Lloyd Morgan's canon

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A frequently paraphrased doctrine propounded in 1894 by the British zoologist and geologist C(onwy) Lloyd Morgan (1852–1936) in his Introduction to Comparative Psychology: ‘In no case may we interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of a higher psychical faculty, if it can be interpreted as the exercise of one which stands lower in the psychological scale’ (p. 53). It is an application of Ockham's razor, implying as it does that psychology must seek the simplest explanations. Morgan was anticipated by the German psychologist Wilhelm (Max) Wundt (1832–1920) who wrote in 1863 in his Vorlesungen über die Menschen- und Tierseele (translated into English as Lectures on Human and Animal Psychology) that in psychological matters recourse should be had to ‘complex principles of explanation [only] when the simplest ones have proved inadequate’ (p. 350 of the English translation).

Subjects: Psychology.

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