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of his psychological investigations as a gentleman scholar, rather than as
a university professor. Galton™s in¬‚uence on the practice of psychology,
however, is at least as great as that of Wundt and James. This legacy is
manifest in much that is at the core of experimental methodology within
psychology, and was established in part through Galton™s in¬‚uence on
“applied” areas of psychology, such as education and what we might think
of as public mental health.
The Galtonian paradigm arose to prominence with and through the
development of mental testing and has had more far-reaching effects
on the conduct of psychology than perhaps any other single approach.
Galton began by combining his belief in the heritability of traits of all
sorts with his adaptation of Adolphe Quetelet™s insights about statisti-
cal measurement in a population, originally with Hereditary Genius and
later in Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development. At his notorious
“anthropometric laboratory” at the International Health Exhibition in
London in 1884, Galton sought to measure human psychological abili-
ties by having many individuals perform certain tasks, and then applying
statistical analysis to the population of results obtained. These abilities
were quite general, characterlike intellectual dispositions that were close
to ordinary folk psychological ways of describing the stable mental life of
individuals.14
Galton™s interest in such abilities derived from two beliefs he held.
The ¬rst was that mental characteristics should be treated just like bodily
characteristics and other features of the natural world. The second was
that since mental traits were heritable they could either be selected for or
against in a population. Hence, the link between the Galtonian paradigm
and the eugenics movement. Galton™s interest was not so much in what
cluster of abilities his subjects possessed, but, rather, in the distribution of
abilities in a population of subjects, and thus by extrapolation, in the pop-
ulation more generally. Such a distribution was used to establish norms
that could be used to make judgments about particular individuals, where
Individuals, Psychology, and the Mind 43

what was being judged were the innate biological propensities of those
individuals. Thus, individuals remain the subject matter of psychological
attribution, but their role as subjects of experimentation is very different
than in the Wundtian paradigm. As Danziger puts it:

To make interesting and useful statements about individuals it was not necessary
to subject them to intensive experimental or clinical exploration. It was only nec-
essary to compare their performance with that of others, to assign them a place in
some aggregate of individual performances. Individuals were now characterized
not by anything actually observed to be going on in their minds or organisms but
by their deviation from the statistical norm established for the population with
which they had been aggregated.

Thus, the individual experimental subject simply provides data used to
construct an aggregate or collective subject about which generalizations
are formed, and individuals are then judged relative to this collective
subject.15
In contrast to the regimentation of the individual that characterized
the Wundtian experimental paradigm, the Galtonian paradigm of psy-
chology encouraged an almost playful interaction between investigator
and subject. This was not, however, because the Galtonian paradigm was
any less individualistic but because it developed a battery of measure-
ments whose reliability did not depend on control of the precise condi-
tions under which they were taken. Indeed, the Galtonian and experi-
mental paradigms share the idea that psychological propensities inhere
in subjects and could be investigated without regard to the social back-
grounds of those subjects. As with the Wundtian paradigm, the mental
abilities of individuals within the Galtonian paradigm are not simply in
the individual but are so in such a way as to imply that they can be ade-
quately investigated in abstraction from that individual™s environment.
Consider the basic process leading to psychological judgment and gen-
eralization in the Galtonian paradigm. First, we begin with tasks that can
be understood with minimal explanation, attempted by anyone regard-
less of their particular background, and completed through the agency of
an individual person. Second, we devise a performance scale that we can
use to grade individual performance on these tasks, ideally one that can
be calibrated around a standard distribution curve. Third, we measure
the performance of a large number of individuals on these tasks. Fourth,
we statistically analyze the performance of this population of individuals
and use this to construct a collective subject. Fifth, we locate, rank, or
taxonomize particular individuals relative to this collective subject.
Disciplining the Individual and the Mind
44

While I think that an individualistic perspective permeates all ¬ve
of these steps, I want to focus on Galton™s tasks and the testing situa-
tion invoked at the ¬rst step. As Danziger notes, performances on these
tasks “de¬ned characteristics of independent, socially isolated individu-
als and these characteristics were designated ˜abilities.™”16 The governing
assumption of the testing situation itself, however, is that the psycho-
logical abilities of interest are those that can be assessed by probing an
individual in abstraction not only from her real life, social environment,
but from any substantial social environment. For Galton, this assumption
was underwritten by the search for heritable, biological factors governing
cognition. But the assumption itself is independent of Galton™s particular
motivation, and I want to ask why one might think that it is true.
One reason, one that I have found sometimes offered by psychologists
themselves in conversation, is that this is just what psychological abilities
are: They are dispositions that individuals carry around with them from
situation to situation. Psychological abilities are intrinsic dispositions,
and as such they do not rely in any substantive way on speci¬c social
or other extraindividual circumstances. This is an individualistic view
of dispositions, and in Part Two, I shall introduce a framework in which
there is a place for an alternative understanding of dispositions, including
psychological dispositions. On this view, dispositions may be irreducibly
embedded in that they are not simply ¬xed or determined by the intrinsic,
physical properties of the individuals that have them. This view lays a
metaphysical foundation for developing an externalist psychology that
departs from both the Wundtian and Galtonian paradigms.
One might be both more metaphysically reserved about the nature
of psychological dispositions than encapsulated in the above line of ar-
gument, and more pluralistic about the place of heritable mental traits
in the study of the mind than was Galton himself. Suppose then that
there are just some psychological abilities that are intrinsic to individuals,
for whatever etiological reason. For these, at least, surely the Galtonian
paradigm of mental testing provides a way to meaningfully measure the
mind.
This seems to me to be likely to be true, although it stops short of
establishing the claim that such psychological abilities are, in some way,
more important than embedded abilities, or that they provide the key
to understanding such abilities and the individuals who have them. To
view the Galtonian paradigm from both a less individualistic and a more
pluralistic perspective is, I suspect, to assign it a more restricted role
within future psychology than it has had historically.
Individuals, Psychology, and the Mind 45

7 nativism and the continuity thesis
I would like to close the substantive part of this chapter by returning to
Ebbinghaus™s remark that psychology has a short history but a long past.
This chapter has focused on the short history and ignored the long past.
A substantive reason for this focus is my view that the disciplining of
the individual within psychology in the particular ways that continue to
pervade psychology are inextricably entwined with the disciplining of
psychology as an academic ¬eld in the late nineteenth century. But there
are also ways in which psychology™s long past can distort, and not just
dilute, our view of the individual, and I want to return to the debate over
nativism that we discussed in Chapter 1 in order to illustrate this claim.
The debate over nativism is typically considered as exemplifying the
sort of truth expressed by Ebbinghaus™s remark, with the long history
reaching back via the positions of classic rationalists and empiricists in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries all the way to Plato. This view
of the debate involves accepting what I shall call the continuity thesis, the
claim that contemporary positions in this debate are continuous with
thinkers of times long gone, particularly early modern “rationalists” and
“empiricists.” The continuity thesis is close to ubiquitous amongst cog-
nitive scientists who glance back at the history of philosophy in locating
their views.17
While the broad sweep that the continuity thesis invites can be useful, I
think that we should be more cautious about its embrace than most have
been. There are important differences between the traditional and con-
temporary discussions. Using the two-dimensional analysis of the nativism
debate from Chapter 1 as a lens, I will focus on three related features of
the classical positions and debate that make for important differences
with the contemporary literature. These are the concern with justi¬ca-
tion and thus normativity, the (near) absence of a psychology, and the
commitment to a dualist view of the mind.
First, the traditional rationalist-empiricist debate is largely concerned
with investigating the foundations, scope, and limits of human knowl-
edge. That is, it is a debate within epistemology in general and over the
nature of knowledge and justi¬cation in particular. This normative di-
mension is peripheral to contemporary discussions of nativism in the
cognitive sciences. Broadly speaking, early modern empiricists, such as
John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume, hold that all of our
knowledge derives from our sensory, experiential, or empirical interac-
tion with the world, either in the sense that all knowledge is acquired,
Disciplining the Individual and the Mind
46

ultimately, from the senses, or in the sense that the ultimate justi¬cations
that there are for the knowledge we have are grounded in the senses.
Early modern rationalists, such as Ren´ Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, and
e
Benedict Spinoza, by contrast, hold the negation of either or both of
these views, that is, either that there is some knowledge that does not de-
rive from experience, or there is some knowledge that cannot be justi¬ed
by appeal to experience.
These claims about acquisition and justi¬cation were intimately con-
nected in all of these writers in the classical rationalist-empiricist debate.
Their primary concern, however, was with the epistemological question
of whether certain knowledge claims were justi¬ed, and the nature of
that justi¬cation. For them, the threat of skepticism, the view that there
is no knowledge, loomed large. Claiming that certain ideas were or were
not acquired in a certain way established a position on this epistemolog-
ical issue. For example, to claim that the notion of causation could not
be acquired through sense experience, as David Hume famously argued,
was a way of undermining whatever justi¬cation there was for relying on
that notion in our reasoning and theorizing about the world. To claim,
as Locke did at the outset of Book II of An Essay Concerning Human Under-
standing, that all ideas derive from experience, is to imply that one cannot
justify any ideas by appeal to their innateness. These links between the
acquisition and justi¬cation of ideas are largely absent in contemporary
debates over nativism “ except when authors are attempting explicitly to
support the continuity thesis.
Suppose that we put this difference to one side and focus instead
on what might be thought to be a common preoccupation with the ac-
quisition of knowledge and ideas. This brings me to a second reason for
resisting the continuity thesis. While at a super¬cial level there is a shared
interest in “where ideas come from,” both the external minimalism the-
sis and (more obviously) the internal richness thesis are claims about the
processes governing cognition. This concern with how cognition works is
all but absent in both classical rationalists and empiricists, who disagree
over the products of cognition, particularly over whether those products,
especially ideas, were acquired. This could be put (no doubt, too strongly)
by saying that there is no psychology in the classical tradition. Let me say
more about what I mean by this and the contrast I have in mind.
Since at least our paradigms of knowledge “ knowledge of our im-
mediate environments, of common physical objects, of scienti¬c kinds “
seem obviously to be acquired through sense experience, empiricism
has some prima facie intuitive appeal. Why not suppose that all our
Individuals, Psychology, and the Mind 47

knowledge is like those paradigms? Rationalism, by contrast, requires
further motivation: minimally, a list of knowables that represent a pu-
tative challenge to the empiricist™s global claim about the foundations
of knowledge. Early modern rationalists included knowledge of God,
substance, and abstract ideas (such as that of a triangle, as opposed to
ideas of particular triangles), claiming that such knowledge and the cor-
responding ideas do not derive from sense experience but are part of
the mind™s innate endowment that is merely elicited by environmental
interaction. But there is no particular claim about the cognitive processes
and structures that underlie such innate ideas; indeed, this type of na-
tivism is compatible with a consistent skepticism or agnosticism about our
ability to know about the structure of the mind at all. Hence, while early
modern rationalists share with contemporary nativists something similar
to the external minimalism thesis, they hold such a thesis with respect to
ideas, rather than the processes underlying those ideas; moreover, they
have nothing like an internal richness thesis on the table.
Likewise, while early modern empiricists deny something like the ex-
ternal minimalism thesis about the contents of the mind, they too have
little to say about the structure of the mind, and lack any view corre-
sponding to a denial of the internal richness thesis. Given the currency
of the continuity thesis, particularly amongst those who see empiricism as
constituting a sustained tradition, this claim requires further discussion.
Some contemporary empiricists view our cognitive architecture as
structured by a relatively small number of general principles and mecha-
nisms that govern all of our perceptual and cognitive abilities, with these
mechanisms being deployed in different ways in light of particular experi-
ential inputs. Thus, in connectionist models, backpropagation constitutes
a general type of learning algorithm that is tailored by means of particu-
lar learning sets to guide performance in various perceptual, cognitive,
and linguistic tasks. Early modern empiricists might be thought to share
this same general view of the structure of the mind: It is governed by a
few global processes, such as association and similarity, and so constitutes
a domain-general device. Common as this view is, it paints a misleading
picture of early modern empiricism.
Common to all early modern empiricists is some version of the dis-
tinction between, to use Locke™s terms, simple ideas and complex ideas.
Global processes are introduced not to explain how original or simple
ideas are acquired (and thus justi¬ed), but how we move beyond these to
derived or complex ideas. The account of how we acquire our simple
ideas is extremely thin, discussion being focused instead on the simple
Disciplining the Individual and the Mind
48

ideas themselves and how they are taxonomized. Locke, for example,
discusses simple ideas in terms of the ways in which they are acquired,
that is, by one sense, multiple senses, re¬‚ection, and both sensation and
re¬‚ection. But the focus here is on the ideas themselves, particularly on
what introspection can reveal about them, rather than on the processes
generating them. Furthermore, although Locke lists what he calls com-
bination, association, and abstraction as the three chief ways in which
complex ideas are derived from simple ideas, there is little attention to
how these processes operate. The bulk of the remaining twenty or so
chapters in Book II are devoted, again, to the ideas themselves, not to
the processes putatively generating them.18
A third reason for denying the continuity thesis, or viewing it as of
limited signi¬cance, is that both rationalists and empiricists were, by and
large, dualists, either about the nature of substance or about the nature
of the properties that substances had. That is, since neither rationalists
nor empiricists were physicalists about the mind, their views of how the
mind was structured were views about the contents of minds, the products
of mental substance that could be examined through introspection. This
dualism also explains, I think, why within the traditional debate between
classical rationalists and empiricists there is not only no argument over the
internal richness thesis but little by way of a psychological story at all cast
in terms of the mechanisms governing the processes that generate our
ideas. Very few cognitive scientists are professed dualists about cognition.

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