Alexander Bain, Associationism and Scottish Philosophy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter begins with the intellectual formation of John Stuart Mill, friend and mentor of Alexander Bain (1818–1903). It presents the case for thinking that, despite his lifelong residence in England, Mill is properly regarded as an inheritor of one important strand in the Scottish philosophical tradition, namely the positivistic naturalism of David Hume. Mill valued Bain’s comments on his System of Logic, and the high regard he placed on Bain’s early psychological work, led him to play a key part in Bain’s appointment to the Chair of Logic in the amalgamated University of Aberdeen (1860), despite strenuous opposition. This chapter explores Bain’s seminal contributions to the foundation of physiologically based psychology, as well as his founding of the subsequently internally acclaimed journal Mind. The chapter interprets Bain as the principal mature exponent of an alternative non-Reidian, non-metaphysical version of the ‘science of mind’.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScottish Philosophy in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
EditorsGordon Graham
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780199560684
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2015


  • J. S. Mill
  • Alexander Bain
  • psychology
  • science of mind
  • naturalism
  • empiricism


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