James Mark Baldwin
Co-Editor, Psychological Review, 1894-1909
An appreciation of the life and work of James Mark Baldwin must take account of a figure of endless activity, embracing the work of the teacher, of the organizer of psychological research in its beginnings in America, of the mediator between the thought and culture of his own country and of France, and finally a literary activity covering a period of a quarter of a century—all of which has left its mark on the thought of his generation. His autobiography, entitled `Between Two Wars, 1861-1921,' published in 1926, is an epitome of all the distinctive ideas of his time.
The professional life of James Baldwin coincides with the rapidly expanding development of psychology in America. In this development he played an outstanding part both as teacher and organizer. Academic positions of constantly in-creasing importance—at Lake Forest, Toronto, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, the University of Mexico and Paris—afforded him the opportunity of exercising a directing influence on the development of his chosen science. To this was added a still wider activity as organizer. Not only did he open up opportunities for experimental work in many universities, but he was instrumental, with others, in. establishing institutions and journals which have become a permanent part of American psychology. He served on the first council of the American Psychological Association and was one of its early presidents. He was also active in founding the PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW in 1894, and its associated journals, the Index, Monograph Supplements and Bulletin.
Baldwin's life and work are in a sense an epitome of the evolutionary or Darwinian epoch in which he lived, and which he did so much to interpret. `Darwin and the Humanities,' published in 1909, is at once indicative of the source of his past thinking and prophetic of the lines which his thought was still to take. In it he seeks to estimate the place of Darwin in the human sciences—psychology, sociology, ethics and religion, and to show "to what extent the principle of natural selection, as reinforced by organic selection, holds good in these subjects." His development of the notion of `organic selection,' in cooperation with some of the leading biologists of his time, and the extension of this notion to the human sciences, was perhaps his outstanding contribution. Out of it grew his general notion of genetic science to the establishment and development of which he devoted the remainder of his life.
In the sphere of psychology proper, Baldwin's name is primarily associated with child psychology and social psychology. A pioneer in both fields, he gave to the world a series of books which were instrumental in shaping the development of both subjects. `Mental Development in the Child and the Race,' 1894, `Development and Evolution,' 1902, `Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development,' 1898, and `The Individual and Society,' 1910, are titles which need merely to be mentioned in order vividly to recall the foundations of sciences which still retain the signs of his handiwork. It is for the specialists in these fields to say how much of the detailed experimentation and analysis in his works has entered into the permanent possessions of these sciences. This much can be said without question. They had a powerful influence in bringing about the abandonment of the older association and structural psychology in favor of functional and developmental views. The notion of genetic psychology, later to be extended to animal psychology (more particularly by John Watson, who was brought to Johns Hopkins by Baldwin) was fashioned in large part by his activity. No less significant was the influence of his principles of social psychology, perhaps his most lasting contribution to psychology.
Like his friend and colleague, William James, Baldwin partly lost his interest in psychology, in, as he writes, "the barrenness of the tables and curves coming from many laboratories." Philosophical interests came more and more to the front. These interests found expression in his monumental three volume work, `Thought and Things or Genetic Logic,' which appeared in 1906 and 1911 and in his `Genetic Theory of Reality, Pancalism,' 1915. As Baldwin's earlier work was an epitome of the Darwinian epoch, so his later work was an expression of the general `philosophy of change,' of the `taking of time seriously,' which followed upon this epoch.
A genetic theory of logic was a natural development from a genetic theory of mind. The revaluation of intellect and logic, in the light of Darwinian principles—of instrumental logic as developed by John Dewey and of Intuitionism as developed by Bergson—were prime concerns of Baldwin's more important contemporaries in philosophy. In this revaluation Baldwin played a conspicuous part. The extreme positions of his contemporaries tended to overshadow his more moderate and mediating views. The development of logic in the purely formal, mathematical direction has temporarily withdrawn interest from the philosophical problems of logic as contemplated by Baldwin. But these problems must inevitably come into the foreground again, and it is, perhaps, not too much to say that his careful analysis and his magnificent picture of logic and reason in its total functioning, will again have something to say to philosophy.
A genetic theory of reality was the culmination of the genetic logic. This is not the place to attempt either a presentation or an evaluation of this very original work. One thing may, however, be said. The doctrine of genetic modes is the first, and in. some respects, still a classical presentation of what has come to be known as emergent evolution. "A truly genetic series is," for Baldwin, "irreversible and each new term or stage in such a series sui generis, a new mode of presence of what is called reality." Interpretation
( 306) of reality is the evaluation of the contributions of these various modes to our total picture of the real.
It is possible that the most significant aspect of Baldwin's life is that which can not be reconstructed from his printed works. As a mediating figure between European and American culture, he was one of the outstanding figures of his time. He became, for many, a sort of symbol of cooperative scholarship and science. When, after frequent sojourns in Paris, he finally took up his permanent residence there, this aspect of his activity increased in importance. His election in 1910, in succession to William James, to the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in the Institute of France, brought him into personal relations with France's greatest minds and, both by lecturing and writing, he became an interpreter of American ideas to France. All this was intensified by the outbreak of the World War. His own personal involvement, through the injuring of his daughter in the torpedoing of the Sussex, intensified his emotional participation, but his long list of national and political studies which were the product of that time, are all on the highest level and reflect the innate idealism of the man.
The completed philosophy which Baldwin gave to the world is a form of
idealism called `Pancalism.' One of his latest writings, entitled `The Beautiful
World,' is an attempt to put in popular form the results of his technical
philosophy. 'Esthetic idealism, although a perennial form of philosophy, is not
one that maintains itself easily. The forces of narrow rationalism, of pragmatic
impatience, and of moral intensity are too powerful. In any case, it is perhaps
the truest expression of himself. At the close of his autobiography he writes:
"It will serve as the confession of faith of a sexagenarian who after a half
century's experience, whose vicissitudes are narrated above, keeps his optimism
if not altogether his serenity, and continues, even after the desolations both
physical and moral, which have swept the world in the last decade, to have faith
in `Truth, Goodness and Beauty, the greatest of which is Beauty.
[MS. received April 18, 1935]