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Principles of Mental Physiology


THE title of the volume before us shows that its author is one of those philosophers—happily, an increasing number—who refuse to treat the phenomena of mind as though they were in no way connected with the body through which they find their expression. Mental Physiology is a comparatively new science, and does not date further backward than the days of Hartley. Before his time, and to some extent since, Physiology has been treated from what—to employ a word too often pressed into the service of a somewhat hazy idea—may be called the metaphysical point of view. The phenomena of mind have been abstracted from all their surroundings, and have been analysed by themselves, and the result has naturally been that we have been left but little wiser than before. Dr. Carpenter rejects this method, and bases his Psychology on the construction and working of the nervous system. But while shunning the metaphysical treatment of the subject, he does not adopt the other extreme, the doctrine, we mean, of the thorough materialist, who regards all mental phenomena without exception as the outcome of previous physical causes, which necessarily produce certain results. He steers a middle course, inasmuch as, while he advances the theory “of the dependence of the Automatic activity of the mind upon conditions which bring it within the nexus of Physical Causation,” yet he believes in “an independent power, controlling and directing that activity, which we call Will.”

Principles of Mental Physiology.

By W. B. Carpenter, (Henry S. King & Co.)

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Principles of Mental Physiology . Nature 10, 40–42 (1874).

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