Abstract

abstract:

Received wisdom has it that psychologists and philosophers came to mistrust consciousness for largely behaviorist reasons. But by the time John Watson had published his behaviorist manifesto in 1913, a wider revolt against consciousness was already underway. I focus on William James, an earlier influential source of unease about consciousness. James's mistrust of consciousness grew out of his critique of perceptual elementarism in psychology. This is the view that most mental states are complex, and that psychology's goal is in some sense to analyze these states into their atomic "elements." Just as we cannot (according to James) isolate any atomic, sensory elements in our occurrent mental states, so we cannot distinguish any elemental consciousness from any separate contents. His critique of elementarism depended on an argument against appeals in psychology to unconscious mentality—to unobservables. Perhaps this is ironic, but his thought is that pure consciousness is itself just as invisible to introspection as isolated, simple ideas.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 293-323
Launched on MUSE
2020-04-03
Open Access
No
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