L'?volution des id?es g?n?rales

H. N. Gardiner
1898 Psychological review  
204 vEVOLUTION DES WEES GENERALES. begin upon this inoffensive exercise their conception of the bolder forms could hardly remain unilluminated. D. S. MILLER. JUEvolution des idees g&nirales. TH. RIBOT. Paris, Alcan. 1897. Pp. 260. Where other writers are content with a volume or two, M. Ribot is for a whole library in octavo. This latest of his many books, a resume 1 of lectures delivered at the College of France, is announced as the first of a series planned to embrace all the parts of
more » ... he parts of psychology. Such industry is the more remarkable in that it results in literature which is always readable and worth the reading, for this reason at all events, that it to so large a degree affords a conspectus of contemporary opinion on the particular subjects treated. In this sort of work M. Ribot is an acknowledged master; he impresses one as a kind of professional auditor examining the psychological accounts. The principal thesis of the present work is that abstraction and generalization progress by three great stages. There is (1) the stage of the ' lower' abstracts, prelinguistic, consisting in ' generic images.' Then there is (2) the stage of ' intermediate' abstracts in which images are accompanied, but not yet wholly replaced, by words. We can distinguish two calsses, that in which the word is unessential and only in a slight degree an instrument of substitution, and that in which the word is indispensable and an instrument of substitution. The first class represents the ' concrete-abstract' stage of thinking, e. g., counting among savages. Finally (3) there is the stage of the ' higher' abstracts where the only element in consciousness is the symbol, the word. The principal aim of the book is to trace out these three stages through their various subdivisions and transitions. This aim is, we think, in the main, successfully accomplished. There are one or two points, however, to which it is perhaps desirable to call attention. In the first place, M. Ribot holds that some animals abstract, generalize and reason. We have no motive for disputing this; on the contrary, the indications seem to us strongly to favor this interpretation. But we should like to know more particularly concerning the process by which this is effected. M. Ribot refers us to ' generic images.' It is important, therefore, to understand what the generic image is and the method of its functioning. The most explicit statement as to its nature is on p. 101, where we are told that it is simple and of the practical order, that it results from repetition, that it is an extract of very obvious resemblances, and that it is condensed in a
doi:10.1037/h0068850 fatcat:pnnflj2lkndanpokcs6fd35fta