psychology 

Chapter 1 Online Lecture Material and Assignment Essays

Snapshot: This chapter explores the nature of historical studies and the biases often encountered in those studies. It talks about the questions of nature/nurture and mind/body that have both philosophically and scientifically remained unanswered for several thousand years. The role of the environment or “zeitgeist” is debated and its contribution to the formation or dissolving of philosophical and scientific schools of thought.

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This online lecture briefly explores the philosophical thought of the ancients as seen in Greece. This brief overview is meant to help the student see that current human thought is not so new and indeed it is often quite redundant.

Learning Objectives and Outcomes: (After you have read this chapter and the online lectures you should be able to:)

  1. Understand the development of Modern Psychology from the ancients and how many of the issues are ones that are still unsolved (nature/nurture and mind/body).
  2. Understand the relevance of the past for the present and what we can learn from studying the history of psychology.
  3. Explain the notion of historiography.
  4. Describe the obstacles faced by women and various ethnic groups in pursuing careers in psychology.
  5. Describe the personalistic and naturalistic theories used to study history.
  6. Know what Zeitgeist means and how it affects the evolution of science.
  7. Describe the cyclical process by which schools of thought begin, prosper, and then fail as seen in Kuhn’s work on scientific revolutions.
  8. Understand why psychology is thought of as a “pre-paradigmatic” discipline.
  9. Have a working understanding of the terms that will be necessary for understanding the schools of thought and their theories. (See the glossary.)

Why Study History and Systems of Psychology?

Students tell me that this class has helped them in two ways. Some students who have taken this class have been new to psychology and the class has given them a good overview of the discipline that has helped them in future psychology courses. Others who have been almost finished with all of their psychology courses have said that this course pulled everything together and gave them a better understanding of how everything they had learned fit together. Whichever student you are, I hope that you will find this class fascinating both in its sweeping view of psychology and its interesting detail into the lives and times that shaped its history.

A Little More About the Zeitgeist!

In 1955, the famous psychology historian E. G. Boring wrote the article “Dual Role of the Zeitgeist in Scientific Creativity” that was published in Scientific Monthly. In it, he defined the Zeitgeist as being the overall temperature of opinion that affected scientific, social, and political thinking. He said it was always in flux, being altered by current events and that these changes are not really predictable. 

This Zeitgeist has a dual role to play in scientific discovery. It can act as both good and bad to the advancement of a new idea. Think about it. How can it act in a negative way? It can cause a school of thought to stay around too long, even when it has stopped being able to answer newly arising scientific questions. It can also prevent new theories that are sound because the climate of the times is not yet ready for certain ideas and findings. 

Conversely, it can act for good, promoting positive change when the climate is right. Often there is a new idea that probably has been simmering or in its infancy for a while, but when presented, it takes the scientific community by storm because of the “perfect timing” of the theory’s presentation to that community. Darwin’s evolutionary theory is a good example. Ideas similar to Darwin’s theory had been talked about for generations, but only in small, rather insignificant groups of scholars and philosophers. Darwin’s theory was published to the scientific community and it changed the entire focus of all the sciences – not just psychology. Also, we will see that Wallace had a like theory developed totally independent of Darwin’s and presented at the same time. Any time you have a great theory developed independently by several individuals, it is a sign that the Zeitgeist was ready to propel it into acceptance – at times a rather controversial acceptance.

This Zeitgeist is often responsible for the rise and fall of theory and the power of various accepted schools of thought. That gets us on to another topic that you will be interested in – how schools of thought gain and lose power over time.

Schools of Thought and the Scientific Revolution!

Thomas Kuhn, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, talks about how scientific schools of thought gain power and lose power. See an excerpt from Chapter 2 of this book for a good understanding of his ideas, http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/Kuhn.html (Links to an external site.) In general, he talks about the “normal science” stage as being the accepted paradigm that controls scientific “power”. It is a clash of world views. Power in this context means a number of things, but ultimately, I am afraid, they all have to do with $$$! A school of thought that has power contains the theories that are getting the grant money, that control the heads of departments at universities, that have published research in professional journals, that have their views stated well and often in the textbooks of the day, and that have many people getting Ph. Ds in programs that espouse that position.

As questions occur that are not satisfactorily answered by the current paradigm in power, the anomaly stage begins to develop. New ideas may emerge from individuals that help to answer these anomalies. As they successfully do so, they may begin to gain some power – usually at the loss of the power of the “normal science” paradigm. As these unanswered questions continue to mount up, the accepted paradigm may continue to lose power and a new paradigm may continue to gain power because of its ability to answer the new questions. This is the crisis stage.

Eventually, we may have a complete overthrow of the accepted paradigm and the new paradigm takes its place with all the power of the former school. This new paradigm or school of thought will then become the “normal science.” As you can see, this may not happen in an instant! It may take time for power to be relinquished – sometimes the old guard (scientists) simply and literally die out! You will see this time and again as you study the history of psychology. Look for it and look to see if you can see how the various components of power change allegiance as you venture through the semester.

A Word About the Chemistry Mixture Versus the Compound – Understanding Reductionism and Molarism!

You will be studying lots of terms at the beginning of this course. Many are found in the glossary of the online course and many also in your book. There is also a glossary at the back of your book. Use these sources to learn and understand these terms as they are important to your understandings for the entire semester. I want to talk about two terms specifically to make sure you understand the differences. Your book refers to the “chemistry compound” when looking at the meanings of the terms molecularism and molarism.

Let’s first start with molecularism. Actually, elementalism, reductionism, and molecularism all mean the same for our study. They refer to the way that scientific questions are viewed. If you view science in a molecular or reductionistic way, you start with the parts and they build-up to the whole. An example might be looking at the actions of neurons to understand why humans behave the way they do. This is an “inductive” approach to researching science. This would be like looking at a chemistry mixture. For instance, you have salt and you have pepper. You put a cup of each in a big bowl. You stir vigorously, but no matter how long you stir, you can still see that it is a mixture of salt and of pepper. In this way, the sum of the parts is equal to the whole because each thing retains its unique parts.

Now let’s look at the idea of molarism or a holistic stance in viewing research. This is really the opposite. A molar or holistic view starts with the whole rather than the parts to understand what is going on. In this way, you might look at the overall behavior of the whole without reducing it to its component parts. This is the position we will find in the phenomenologists like William James and the Humanists. Those that espouse this position use a “deductive” approach and for them, the chemical compound is “the whole is not equal to the sum of the parts”. Let’s look at this. If you have some oxygen and you have some hydrogen and you put them together in just the right way, you get water. Now, water does not resemble either oxygen or hydrogen. It is a completely new thing with its own unique characteristics. Do you see how these ideas differ from each other?

A Few Quick Thoughts…

If psychology was not a pre-paradigmatic discipline, it would mean that there was one grand theory that explained all human behavior – and all animal behavior for that matter. There is no one and thus we are termed “pre-paradigmatic”. Remember, a paradigm is a framework that is used to promote research. It is the theories that are in play for a school of thought.

Remember that we never really “prove” anything. We simply gather more evidence that something may be true. You can however disprove something – that is the easier part.

We have to be careful about the questions that we ask in psychology. If we ask “metaphysical” questions, we will draw incorrect conclusions. A metaphysical question is one that is based on assumptions and not fact. Those assumptions may be wrong. If so, all research done under those assumptions may be flawed. Phrenology is a good example of this. When you look at the movement of phrenology in Chapter 3, think about this.

Remember, the currently accepted goal of psychology is to 1. describe, 2. understand/explain, 3. predict, and 4. modify/control. Keep this in mind as you go through the semester.

Human thought is redundant! You will find that as we go through this history of psychology, different theories will be rejected only to become the accepted theory with often only minor alterations decades or a century later. Look for this because at times you may think you are on a bit of a roller coaster with these ideas being accepted, then rejected, then accepted, and on and on and on. Although the book starts talking about the beginnings of psychology through philosophy in the 1500s, understand that the ancient Greeks and Romans also talked about the same things.

Chapter 2 Online Lecture Material and Assignment Essays

Snapshot: This chapter discusses the role of philosophy in the early 15th to 17th centuries. Psychology is not a formed discipline, but the British philosophers beginning with Descartes will lay an important foundation for the future of psychology. They will examine sensations as the unit of perceiving of the individual. There will not be an emphasis on the actual biological correlates to perceiving, but rather an evolving effort to bring philosophy out or the rational way of thinking.

Learning Objectives: (After you have read this chapter and the online lectures you should be able to:)

  1. Differentiate the philosophical positions of Descartes and Locke. Understand how they differ in the qualities of sensations. Be sure to differentiate Descates’ innate ideas and Locke’s idea of the “tabula rasa”.
  2. Understand the basic principles guiding the British Empiricists/ Associationists movement.
  3. Differentiate Locke’s ideas of primary and secondary qualities with those of Descartes.
  4. Know the major contributions of Berkeley and how his concern for spiritual things influenced his theory, particularly concerning materialism and mentalism. Did he agree with Lock’s primary and secondary qualities?
  5. Understand the contributions of Hume – how he agreed with Locke and the other Brits, but also his ideas of mental contents: Impressions and Ideas that were all secondary but without God. (include the law of resemblance, contiguity and contingency, and cause and effect.)
  6. Know how Hartley was instrumental in setting the stage for the acceptance of the physiological advances of the 1800s as a subject matter for psychology. Know what new emphasis he put on the contents and functions of the mind AND the body.
  7. Discuss the contributions of James Mills and John Miles. Understand how their theories differ and if the mind is active or passive in each man’s ideas.
  8. Understand John Mills’s ideas on the role of women.
  9. Explain the ideas of Alexander Bain, the last Brit who worked in the early 1800s.

A Bit of Background Before Descartes

Although your book starts the study of the history of psychology in the 1500s with Descartes, much of what was thought of from Descartes to the present day was also thought about with the ancient Greeks and Romans and even before. Such questions as the Mind/Body question, or the Nature/ Nurture question, or the idea of whether the mind was active or passive had been discussed by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and even the ancient peoples of the Middle Eastand the Asiapeninsula. Much of the writings and understandings (Socrates never wrote down anything) of the ancients were lost during the Middle Ages. The period between about 500A.D., after the fall of Rome, and 1250A.D. was a period of little intellectual thought. There was no printing press and written texts were done chiefly by hand in the monasteries of the church.

The Middle Ages was a time of the cruelty of the Crusades and barbarism from numerous sides. It was a time of dramatic differences in classes with most being illiterate. The Christian Church was in control of both the secular and the spiritual thought of the day – permeating all facets of the lives of the people. All the classics were essentially lost. Interestingly, the Arabs and Islam still knew Aristotle’s writings and made advances in science, philosophy, and medicine, but because they were not in line with Christian beliefs of God as the supreme director of man, they were discounted. Jewish thought was also more advanced during this time, but it too was ignored.

As the Middle Ages advanced, there came a reawakening of Classical thought due in most part to the translations of St. Thomas Aquinas of some of Aristotle’s works. St. Thomas (1225–1274) was of the Dominican Order and learned of Aristotle from a mentor. He set about translating some of his works although some are lost forever. He only translated those that would be in line with the Church, however, so that he could somewhat peacefully exist with the Church. If he had translated things that were completely against the doctrine of the Church, his voice would not have been permitted to be heard. And so the biases of history can clearly be seen!

With Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1436 – 1440, the ushering in of a new age of communication came about. It was a monumental occurrence and helped to start bringing information to the masses and helped in ushering at the beginning of the Renaissance. Challenges were to come to the Church like the Reformation which talked about how religion should help man and not enslave him. This began to erode what had been the absolute power of the Church. The great minds of Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Harvey, and Newton began to be known. 

Scholasticism was the philosophical movement of the later Middle Ages. It was the attempt to balance philosophy and Church doctrine and reasoned that if all paths to truth lead ultimately to God, then the varying paths should not be a problem. Click here for more on Scholasticism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholasticism) (Links to an external site.). It is within this climate that we start the philosophical background of psychology with the great writings of Descartes.

Descartes’s Two Great Contributions

As you read, you will realize that the two most important contributions that Descartes made to the developing philosophical thought were the ideas of Innate and Derived Ideas and the Mind/Body Dualism.

Let us look at the first contribution. The idea of innate ideas is one that we will run into over and over again in our studies. It is not a new idea: Socrates and Plato had their “forms”; Leibniz with have his “monads”; Kant will have his “a priories”; Jung will have his “archetypes”, and the Gestalts will have their “perceptual organizations”. The names are different, but all of these ideas talk about those understandings that we bring into this world that help us understand the world. These are our biological inheritance. Conversely, the idea of derived ideas coming from experiences we have in life is also talked about by all of these theorists. In the last chapter lecture, I said that human thought is amazingly redundant. That is not necessarily bad but I think you can see what I mean.

Remember, for each of these theorists there were those who opposed their ideas and felt that we bring no biological inheritance into this world – we are born with a blank slate, a Tabula Rasa according to Locke, in which the mind is a blank and experiences write upon this slate. These experiential writings are what we use to make associations and thus understand the world. The British Empiricists and Associationists take this stance – obviously opposing Descartes’s original idea.

If we examine the idea of the mind and body and how they may or may not interact, we will see that Descartes felt that the body could influence the mind and vice versa. This was new because earlier beliefs felt only the mind could influence the body and not also the other way around. If you believe that there is a separate mind and body, then you are a dualist. If you believe that they are the same thing with no separation, you are a monist. We will run into both numerous times in our studies. Descartes would be an interactional dualist because both mind and body interacted with each other. A parallel dualist would be one that believed that both body and mind existed as unique entities but did not influence each other.

A Few Quick Thoughts

Descartes’s idea that the mind and body are separate is a “dualistic” stance. Those that believe this are called dualists and may believe that the mind and body interact, one controls the other or that there is no interaction at all. Descartes’s Reflex Action Theory demonstrates that the body can be independent of mental thought. With his ideas of involuntary body responses and involuntary learning as exhibited by his “squinting girl passion”, Descartes is certainly a precursor to the Behaviorist thought seen in Chapter 10.

If you disagree with Descartes’s dualistic stance and believe the body and mind are one – just as the inside and the outside of a circle are one – then you are a “monist”. We will see both positions in our continuing study of the history of psychology.

A good way to study the British Empiricists and Associationists is to write down what they ALL believed in common. They all were reductionistic, materialistic, positivistic, and deterministic. Then learn what unique ideas came from each.

Think a moment about George Berkeley. Here was a scholar, a scientist, and also a very spiritual man. That combination is not always found in science. How did he solve the problem of science versus God with which he was presented? Think about it as you post your ideas about his dilemma.

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