In 1996, the APA held its annual convention in Toronto. Both Meehl and Eysenck gave invited addresses in response to their selection as Clinical Psychologists of the Century. By this time, I had stopped attending APA meetings regularly, but I didn’t want to miss this one, so I had a chance to hear both talks and congratulate both recipients—Eysenck sincerely, for his genuine contributions to the field, and Meehl personally, rather than by letter. I also had a chance to talk with Paul face to face, a pleasure I had not had for several years. In the course of one of our conversations, I mentioned that I had just written an autobiographical narrative entitled, “The Professional Psychologist as a Moral Agent.” Meehl asked me to send him a copy. I did so, along with a note saying how good it had been to see him in Toronto:
Dear Don: We found your chapter MS on moral agent fascinating. Perhaps you had told me of your childhood but I have forgotten it. Most interesting. The shaping of values (the goddam politicos have made me antsy about the world, more than Feigl did!) is, I think, a DEEP sociopsy business that we don’t understand 28well, agreed? I’m sure it’s an interactive mix of modelling, reward/punishment, and precept-teaching. (Our colleagues tend to dismiss #3, but I believe that’s mistaken.) I am still surprisable by the shabby ethics one finds in academia. Persons with security, prestige, autonomy, interesting work, who are spiteful, petty, who lie, who keep enemies’ lists, etc. Recently I was on a PhD oral (philosophy) where a full prof, whose intellect and work I admire, tried to flunk anA + candidate because he hates the major advisor. Disgusting—and hard to understand.
I’ve fussed about ethics as a “cognitive” domain since high school. Wrote a small book on it (memo to Feigl) and dismissed it.
Yes, Toronto was nice, but I got a BAD tooth the next day, aaagh … and we are mourning our cat Otto Rank, who died shortly after our return.Paul
I knew Mowrer [a section headed “Psychology and Morality” in my chapter had begun with the sentence, “The first severe jolt to my simplistic identification of truth and virtue came through my relationship with O. Hobart Mowrer”] was subject to severe D spells (unipolar or bipolar? ever strongly “up”?) but somehow I got idea his suicide was a rational one, given Dx of dis-ease of some sort. Was it the obit [in the American Psychologist ] that said, or implied, that? Can unipolars be that productive and creative? They’re usually “down” a bit between episodes, I find.
I thought he was muddled about religion, so it intrigues me that you began to react positively—especially as most psychologists did not, for various reasons, some good, some bad. My view is deviant, differs from the “sympathetic non-believers.” The best scholarship (Roman, Lutheran, Anglican, agnostic, Jewish) has converged pretty much to non-Christian conclusions as to Jesus of Nazareth. So one can examine his alleged moral teachings “on the merits, “as one would Aristotle, Confucius, Buddha, Bertrand Russell, Albert Ellis, or Ayn Rand (HAH!) By that inspection, Jesus fares very poorly. Rehash of con-temporary rabbinical dicta, repeats of the earlier prophets, and a main stress on the immanent arrival of The Kingdom, which didn’t happen. Bluntly, why should I care what this confused, fanatical itinerant thaumaturge/exorcist said? (Hardnosed response of an ex-Lutheran skeptic. Residue of my “Lutheran Phase,” sound but unpopular in these days of subjectivism. Thesis: If Jesus was not what Paul et al claimed, or even what he himself claimed, tho that’s doubtful, with what authority does he speak?)
29 RD 1, Box 975
Windsor, VT 05089
September 13, 1996
Thank you for your letter re my “moral agent” piece.
I agree passionately that the shaping of social values is a DEEP sociopsychological morass that (a) is very poorly understood, (b) is vitally important not only to our whole society but to me personally, as a therapist, as an educator, as a citizen, as a person, as a parent—every which way, (c) lots of people in positions of influence (Bill Bennett, Ralph Reed, et al.) are appallingly sanctimonious about, and (d)is beyond my personal ken at this stage of my life.
About 10 years into my time at Illinois, I considered devoting much or most of the rest of my career to the topic. I’d been studying juvenile delinquency with Herb Quay and parent-child relationships with Wes Becker and others, & thought to focus on moral development for the rest of my time, but on closer inspection decided not to try any further research in the area for the same reason you said you didn’t do any research on psychotherapy. I didn’t know how. I think Piaget, Kohlberg, Gilligan, & others have brought us along a little way in our understanding, but credentialed knowledge, as against fervent opinion and rigidly determined insistence on moving the opinions into public policy through political action, is in very short supply. I am more than “antsy” about what the politicos are doing to the world. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said about the Gingrich-type Republicans in Congress, “They are so sure of them-selves, and they know so little. They chill my butt.”
My qualified acceptance of Hobart Mowrer’s views brought these issues to a head for me forcefully. Mowrer’s meta-ethical position was about as close to hard-core ethical realism as I ever found in a psychologist I admired, though he usually spoke of ethical rules as products of “the hard-won wisdom of society,” and never, within my hearing, as God-given mandates. Some interesting discussions with Missouri Synod Lutherans & Jesuits revolved about this point in the Lilly Foundation seminars [initiated and run by Mowrer to en-courage dialogue among theologians and psychologists on questions of value in human affairs]. His mood swings were bipolar. Most of the time he was in a mild to moderate hypomanic state—cheerful, very energetic. We could all see the D coming on. He’d slow down, wouldn’t show up at the office, etc. As you probably know, he tried everything to deal with it—2 psychoanalyses, at least 1 non-psychoanalytic psychotherapist, every kind of anti-depressant drug, ECT 30(he accepted evidence on biogenic origins) plus the integrity groups that he and Mollie ran weekly in their home, as much, he acknowledged, for his own benefit as for benefit of others. His suicide was “rational” in the sense that it did not occur when he was in the throes of a deep depression, tho I have a hunch he felt one coming on. His dear (but also vexing) Mollie had died, his children were grown & gone, he felt that his work was done, dfsaw little but pain and trouble to others in the future. So he went around to say private good-byes to his children and after that one night swallowed a large number of sleeping pills. I was very fond of Hobart and wrote a personal obituary for a minor journal after he died. I’ll send you a copy when I get back to NewJersey. Right now were watching the slow advance of autumn in Vermont, and I’m mixing golf & social pleasures with equally pleasant reading of history &f biographies of some admirable but ethically troubled, and often muddled fore-bears. As you said once about your own life, I love retirement.
I found your comments on Jesus of Nazareth fascinating, but this letter is already too long for counter-comment, which, if I tried one, would be less well informed but largely in agreement with yours. I’ll send you a copy of a sermon I gave at Rutgers’ Kirkpatrick Chapel while I was involved in my work on social prejudice. I describe my own religious leanings as those of a “fallen-away Unitarian.” No, I don’t think you & I ever talked about my childhood. Like the Army, all behind me & too many more interesting subjects to discuss.Don
Dear Don: That’s a fine obit you wrote. A very interesting and admirable man, he was. I only met him once, he talked on religion, not a very persuasive talk, people were disappointed. I was urged to give a post-visit lecture in reply, which I did. People didn’t much like mine either, but for different reasons.
Perhaps you can help me in tracking a cite. In a fat book of his “integrative” kind, he had said (in MS?) that Stephenson first used inverse factor analysis in the 1950s (or late 40s, I don’t recall exactly). I told him Ed Bordin did it in 1939 or 1940, his Ohio State PhD thesis. Mowrer made the correction in a 2nd book, or mebbe in a footnote to original text? But would I have seen MS or galley? We were not on such terms that he would have sent me an MS or whatever. I’ve tried to track this but failed. I thought it was a book on psychotherapy and learning theory (in title, that is). I do recall the big box showing P, Q, and R type correlations was in it, same locus as the Bordin footnote. DON’T toil on this—/thought it might be easy for you being more familiar. I may be conflating two totally unrelated loci.
I gather you tend to agree with Mowrer on ethics & behavioral “dis-ease.” [Mowrer claimed that neurotic distress, i.e., dis-ease, was generally a consequence 31of undersocialization and too little conscience, rather than oversocialization and a harshly punitive superego, as Freud had said.] I don’t, much, hut am open to it. For the major disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar, unipolar depression) I don’t think it’s a helpful conceptualization. I doubt it for panic dis-order and for “classic” obsessive- compulsive disorder. But that leaves a wide field of other neurotic & psychopathic stuff where he has a point.Paul
Dear Don: Bang-up sermon you gave! We differ on egoism/altruism thing, too “deep” for letters to work. And probably reflect very deep personality differences. I am a non-groupy fellow, first noted at age 7 or 8 when the teacher’s Big Pitch was for our room (grade 2 or 3) to have best showing in supporting this cause or that. It had no effect on me—/always brought a little token batch—and I was puzzled that almost everyone responded. This defect in Trotter’s “Herd Instinct” is probably a moral defect, as you (andMowrer, and Don Campbell) view things. If so, I plead guilty. It’s how I am, and I feel no impulse to change. Partly because I’m sure others perceive me as a reliably moral agent, in fact I suspect am above (academics’) average in fulfilling my obligations and avoiding wrong-doing. But your sermon asks for more than that.
I wrote a critical reply to Campbell’s APA prexy address, but never published it, or sent it to him. I am unconvinced that Herd Instinct does more good than harm. You expound the biological basis for the harm at the sermon’s beginning, very nicely. I think war, racism, class-ism, ideological conflict, etc., derive largely from the Herd Instinct. Only a few persons (e.g., Hitler) are extremely evil, but most people are gregarious + stupid, so they fall for the Hitlers. Altruism impels a few people to send money or clothes orfood to Greece after an earth-quake; OK, that’s peanuts. But it impels many people to swallow the goddam rulers’ Vietnam lies, and for years.Paul
Bertrand Russell said (in autobiog? I d. k. where), “In my youth I was troubled because most people selfishly pursue their own happiness; I now realize that the main problem is their not doing that because they’re trying to generate unhappiness in others. If we could get people to pursue their own happiness rationally and stop trying to make others unhappy, we would usher in the millennium.” Altho of course exaggerated—as Russell often was on moral and political questions—his statement has a lot of merit, I think. But one must add, to “rationally,” the term ethically . That opens up the can of worms. I am 32an “ethical minimalist-rigorist, “which sounds an oxymoron but is not. It says, “Only a few moral rules, but try hard to obey them.” I have a colleague who worries (or claims to?) about the peons in Peru, but he once left PhD prelims unread for 5 weeks while students sweated. There’s a lot of that in academia, and I strongly disapprove of it. “Charity begins at home” is a good motto.
October 29, 1996
Your letters of 10/4 (re Mowrer obit) & 10/5 (re sermon) were in the mail headed for VT while I was in my car coming back to NJ. My fault—I’d failed to notify secretary of sudden change in travel plans. Please forgive delay.
I’m pretty sure the citation re Stephenson, Bordin, and inverse factor analysis that you were seeking per your letter of 10/4 is Mowrer’s chapter on Q technique in Psychotherapy: Theory and Research (1953). I didn’t “toil” to find this, but I did penetrate the local stacks to look it up & find that Hobart credits W. Stephenson & Godfrey Thompson forfirst use of Q-technique in 1935, &Ed Bordin for first use of O -tech. in his OSU dissertation (1942). My guess is Hobart hadn’t known about Bordin’s work until you told him about it. He thanks you, Starke Hathaway, & others for “particular info.” in a chapterfoot-note in the 1953 edition of the book.
My agreement with Mowrer on ethics and behavioral “dis-ease” is heavily qualified. I agree with you that for the major disorders (Sc, bipolar, unipolar D) the conception is not only “not helpful” but is seriously misleading. Mowrer came to this same view in his later years, but by then was off on his “new group therapy” kick & did not, to my knowledge, publish a retraction/correction. I share your doubts about pertinence of the idea for panic and obsessive-compulsive disorders, but know no research on the topic, and the research I do know (I did some of it) on garden-variety low-level anxiety and depression of the kind most of us see in outpatient Rx support Mowrer’s hypothesis.
I think we differ less on our views of egoism/altruism than your letter of 10/5 (& my sermon) suggest. I agree that many of our species-endangering evils (war, mass murder based on racial/religious hatred, etc.) derive largely from some kind of Herd Instinct, &ftry to say so in my sermon. I also agree emphatically that “Charity begins at home” and am as disgusted as you are by the hypocrisy of colleagues who are big on altruistic generalities at cocktail parties and sometimes in lectures and writings, & then do the kinds of outrageous things you mention in your letters (leaving exams unread while students sweat, going after political enemies in their dept. by punishing adversaries’ students —I’ve seen that one a lot ) in their personal lives. One of my colleagues at Illinois (no longer there) wrote high-sounding prose about social justice in the early days of the community psychology craze, but, while married, screwed every pretty female grad. student he could seduce & skipped town leaving a piano 33dealer holding the bag for the price of a grand piano, less the down payment that brought the piano into his possession.
Without ever talking about it, you influenced my attitudes & behavior in these matters. I wouldn’t expect you to remember it, but you asked me to take over your lectures in Intro, to Clin. Psy. on a couple of occasions when you had to leave town for colloquia elsewhere. I was honored by the request & would cheerfully have done my best for nothing, but you actually paid me for my work. On reflection, I thought that was fair. I was especially impressed with your practice of seeing that the students in the course got all the content they were paying for (or at least the best a sub. like me could offer) instead of just canceling the classes. When I went to Illinois, I followed the pattern you had set, except a few times when my lecture notes were too sketchy to inflict on anyone else.
Anyway, I certainly agree that the first obligation for all of us is personal integrity. That was Hobart’s main point. He and I would also agree with you in your mimimalist-rigorist position (few rules, but stick to them) in a general sense, but may differ in emphases on “involvement” & “responsibility,” the 2 moral imperatives that Mowrer added to “integrity” in his definition of core values. I don’t know how wide the differences between you and me are, but suspect they are smaller than your comments appear to presume. I’m non-groupy too, in my way. Never went for the “go-team” stuff in school, never joined a study group, enlisted in the Army, but not because I felt a passion to save our society (tho I was plenty worried about prospects of Nazi/Jap victory). I enlisted partly to get into a program that sent me to college to study engineering for awhile & promised a shot at a commission (which I never received), and partly for the adventure that war service provided. In psychology, the only organizations I’ve everjoined are APA and Div. 12 (none of the sections), &the National Council of Professional Schools, which I helpedfound as a leaky organizational bulwark against lousy professional training & for which I felt responsible. There was talk about “doing your part” in my growing-up years, and I’m sure I absorbed some of it, but the main reasons I’ve done things that have an altruistic look to them are (a) that somebody asked me to and the challenge looked interesting, & (b) because I feel best when I’m doing something that seems to have a chance of helping somebody else. I’ll bet we’re fairly even on need: Nurturance which has to be involved somehow in motivation of altruistic behavior. In one of our conversations a few years back—I think to discuss failure of PsyD plan at U of M—you casually mentioned that you were thinking of increasing your practice, & said something like, “I don’t feel quite right unless I’m helping somebody.”
But as you say in your letter of 10/5 all this is too deep for letters to work. As you presume, I went along with Don Campbell’s APA pres. arguments without questioning them cognitively, and with heartfelt sympathy for the spirit of the piece. I’d be interested in your objections, if you still have a copy of your critical reply to D. C. & are willing to send it to me.Don
Dear Don: Thanks for Mowrer reference. There was no urgency—I tend to be a “quick responded” as you are, but that doesn’t imply urgency.
I seem to have given the impression that I consider you a “groupy” type, which is not the case. I suspect you are below the mean, as some of your self re-ports would suggest. I even think you may be a trifle introverted, like me. Persons with high g, fluency, ambition, n[eed]:Achievement, energy, social potency, get rated “extrovert” by less perceptive judges, I think. There are several paths to an altruistic group- oriented ethic, and temperamental n: Affiliation (= “groupiness”) is only one of them, I believe. I can’t find my draft of anti-Campbell—pencil only, I think—but it is somewhere. I can’t believe I just trashed it. The 2 main complaints were (a) Herd Instinct often harmful, mebbe more often than helpful, and (b) accepting religion in a “symbolic” (= not true) sense is a cop-out and muddle-headed.
Hendrickson book on McNamara is powerful, as strong as Mc’s was feeble. He never once admits “We were evil-doers,” only “We made mistakes.” That dis-gusts me. Those crumbs lied and lied and lied, killed 58,000 young men for nothing except their own libido dominandi . Yech!Paul
PS.: Leslie points out the goddam politicians don’t even say, “I made mis-takes,” they say, “Mistakes were made,” as if the cosmos did it.
Report of solitary ways during my childhood & beyond was intended not so much to correct possible misperception on your part as to note remarkable resemblance between the dispositions you felt and showed as a kid & those I felt and saw in myself. There may be, as you said in your prior letter, “deep” personality differences between us, but I have seen no sign of them yet, and whatever diffs. there may be, standing on n: Affiliation does not appear to be one of them. Sure enough, I’ve come in on the introversive side on every I/E test I’ve ever taken.
If your anti-Campbell comments ever turn up, I’d appreciate your sending me a copy, but I’m sure I’d agree with one of your complaints and suspect I’d agree with the other. In my view, the Herd Instinct not only may be but is more often harmful than helpful in society today—atavistic remnant of disposition that brought the species thru thefirstfew million years but must be transcended now. I would need to reread Campbell’s paper &see yr comment (to see what you mean by “true” religion) to decide about your second complaint.
I haven’t read McNamara’s book, &from reviews & knowledge of his history don’t think I want to. He and his ilk not only killed 58,000 black and 35white American men but at least hundreds of thousands of brown & yellow Asian men, women, & children. And then he wants to come clean by saying, “Some mistakes were made. “Jesus. I haven’t seen Hendrickson’s book but will keep my eyes open for it.
I’ll be out of commission for awhile. I’m scheduled for surgery Monday to ream out a carotid artery &once recoveredfrom that [will have] another operation to repair an abdominal aortal aneurysm. I hate to see this once perfectly dependable body show some cracks, but the odds are on my side (risk of “complication” during the carotid job = .01; risk, absent operation, for one of my history and numbers, of major stroke within a year (=) .25-30). I expect to come through fine.Don
P.S. Modern imagery technology is fabulous . Ulceration in my carotid and bubble in aorta clearer than any 1940s x-ray of bones. Praise God for modern science.