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Arguments against (dissertations as) vanity publishing

August 21, 2008, 9:11 pm

Tracking down a citation for the still unfinished dissertation of mine, I came across the title of a book likely to be sufficient.  The book had the title of The Comprehensive History of Psychology.

“I only need to know what the e and b in the initials of E.B. Titchner’s name stand for,” I thought to myself.  “So the first link to a book returned by Google Book Search should be ample discrimination for my scholarly purposes.”

When I read the “Brief Life-Sketch of Edward Bradford Titchner” I learned I was wrong.  A discriminative act resulting in this book lacked sufficient discrimination.  What I learned was:

Titchner was born in the English town of Chichester.  His family had little money.  With the help of scholarship, he got admitted into Malvern College and then entered into Oxford University from where he took his bachelor’s degree.  This also completed his training as a physiologist.  But he was dissatisfied with what he had learned till now.  Therefore, he went to Germany at Leipzig University to get training with famous Wilhelm Wundt.  He studied with Wundt for 2 years, that is, from 1890 to 1892 and obtained his doctorate degree in 1892.  His dissertation was on binocular effects of monocular stimulation.  Although Titchner spent only two years with Wundt, he (Wundt) made a great impression on him—an impression which was never obliterated.

After returning from Leipzig, Titchner became an extension lecturer of Oxford.  He would have liked to remain at Oxford but the English were not ready to show any sympathy or even were not ready to accept the “new” psychology of Titchner.  Therefore he decided to immigrate to America at Cornell University where he remained for the rest of his life, that is, for nearly thirtyfive [sic] years.  [...]  During his thirtyfive [sic] years [sic] brilliant career at the Cornell University [sic sic sic], he established his system, wrote articles and books and guided research students.  [...]

During the last years of his life, the interest of Titchner turned from psychology to numismatics or coin collecting.  He died in 1927 probably [!] due to a brain tumor.

Although Titchner was such an Englishman who never gave up his British citizenship, he was very Germanic and much like his teacher, Wundt, even in having a beard [!].

Knowing that someone, somewhere thought this should be published is a powerful mental enervation.  I can finish the dissertation which will have been written for seven years, that is, from 2001 to 2008.  Then I think I should compose a profoundly amusing quiz for you readers in which I present passages about Francis Galton, cousin of the famous Charles, from my Twain chapter alongside excerpts from this book and have you guess what is their origin.  Here are two sentences maybe or maybe not written by me:

Like Darwin, [Galton] also believed in these families in past there must existed a great variations of mental abilities and the outstanding ones were able to survive and pass on to the next generation.

Despite his misgivings with the efficacy and applicability of analysis as means of identifying criminals from a database of strangers, for the time he worked under the inspirational thrall of the book, he it seems had adopted the applied essentialism of its argument.

Which one do you think wrote which?  I decline to answer because the results of my experiment may cripple me with the depression.

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