Albert Weiss

Albert WeissIn existographies, Albert Weiss (1879-1931) (SN:60) (CR:13) was a German-born American physicist and behavioral psychologist, a characterized "radical reductionist" (Wolfman, 2013), noted for his 1925 forward-thinking view that man is a "geometrical electron-proton pattern" (see: proton-electron configuration) and all forms of social activity are reducible to "electron-proton interactions."

In 1925, Weiss, in his A Theoretical Basis for Human Behavior, attempted to “bridge over the gaps”, in outlining behaviorism, which he defined (pg. 7) as follows:

Behaviorism, for the writer, in psychology, is merely the name for that type of investigation and theory which assumes that man’s educational, vocational, and social activities can be completely described or explained as the result of the same (and no other) forces used in the natural sciences.”

Weiss’ views, as classified (Ѻ) by Benjamin Wolfman (2013), as an early form of behaviorism, is classified as “radical reductionism” (see also: ultra-reductionism), per the underlying view that psychology could not deal with anything but the same elements of matter as did physics.

Electron-proton configurations
See main: Proton-electron configuration
In 1925, Weiss, in his section "Physical Units", citing John McLennan (1922) (Ѻ) and Harvey Lemon (1923), opened to the following statement: [5]

“Physicists are fairly well agreed that negative and positive electrical particles, described as electrons and protons, are the hypothetical ultimate elements out of which every thing is built up.”

Weiss then jumps to the conclusion that man is a "geometrical electron-proton pattern or system" as follows:

“For purposes of description, each separate geometrical electron-proton pattern, no matter how simple or complex it may be, is to be regarded as a system. Such systems may be classified into the degrees of the similarity or dissimilarity postulated of atoms, molecules, compounds, tissues, plants, animals, men, races, nations, planets, etc. The systems of especial interest to the behaviorist are classified under animal tissues and social organizations.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 19)

“In the final analysis, human behavior is reduced to movements between electron-proton systems, but this reduction is the final aim of all scientific investigation.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 36) (Ѻ)

“All forms of social activity or achievement are ultimately reducible to electron-proton interactions [that are mechanistic as any physical or chemical process].”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 142); cited by Judson Herrick (1956) [1]

In 1939, George Lundberg, in his Foundations of Sociology, citing Weiss, would going onto famous describe man as an “electron-proton configuration”. [2]

raindrop purpose
Weiss argues that because it is silly to believe that the purpose of a raindrop is to get to the ocean, so to is it silly to believe that humans have purpose.
Purpose | Rain-drop analogy
Weiss, in his section on “an analogy of purposive activity” (pgs. 346-47), steps through what he calls the rain-drop analogy, as follows:

“We may best visualize the relationship between the responses that make up the so-called purposive behavior category by the ‘rain-drop analogy’. We may start with the assumption that every drop of rain in some way or another gets to the ocean. It may fall directly from the cloud into the ocean, or by sinking into the ground at some inland point, may be delayed for centuries before finding its way into the spring, brook, or river, that finally carries it to the ocean. Anthropomorphizing this condition, we may say that is the ‘purpose’ of every drop of rain to get to the ocean. Of course, this only means that virtually every drop does get there eventually. How it gets there depends upon where it falls. Falling from the cloud it may strike the leaf of a tree, and drop from one leaf to another until it reaches the ground … Human behavior is merely a complication of the same factors. Instead of only a few physical forces such as gravity, temperature, humidly, surface tension, friction, that act on every drop of rain, the stimuli which act on the sensor-motor system of man are much more numerous.”

Here, although humorous, we see a false equivalence used, similar to the classic rock vs human comparison, in that a raindrop is an H20 type thing, one that lacks the property of physico-chemical animation, and a human is a CHNOPS+ type thing, one that has the property of physico-chemical animation. The confusion evident here is that this a concept reform issue (see: purpose terminology reform).

In 1906, Weiss, aged 27, entered the University of Missouri, where he studied physics, mathematics, and philosophy, completing his AB in 1910, MA in 1912, and PhD in 1916, with a dissertation entitled “Apparatus and Experiments on Sound Intensity”, the latter under Max Meyer, who in turn had completed his own PhD under Max Planck. E.A. Esper (1966) summarized the Meyer-Weiss educational interaction as follows: [4]

“There were strong bonds between Meyer and Weiss: Weiss had been born in Germany and ... spoke German in the home of his parents; his personality was most engaging: honorable, unassuming ... eager in interest in all matters of scientific and humane import, humorous; well trained in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and philosophy-subjects in which Meyer found most of his American students deficient; ingenious in devising and constructing apparatus. In his early publications Weiss followed Meyer in research on tonal intensity and ‘vocality’, and in applying Meyer's hydraulic theories of the ear and of the nervous system to sensory discrimination and learning. In his later publications he enlarged upon Meyer's two main philosophical-or rather, methodological doctrines: that psychology should deal only with objective data and only with behavior having social import. Meyer has said, 'I have had very little-almost no-influence on American psychology directly, but perhaps a good deal through mediation by students of Weiss.' Meyer produced one doctor of philosophy: Weiss; Weiss produced twenty-five.”


Weiss, who was brought to America as an infant, was son to German Lutherans; his father worked as an architect in St. Louis. [3] His 1925 book gives indication that by this time he was an implicit atheist, as he attacks every concept of religion, e.g. soul, spirit, free will, etc., with reductionist materialism and physics.

Quotes | Employed
The following are quotes employed by Weiss:

“All we know about the problem of consciousness is the fact that as yet science has not discovered an adequate method of investigation whereby ideas can be studied directly, after the fashion of studying chemical processes in a test-tube. Hence there is no positive evidence that mental processes are ‘subjective’ as contrasted with ‘objective’.”
— Wheeler, R.H. (1923), “Introspection and Behavior” (pg. 110) (Ѻ); in: A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 231)

Quotes | By
The following are related quotes:

“Whether behaviorism is regarded as a phase in the development of psychology or biology, there can be no doubt that the methods and principles of the natural sciences as represented by mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology, are displacing the anthropomorphism, intuitionism, which in the past have molded social organization and defined our individual responsibility.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. v)

“Because of the universal presence of the conditions called energy every change of motion in any system may be regarded as a ‘function’, in the mathematical sense, of all the other changes that occur, and that they bear a definite quantitative relation to each other even though the exact relationship or the number system which best describes the relationship, is unknown.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 25)

“To use the argument that ‘there are many facts in physics still to be discovered’ in favor of the existence of mon-material (spiritual or physic) forces, or to imply that inability to reduce even the simplest protoplasmic systems into their electron-proton components demonstrates the existence of non-mechanical forces, does not seem justified when we consider the trend of scientific development. Before the microscope was invented, the human ‘soul’ was described as a vaporous sort of material, too tenuous to be seen by the naked eye and which percolated through the bodily tissues. The microscope increased the range of vision, but instead of revealing the expected soul substance, the organic cell as the element of biological function was discovered. The soul substance theory almost vanished, but we still have shades of it with psychic or ‘vital’ forces.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 28)

“In order to approach the mechanical equivalence postulate in the conception of the conservation of energy, a much greater temporal and spatial range must be considered in the explanation of human behavior than it is customary to consider in the various heat and mechanical cycles by which the physicist demonstrates the conservation of energy.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 30)

“Much of the opposition against the mechanical conception of human achievement centers in the fact that in the measurement and analysis of human behavior it is not yet possible to apply concretely the parallelogram of forces technique.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 32)

“From the behavior standpoint, the organism at any moment may be represented as a diagram of the potential and kinetic forces, in the sense that all the movements within it and around it, both molar and molecular, represent changes in the equilibria among the systems of which the organism and its environment are mad up. This, of course, exactly what is occurring through the whole universe; and the behaviorist maintains that no further assumption is required to account for even such a complex system of symmetries as that represented by the League of Nations.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 32)

“I regard the universe, which of course includes man and his work, as a physical continuum composed of nothing but electron-proton aggregates and the movements that take place among them.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 46)

“The behavior of the physicist is just as ‘physical’ as the physics he teaches.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 47)

“When human behavior is studied as a form of ‘motion’, one that is directly opposed to the purposive and teleological character of behavior as presented by McDougall (1916), differing only in complexity from the motions and dynamics of physics and mechanics, behaviorism assumed the systematic status of ‘physical monism’, of which electrons and protons are the ultimate elements.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 47)

“On the assumption of the validity of the law of the conservation of energy, every electron-proton change that occurs results in the redistribution of the stresses or strains that are present in every other electron-proton aggregate, including, of course, the particular aggregate known as the physicist or the behaviorist.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pgs. 46-47)

“In adopting the physical monism, any conscious or psychical entity as distinct from the physical electron-proton entity is, of course, excluded. The formulation of the behavioristic position is then expressed in the statement that all human conduct and achievement reduces to nothing but: (a) different kinds of electron-proton groupings characterized according to the symmetry or geometrical structure and (b) the motions that occur when one structure or dynamic form changes into another. In other words, I assume that the scientific study of what is generally known as personality and social organization can be conducted under the assumption that the physico-chemical continuum is the sole existential datum and that the totality of the electron-proton aggregates is the universe in which we live. Of course, I do not imply that human achievement can now be reduced to an electron-proton formulation. Neither is this possible in physics itself. My statement merely implies that I am opposed to the general attitude that until the last event or occurrence, especially those known as human achievement, has been reduced to a mechanical resultant, we must assume the existence of a non-physical (psychical) entity. It seems to me scientifically more expedient to follow the physicists who have, as physicists, inverted the principle and refuse to accept a non-physical until all mechanical conceptions have proved futile.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pgs. 49-50)

“I regard an infant as an electron-proton aggregate.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 51)

“The ‘individual’ on the basis of physical monism, is to be regarded as a locus in the movement continuum [of the universe], and a function, in the mathematical sense, of the changes that are occurring in all other electron-proton aggregates. A human movement as a cross-section of this locus at a given time, is the ‘effect’ of antecedent changes, and the ‘cause’ of subsequent changes.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 52)

“Behavioristic psychology is the contribution to science that I regard as ‘bridging the gap’ between the physical and social sciences and explaining social organization and individual achievement in terms of physical and mathematical methodology.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 55)

“Man is one out of many types of electron-proton organizations that exist.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 59)

“Poetry, religion, morality, affection, love, intellect, for the poet, will seem to be a matter of sensations, images, feelings, and spirit, rather than electron-proton configurations.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 62)

“Human behavior is in the last analysis of the same order as the physical and chemical processes which make up the totality of cosmic change and interaction.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 96)

“The supernatural conception of man’s destiny will be replaced by an experimental and scientific system of morality and rules of conduct.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 128)

“I believe that human achievement is of the same order as the inorganic and organic processes which prevail in the physico-chemical universe.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pgs. 137-38)

“The individual is a specific system of anatomical and physiological elements regarded as a ‘locus in the electron-proton movement continuum’, interacting with other loci and with the rest of the continuum [of the universe].”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis for Human Behavior (pg. 142)

“In a cosmical sense, human behavior is an effector correlate or function of stimulating conditions.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 255)

“The ‘freedom of will’ is an illusion that is based upon the inability to discriminate the origin of implicit relations.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 361)

“The individual is a locus in the movement continuum, and the movements within this locus are correlational functions, in a mathematical sense, of all the movements that are occurring in the electron-proton organizations not within the locus. More specifically, the human individual is defined as a locus in the movement continuum, constituting a relatively permanent electron-proton aggregate, namely the atoms, molecules, and tissues of the body, interacting with the electron-proton systems not within the body, to form the series of energy interchanges.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 392)

“The behaviorist regards man as a link in the chain of physical processes which make up the universe and with this assumption goes the corollary that the measurements of human behavior and of human achievement are of the same order as physical measurements although the specific equations for individual and social measurements are not yet found in the physics textbooks.”
— Albert Weiss (1925), A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 395)

1. (a) Weiss, Albert P. (1925). A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior. R.G. Adams & Co, 1929.
(b) Herrick, Charles J. (1956). The Evolution of Human Nature (abs) (pg. 46). University of Texas Press.
2. Lundberg, George. (1939). Foundations of Sociology (Weiss, pg. 40, 236). MacMillan.
3. Wozniak, Robert H. (1997). “Albert Paul Weiss and A Theoretical Basis for Human Behavior” (Ѻ), Bryn Mayr College.
4. (a) Esper, E.A. (1968). Mentalism and Objectivism in Linguistics. The Sources of Leonard Bloomfield's Psychology of Language. American Elsevier.
(b) Wozniak, Robert H. (1997). “Albert Paul Weiss and A Theoretical Basis for Human Behavior” (Ѻ), Bryn Mayr College.
5. (a) McLennan, John C. (1922). “Atomic Nuclei”, Science, 55:219-32.
(b) Lemon, Harvey B. (1923). “New Vistas of Atomic Structure”, Scientific Monthly, 17:168-81.
(c) Weiss, Albert P. (1925). A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 16). R.G. Adams & Co, 1929.

External links
Albert Paul Weiss – Wikipedia.

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