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Definition: Bain, Alexander from Chambers Biographical Dictionary

1818-1903

Scottish empirical philosopher and psychologist

He was born in Aberdeen, where he later became professor of logic (1860-81). He was one of a circle which included John Stuart Mill and George Grote and he wrote books about both the former and his father, James Mill. However, Bain's most important works are The Senses and the Intellect (1855), The Emotions and the Will (1859) and Mental and Moral Science (1868). He also founded the famous journal, Mind, in 1876. His psychology was firmly based on physiology and he sought to explain mind through a physical theory of the association of ideas.


Summary Article: Bain, Alexander from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1818–1903, Scottish philosopher and psychologist. He was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he later taught for three years. He taught one year (1845) at Anderson's Univ., Glasgow, but resigned to do freelance work in London. There he joined a brilliant circle including George Grote and John Stuart Mill, with whom he already had close literary relationships. From 1860 to 1880 he held the chair of logic and English at the Univ. of Aberdeen, where he worked for educational reform. After his retirement he was twice elected lord rector of the university. His major contributions were in psychology. Remaining in the associationalist tradition of the Mills and sharing their distrust of metaphysics, he developed the current psychology in several directions. In discussing the will, he favored physiological over metaphysical explanations, pointing to reflexes as evidence that a form of will, independent of consciousness, inheres in a person's limbs. He sought to chart physiological correlates of mental states but refused to make any materialistic assumptions. Besides being the founder of the first psychological journal, Mind, in 1886, Bain was the author of The Senses and the Intellect (1855), The Emotions and the Will (1859), Mental and Moral Science (1868), Education as a Science (1879), James Mill (1882), John Stuart Mill (1882), and an autobiography (pub. posthumously with a bibliography of his works, 1904).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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