, London. Pp. viii + 286. Price 15 s.)

Review by:
J. O. Wisdom

Mr. Ritchie's study is pre-eminently naturalistic: 'using the physical and biological sciences as far as they will go and then if they do not go far enough in themselves using whatever methods are possible, still within the sphere of natural knowledge'. He rejects theories according to which philosophy 'begins as the theory of knowledge and finishes up as a revised version of the first chapter of Genesis', and counters them by the view 'that mind is a product of the natural world and is still redolent of the pit out of which it was digged'. Before pursuing this theme, Mr. Ritchie puts forward some cogent remarks on Causation. His main contention is that however we dispense with the conception in science, the notion of pushing brought about by a human agent is always presupposed, and that no view of the mind which overlooks this can be sound.

Three chapters are devoted to physiology and biology, mainly to clear the ground: 'psychology and physiology are haunted still by a theory of reflexes derived from Descartes. … In effect Descartes conceived the animal organism as a very complicated mechanical doll—you press the button and the figure moves. He was obliged to allow for mind, at least in man; so the mind was a homunculus who sat in the brain and pulled the strings from inside'. Mr. Ritchie has a pithy style.

It would be a mistake to infer that Mr. Ritchie is a Behaviourist. He considers that Behaviourism is a narrower theory than is warranted by the natural sciences, that it is based, in fact, on an entirely inadequate physiology—as well as being blind to the human side of behaviour. In order to pursue this matter Mr. Ritchie turns to Freud. The section which follows is far from the best in the book. Mr. Ritchie no longer maintains the high standard in just remarks which he set himself. Tribute is indeed paid to the psycho-analysts, and they are even rated above academic psychologists. 'It must be accounted to the psycho-analysts for righteousness that they have not been afraid to make fools of themselves. The academic psychologists have been so anxious to be respectable and to be treated as real scientists that they have never dared let themselves go. The result has been that they have produced dull myths instead of exciting ones, but they have been myths all the same.'

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