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Mary Whiton Calkins

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Mary Whiton Calkins (1863-1930) was an American philosopher

Mary Whiton Calkins started her career as a Greek instructor at Wellesley College, but developed an interest in psychology. She established a psychology lab at Wellesley, the first psychology lab at a woman's college. Studying with William James and Hugo Munsterberg at Harvard University, she wrote her dissertation on memory. She developed the paired-associate technique for studying memory.

Her philosophical creed was expressed through her four principal statements which were shown in her books, The Persistent Problems of Philosophy (1907) & The Good Man and The Good (1918), that the universe contained distinct mental realities, and, although the mind was from a lower level of existence, it emerged from that level to one higher that answered to new special laws. This level of reality was ultimately personal & consciousness as such never happened impersonally. She asserted that the universe was mental throughout, and whatever was real was ultimately mental and therefore personal. She concluded that the universe was an all-inclusive self, an absolute person and a conscious being. On several philosophical problems she agreed with Samuel Alexander but claimed to have a greater level of consistency than him.

She is best remembered today for Harvard University's refusal to grant her a Ph.D.. Although she had a near-perfect examination, they still refused her because she was a woman, despite the recommendations given by William James and Josiah Royce. She was offered a Ph.D. from Radcliffe College, but she turned it down. In the end, she became the first female president of both the American Psychological Association (1905) and the American Philosophical Association (1918), having never received her Ph.D.

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Preceded by:
William James
President
American Psychological Association

1905
Succeeded by:
James Rowland Angell


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