Associationism and the Freedom of Thought
This chapter provides a cultural and intellectual history of the popular associationism that appears in Victorian literary criticism as well as psychological and pedagogical writings. Elucidating a sustained theoretical interest in the parallel, freely ranging functioning of memory, thinking, and imagination, the chapter surveys the history of associationist conceptions of mind, memory, and reading from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries in English and Scottish Enlightenment moral philosophy and pedagogical theory. Focusing on the writings of Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, and David Hartley, the chapter illuminates a strong tradition of interest in memory as a reliable virtual medium linking mind and world and supporting personal identity. Utilitarian philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and James Mill also employed associationist theory to explain the interlocking theoretical and functional coherence among processes of associative memory, education and socialization, and social and political reform.
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