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234 × 156 × 30 mm
304 pages
01 Feb 2013
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Between Mind and Nature A History of Psychology Roger Smith

We live in a psychological age. Psychologists are increasingly prominent and active in every sphere of life and we understand ourselves in psychological terms. It was not always so: psychology has a history. The word psychology flags the idea that there is, or will be, a unified, true knowledge of the mind. Currently, the candidacy of evolutionary neuroscience holds sway. Yet, now and in the past, ‘psychology’ is a family name for a bewildering range of beliefs and preoccupations about what psychologists know and do. There is an intrinsic interest in knowing how people think about themselves, how they see their spiritual or material nature. What people think psychology’s relation is to religion, politics, the arts, social life, the natural sciences and technology is an integral part of our human story.

Between Mind and Nature explores the big questions bound up in this history: what is human nature? Is natural science the only rational way of thought? Will psychology provide answers to human problems? Does the very notion of being an individual, of having a ‘self’, depend on social and historical conditions? Can the brain explain mind?

Cogently written, this book will reveal much to those who wish to know more about the quest for knowledge of the mind, for historical study of brain and mind and for scientific and humanistic approaches to people. It concludes by posing important questions about the value and direction of psychology today.

‘Smith masterfully outlines how psychology developed in conjunction with, and in opposition to, social forces and competing frameworks, leading to its myriad forms today . . . Smith compellingly shows that the discipline of psychology is every bit as complex as the objects of its study. Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘in Between Mind and Nature Smiths fascinating, fast-paced, multistranded historical narrative is a way of doing psychology indeed, Smith offers his critical history of psychology as a contribution to a critical psychology . . . the volume confirms Smiths truly remarkable breadth of knowledge, power of synthesis, and ability to use different historiographical and stylistic registers to convey a message that matters to many of us. Here is a historian who has shown that history itself does, indeed, matter.’ — Isis

‘the next time a colleague approaches me and asks, Can you recommend a good introduction to the history of psychology, I finally have an answer . . . In a book that is very good overall, there are some real gems . . . a marvelous accomplishment.’ — PsycCritiques

‘[an] excellent historical exploration . . . With his modest approach, Smith grants that his broader interpretations willl not please everyone, whether psychologist or historian. His firmly supported, nicely articulated historical approach, nevertheless, deserves careful consideration by everyone with interest in this important topic.’ — The Historian

Between Mind and Nature has clarity and a dry sparkle of humour. Smiths rattling pace makes up for the sometimes dry subject matter and it consistently raises questions and invites discussion. It is the same story that any psychology student has heard before, with the same cast of characters and same scenery, but rendered a more interesting and vital drama by inclusion of all the meanderings and dead ends other histories choose to omit.’ — Fortean Times

‘Roger Smiths History of the Human Sciences is a classic account of its subject. In Between Mind and Nature, he focuses on one strand in the human sciences psychology and gives us an informed and magisterial account of its development. It is a tour de force.’ — Bruce Mazlish, Professor of History Emeritus, MIT

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Roger Smith is Emeritus Reader in History of Science, Lancaster University, and an independent scholar living in Moscow. His previous books include Being Human: Historical Knowledge and the Creation of Human Nature (2007).


1. Early Strands of Mind
2. The Mind’s Place in Nature
3. Shaping Psychology
4. Psychological Society
5. Varieties of Science
6. Unconscious Mind
7. Individuals and Societies
8. Where is It All Going?

References for Quotations