Abraham Tucker as an 18th-century William James: stream of consciousness, role of examples, and the importance of writing
journal contributionposted on 15.10.2013 by Michael Billig
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This article discusses the psychological writings of the neglected, eighteenth century English philosopher, Abraham Tucker. The article explores the similarities between Tucker’s work and that of William James. It is suggested that both share a humorous and humane style, which concentrates on exploring concrete examples, especially from everyday life, rather than constructing abstract theories. Moreover, there are a number substantive similarities. Tucker, like James, saw consciousness occurring over time as a river or stream. Both stressed the importance of habit for individual and social life; and both depicted the infant as being overwhelmed by sensation. Several reasons for Tucker’s neglect are suggested. He may have been ‘dethroning’ the ideal of the conscious, rational ego before the importance of unconscious thinking had gained currency. It is argued that in celebrating Tucker and James as psychologists, we are emphasising the importance of warm-hearted writing as against rigid theory and methodology.
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