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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

BIRAN, MAINE DE (1766-1824), French philosopher

His observations revealed that, in addition to the passive habits Condillac described, there are other active habits that are conscious and willed. These give us the experience of self and the perception of willed endeavor. The awareness of the effort (will) needed to overcome external resistance leads in early infancy to consciousness of self. In later years, Biran rejected his early scepticism and adopted a form of mysticism, arguing that above the “properly human life of voluntary effort” there is a divine force and a spiritual life.

Mid-century alienists were also impressed by Biran’s emphasis on the contrast between the conscious and the unconscious, the active and the passive: such views influenced both Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud.


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