The Diverse Nature of Psychology

Category: Psychology
Last Updated: 07 Nov 2022
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Table of contents

Examining the history of psychology from a presentism approach brings fruitful information and meaning to ‘history’ by understanding the past in relation to the present (Henley, 2019). For example, in attachment psychology we gain a greater understanding of a person’s present behavior through the context of the person’s past experiences, similarly, we gain a greater understanding of current modern psychology by studying its historical origins and the specific influences through which the psychology’s subject matter were evaluated (Henley, 2019).

Acknowledging the subjective influence of fads and fashions on research and ideas suggest that validity is not the only the factor for which ideas are judged, but rather psychological and sociological factors are driving forces in the development and acceptance of new ideas as well (Henley, 2019). Moreover, the Zeitgeist determine what is fashionable, and studying psychology’s history, thus proves psychology is not immune to that power (Henley, 2019). The idea of the unconscious mind has moved in and out of science and psychology. For instance, Freud concluded a universal view of human behavior and personality structures that are influenced by the zeitgeist of the nineteenth century society that was politically dominant and sexually repressed. However, the unconscious mind remains in fashion as a fundamental concept, that the unconscious mind is pivotal to human behavior and personality as we learn more about the brain and autonomic functioning.

Additionally studying the history of psychology provides a source of valuable ideas, and brings attention to the understanding of what the ideas and theories that were once no accepted, or in fashion and can thus reemerge. Presently, there is a renewed scientific interest in psychedelic medicine and is generating new knowledge about a class of pharmacologic substances that humans have long used for ceremonial, therapeutic and cultural purposes for the treatment depression, alcoholism and anxiety, and in the 1950’s was removed from clinical treatment yet presently there is a renewed interest and application of such treatment in clinical settings amongst therapist. Lastly, understanding ideas from their most basic develop, cultural and historical perspectives illuminates the depths and considerations for modern psychology.

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Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

Socrates introduced the understanding of introspection to encourage knowing ones own mind and soul, or to understand one’s personal truth which exist beyond personal opinion (Hanley, 2019). Socrates believed in the importance of individual experience and this is relevant in many modern humanistic approaches through person centered therapies. Socrates believed that the goal of life was to gain knowledge, and that knowledge was attained in understanding the essence of something, is its basic nature, its identifying, enduring characteristics (Henley, 2019). Additionally, to understand what it means to be human and the problems related to human existence, Socrates essentially created states of mind, as knowledge is what guides one to act with morals, such that as one knows what justice is, one acts justly, and therefore, ignorance results in improper conduct (Hanley, 2019).

Plato was a student of Socrates and also believed in knowledge and the inner experience, however, Plato established mental operations as a means of arriving at the truth and that truth was ultimately in born. Plato derived that cognitions, motives and memory, as he described that true knowledge through focusing on the thoughts as all knowledge is innate. For example, Plato asserts that beliefs do not constitute knowledge, but rather there is a hierarchal level of thinking, such that the lower levels which are sensing and imagining (concrete) and observable (the shadows) and the highest form of thinking involves embracing the forms themselves, true intelligence to knowledge results only from the understanding of the abstract forms (Henley, 2019). Plato’s assumptions that the mind effects perception, sleep and dreams has also influenced modern psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

Aristotle embraced both rationalism and empiricism. He believed that the mind must be employed before knowledge can be attained (rationalism) but that the object of rational thought is the information furnished by the senses (empiricism). Aristotle believed we could generally trust our senses to yield an accurate representation of the environment and thus, applied a hippocratic, biological tradition to his approach (Henley, 2019). Through a method of observation, definition, and classification to explain several psychological phenomena in biological terms, Aristotle is as one of the first physiological psychologists (Henley, 2019). Aristotle postulated an inner potential in humans that they may or may not reach, his theory represents psychology’s first self-actualization theory will resemble to modern actualization theories of Jung, Maslow, and Rogers (Henley, 2019).

Augustine Locus of Control

Augustine was instrumental in shifting the locus of control of human behavior from the outside (the city of man) to the inside (the city of God), (Henley, 2019). Therefore, free will created meaning in personal responsibility, as people created their own destiny. Augustine also asserted that the external experience (sensory) is not to be treated as valid, but rather it is the inner subjective experience that is valid and through introspection of ones inner experiences is a way of knowing God (Henley, 2019). The ability to choose ones actions then brings to light that evil exist because people can then choose it. Moreover, that a persons inner experience and feelings effect behavior, and then becomes a reinforcer of what one will feel about themselves depending on what choices they make (Henley, 2019).

Augustine describes inner conflict and morals in correlational as just having a thought alone will cause distress and feelings of guilt, that one does not need to merely act instead of behavior being controlled by the external through regards and puncishmeysnt it is then controlled by personal feelings of virtue and guilt (Henley, 2019). Augustine claimed that an internal sense reveals to each per son how he or she should act as a Christian. Acting contrary to this internal sense, or even intending to act contrary to it, causes guilt. Augustine argued that the experiences of the past, present, and future are accounted for by memories, ongoing sensory impressions, and anticipations, respectively (Henley, 2019).

Descartes Mind-Body Interaction

Descartes saw the mind and body as separate yet interactive, therefore, he had a dualistic view where the mind could influence the body and vice versa. Specifically, that the mind was nonphysical and the body was physical as it occupies space and thus if the body is part of the outer world the body must not be the mind, therefore creating a principle, “ I think, therefore I am” (Henley, 2019). This principle extends the explanation of all animal and human internal processes, to systems that differ at the basis of the mind, a mind that contributes to consciousness, free choice and rationality. Therefore, through a rational and phenomenological process one experiences intuition and establishes “mental representations” of self and others, or one has only “ideas” of really seeing and interacting with other people (Henley, 2019).

Descartes established the mind body brain behavior interaction illuminating a physiological psychology in addressing the souls contact with the body with body in the pineal gland (Henley, 2019).

His mechanistic analysis of reflexive behavior can be looked on as the beginning of both classical conditioning and behavioristic psychology. He focused attention on the brain as an important mediator of behavior, the will can and should control the passions so that proper conduct results (Henley, 2019). Locke, Berkeley, and Hume

In the eighteenth century empiricism emerged as British philosophers Locke, Berkley and Hume believed that experiences were the basis of all knowledge and thus declined the notion of innate ideas. Locke believed humans were not born with innate ideas, moral, mathematical or logical and that ideas developed through sensation and or reflection (Henley 2019), as such derived associations or perceptions. According to Berkley, perceptions exists, however differently then Locke, such that it is Gods perception (a secondary lens) what we perceive and sense reality (Henley, 2019). Hume agreed with Berkeley that the only thing we experience directly is our own subjective experience but disagreed with Berkeley’s faith that our perceptions accurately reflect the physical world. Unlike Locke and Berkeley, Hume believed that causality can never be perceived, it is nothing but an illusion through associations (Henley, 2019).

For Hume, we can never know anything about the physical world because all we ever experience is thought and habits of thought. According to Hume, it is the passions (emotions) that govern behavior, and because people differ in their patterns of emotions, individual behavior differs (Henley, 2019). Therefore, Hume and Locke both established strong behaviorist approaches. Additionally, Locke was highly influential in education and in the field of psychology, as he believed that nurture through experience and exposure was needed for the children development of character (Henley, 2019).

Herbart Philosophy and Psychology

Herbart treated psychology as an academic discipline, and he is credited for the first volumes of psychology text books (Henley, 2019). Herbert accepted the importance of sensory information as with emperlialists, however he did not agree with emperlialists that ideas are passive, rather there is an active mind that not only transformed information received from the senses, but also could discover and understand principles and he took away the passivity of matter(ideas) and instead insisted the matter the matter had energy, hence contributing to the concept of consciousness (Henley, 2019).

Through the lens of philosophy Herbart derived a psychological theory. He believed that empirical psychology was possible, based on experience and reflection on experience. He also believed that the interactions of mental forces and the dynamics of the mind could be examined through mathematical formulas and statistics, thus contributing to modern applied psychology (Henley, 2019). Herbart also believed that the mind was constantly changing by organizing information in the apperceptive mass and actively stopping unrelated less important ideas from coming into consciousness. As such, Herbart is considered to be an educational psychologist with his theories of teaching and learning associated with modern psychology as present in Piagets theories of learning , such that in properly presenting information to the student in consideration of their current mental sets, the student can then link existing ideas and form new systems or cognitive structures, there is also an emphasis on appreciation of interaction and learning (Henley, 2019)

Herbart believed that mental forces move through limen or the boundary between the conscious and unconscious, can thus be repressed, which is that an idea (mass) is never destroyed and will sometimes be met with resilience to surface in consciousness or inner conflict through self preservation, and his belief that ideas continue to exist intact even when we are not conscious of them found their way into early studies of social cognition as well as Freud’s psychoanalytic theory (Henley, 2019).

Existentialism and Romanticism

Existentialism and romanticism emerged as a reaction against the enlightened philosophies such as empiricism, sensationalism and rationalism pictured human as complex machines products of experience or highly rational beings acting according to moral principles (Henley, 2019). Moreover, existentialism and romanticism place great emphasis on human existence, that feelings and emotions are the main guides for the behavior of individuals and humans cannot exist without their personal interpretations of life and without making certain choices of their own volition (Henley, 2019). Both hold that individuality and subjective experience to be of great significance as the implications of life meaning.

Romantics did not accept the science and the philosophies that viewed humans as rational beings or machine like, that are functions of the environment, but rather humans have free will, and are born innately good but the society is what effects ones goodness, and rather than the science, the natural inclinations of the heart are what to be trusted (Henley, 2019). Curiosity is important in educating children as well that self expansion is the result of one living a life of passion (Henley, 2019).

Like the romanticists, the existentialists viewed personal experience and feeling as the most valid guides for one’s behavior. However, existentialism would suggest that basic human motive is the will to power, and to develop great portal as a person, one must act on personal feelings or primal instincts and thus enables a person to explore new experiences and thus to develop greater potential as a person (Henley, 2019). For Kierkegaard, the only truth is subjective truth—that is, truth that exists as a personal belief and to Nietzsche, there are no universal truths, only individual perspectives, and thus to rise above conventional morality, it is courageous and advantageous to live in accordance with their own values (Henley, 2019).

Fechner- Psychology as a Science

Gustavo Fchner was a scientist and philosopher and mystic, who aspired to tackle to mind body dilemma without it attached to materialism and was interested in spiritual phenomena. He believed in the duality of mind and body, and that consciousness is matter throughout all of the universe. Moreover, Fechsner connects consciousness to all things, thereby all things that are physical are also conscious (Henley, 2019). He developed psychophysics, the study of the relationship between physical and psychological events (Henley, 2019). Fechner created a mathematical formula to show the relationship between mental and psychical through assessing self reports as a means to systemically measure the relationship between bodily and mental experiences as physical stimuli was varied systematically (Henley, 2019). Therefore, Fechner theories and approach provide evidence that mental events are able to be studied experimentally (Henley, 2019).

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