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Cattell, James McKeenlocked

(25 May 1860–20 January 1944)
  • Michael M. Sokal

Extract

Cattell, James McKeen (25 May 1860–20 January 1944), psychologist and editor, was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, the son of William C. Cattell, a Presbyterian minister and president of Lafayette College in Easton, and Elizabeth McKeen, the daughter of James McKeen, the college’s most generous benefactor. Cattell grew up as the scion of Easton’s leading family, and even as a student at Lafayette (A.B., 1880) he came to expect the deference of others. His family’s closeness led him to study the ethics of Comtean positivism, which idealized the mother’s sacrifice in childbirth as the model of all altruistic behavior. At Lafayette, the teaching of philologist Francis Andrew March—especially March’s emphasis on the philosophy of Francis Bacon—impressed him. Cattell developed an approach to science that combined a Comtean emphasis on quantification with a Baconian appreciation for the hypothesis-free collection of empirical “facts” and the usefulness of science. Throughout his career he adopted methods that produced quantitative data about psychological phenomena, even if he often could not explain them....

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