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James Mark Baldwin (Columbia, South Carolina, 18611934) was an American philosopher and psychologist who was educated at Princeton under the supervision of Scottish philosopher James McCosh. He made important contributons to early psychology, psychiatry, and to the theory of evolution.


Early life

Using the opportunity offered by the Green Fellowship in Mental Science awarded to him at Princeton he went to study in Germany with Wilhelm Wundt at Leipzig and with Friedrich Paulsen at Berlin. (1884-1885).

In 1885 he became Instructor in French and German at the Princeton Theological Seminary. He translated Théodule-Armand Ribot's "German Psychology of Today" and wrote his first paper "The Postulates of a Physiological Psychology". Ribot's work traced the origins of psychology from Kant through Herbart, Fechner, Lotze to Wundt.

In 1887,while working as a professor of philosophy at Lake Forest College he married Helen Hayes Green, the daughter of the President of the Seminary. At Lake Forest he published the first part of his "Handbook of Psychology (Senses and Intellect)" in which he directed the attention to the new experimental psychology of Weber, Fechner and Wilhelm Wundt.

In 1889 he went to the University of Toronto as the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics. His creation of a laboratory of experimental psychology at Toronto (a famous first in Canada) coincided with the birth of his daughters Helen (1889) and Elisabeth (1891) which inspired the quantitative and experimental research on infant development that was to make such a vivid impression on Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg through Baldwin's "Mental Development in the Child and the Race. Methods and Processes" (1894) dedicated to the subject. A second part of "Handbook of Psychology (Feeling and Will)" appeared in 1891.

During this creative phase Baldwin travelled to France (1892) to visit the important psychologists Charcot (at the Salpêtrière), Hippolyte Bernheim (at Nancy), and Pierre Janet.


In 1893 he was called back to his alma mater, Princeton University, where he was offered the Stuart Chair in Psychology and the opportunity to establish a new psychology laboratory. He would stay at Princeton till 1903 working out the highlights of his career reflected in "Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development. A Study in Social Psychology." (1897) where he took his previous "Mental Development" to the critical stage in which it survived in the work of Lev Vygotsky, through Vygotsky in the crucial work of Alexander Luria, and in the synthesis of both by Aleksey Leontyev.

Baldwin complemented his psychological work with philosophy, in particular epistemology his contribution to which he presented in the presidential address to the American Psychological Association in 1897. By then the work on the "Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology" (1902) had been announced and a period of intense philosophical correspondence ensued with the contributors to the project: William James, John Dewey, Charles Sanders Peirce, Josiah Royce, George Edward Moore, Bernard Bosanquet, James McKeen Cattell, Edward B. Titchener, Hugo Münsterberg, Christine Ladd-Franklin, Adolf Meyer, George Stout, Franklin Henry Giddings, Edward Bagnall Poulton and others.

An important contributor should not be overlooked. Conway Lloyd Morgan was perhaps closest to understanding the so called "Baldwin Effect". In his "Habit and Instinct" (1896) he phrased a comparable version of the theory, like he did in an address to a session of the New York Academy of Sciences (February 1896) in the presence of Baldwin. (1896/Of modification and variation. Science 4(99) (November 20):733-739). As did Henry Fairfield Osborn (1896/A mode of evolution requiring neither natural selection nor the inheritance of acquired charcteristics. Transactions of the New York Academy of Science 15:141-148). The "Baldwin Effect", building in part on the principle of "organic selection" proposed by Baldwin in "Mental Development" did only receive its name by George Gaylord Simpson in 1953. (in: Evolution 7:110-117) (see:Daniel J. Depew in "Evolution and Learning" M.I.T.2003)

In 1899 Baldwin went to Oxford to supervise the completion of the "Dictionary..." (1902). He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Science at the Oxford University. (In the light of the foregoing the deafning silence with which J.M.Baldwin was later treated in Oxford publications on the Mind may well come to be regarded as one of the significant ommisions in the history of ideas for the 20th century. Compare for example Richard Gregory:"The Oxford Companion to the Mind" first edition 1987)

Johns Hopkins

In 1903, partly as a result of a dispute with Princeton president Woodrow Wilson, partly due to an offer involving more pay and less teaching, he moved to a professorship of philosophy and psychology at Johns Hopkins University where he re-opened the experimental laboratory that had been founded by Granville Stanley Hall in 1884 (but had closed with Hall's departure to take of the presidency of Clark University in 1888).

In Baltimore Baldwin started to work on "Thoughts and Things: A Study of the Development and Meaning of Thought. Or Genetic Logic" (1906) a densely integrative rendering of his ideas culminating in "Genetic Theory of Reality. Being the Outcome of Genetic Logic as Issuing in the Aesthetic Theory of Reality called Pancalism" (1915).

In Baltimore also Baldwin was arrested in a raid on a brothel (1908), a scandal that put an end to his American career. Forced to leave Johns Hopkins he looked for residence in Paris. He was to reside in France till his death in 1934.


His first years (1908-1912) in France were interrupted by long stays in Mexico where he advised on university matters and lectured at the School of Higher Studies at the National University in Mexico City. His " Darwin and the Humanities" (1909) and "Individual and Society" (1911) date from this period. In 1912 he took permanent residence in Paris.


Baldwin's residence in France resulted in his pointing out the urgency of American non-neutral support for his new hosts on the French battlefields of WW I. He published "American Neutrality, Its Cause and Cure" (1916) for the purpose, and when in 1916 he survived a German torpedo attack on the "Sussex" in the English channel- on the return trip from a visit to William Osler at Oxford- his open telegram to the President of the United States on the affair became frontpage news (New York Times). With the entry of America in the war (1917) he helped to organize the Paris branch of the American Navy League, acting as its Chairman till 1922. In 1926 his memoirs "Between Two Wars (1861-1921)" were published. He died in Paris on 9 November 1934.

Baldwin and Maine de Biran

In 1924 Baldwin's stay in Paris coincided with the commemoration by the "Société Française de Philosophie" of the 100th anniversary of the death of Maine de Biran (1776-1824).

At the proceedings a lecture was held by Henri Delacroix: "Maine de Biran et l'école Medico-psychologique". The paper highlights the work of Maine de Biran for medical psychology prompted by Antoine Royer-Collard (not to be confused with his brother Pierre Royer-Collard), who headed the mental asylum of Charenton and had asked de Biran to look into the curriculum for mental pathology at the "École Medicale" (1819). (i.e. "Considerations sur les principes d'une division des faits psychologiques et physiologiques" in vol. XV, Tisserand ed)

Maine de Biran had always been acutely aware of the dynamogenic origin of "aperception" in conciousness. In his own words:

" In taking the term perception in its true psychological sense, we will say that the connection (French:connexité) of will and motion that constitutes immediate internal aperception is not the object but the proper subject of all external perception, or of what Locke and Condillac generally call sensation.(...) In order to perceive the self has to exist for itself or the personality to have commenced; the self does not exist but in willed effort, and actual willed effort does not manifest itself as fact but by its immediate effect in consciousness, motion or muscular sensation thus being perceived (French:aperçue) in connection with its cause and understood in the same unity of consciousness."
(Maine de Biran "Réponses a Stapfer /première objection" -1818)

In "History of psychology: A scetch and an interpretation" (1913) Baldwin analysed the significance of Maine de Biran as follows:

"He proceeded from the Augustinian postulate 'volens sum', founding this intuition upon the opposition felt in experiences of voluntary effort against resistance. He went further than Laromiguière in developing what have been called 'dynamic categories' -force, cause, substance, etc- from these original expieriences of personal activity. This is, in its results, in sharp contrast with the Humian derivation of these ideas; but it employs the weapons of Hume, since it reposes upon the activities which Hume summarised in his theory of habit. If we say with Hume that habit is that element by which psychic contents are bound together in unity and connection, then we may go on to a further analysis of habit on the functional side. This is the procedure of certain modern psychologists who agree with Hume that habit results in a solidification of contents; by these psychologists habit in turn is analysed into modes of synergy and assimilation in 'motor processes', to which perhaps the attention itself is originally due."

Attention to the extent of this topic is justified by contemporary studies of consciousness criticizing Descartes (Antonio Damasio) or reapraising Condillac (Merlin Donald) without reference to the pioneering efforts of Maine de Biran in constructively criticizing both within the framework of mental development. What "further analysis of habit on the functional side" meant for Baldwin is currently being debated. (see:Terence Deacon, 1997)

Organic Selection

The idea of organic selection came from the interpretation of the observable data in Baldwin's experimental study of infant reaching and its role in mental development. Every practice of the infant's movement intented to advance the integration of behaviour favourable to development in the experimental framework appeared to be selected from an excess of movement in the trial of imitation.

In further stages of development -the ones most critical to an understanding of the evolution of mind- this was graphically (par exellence !) illustrated in the child's efforts to draw and learning to write. ("Mental Development in the Child and the Race").

In later editions of "Mental Development" Baldwin changed the term "organic selection" into "functional selection".

So, from the outset the idea was well linked to the philosophy of mind Baldwin was emancipating from the models inspired by divine pre-establishment (Spinoza) (Wozniak, 2001)

It is the communication of this profound insight into the practice related nature of dynamogenic development, above all its integration as a creative factor in the fabric of society, that helped the students of Baldwin to understand wat was left of Lamarck's signature. Singularly illustrated by Gregory Bateson in Mind and Nature (1979) and brilliantly reintegrated in contemporary studies by Terence Deacon The Symbolic Species: The co-evolution of language and the human brain (1997).

In human species the faculty of niche building is favoured by a practical intelligence able to design the circumstances that will put its vital acquirements out of harms way in terms of (lineary predicted) natural selection. It is precisely in the fields of study relating to massive selection pressures against which other species seem to be without defences -biological development in the face of novel pandemics (AIDS, mad cow disease)- that the arguments relative to the natural heredity of intelligent acquirements have resurfaced in a way most challengeing to science.


James Mark Baldwin was prominent among early experimental psychologists (voted by his peers the fifth most important psychologist in America in a 1902 survey conducted by James McKeen Cattell), but it was his contributions to developmental psychology that his contributions were greatest.

His contributions to the young discipline's early journals were highly significant as well. Baldwin was a co-founder (with James McKeen Cattell) of Psychological Review (which was founded explicitly to compete with Hall's American Journal of Psychology), Psychological Monographs and Psychological Index, and he was the founding editor of Psychological Bulletin.

In 1892 he was vice-president of the international Congress of Psychology held in London, and in 18971898 president of the American Psychological Association; he received a gold medal from the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Denmark (1897), was honorary president of the International Congress of Criminal Anthropology held in Geneva in 1896.

Baldwin effect

Main article: Baldwin effect

Baldwin's most important theoretical legacy is the concept of the Baldwin effect or "Baldwinian evolution". Baldwin proposed, against Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, that there is a mechanism whereby epigenetic factors come to shape the genome as much as — or more than — natural selection pressures. In particular, human behavioural decisions made and sustained across generations as a set of cultural practices ought to be considered among the factors shaping the human genome.

For example, the incest taboo, if powerfully enforced, removes the natural selection pressure against the possession of incest-favoring genes. After a few generations without this natural selection pressure, unless such genetic material were profoundly fixed in the genome, it would tend to diversify and lose its function. Humans would no longer be innately averse to incest, but would rely on their capacity to internalize such rules from cultural practices.

The opposite case can also be true: cultural practice might selectively breed humans to meet the fitness conditions of new environments, cultural and physical, which earlier hominids could not have survived. Baldwinian evolution might strengthen or weaken a genetic trait.


Although relatively obscure in his time, Baldwin's contribution to this field places him at the heart of contemporary controversies in the fields of Evolutionary psychology and wider Sociobiology. Few people did more than Robert Wozniak, Professor of Psychology at Bryn Mawr College for the rediscovery of the significance of James Mark Baldwin in the History of ideas. In his book Integral Psychology, Ken Wilber refers to Baldwin as a forerunner of Wilber's theory of integral psychology.

See also



  • Baldwin, J.M.(1890), Handbook of Psychology translation of Ribot’s, German Psychology of To-day
  • Baldwin, J.M. (1886); Elements of Psychology (1893);
  • Baldwin, J.M.(1898); Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development
  • Baldwin, J.M. (1898); Story of the Mind
  • Baldwin, J.M. (1896); Mental Development in the Child and the Race
  • Baldwin, J.M. (1906).Thought and Things (London and New York,

Book Chapters


Baldwin, James Mark (1892). The psychological laboratory in the University of Toronto. Science, 19 (no. 475), 143-144. Full text

Baldwin, James Mark. (1895). Types of reaction. Psychological Review, 2, 259-273. [Baldwin's reply to Titichener, 1895a.] Full text

Baldwin, James Mark. (1896). The 'type-theory' of reaction. Mind, 5, 81-90. [Baldwin's reply to Titchener, 1895b [ Full text]

Baldwin, James Mark. (1901). Dictionary of philosophy and psychology. Originally published in New York and London by MacMillan. A-O only Full text

Baldwin, James Mark. (1913). History of psychology: A sketch and an interpretation. London: Watts. Full text

Baldwin, James Mark, Cattell, James McKeen, & Jastrow, Joseph. (1898). Physical and mental tests. Psychological Review, 5, 172-179.Full text

Further reading

Baldwin, James Mark. (1930). Autobiography of James Mark Baldwin. In C. Murchison (Ed.), History of psychology in autobiography (Vol. 1, pp. 1-30). Worcester, MA: Clark University Press. Fulll text

External links


  • Robert H. Wozniak [1]: "Development and Synthesis: An introduction to the Life and Work of James Mark Baldwin" Bryn Mawr College, 2001 in: History of American Thought-Thoemmes Continuum/The History of Ideas 14/09/2004
  • "Evolution and Learning:The Baldwin Effect Reconsidered" edited by Bruce H. Weber and David J. Depew: Cambridge, Massachusetts 2003 -The MIT Press

Additional Reading

  • Gregory Bateson: "Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity" New York, 1979 -E.P.Dutton
  • Terence Deacon: "The Symbolic Species: The co-evolution of language and the human brain" USA, 1997 -W.W.Norton / Great Britain, 1997 -Allan Lane The Penguin Press.
  • Edward J. Steele, Robyn A. Lindley, Robert V. Blanden: "Lamarck's Signature: How Retrogenes Are Changing Darwin's Natural Selection Paradigm" Sydney, 1998 -Allan & Unwin Pty Ltd. In: Frontiers of Science -Series Editor Paul Davies.
Integral Theory/Integral Thought
Integral theorists: Aurobindo Ghose, Jean Gebser, Haridas Chaudhuri, Clare Graves, Ervin László, Michael Murphy, Don Beck, Chris Cowan, Ken Wilber

Integral books: The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Full Circle (book), Spiral Dynamics, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality
Integral themes: Evolution, Involution, Integral ecology, Integral politics, Integral psychology, Integral yoga
Influences on integral theory: James Mark Baldwin, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur M. Young, Edward Haskell, Erich Jantsch, Stanislav Grof, Rupert Sheldrake, Francisco Varela
Integral artists: Alex Grey, Stuart Davis, Saul Williams
Integral organizations: California Institute of Integral Studies, Integral Institute

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