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The Story of Evolution, Spring 2005
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The Species of Truth: Tracing the Genealogy of a Preeminent Family

Carolyn Dahlgren

"Truth is one species of good, and not, as is usually supposed, a category distinct from good, and co-ordinate with it."
(What William James Said...)

In order to exist in the world that we call reality, a Truth married a Non-Truth. The result of this consecrated union-a funny thing to call a ritual which mixes bloodlines and dilutes genetics through diversity- was a long and hardy line of Truths. Generation upon generation of children were born and, though the blue-or perhaps it was golden or silver; it certainly couldn't have been red and mortal like ours-blood of their Truth predecessors dispersed through the gene pool, the family proudly carried the name of Truth. Like any family history, the evolution of the Truths is a multifaceted story. It is full of intricacies and complexities, a supernova of people, voices, words, and spirits that are continually folding in on themselves while expanding outwards. We could tell many different stories about the lives of the Truths, indeed their stories bleed together making it hard to uncover the truth inside the story of a Truth. It would be interesting to chronicle several of these tales. This story, however, must have a focus. Why? Simply because we are working under the imposition of a strict page limit imposed by the Authoritys-who, by the way, have their own agenda in this tale because they would like us to believe they are related to the Truths (be warned!)-who requested the information. This particular Authority is also a Professor and has asked us to trace the genealogy of Truth. This is impossible, as I am sure they are aware, to do in four measly pages. So, Authority will have to be content with a focused history of one member of their tribe. The person I have picked is child named Psychology.

A man was born who would become the father of Psychology. I say man though perhaps I should say Man. Remember, if you will, that this was the beginning of the 19th Century and a Woman had yet to marry a Truth. Woman had tried to connive their way into nuptials but their attempts had, thus far, but rebuffed and chastised. At this point the Truth family was blocked from them. They could have their dalliances but nothing concrete would become of any of any relationships (well, at least not for another few years) between Woman and Truth. At this point in time, the blood of Man and the blood of Truth were essentially the same thing. It was into this reality that the father of Psychology was born.

People can carry many names and the same thing can be said of positions. As such, the father of Psychology has been called many things. To some he is Wilhelm Wundt, or perhaps even Gustav Fechner. Others may call him Alexander Bain. For our purposes, we will use the alias of William James.

William James was the son of Henry James Sr. and Mary James (who can also be called Physiology and Philosophy). As a child, he was well cared for and loved. There were few familial conflicts and those which arose were and mainly about James' future. James' parents, particularly his father, wanted him to continue the family tradition of studying science. He wanted James to pursue a practical career. James, however, wanted to be a painter and, although he was later convinced otherwise, he had talent. James acquiesced to his father and went to Harvard to study chemistry.

Beside from his parents' insistence that he become a Professional, James had a few other problems. "William suffered from neurasthenia and a host of ailments, including weak vision, digestive disorders, and a severe depression that brought about thoughts of suicide... He suffered panic attacks and even hallucinations that left him mentally crippled"(Pajares). James' poor health is not an uncommon occurrence in the Psychology family, it comes from their relationship to Irony. Many of his relatives, Freud, Galton, and Goddard, were mad as loons. James' symptoms usually manifested themselves when he was unhappy. Learning chemistry at Harvard was not a fulfilling career for him, so while he was studying, we was constantly anxious and ill. While he continued medical school, his illness persisted. In fact, the only time he was truly relieved of his anxious tendencies was when he married his wife, a beautiful woman who soon bore him a child, Psychology.

With the blood of the Truths ruining through his veins, Psychology grew into a strong child and lives now as a successful adult. With his successful entrance into the world and also because of fears of rambling on (well past four pages) if I launch into a new segment of this genealogy, I must begin to draw this tale to a close. This ends this abbreviated telling of the birth of Psychology.

Under constraints, we do what we must. So, I have chosen to tell-or perhaps butcher would be a better term for I only mention Psychology in three sentences- this story of Truth by talking about Psychology. There were many tales that I could have told, but I chose Psychology. I must, now reveal my own agenda in this exercise. I am a Student (and not just any student, but a relative of Psychology as well) and, as such, I am required to be subservient to Authority. If a Professor demands Truth and I must oblige. As a Student, I take what freedom I can. I fight the battles I believe I can win or the ones I can not afford to lose. Someday I hope to claim a new name for myself but, at this time, I remain a Student. As such, I have tried to follow the rules of Authority while simultaneously skirting around them. At the end of the day, perhaps the only story of Truth we have read on this escapade is one which suggests that concurrently reading William James and Virginia Woolfe-a plan also devised by the Authoritys- inspires college undergraduates, namely me, to write overly verbose and awkwardly constructed essays. Like Orlando, I have been plagued by my writing. "Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good night and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them..." (p. 82). Thankfully, unlike Orlando, I have no underlying aspirations and desired to be published (at least none that I will admit), and so I do not need to fear the wrath of critics and scathing merriment of a mocking public. You and Authority are my only judge (and here I will admit that, by including these statements, I am making a subverted plea for lenience). This, admittedly, does not excuse this four page conceit (in both senses of the word, and maybe others that I may not be aware of). For this, perhaps we should thank the Authoritys for their rules and limitations which I have stretched to the best of my abilities. My part of this essay must end here.


Hunt, Morton. "The Psychologist Malgré Lui: William James". From The Story of Psychology. Date of Access: 4/14/05.

Pajares, Frank. "Biography, Chronology, and Photographs of William James". Emory University, 2002. Date of Access: 4/14/05.

"What William James Said...". Date of Access: 4/14/05.

Wikipedia. "William James". Date of Access: 4/14/05.

Woolfe, Virginia. Orlando. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1956.

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