Through the Rearview Mirror

Through the Rearview Mirror

Historical Reflections on Psychology

By John Macnamara

With Joyce Macnamara

A Bradford Book





In this lively book, John Macnamara shows how a number of important thinkers through the ages have approached problems of mental representation and the acquisition of knowledge. He discusses the relevance of these approaches to modern cognitive psychology, focusing on central themes that he believes have strongly influenced modern psychology. This is not a neutral historical survey, but a vehicle for Macnamara's compelling and provocative arguments on the relevance and worth of certain aspects of psychological and philosophical thought.

The historical figures discussed are quite varied—from Plato to Thomas Jefferson to Sigmund Freud—and include numerous Christian philosophers such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. The book assumes no previous background in the subject matter; Macnamara often simplifies abstract concepts via homespun examples (many using his beloved dog, Freddie). This is a quirky, engaging book, as well as the last work by a highly influential figure in cognitive psychology.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262133524 316 pp. | 6.1 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262519311 316 pp. | 6.1 in x 9 in


Joyce Macnamara.


  • This is a superb book. It succeeds beautifully at its goal—to provide a philosophically oriented historical review of psychology and show the relevance of this philosophical work to contemporaru issues. The scope is broad, and the writing is clear and eloquent.

    Paul Bloom

    University of Arizona

  • This beautiful and delightfully readable collection of historical sketches follows the development of Western theories of cognition through 2500 years, from Plato and the Bible to Watson and the Gestalt school. Macnamara stresses how each of these theories bears on contemporary unsolved issues of categorization, learning, and morality, paying special attention to the crucial distinction between perception and cognition. The connections thus drawn challenge all cognitive scientists to think more deeply about the foundations of their own research agendas.

    Ray Jackendoff

    Professor of Linguistics, Brandeis University

  • This book contains the illuminating historical reflection on cognition and perception of the late John Macanamara. The fresh and easy style of the book makes it especially useful for students.

    Anil Gupta

    Rudy Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University