Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In the philosophy of mind, associationism began as a theory about how ideas combine in the mind. John Locke suggested that each of us was born without any innate capabilities - a Tabula Rasa - which learned to form representations as a result of experiences, rather than of reason. "Experimental Psychology", as David Hume (1711-1776) called it, was concerned with studying the mind as a mirror of representations of nature, constantly trying to make sense of the world. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was among those criticising Hume’s focus on experiences, claiming that knowledge must be the result of an either God-given or evolved rationality, but that the nature of the mind made direct observations impossible. Despite his theories, the empirical methodology begun by the associationists kept its stronghold, and before the end of the nineteenth century experiments were conducted in areas such as memory and animal learning. This theory sets up that all consciousness is the result of the combination, in accordance with the law of association, of certain simple and ultimate elements derived from sense experiences. It was developed by David Hartley and advanced by James Mill.
In the early history of socialism, associationism was one term used by early-nineteenth-century followers of the utopian theories of such thinkers as Robert Owen, Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, and Charles Fourier to describe their beliefs.
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