Review of Foundations for a Science of Personality by A. Angyal

Ellsworth Faris

An author who announces "an entirely new theory" with a new set of concepts will encounter a certain resistance, since advance in science is expected from continuity of effort and the bringer of new things is well advised to add his little to the common store. Still, there was Newton and there is Einstein, and a reviewer must read carefully lest a new and revolutionary genius go unrecognized.

The author of this book hardly develops "an entirely new set of concepts," for the index lists more than two hundred that are old and familiar. The few new coinages which are offered appear to be little more than the changing of labels with no addition to the content. "Bionegativity"is substituted for abnormality, "biosphere" for total situation, "homonomy" replaces socialization, and "holism" (adopted from Smuts) does duty for totality, configuration, or gestalt. Some common words such as set, setting, shift, tension, and a few others are assigned limited and special meanings. The new terms seem of doubtful value. Such efforts usually create an illusion of novelty and always waste valuable time. Should there be a scientific licensing bureau?

The holistic theory sets out to treat the organism and the environment as one and indivisible: "the clothing of man is as much a part of the organism as the fur and feathers of the animal." But readers of Dewey who recall his

( 277) statement that breathing is as much a function of the air as of the lungs, or the same author's discussion of habits as social functions, will probably conclude that the present book has been anticipated for a generation. Mead's discussion of the way in which the subjects incorporate the environment for the very formation of personality is a far more adequate statement. There is no reference to Dewey and, if one may judge by internal evidence, the author has no acquaintance with Mead, Cooley, Thomas or any of a number of our men who have spoken authoritatively on the subjects treated in the book. An adequate knowledge of the literature would probably have led to the modification of many statements and, doubtless, to the abandonment of not a few.

The part of most interest to social psychologists is entitled "The Psycho-logical Functions," and can hardly be called a strong section of a not-too-strong discussion. It assumes a naive "copy theory" of perception, a view discredited long ago. The assertion that all consciousness is symbolic leads, of course, to the neglect of the distinction between experience as simply had or enjoyed, and that which is known and interpreted. This cardinal error of identifying immediate experience and reflective experience vitiates the whole argument.

A consistent holism would have related emotion to action, for emotion is neither a thing nor a force. Emotions are called "symbols of value-laden ego-relevant facts." But we know, do we not, that "emotion" is a noun only by a semantic convention? The experience is consistently adverbial; we act angrily, etc.

Perception is presented as the result of the power of certain organisms to construct mental pictures. Holism would seem to have been better served by describing perception as inextricably connected with action instead of the old and inadequate separation. It is actually asserted in the book that certain organisms may even produce movement in response to volition." Volition, incidentally, suffers a serious loss of prestige in a passage wherein the will is called a "discrepancy" in the organization of the "biosphere." Owing to the "will," the self becomes a "state within a state" (which any political scientist would deprecate), and trouble is caused because the "conscious self" tries to acquire a hegemony although it is not really competent to govern the whole. Moreover, the information which we obtain of ourselves is "not an entirely true picture of reality." This inaccuracy is not asserted of abnormal subjects but of all of us, including this reviewer-including even the author of the book under review.

The student who is familiar with the literature will note a number of serious omissions. The concept of role is missing, as also is any recognition of the multiplicity of selves or of the conflicts between them. Nor is there any notion of the genetic aspect of the self or of the dependence on the social environment for its very beginning. A holistic theory could have made good use of this knowledge.

The chapter on integration is presented as the peak of the argument. The new logic is to be a logic of systems, and systems depend on arrangement in space. The "biosphere" does not seem significantly spatial, and so

( 278) the "personality" is said to have three dimensions: depth; progression, which is perpendicular to the vertical; and the transverse direction, which is perpendicular to both the others, illustrated by the use of several muscles when we write a letter. There is little that comes of this tour de force.

There is abundant need for an adequate and systematic theory of personality and any one who tries to formulate it should be praised for the effort. But it would be a disservice to such an author if inadequacies were accepted as sound. It would also be a disservice to science.

Lake Forest, Ill.


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