A New Look at New Realism
The Psychology and Philosophy of E. B. Holt
This volume brings to the attention of contemporary readers a tradition of psychological thought that has received little attention over the last century. Psychology’s history has been unimaginatively presented as a fight between behaviorists and mentalists. A third alternative, the New Realism, which cuts through that dichotomy, has been lost.
"The New Realism" was indeed once new. This volume provides a glimpse of how this school of thought attempted to redefine the notion of mental processes, including consciousness, in psychological theorizing. Holt’s rejected the nativity of iconoclastic Watsonian behaviorists, and thus the New Realism was thoughtful in ways that behaviorist social engineering was not. The implications of these innovations in psychological theorizing are traced from the beginning of the twentieth century to the contemporary period. The contributors provide these intellectual links, along with efforts to look at the relatedness of the human organism and its world. At their beginning, these ideas are embedded in a reverence for William James’s work, particularly his later Radical Empiricism. In contemporary psychology, this legacy has given us the framework of ecological psychology as we know it today, and provides the basis for several modern critiques of cognitive psychology.
The present volume opens the door for future historical inquiries. This is an exemplary addition to the series on the History of Psychological Ideas.
"This volume makes it clear that advances in philosophical knowledge can contribute to psychology. Consequently, some psychological tenets of Holt’s era that were ahead of their time are consistent with new philosophical ideas… [T]he book provides a compelling look at some arguments that psychologists may have thought had been resolved… Recommended."
—B. C. Beins, CHOICE
“This is an exemplary work of intellectual history, providing us with a finely detailed and sharply focused portrait of an unduly neglected figure at the intersection of psychology and philosophy. But it is far more than this: these essays show in detail just why the history of disciplines such as psychology and philosophy is of abiding relevance to contemporary debates. Paradoxically, E. B. Holt is here shown to be, largely as a result of being situated in his time, of unsettling significance for our own time. Several of these essays (e.g., Thomas Natsoulas’s ‘A Dislocation of Consciousness’ and Robert Shaw’s ‘Ecological Realism as a Reaction to New Realism: Holt’s Legacy to Gibson’) are alone worthy of the price of admission. All of the chapters are informative and insightful. The way forward might require a look backwards. This collection of engaging, erudite essays demonstrates nothing less.”
—Vincent Colapietro, professor, Department of Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University