Chapter

Alexander Bain

M. Gail Hamner

in American Pragmatism

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780195155471
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834266 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195155475.003.0006

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

 Alexander Bain

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The first concern of this chapter is to present the phenomenology of belief of the Scottish philosopher Alexander Bain in order to delineate the relations he asserts among belief, consciousness, and action; these are the most direct ways in which Bain becomes an interlocutor of the pragmatists. Of special emphasis in this regard is action, which the American pragmatists mutate into concepts of behavior (Charles Sanders Peirce) and willed effects (William James). The relations of belief, consciousness, and action can be interpreted in many ways, some of which emphasize the importance of a person's character (developed dispositions) and others of which do not; the distinction displays itself in Bain's theory of causality, a term he divides into a psychological concept and a scientific concept. On the one hand, in insisting on the importance of character, Bain shares Peirce's desire to focus on conduct rather than on individual acts, but on the other hand, his confusing resolution of the complexities of causality into a dual scheme that separates psychology from science, foreshadows the way James attempts to secure a proper realm for scientific inquiry in The Principles of Psychology with a similar use of dualities. Thus, the second concern in the chapter is to expound on the relations of will, causality, and action as substantiated by Bain through his theories of psychological association and the law of relativity.

Keywords: action; Alexander Bain; behavior; belief; causality; conduct; consciousness; individualism; William James; Charles Sanders Peirce; philosophy; pragmatism; psychology; relativity; Scotland; U.K; U.S.A; will

Chapter.  7815 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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