Evolution of Psychology Rationality the Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Nonetheless, this does not make philosophy any less important in the field.

Philosophy today can be seen as a manifestation of the workings of the human mind, while psychology studies the mind itself. Philosophy is therefore a very important aspect in helping the psychologist understand the human mind. Philosophy is indeed responsible for the birth of psychology as a discipline in itself, as mentioned.

While the early philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, are responsible for many of the ideas in both philosophy and psychology today, the 17th century philosopher Rene Descartes is known as the "father of modern philosophy" (Consciousness 9). All these philosophers made a specific point of studying what it means to be human and conscious.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung built upon the work of all the above philosophers in order to develop his theories of the conscious and the subconscious. This can be related to the ancient Greek ideas of the body, mind, soul, and spirit, and how these interrelate to create different levels of consciousness. As the rest of the Consciousness chapter shows, the mind cannot be studied without also considering philosophy. The ancient philosophers were also psychologists. Today, psychologists must also be philosophers. Although these disciplines have separated, they cannot in truth be seen as anything but parts of studying the human mind and what it means to be conscious.

Psychology is indebted to philosophy for its existence and as such, the latter should always form part of investigations into the former. No psychologist can claim that he or she does not also consider philosophy when studying the mind.

4. Do the current paradigms in psychology differ from those dominant in the past?

When examining the origins of psychology as we know it today, one can draw certain parallels and also divisions in the way philosophers thought about the human mind over the centuries. These considerations demonstrate that there are indeed differences between the paradigms dominant in the past and those that are seen as important today. The reasons for this can be numerous and complex. Behind these reasons lies the fact that human society develops and changes throughout its existence over the centuries. As social and philosophical paradigms change, so do the paradigms of psychology.

The Chapter on Philosophical Assumptions of the Cognitive Revolution (2) for example notes that the Ancient Greeks featured certain assumptions and paradigms relating to the human mind of the time. These related mainly to physical objects and their relation to the mind. Aristotle particularly can be seen as promoting the idea of empirical research in order to gain knowledge. In turn, the religious paradigm that was dominant in the society of the 17th century gave rise to the idea that divine power is the root of all knowledge (Philosophical Assumptions 2). It is therefore clear that psychological research and development occurs not only by means of empirical research, but is also widely influenced by the social and psychological beliefs of any given time. The manifestations of these beliefs in psychological paradigms in themselves are also a valuable indication of the very psychological paradigm being studied.

Particularly important to the development and study of psychology today is the fact of technological advancement (Philosophical Assumptions 2). The 20th century, up to the first decade of the new century in which philosophers and psychologists find themselves, is particularly interesting as a result of the cognitive revolution, which the Chapter places between 1950 and 1970. New technology such as processing models and cognitive research methods lends itself perfectly to the study of this revolution and the paradigms arising from it.

Another interesting aspect of the psychological paradigms prevalent today is its influences. Whereas past paradigms were mainly influenced by social or spiritual ideas, today's psychology is influenced by multi-disciplinary aspects and developments in society. The Chapter for example mentions Alan Turing, the "father of modern computer science" (Philosophical Assumptions 3) and the linguist Noam Chomsky (Philosophical Assumptions 4) in this regard. The former influenced the way the workings of the mind are investigated, while the latter had great influences on the study and critique of behaviorism.

In conclusion, certain parallels can be drawn between current and past psychological paradigms: they are all influenced by the social and spiritual concerns of the time. The difference is that today's psychology is influenced by a much wider complexity of concerns, in keeping with the technological and sociological developments in the world of the 20th and 21st centuries.

6. Evaluate the opposing philosophical arguments for nature vs. nurture

In psychology, the nature vs. nurture debate has been subject to widespread controversy, particularly in criminology. The "nature" aspect concerns genetics. Those who support this aspect hold that human beings are mainly influenced by their genetic makeup. Studies have found that DNA do not only influence physical human traits, but also behavioral aspects that manifest themselves from generation to generation. Supporters of the "nurture" aspect, on the other hand, hold that human beings are mainly influenced by the environment in which they are educated and grow up. This means that genetic makeup is not as influential as the external influences from the environment. Although both aspects have been studied for decades, no conclusive evidence has been forthcoming to support either side over the other. This has given rise to a third side of the debate, that both nature and nurture influence human behavior equally.

The Chapter on Nature vs. Nurture (4) mentions studies on twins in support of the nurture aspect: twins are close in their genetic identity, yet those who are raised separately show vast different personalities and interests. This shows that the environment has a significant influence on the development of these interests and personalities.

As mentioned above, the debate has significant implications for criminology, as well as other disciplines, such as human health (Nature vs. Nurture 4). In the latter discipline, the influence of both nature and nurture prove to be significant. Asthma, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's can be the result of environmental factors, as well as genetics. In the case of Parkinson's for example, a genetic predisposition for the disease in men can be exacerbated by an exposure to pesticides and industrial chemicals. Genetics do not however necessarily play a role when such exposure results in the disease.

In criminology, the debate is also significant in terms of a predisposition towards criminal activity. If a murderer were for example convicted, the punishment would be significantly influenced by a finding that the individual was genetically predisposed towards such activity. On the other hand, environmental influences are often cited as an argument for less severe punishment. Such environmental influences as childhood circumstances for example imply that the criminal is not fully responsible for his or her actions.

According to the Chapter (5), there are many questions still unanswered and issues unaccounted for when considering the nature vs. nurture debate. Studies are ongoing and no clear answers are currently available - hence the issues still being subject to debate. In many cases, for example, some develop genetically related illnesses while their siblings do not. The development of learning, memory, intelligence, and personality is still a mystery to psychological and biological scientists. The development of science and technology has made it both challenging and increasingly possible to address these questions. While answers may take long to clarify and quantify, nature vs. nurture remain a rewarding and interesting area of study.


Consciousness: Section PS13D

Holism, Reductionism and Four Theories: John B. Watson; B.F. Skinner; Jean Piaget; Gestalt Psychology

Nature vs. Nurture: Psychology 4012 Recitation Section T54B, Fall 2008.

Psychological Assumptions of the Cognitive Revolution: Psychology 4012 Recitation Section T54E,…

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