Psychology

Psychology

Psychology is one of the most catholic concentrations at Harvard; classified as a social science, it is at once biological, philosophical, and sociological, tackling the mysteries of the human mind through many lenses and perspectives. Houghton’s collection reflects the universality of psychology, especially its strong ties to philosophy and the biological sciences.

The home of William James’ papers (MS Am 1092-1092.13) and library, Houghton allows students to explore the multifaceted nature of psychology as well as its rich history. James’ library includes newspaper clippings on the psychology of animals (WJ 577.53.1, 012182336), papers such as Francis Bowen’s “Dualism, Materialism, or Idealism?” (WJ 400.5.9, 002900970), books like Antoine Cros’s Les fonctions supérieures du système nerveux (Phil 5242.26, 004497469), and “Aggressive Hinduism” (WJ 561.8.3, 012183625), a pamphlet reflective of James’ interest in religious questions and their connection to psychology. The library also holds the Erik and Joan Erikson papers (MS Am 2031, 005665485), which contain material related to one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated psychoanalysts and the developer of the theory of human psychosocial development, and the correspondence (MS Ger 202, 000602057) and compositions (MS Ger 230, 009261245) of Franz Brentano, a precursor of psychological luminaries such as Freud, both of which can be accessed online.

As with philosophy, the Quine papers (MS Am 2587, 008937558) are a treasure trove for the psychology concentrator. Besides his correspondence with Jean Piaget (852) and Harvard psychology professor Robert Epstein (334), Quine’s interest in human evolution and philosophy of language makes his papers perfect for students interested in pursuing the Mind, Brain, and Behavior track within the psychology department. Among the papers he owned are Daniel Clement Dennett’s “What Evolutionary Good is God?” (1626) and “Evolution, Error, and Intentionality” (1628), both of which discuss biological, philosophical, and psychological questions. Dennett’s papers also shed light on the hard problem of consciousness and the relationship between psychology and computer science, another hallmark of the MBB track. Notable among those are “Exploring the Space of the Turing Test” (1629), “The Practical Requirements for Making a Conscious Robot” (1640), and “The Where and When of Consciousness in the Brain” (1642).

The Quine papers also illustrate the intrinsic connection between psychology and linguistics, especially the field of semantics. Papers such as B. H. Partee’s “Belief Sentences and the Limits of Semantics” (2063) and “Semantics: Mathematics of Psychology?” (2064) are just two of the myriad documents linking the science of the mind to the science of language.

Houghton’s psychology collection, however, is not limited to traditional scholarship on the subject. The Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection, bequeathed to the library by the Colombian businessman’s son, is the planet’s largest private collection about psychotropic experiences, another interdisciplinary field linking psychology to the biological sciences. Among the collection’s most fascinating articles are a typescript for The Host and the Ghost (2014M-34, 014148643), an unpublished book about the “phenomenology of psychedelic experience,” and an unpublished typescript for “Magic Grams: Inquiries into Psychedelic Consciousness” (MS Am 2950, 013865572), a set of interviews with “psychedelic pioneers.” Breaking from the printed format, Houghton also owns Mind Mirror (AC95.L4795.988m, 013981480), a computer game designed by Timothy Leary that involves psychology, philosophy, and computer science. Leary, a psychologist who focused on psychotropics, was arrested, and some of his prison papers can also be found at Houghton (MS Am 2880, 012591515). Mind Mirror, however, is a testament to the library’s desire to expand its archives beyond traditional information formats and record modern history through modern media.