EARLY AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY
QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED IN MODULE 2
1. What is the difference between belief in free will and belief in determinism?
2. What is the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism and their respective impacts upon science?
3. What were the two major institutional religions in colonial United States? How did they differ in their assumptions about human nature?
4. What was the Puritan-Congregational movement, and how did it indirectly give support to both education and democracy?
5. How did Puritanism parallel the German psychology of consciousness?
6. How did northern and southern schools in the United States differ regarding social and educational philosophy?
In addition to the philosophies of Kant and Herbart, there were other German influences, like those stemming from German religion, which gradually influenced American psychology. Germany had been the home of Leibnitz in the seventeenth century. It was also the home of Luther in the sixteenth century, when the Protestant Reformation was beginning. Just as Kant had managed to save philosophy from dissolution, Luther had managed to save religion. What grew out of Luther's religious philosophy was a kind of personal rather than a ritualistic religion. One movement, known as German Pietism, became the foundation for other personal movements -- the British Wesleyan movement and the American Great Awakening. Let us examine German Pietism first, and then move on to the other great social-religious movements of the century.
Pietism, as a German movement, was primarily identified with the work of Philipp Spener (1635-1705) and August Francke (1663-1727). The movement was primarily interested in regeneration and in religious experience rather than intellectual development. Ecclesiastical formalities were rejected. German Pietism was really a second Protestant reformation connected with Bohemian Bretheran, the Moravian church, and Lutheran evangelism. Its impact was felt in the United States when Pennsylvania settlers in need of pastors sent to Europe for German ministers.
PROTESTANTISM VS. CATHOLICISM AND IMPACT UPON SCIENCE
Scholars in the sociology of science, notably Robert Merton, Max Weber, Tawney, and others, maintain that the Protestant experience tended to encourage scientific activity while the Catholic experience tended to retard it. The rationale is based on the assumption that Protestantism is relatively free of while Catholicism is inextricably bound to restrictive traditionalism. Science, in the search for new information, dismantles established tradition whenever and wherever the facts might decree. As Niebuhr (1961) suggests, Protestantism has been more dynamic and in process; whereas Catholicism has been more static and structural.
A second reason why Protestantism has been more congenial with science is that the Protestant ethic values work as a sign of salvation while the Catholic ethic maintains that all persons are eligible for the good life and for salvation. Both hard work and scientific activity are associated with increased productivity and social changes for the betterment of mankind.
Some writers disagree that Protestantism supports science. Greaves (1969) claims that science's democratic ethic did not stem from the Protestant movement, since the latter contained considerable hierarchicalism, as evidenced by the hierarchical church structures of the Puritans and Presbyterians. Greaves, however, does not seem to recognize that Congregationalism and Presbyterianism were different sects, and that the latter was not strictly a Puritan group. Further, it was the Puritan groups in and around Cambridge, England, which supported the Royal Society and its advancements of science and inductive learning. The hierarchicalism of the Presbyterians was centered in Scotland where considerable emphasis was placed upon scholastic learning. Their deterministic point of view, however, was not completely inconsistent with the assumptions of science.
RELIGION AND PSYCHOLOGY IN THE UNITED STATES
The influence of religion upon psychology was perhaps more marked in the United States than in any other country. The founding religious principles of America influenced, in turn, the political, educational, and social climate and inevitably the psychological thought of the country. These principles, while not always unified, did stem from a common source. The source was religious character. It is the source and its resulting divergent religious views which we first examine. That a relationship exists between religion and psychology in the United States is not always obvious. Most psychologists, with the possible exception of William James and some of the contemporary third force psychologists, have avoided any discussion of either religion and human behavior or religion and its influence on cultural history. It must be clear, however, to any student of American history, that institutionalized religion was a primary force in the emergence of the new country. From early Spanish history and the exploratory and missionary work of the Catholic Jesuits and Franciscan monks, to the settlement of English Puritans in New England, the founding of schools of higher education by most every major religious group, and the revival meetings of the nineteenth century American frontier, the impact of religion has been major. The development of psychology in the United States has been almost exclusively academic. Psychologists emerged from and were employed by only two academic departments -- philosophy and education. Only during the last thirty years has psychology emerged as an independent discipline in the majority of colleges and universities in the country.
The two major religious thrusts in colonial United States were Congregationalism and Presbyterianism. The similarities between these two denominations encouraged many common activities, since both denominations were separatists from the Anglican Church of England, the original European reformation movement.1 The Congregational movement, however, was more informal and plain. Presbyterianism, more formal, stood midway between Congregationalism and Anglicanism. The early Puritans were separatists, plain and straight forward. The Presbyterians, which were the Scotch-Irish part of the reformation, later joined the Puritans in the United States. The two groups eventually merged their missionary movements when moving across the country to the West.
The Congregational movement had wide and deep roots during America's early development. Congregationalism and Puritanism were essentially the same thing; both were essentially British and directly related to the English reformation.
The Puritans, so called because they argued for purity in interpretation of the Bible, emerged during the reign of Elizabeth as followers of Calvin, a Frenchman.2 Calvin believed that only a preordained chosen few were saved. As the Augsburg Confession made amply clear, good works did not produce salvation. The only way to tell whether you were chosen was by hard work and thrift. Two major issues stood out as part of the reformation. First, was the claim by Luther that nothing should stand between a man and his God. Popes, priests, and special classes should not claim special insights or use the confessional to obtain personal knowledge and thereby possess a means of controlling others. The clear voice of God came only through the Bible, not through the interpretations of the clergy. The natural conclusion was that each man should be his own leader. Some of the Anglicans, uneasy about losing privileged authority, welshed on this point and claimed that the Bible was sometimes confused; some interpretation, after all, is usually necessary. Puritans, however, held that if the Bible remains the sole source of knowledge, then the Bible should remain pure and unmodified by the interpretations of men. This, of course, led to extensive debate about the literality of the Bible. And the Puritans did not shy from the hard work demanded by such a thorough investigation.
The second major consequence of the reformation, following from the belief that each man had direct access to God, was that favored classes should have no privileged rights. Since the clergy should have no special rights, political figures should have none either. The divine rights of kings was overthrown; the first English civil war began, and the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, sympathetic to the Congregational church, emerged.
The main thrust of the Puritan revolt centered on the interpretation of the Bible. Since good works would not get you into heaven, a strong rationalism was the result. The word became the important thing. Each person, therefore, must understand and interpret the word. Comprehension and interpretation, not action, were the basic ingredients of Puritanism. A Puritan read the Bible, said the prayers, sang the songs; the minister read the scripture, spoke the word of God, studied the word in a seminary, and educated the young for a life of the church.
Since difficult concepts were not shied away from, but were taught forthrightly, classical education was highly valued (Miller, 1938). This led to an excessive kind of anti-popularization. Puritans were not interested in the popular, the easy, or the routine. Since the Bible was old and had influenced much of classical literature, the old and the traditional were preserved, to which students turned their attention. Liberal education and Congregationalism emphasized the importance of Latin and Greek classical literature, to the exclusion of more modern and popular works. Puritanism had a very strong investment in rationalism, the foundation of much of American philosophy at the grass roots level. From this Congregational soil sprung the great preachers, writers, theologians, and educators of America. This Puritan rationalism became almost excessive. Since all persons had the potential for comprehension (the clergy were not the privileged few), intellectualism was threatened (Miller, 1938). If all persons in a community could understand, need for an intellectual class or for the development of purely intellectual skills was unnecessary. Education was not limited to the elite; education was for all.
Eventually, a great wave of interest in public education ensued, beginning first in the Sunday Schools, then the mission schools, and eventually any group regardless of economic or social position. Education was plain and straightforward. Gone was the elaborate logic of the Catholic church. Education required only ". . . a student on one end of a pine log and Mark Hopkins on the other." No special skills, abilities, or equipment were required for the successful transmission of a lesson -- just sheer concentration and attention on the part of the student and good logic on the part of an instructor. A natural outcome of this was the development by Pressey of teaching machines in the 1920's, programmed learning by Skinner in the 1950's, and personalized system of instruction by Keller in the 1970's.
It was common belief that all persons could profit equally from educational training, but it was also clear that effort and stamina were not equally distributed. Subsequently, a social stratification emerged. The educated did lead and the ignorant did follow. Although no fixed or static hierarchy existed, some individuals did appear to take the initiative in developing their God-given capacity to become educated.
Values in American society, then, were based on rational rather than emotional foundations, leading to a certain seriousness about life. All of this emphasis upon the word, upon education, and upon preparation for an educated elite was the bulwark of the American colonies. It forms the background against which the activists, existentialists, phenomenologists, and those advocating relevant, alternative, and practical education, so sonorous in the 70's, hurled attacks.
This excessive concern with the abstractions of rationalism contrasted with another movement gaining momentum both on the continent and in England. This other movement, known as Arminianism, raised the spirit or soul or dynamic part of human nature above that of the rational. Arminianism advocated freedom of choice, will, and the force of the inner self. Sometimes this inner self was represented by actions, speakings, or feelings which surfaced. Wesley, Franklin, Whitefield and others were all sympathetic to this new movement. Whitefield subsequently influenced the development of the University of Pennsylvania along these very lines.
This emphasis on the spirit and soul as against the rationality of man, did not emerge in psychology again until the advent of humanistic psychology in the 1960's though William James, an advocate of tender minded psychology who encouraged a return to more humanistic approaches, was among the few exceptions. For the most part, behaviorism successfully dominated the major American psychological work. And Freudian psychology, popular as it became in the 1930's and later, only served to further entrench psychology in mechanistic ideology.
Against this rising interest in spirit, the Congregationalists made an attack. The attack was in the form of the Great Awakening, led by Jonathan Edwards. Edwards (1703-58), a Presbyterian, had defended Calvinism against Arminianism in a Boston address in 1731. Edwards saw a growing liberalism which advocated free will, and he claimed that there was no "freedom of the will," since both liberty and will were powers and that one power could not be a power of another. One was free to choose, but not free to desire. Desire, a power, existed by definition. One could choose a thing, but one could not choose to will. It was this distinction between choice of things and choice of will which Edwards attempted to make. While Edwards was more of a monist, later writers proceeded to make the mind tripartite, to separate out volition and thus save freedom of the will.
This more conservative branch of religion was represented in the founding of Princeton University, where Jonathan Edwards was called as the first president, though he died before he was established there. But Princeton was the conservative answer to the rising liberalism of Union Theological Seminary, founded by the liberal wing of the Presbyterian church.
An even more liberal form of religion was the breaking away from Congregationalism by those known as Unitarians. Harvard University, as a result, became infiltrated by Unitarians. Schools ranged from liberal to more conservative, from Unitarian (Harvard) to Congregational (Yale) to Presbyterian (Princeton). We now see the early Puritans (Congregationalists) going in two different directions -- the more liberal, toward Unitarianism; the more conservative, toward Presbyterian. Thus, one might say that the political climate of the Eastern seaboard became more conservative as it moved south, from Massachusetts to Connecticut to New Jersey, and eventually to the schools in the southern states.
Other Congregational ministers included Henry Durant and Daniel Gilman of the University of California, who came out from Yale. John D. Pierce who set up the educational system in the state of Michigan and the plan for the University of Michigan, and Finney of Oberlin College were also leading Congregationalists. It is no wonder that Oberlin was the first college to admit women. And it was one of the first to admit African American students and a major center on the undergraound railroad for southern Negro slaves escaping to the north.
Another attack made upon the "Protestant-leads to science" hypothesis is that the mechanistic deterministic position of science was not congruent with Puritan doctrine (Greaves, 1969). This is quite true. However, the Puritans were interested in deterministic explanations of almost everything. Calvinistic doctrine clearly emphasized pre-determinism. The best illustration of this is found in the preachings of Jonathan Edwards, who staunchly maintained that both the universe and human behavior were predictable.
American philosophy shifted from Unitarianism to transcendentalism during the first half of the nineteenth century. It was a shift from empiricism to nativism; from Locke to Kant; from determinism to indeterminism. Transcendentalism supported a pioneer culture preparing to conquer an expanding new world. What was needed was individualism, faith in the inherent capacity to succeed, belief in the special qualities of the human condition, and a conviction that man could, while defying the laws of nature, accomplish his end. Such convictions were bold, and they were more than just Puritan defenses necessary to sustain life and preserve ideals. Strong was the desire to conquer a continent and forge a new world. God was a primary force in this new system, but he was more a personal being than a feared judge.
The transcendental period stretched from the 1830's until the latter part of the nineteenth century. Then, Darwin's theory of natural selection challenged the conception of man as an angel or a superman. He was neither; he was a common, two legged animal, perhaps a little more complex than the rest but not basically different. During those earlier fifty years, when Americans believed in both itself and its country, it generated romanticism of a high quality. During that period, and especially during the 1830's Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was the idol of the younger set (Clark, in Miller, 1950). His reference to books and to biography reflected the tenor of the times. "This history of the world," he said in 1841, "is but the biography of great men." To understand the world and one's place, one then must understand the men. Attention was directed less to abstractions and more to individual events and the actual affairs of the common man. Third force psychology has successfully reintroduced such a point of view in the 1960's after Allport's unsuccessful attempt to do so in the 1930's.
The other major branch of Protestantism was Presbyterianism, formed in Scotland and moved later to northern Ireland. If one were to identify common national religions, it would be the French Calvinists, as Hugenots; the Germans, Lutherans; the British, Puritans; and the Scotch-Irish, Presbyterians. Scottish Presbyterianism was known primarily by the work of John Knox, an emigrant from Switzerland to Scotland who earned for himself the reputation of an extremely harsh moralist.
Presbyterianism, with origins in Zurich in 1523, is a theocracy; Christ is the only lawgiver. As a Republican form of government, there are provisions for the election of officers and the vesting of powers in the elders. The resulting church structure is a hierarchy, with at least three classes of members -- ministers, elders, and members.
In the United States, different denominational areas are represented on the Eastern seaboard. The far northern states tended to be more liberal, and hence Congregational. Moving south, the churches become more conservative. Connecticut was originally Congregational but it separated from the Congregationalism of Massachusetts to the north and became more Presbyterian (Sweet, 1939). As Connecticut became more closely related to the middle states, Yale became more conservative in contrast to Harvard.
The Presbyterian theological seminaries were at Princeton, Auburn, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, New York (Union), Chicago (McCormick), San Anselmo (San Francisco), Omaha, and numerous other places including those of the Southern church (E. B., 11th ed., v. 21, p. 293) .
The relationship between the Presbyterian and the Congregational churches was always close. There was often little distinction between the two. At one point, the Presbyterians seriously considered joining forces with the Congregationalists. The two churches jointly engaged in many activities. Some individuals maintained separation between the two churches, were more conservative and were referred to as Old School Presbyterians. Those who favored close ties with the Congregationalists and were liberal were called New School Presbyterians. A close tie with the Congregationalists was established in the mission field where the two denominations created the American Mission Board, responsible for sending out missionaries. Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where Carl Rogers, Rollo May and others attended, was founded by the New School wing of Presbyterians, was independent of the central General Assembly of the church, and was so liberal that it made the Princeton seminary appear to be quite orthodox. The conflict generated by the liberals became so controversial that the Old School, the majority of the members, voted to oust from the church 533 churches and 100,000 members in 1837, an unprecedented act by any religious body (Sweet, 1939, p. 378) 3
The relationship between religion and psychology is subtle but real. The origins of science, the roots of scientific psychology through physiology and physics, stand out as major seventeenth century events when the search for knowledge was freed from the controls of the Catholic church. Each man could seek God on his own behalf; and he could arrive at his own interpretation of the natural world. Those who studied natural phenomena were called "natural philosophers."
Secondly, while the study of natural phenomena was freed from church dogma, interpretations about human behavior was not so favored. Mind and soul were terms used interchangeably; and in some languages they were represented by the same term. Studies in electricity and biology demonstrated that the nervous system, the basis for mental activity, followed laws similar to animal behavior and principles in physics. Darwin's theory of natural selection finally tore man from his exclusive place within the universe.
Thirdly, the rapid growth of psychology during the past 100 years in America was part of the rapid growth of American higher education. To understand the development of psychological theory one should understand the socio-cultural context within which it emerged. Practically all of the early universities were private schools, and many of the great ones are still so (Harvard, Yale,Princeton,Oberlin, Stanford, Columbia, etc.) Many of these schools were founded as church schools or they had religious points of view represented in the philosophy departments in which psychology was housed. It is not unusual that the development of psychology would be influenced by the religious philosophy of the times. In fact, many eminent psychologists were from minister's families or planned to become clergy themselves.
NOW TEST YOURSELF WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE READING.
Circle those answers which are correct (one or more) or fill in the blank spaces.
1. The two major religions in Colonial United States were:
2. Members of the religious group which founded the United States were known as the ________________________.
3. The emphasis upon education was primarily identified with which religious group?
4. Presbyterianism was formed primarily in which country?
5. The opposition to Puritanism was:
6. Rationalism was an outgrowth of what part of Plato's tripartite mind?
d. none of the above
ANSWER KEY ON PAGE 40
5 or more correct, go to Module 3.
Less than 5 -- complete exercises on next page.
1. The opposite of free will is ____________________.
2. Religious institutions were important in the development of psychology in the United States primarily because they were the foundation of many colleges and universities. The Congregational and Unitarian colleges were more often liberal and more often found in the North; the Presbyterian universities tended to be more conservative and traditional and were found farther south. The more liberal schools were _______________; the more conservative schools were ___________________.
3. Puritanism encouraged both education and science in the following way. Puritanism claimed that individual men, separate from the clergy, had the ability to discover truth without the aid of authority. This supported ___________________. In addition, Puritanism believed that such truth was revealed in the Bible rather than through the revelation of some priest. This emphasis upon the "word" in the Bible and upon the book, gave emphasis to ____________________.
4. Calvinistic doctrine maintained that only a few chosen people were eligible for heaven. Many people, therefore, in order to convince themselves that they were among God's chosen, worked very hard. The Protestant Ethic, then, has become known as the belief in hard work as a way of demonstrating (consciously or unconsciously) one's being the favored of God. The Protestant Ethic is a belief in ___________________________________.
2. Congregational/Unitarian; Presbyterian
3. science; education
4. hard work
NOW TAKE PROGRESS CHECK 2
1. The opposite of free will is:
a. self determination
2. Arminianism was closely identified with which part of Plato's tripartite mind?
3. Hard work is frequently identified as a characteristic of:
c. Protestant ethic
4. The fact that Protestantism was a revolt against authoritarianism is support for the notion that Protestantism encouraged:
b. deductive reasoning
c. divine rights of kings
5. The church and schools located more in the South than in the North were:
6. Presbyterianism is identified primarily with the country of _______________________.
5 or more correct, go to Module 3.
Less than 5 -- Instructor conference.
ANSWER KEY ON PAGE 40
UNIT 4 Table of Contents
September 28, 2008