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Paul Rosenfels

William James
by Dean Hannotte

William James was the first American psychologist to insist on the importance of psychological polarity. In Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking [1907], he contrasted the following attributes of tender-minded and tough-minded personalities, attributes which are nearly identical in meaning to similar terms offered in the 1920's by Jung under the headings of introvert and extrovert and in the 1960's by Paul under the headings feminine and masculine:

(going by principles)
(going by facts)
intellectualistic sensationalistic
idealistic materialistic
optimistic pessimistic
religious irreligious
free-willist fatalistic
monistic pluralistic
dogmatical skeptical

In this limited sense, then, Paul's work certainly followed the "Jamesian tradition." Similarly, like all humanistic psychologists Paul would have heartily concurred when James wrote, "And I for my part cannot but consider the talk of the contemporary sociological school about averages and general laws and predetermined tendencies, with its obligatory undervaluing of the importance of individual differences, as the most pernicious and immoral of fatalisms." ["The Importance of Individuals" in The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, 1890]

(James wasn't the only scientist to decry the "mismeasure of man" by the misapplication of otherwise scientific methods. Frank Pierce Jones, in his Body Awareness in Action, tells this story about John Dewey: "Dewey had been reading an article in the 'Psychological Review'. As I came in he threw it down with an impatient gesture, remarking, 'I despair of psychologists. They seem to think that borrowing a technique from another science makes them scientists.' He pointed to the cracks in the plastered wall behind me and said, 'If I measured each of those cracks, I could calculate their slopes and derive a formula for them. That would not be science, but I could fool a psychologist into thinking it was.'")

Paul's work also follows the pragmatic paradigm of science serving human aims and not the other way around. I never knew a human being more concerned about helping others to learn and grow and less easily provoked to empty scholarly debate with colleagues. (Indeed, the only colleagues he suffered were his students, friends and lovers. Although he hoped someday to find a sympathetic ear amongst his fellow professionals, he never did.)

Ironically, James anticipated an explicator greater than himself when he wrote, "Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes, but ring the fuller minstrel in." [the very last of A Pluralistic Universe, 1909] By his rich and accurate depiction of the inner dramas and outward panoramas of human existence, by an eclectic unification of culturally diverse and historically distant traditions of insight into the human condition, and by the unprecedented semantic clarity he forged in order to offer these mountains of knowledge within a single psychological language, it is apparent to us that Paul Rosenfels was that minstrel, and his song the story of humanity itself.


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