James Mark Baldwin: biography of this American psychologist and philosopher

Throughout the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, psychology experienced great development thanks to authors like Baldwin.

this one James Mark Baldwin biography toured this author’s entire biography to gain a better perspective on his vital milestones and the most notorious contributions that a life devoted to science allowed him to leave in the fields in which he conducted his research.

    Brief biography of James Mark Baldwin

    James Mark Baldwin was born in 1861 in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, In the United States of America. It was in this city that he spent his childhood. It was a turbulent time in the United States, as the struggle between slavers and abolitionists ended up sparking civil war between north and south.

    James’ father took an active role in this conflict, because as a supporter of abolition he tried to free as many people as possible. After the war ended, his father also joined the new government, tasked with rebuilding institutions that had been damaged after the American Civil War.

    It was then that James Mark Baldwin had to leave the city where he had spent his early childhood to go to New Jersey, where he completed his high school education. After this step, he would begin his university education, which would take place at the College of New Jersey, an institution that would later be transformed into what is now Princeton University.

    The studies Baldwin chose in the first place were those of theology, but then he decided to pursue philosophy.. It was then that something happened that changed the course of James Mark Baldwin’s life. He was chosen to receive a scholarship that would allow him to travel to Germany to train alongside Wilhelm Wundt, no more and no less than the father of psychology as we know it. He was also under the tutelage of Friedrich Paulsen.

    Return to the United States

    Returning to Princeton, he actively collaborated with the university’s theological seminary, an institution which provided him with a scholarship. Among his tasks, thanks to his knowledge of German and French, he was responsible for the translation of various works, such as “Today’s German Psychology”, by Ribot, a collection which analyzed the origins of this discipline, of philosophy to modern psychology.

    At the time, James Mark Baldwin also published what would become his first article, “The Postulates of Physiological Psychology”. He began teaching philosophy at Lake Forest College. Outraged, his work at theological seminary enabled him to meet Helen Hayes Green, Who was the daughter of its director, William Henry Green. James and Helen got married.

    During this time, Baldwin also published the book Senses and Intellect, which would later mark the beginning of his textbook on psychology. In this volume, James Mark Baldwin already pointed out the enormous importance that experimental psychology, in the hands of researchers like Wundt, Fechner or Weber, was beginning to acquire in Germany and would soon spread to Europe and the United States.

    after continued his work as a lecturer at the University of Toronto, this time teaching metaphysics and logic. It was here that he established his own laboratory, finally bringing experimental psychology to America. In addition, this time coincides with the birth of his two daughters, who were the catalyst for his research in developmental psychology. His research was so important that it would influence authors such as Piaget or Kohlberg.

    James Mark Baldwin has kept in touch with French psychologists such as Charcot, Janet and Bernheim, even visiting them to share impressions of his work.

    Back to Princeton and the Baldwin Effect

    After this step, Baldwin returned to Princeton University, as he was offered the opportunity to set up another laboratory, this time in the institution where he had completed his training, so he could not refuse this opportunity. This was in 1893. He spent an entire decade working there.

    One of the most important works he published during this time was “Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development: A Study of Social Psychology”. Lev Vygotsky himself would consider this work to later develop his famous theories., A demonstration of the relevance that this author studies.

    But if there was one particularly important contribution to the career of James Mark Baldwin, it was that which took place soon after, in 1896. It was the so-called Baldwin effect, which took hold. made known through the article A New Evolution Factor, published in The American Naturalist.

    The Baldwin effect, or Baldwinian evolution, suggests that the very learnings that individuals make and that are passed down from generation to generation end up being as important to adaptation as natural selection itself. In other words, that is to say certain cultural components allow human beings to adapt to environments or situations in which they would not be naturally prepared to survive..

    One of the classic examples is that of incest and the taboo generated by the culture around this phenomenon. Through this cultural learning, unadaptive behavior at the genetic level is avoided, as it increases the likelihood of a series of abnormalities that can result in the non-transmission of genes to the next generation, which is a failure in biological terms.

      career later

      James Mark Baldwin was already an eminence in his field. In addition to psychology, he has also worked in philosophy, and more specifically in epistemology. Through works such as the Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, where he collaborated with other authors to create a volume that overlapped between the two disciplines. This was done through the University of Oxford, an institution which awarded him the distinction of doctor honoris causa.

      Arriving in 1903, Baldwin ended his tenure as a professor at Princeton, in part because of disagreements with the presidency, but also because the University Johns Hopkins gave him another chance he couldn’t refuse. There, he founded a new laboratory for experimental psychology. In fact, this institution had already had one, created by Granville Stanley Hall, which was later closed.

      This new stage of James Mark Baldwin allowed him to focus on the creation of new works, which crystallized in “Genetic theory of reality”, one of his most important contributions. This volume lays the foundation for evolutionary psychology, talking about the different stages that a child goes through throughout his childhood and the skills he acquires in each of them. This theory would have a great influence on Piaget.

      But then, at the height of his career, something happened that completely ravaged his reputation. He was arrested while raiding a dating house. This event, in 1908, was a great shame for a society as puritanical as American society. Therefore, he had no choice but to leave his job and his own country and emigrate to Europe.

      Internship in Paris and death

      After the scandal, James Mark Baldwin ended his stay in the United States and decided to settle in Paris, where he had already made business trips that put him in touch with other authors. too much makes frequent trips to Mexico, as he was hired as a teacher at the National University of Mexico to teach at his school of higher education.

      Over the years he has published new works, such as Darwin and the Humanities and also The Individual and Society. But arriving in 1912, he returned to Paris and fixed his residence, as he would not move anywhere else in the remaining years of his life. It was then that the First World War broke out in 1914.

      As an American, Baldwin tried to show the need for his native country to emerge from its neutrality in the face of this conflict and to support France and its allies. To this end, he published an article titled “The Neutrality of the United States: Cause and This Idea Increased Immediately When War Hit Him Very Close. James Mark Baldwin had traveled to Oxford to meet with William Osler.

      On returning from this trip, aboard the Sussex Ferry crossing the English Channel, a maritime area separating France from the United Kingdom, this ship was torpedoed by German ships.. Baldwin was quick to send a telegram to the President of the United States himself informing him that this had happened. It was one of the events that tipped the scales and pushed the United States into this war.

      Baldwin was active in this conflict, chairing the American Navy League in Paris. His memoir, published in 1926, was called Between Wars, because he was born during the Civil War and had lived through World War I in its final stage. James Mark Baldwin died in Paris in 1934.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Broughton, JM (1981). The genetic psychology of James Mark Baldwin. American psychologist.
      • Calandrini, AR, Marsico, G. (2020). Rediscover James Mark Baldwin. Psychology Center.
      • Wozniak, RH (1998). Thought and Things: James Mark Baldwin and the Biosocial Origins of the Mind. In RW Rieber and K. Salzinger (Eds.), Psychology: Theoretical-Historical Perspectives. American Psychological Association.

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