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The Writings of Professor Robert M. Young

'Scholarship and the History of the Behavioural Sciences' 182k

I wrote this in my first year or two as a University Assistant Lecturer in Cambridge. It has all the hallmarks of a Young Turk's effort to sweep away all previous approaches to make way for the One True Highest Standard. Most writing in the history of psychology had until then been conceived within a positivist historiography, where in true science was more or less badly anticipated by people who were not proper experimentalists. I had written my own doctoral dissertation on this history of brain studies from within the approach of the history of ideas, inspired by A. O. Lovejoy's The Great Chain of Being, and set out to re-found the history of the human sciences in those terms. In spite of its arrogance, the article had a considerable influence. My title was meant to contrast 'scholarship' with much of what was written under the banner of 'the history of the behavioural sciences', mostly in America. I even recall seeing an essay a decade later which began, 'It is ten years since Robert Young...' I was hardest on Robert I. Watson, a nice man and the founder of the Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences, whose synoptic history of psychology exemplified much of what I was criticising. A truly modest man, he took the criticisms to heart and re-wrote his book with a fulsome acknowledgement to my criticisms. I suppose this essay was my first long, ruminative reflection on a discipline and its wider context of ideas, and I still feel wedded to the scholarly values advocated in it. It first appeared in History of Science 2: 1-51, 1966.


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Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

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