[lbo-talk] [Spam] Harry K. Wells on Benjamin Rush and James Rush

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Tue Mar 27 07:31:50 PDT 2018

One interesting aspect of Harry K. Wells's two-volume work, Pavlov and Freud, was how in the first volume, Ivan P. Pavlov: Towards a scientific psychology and psychiatry, Wells has an extended discussion of both Benjamin Rush, who was one of the American Founders, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a pioneer of American psychiatry, and his son, Dr. James Rush, who, like his father, was a physician, and was noted for two works: The Philosophy of the Human Voice, which sought to provide a scientific analysis of the human voice, as an aid for teaching elocution, and The Analysis of the Human Intellect, which sought to present a scientific psychology.

Harry K. Wells regarded both Rushes as being pioneers in the development of a materialist psychiatry and psychology in the US. In particular, he regarded James Rush as having been a figure that was comparable to his Russian contemporary, the physiologist Ivan Sechenov, who Pavlov had called, the father of Russian physiology. Sechenov's most famous book was, Reflexes of the Brain, first published in 1863, which presented a materialist account of the human brain and its relation to the human mind. Wells points out that in the United States, James Rush in both The Philosophy of the Human Voice and in The Analysis of the Human Intellect, also presented a materialist account of the human mind that was not unlike Sechenov's and his book, The Analysis of the Human Intellect came out roughly the same time as Sechenov's book.

Wells, who was writing back in the 1950's deplored the unavailability at that time of James Rush's book, asserting that it was unavailable even at the Library of Congress. Since then, it has become more available, including being available online.



I was also amused by this 1907 letter to the NY Times, where a physician objected to an article in that newspaper that characterized James Rush as having been a materialist. This physician objected to that characterization on the ground that he had known Rush as having been a very religious man. In fact that physician was correct that James Rush was a religious man. But that doesn't change the fact that he did hold a materialist view of the human mind, and that, indeed, he called himself a materialist. But in the Anglophone world there was a longstanding tradition, dating at least as far back as Thomas Hobbes, which was able to combine materialism with a belief in the existence of God. Hobbes, in his Leviathan, asserted his belief in the existence of God, which he regarded as being a kind of refined material substance. Thomas Jefferson, likewise held a similar view too, combining materialism and deism.


Jim Farmelant http://independent.academia.edu/JimFarmelant http://www.foxymath.com Learn or Review Basic Math

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