Why so many systems in such seeming conflict?greenspun.com : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread
Why is thee not one recognised view of human nature in an enterprise like Psychology, with its claim to be scientific; or if not classified as scientific why so many systems, and in such seeming conflic? Its more like divergence and quarrelling among religions?
-- Linda Holland (email@example.com), August 02, 2001
The philosopher-historian of science Thomas S. Kuhn said that before natural sciences extablish their first "paradigm", there are typically many competing school of thought. This seems to characterize the situation in psychology relatively well (though it can be dangerous to (1) take Kuhn's view of science as gospel truth, and (2) assume it must also apply to social/behaviorial sciences such as psychology. See Kuhn's _Structure of Scientific Revolutions_.
-- Christopher Green (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 08, 2001.
Most generally there are two types of psychology, 1. freedom psychology and 2. deterministic psychology. At the beginning of the modern scientific age, nature was taken to be what could be spacially measured (eg the body). But since the mind could not be measured spacially it was considered to be in some sense 'outside of nature'. Moreover, since nature was seen as mechanistic, the 'outside of nature' mind/self/soul/psyche was a convienient 'location' for freedom.
Given the 'inside nature'/ 'outside nature' modern framework the study of the mind can not be scientific, for science studies nature.
But the inside nature (body) / outside nature (mind) ontology is strange and convoluted. If you are mystified and confused by it you are on the right track.
Deterministic psychology responds to that by choosing to abandon choise. Freedom psychology responds by sometimes exagerating freedom and downplaying our creatureliness, predictability, and controlability. Neither of the two psychologies are satisfactory since they both still operate within an incoherent modern framework.
Heidegger gripped that problem by looking at how pre-modern philosophers thought. Although not perfect, Heidegger (Being and Time) went a long way to offering a non-modern ontology that I think, psychology could use toward integration. (When he uses the word "sign" if the reader substitutes the word "stimulus" one may see how he works at intigrating and reframing behaviourism into a view of humans capable of original acts.) Merleau Ponty (Phenomenology of Perception) also makes a remarkable attempt to reframe and intigrate the 'outside nature self' and the 'inside nature' body. His use of psychological theories is explicit and hence more readily understandable compared to Heidegger. Finally, Michael Polanyi, (Personal Knowledge) who was a chemist and a philosopher, also provides a framework that is more intigrated than the Cartisian duality. And that book is the best one to address Linda's observation that psychology is "more like divergence and quarrelling among religions."
Science does not rest on a foundation of objective facts, it rests on the faith that our judgement is reliable. Simple theories such as "the earth is a sphere" are ultimately unprovable. My theory that the earth is a sphere presupposes a personal judgement that the facts about the irregularities of the surface of the earth are irrelevant. But that's my judgement in my situation. An airline pilot would be foolish to operate under the belief that the earth is a sphere as he will fly into a mountain. In that sense there are no such things as "facts", nor scientific methods that can resolve differing perspectives. Facts are selected and deselected according to a specific purpose in a situation.
Psychological theories, like theories about the shape of the earth, rely on the purposes of the theorist to select relevant facts and ignore other facts. Deterministic psychologists emphasise facts about the predictability of human behaviour, while freedom psychologies value facts about originality, and choice. The purpose of the former psychology is to control behaviour, and the purpose of the latter is to develope human potential. Given those differing purposes, we have differing theories, and sets of facts to support them. Deterministic psychology is challenged when unpredicably a parent drowns all their children. Why didn't anyone predict it and do something to prevent it? Freedom psychology is challenged when inexplicably someone gets involved in a series of mutually abusive marriages. Why don't they exercise free choise to give up repetitive suffering?
Clearly, the purposes of those theories, functioning as guiding devices for the selection of facts, are preconcieved ideas that warrant re-examination. I prefer an ancient view that people are social animals to the modern view that we are constituted by a mechanical body and an 'outside of nature' free self.
-- John Hedlin (email@example.com), October 21, 2001.