Philosophy itself has a long history of seeking to follow the prescription “Ask of everything, what it is, in its nature”. This question has been high on the list of priorities in its own investigations of the soul, self, or person and very early on in the history of this inquiry the inimitable Greek philosophers convinced themselves and everybody else for centuries that the path of reason and truth and the search for laws or principles of human nature were the necessary constituents of any serious investigation. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were in agreement that the investigation into the nature of man should not be so-called “content-driven” inquiries similar to those initiated by some of the Pre-Socratic thinkers, especially those inquiries that were undertaken by the more materialistically inclined investigators. Socrates is an interesting figure to refer to in this context because he began his philosophical investigations into the search for natural explanations for difficult to explain phenomena. Upon reading a work by Anaxagoras Socrates is reported(by Plato) to have turned his back on natural inquiries and begun his search for knowledge of the good and of the self. Anaxagoras is reported to have claimed that “All is mind” and this was the first step on the road to Socrates’ conversion from the investigation of nature to the investigation of the realm of ideas and their relation to reason. The difference between the early and late investigations of Socrates is best illustrated in the scene of Plato’s dialogue Phaedo in which Socrates claims that the explanation for his plight of being incarcerated is not to be found in the material movements of his body causing him to move to prison but the explanation is rather to be found in the realm of ideas, in the reasons for his actions. Any investigation of this matter, if it was needed, would, therefore, focus upon what the person or his mind does, in, that is, what is decided, what is willed as revealed to us in a context of explanation constituted of our cognitive attitudes and desires.
Brett in his work “The History of Psychology” claims that there are different categories of explanation. R S Peters in his abridged one-volume edition of the work has this to say on this issue:
“What we call Psychology is just an amalgam of different questions about human beings which have grown out of a variety of traditions of inquiry.”
Brett in his work actually claims three such broad “lines of interest” but it should be remembered that the third and last volume of this work was published in 1921 at a time when Psychology had only ca 50 years earlier detached itself from Philosophy. These “great lines of interest” are, firstly, the essential questions raised by Psychology, secondly, questions raised by the medical profession and thirdly, the questions raised by the theologians and the Philosophers. Placing theologians and philosophers inside the same pair of brackets does, however, raise some questions about the criteria that Brett may have used to define a ” line of interest”. Theology and Philosophy have certainly been asking different kinds of questions about the nature of man ever since Socrates used elenchus on the theologian Euthyphro in the Platonic dialogue of the same name. The reluctance or refusal of the Church to translate Aristotle’s works into Latin is probably another event suggestive of the difficulty of conflating theological and philosophical traditions of inquiry. Given these objections, it can reasonably be claimed that there are at least four lines of interest and that Philosophy can claim to be a unique line of interest/inquiry. Philosophical events after the publication of Brett’s work such as the rise of Analytical Philosophy of Science in general and Logical Positivism in particular also argue for a differentiation of philosophical from theological questions. on the grounds of a rejection of metaphysical explanations. Brett’s position interestingly rejects that there is some unique kind of object of interest or subject matter that defines the realm of Psychology.
R S Peters embellishes Brett’s account by making a point about the role of language in the activities of these “lines of interest”. Peters claims that in the tradition of thinking about man, language contains a background of ages of inductive reasoning about man’s nature. Language by this means has also shaped our assumptions and interests
Perhaps in the light of the considerable developments we have seen in Psychological investigations in the twentieth century, there is a case for claiming that there are also a number of traditions of inquiry within this discipline, ranging from biological theorizing to Humanistic theorizing. There is, however, an important philosophical distinction to be observed in this discussion and this is the Kantian differentiation between events that happen to a person and events initiated by the will of a person(when a person does something). R S Peters focuses upon this difference by drawing attention to the distinction between questions investigating the facts(what is the case) and questions investigating what ought to be the case, what we ought to do. The latter investigation moves us into a different universe of prescriptive discourse wherein we refer to judgments of appraisal and attitude, a very different universe of discourse to that wherein facts are described and even used for explanatory purposes. There is indeed a relation of relevance between these two universes of discourse(what is the case, and what ought to be the case) but there is no straightforward deductive relationship. This is a paradoxical relation from the scientific point of view considering the uncomfortable philosophical claim that it is the ought judgment which determines the interest and attitude we bring to bear on investigations into physical reality rather than the observations of physical reality solely determining the cognitive attitude we form of that reality. What is being referred to in this discussion are two different contexts: the context of justification and the context of discovery. The prescriptive ought judgment, for example, “One ought not to murder any other person” is the universal justification for the particular judgment that “
Prescriptive questions fall clearly into the domains of both Ethics and Philosophical Psychology and these are both ancient concerns and modern philosophical concerns. Many oracular judgments, for example. “Know thyself” and “Nothing too much” were formative of the view that Ancient Greek Philosophy had of the appraisals we make and the cognitive attitudes we have formed of human beings and their activities.
The difference between ancient concerns and later philosophical reflection upon these concerns is that the latter involves asking a second-order type of question which asks, for example, whether the justification for the judgment “one ought not to murder anyone” is an appropriate justification. This request for a justification of a justification led to the type of critical philosophy that Kant argued for in which different formulations of the categorical imperative provided this second order justification of the justification. In the first formulation, we are provided with a universal law that motivates attitudes, judgments,
There is much to be gained, then, in the application of critical philosophy to theories and claims made in all four lines of Interest/inquiry. This will involve examining the logical consistency of theories that involve the conceptual adequacy of factual claims as well as the adequacy and self-sufficiency or propositional explanation and justification. In this process it is important, however, to respect a natural categorical Aristotelian and Kantian distinction between what we human beings are in our essence(Aristotle’s De Anima, Kant’s Anthropology) and what we ought to do in order to express that essence(Aristotle’s Ethics, Kant’s Practical and Moral Critique’s). These metaphysical investigations predated those systematic scientific investigations that R S Peters argues began with Darwin’s “Origin of the Species. It can, however, be argued that Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory helped us to comprehend the importance of our animal nature in the attempt to understand the concept of consciousness that emerged shortly after Darwin’s reflections at the moment when Psychology detached itself from Philosophy.
In this study, we intend to construct a philosophical commentary and critique of Brett’s “History of Psychology” using the investigations of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Wittgenstein, O Shaughnessy, Paul Ricoeur, Hannah Arendt,
The Pre-Socratic Thinkers
Brett denies in the Introduction to this topic that Science is a “body of knowledge” that was formed by a “scientific method” and further claims that:
“It is more in keeping with the history of thought to describe science as the myths about the world which have not yet found to be wrong. Science had its roots partly in primitive pictures of the world and partly in primitive technology.”
We need, in evaluating the above quote, to remind ourselves of the fact that these thoughts were published in 1912, a period in which modern science was developing in many different directions yet still in its infancy given the fact that the Enlightenment Philosophical Kantian view of science was being disregarded as being “metaphysical”, a term which eventually became synonymous with “the mythical”. The Context of Explanation was regarded as generated exclusively out of the process of the context of discovery in which we discover “facts” and “generalizations” that go beyond the given facts. It was around this time that Bertrand Russell was constructing the concept of sense data as part of his logical/epistemological account of experience and as part of his professional refutation of the idealist philosophical position he had embraced earlier in his career. In short, this was a period in which the inductive context of discovery took precedence over the context of explanation and justification. It was a skeptical period in which dogma was identified with metaphysics and science adopted a hypothetical pose connected more with imaginative language than categorical reasoning. This was the state of affairs in which Brett made his claim that Science and myth were closely aligned. Kant would have categorically rejected such a position on the grounds that a product of the imagination may well be a part of the context of discovery as well as the art of storytelling, but it is not a faculty of mind directly involved in the propositional truth-conditional process of reasoning.
Brett continues in his introduction to point to an interesting account that charts the development of speculative inquiry where..
“It is an interesting fact that detailed speculations about
This is, from one point of view, an interesting example of collective amnesia, probably caused by an obsession with the context of discovery and
Brett points out the futility of beginning the story of Psychology with the early Greek Cosmological inquirers and their attempts to answer a materialistically inspired question relating to what things are made of. Heraclitus, who is mysteriously only cursorily mentioned by Brett, and Empedocles, who is mentioned at length, both wrote about the psychological elements of love and hate and Heraclitus’s fragments indicate a reference to a use of logic. For Heraclitus so-called opposites such as the road up and the road down are logically the same road and the continual change of the physical world demand an understanding of logos, the uniter of opposites.
Brett claims that
“The typically Greek contribution to the rise of science was,
He argues interestingly that the spirit of speculation was lost in the Middle Ages and medieval scholastic discourse was instead dominated by the love of argumentation. Given the Cultural domination of Religion in both the East and the West it is not particularly surprising that a dogmatic attitude accompanied the scholastic love of argumentation, an attitude that detached itself from the perception of our constantly changing Heraclitean world. This attitude was more Platonic than Aristotelian. Aristotelian hylomorphism was predicated upon the search for what we can know about the changing world. An interesting fact to present in this context is the fact that the Church refrained from the translation of the works of Aristotle into Latin until ca 1200 AD thus placing Plato’s philosophy in a superior position of influence. This was undoubtedly a contributory factor to the dogmatic speculations of the scholastic philosophers of the medieval period. This historical fact could also account for the amnesia of Brett in relation to Aristotle and his complex hylomorphic theory about man, a theory certainly grounded in systematic observation of the human form of life. The Aristotelian worldview with a man in a central position belies Brett’s claim that the cosmological materialistic view dominated speculation and observation until the advent of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution precipitated a wave of what Brett referred to as the “detailed and speculative observation of men.”
Brett’s minimalization of the role of Aristotle in his “History of Psychology” is probably due to firstly, an inadequate Historical view of Greek Culture and secondly to the phenomenon of Latinisation of Greek Philosophy via the Latinisation of the Greek language.
Our understanding of man quite rightly may, in the end, be more Parmenidean than Heraclitean because Parmenides is the first philosopher to write about “The One” in terms of the goddess, Aletheia. Aletheia, according to the continental philosopher Martin Heidegger is the Greek term for truth that he translates as “
“dissembling. Dissembling lets something it sets out and sets up appear differently that it is “in truth”…(and) also unveils and hence is a kind of disclosure”(p44 “Parmenides” trans André Schumer and Richard Rojcewicz,1992)
Heidegger believes that the Latinisation of Greek thought as a critical element in world-historical development has produced many consequences for many aspects of our understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit. In its place, we have not just the dogmatic militaristic imperialism of the Romans but also a Christian imperialism embedded in an ecclesiastical structure under the dogmatic command of a perfect Pope. Christian Imperialism includes ecclesiastical dogmatic interpretations of the teachings of Jesus Christ and ecclesiastical financial domination.
When the idea of “the false” actually dominates the meaning of the idea of “the
Brett registers something of the above debate in the following claim:
“Parmenides had laid hold of
Brett goes on to point out that Parmenides regarded man’s constitution as a mixture of elementary qualities and man’s mind a mixture of what Aristotle later would call matter and form in which mans thoughts are related to his bodily constitution. We see in the above quote the absence of reference to Aristotle’s synthesis of Parmenides, Heraclitus and Plato and this might be a consequence of the failure to recognize the influence of the Romanisation of Greek Culture and the Latinisation of the Greek language. Heidegger’s thesis, of course, was not known to Brett given the fact that this thesis was first delivered in the dark days of 1942-43 in Germany. Much has also been made by Heidegger, and modern theorists, of Nietzche’s claim that “God is dead” and the characterization of man in terms of “will to power”. The chains of religion have been cast off and in the process, the Bible(this work of prophets, our ancient thinkers) was reduced to “stories” contradicted by scientific “discoveries”.
Consideration of the above Heideggerian thesis and his pupil Hannah Arendt’s condemnation of the modern age as being the womb of totalitarianism opens up a logical/metaphysical “space” for a cognitive attitude towards The History of Philosophy and The History of Psychology that seeks to restore a “thread of tradition” running from Greek Culture via the Enlightenment and onward to a modern enlightened attitude toward globalization. Such a space would supplement, or neutralize the claim that globalization is principally driven by economic and scientific factors.
Both Descartes and Hobbes rejected the Metaphysics of Aristotle and attempted to fill the ensuing philosophical vacuum with epistemological discussions of human nature and ethics. The above quote of Brett’s places the blame for the elevation of epistemological inquiry over other forms squarely on the shoulders of Plato thus minimizing the Platonic view of man as a fundamentally ethical being possessing a mind in need of regulation by Reason and Philosophy.
Brett rightly also refers to Parmenidean speculation that sensation must belong even to inorganic beings because, his argument goes, if this were not the case sensation would emerge sui generis with the advent of life and be inexplicable. This paradoxically places Parmenides in the materialist camp and it might be the case that Plato’s Philosophy was an attempt to move away from this position without falling into the bottomless pit of Becoming espoused by Heraclitus. Brett’s account of the position of Parmenides also includes, however, thoughts that Aristotle would develop in his theories :
“Mind is the product of the material constitution of the body, and the activities of mind, the thoughts vary in relation to the different constitutions of men.”
Different thoughts vary with different constitutions is one implication of the above quote. This assumption is embedded in various modern Psychological personality coordinate systems. In one system (H Eysenck)we are presented with a longitudinal axis of stability-neuroticism and a latitudinal axis of extraversion-introversion. The theory is basically a coordinate system that will find a position for every individual. The philosophical assumption in this context is the general or universal position that an organ system of a particular kind is requisite for thinking, feeling etc to occur. The above coordinate system requires an individual to answer questions that of course require thoughtful answers. In Aristotelian terms, the above empirical constitutionally based personality theory would address the so-called materialist-cause of thought or thinking. The above theory proposed by Eysenck also appeals to factors such as the genetic determination of the constitution of human, animal, and plant life.
The above example illustrates well the relation of historical assumptions to present theorizing. Parmenides in his philosophical “poem” writes about “The Way of Truth” and being led by the goddess of truth in search of the indivisible and holistic “One”. This, according to Heidegger is an expression of a relation to Being or Reality in the spirit of what he called “
Modern Psychology dwells in a world of variables, in particular in an environment where variables are manipulated and the effects are observed and measured. The Philosophical issue involved is, of course, historical and the question to raise is “Why has Modern Psychology embraced the assumptions of materialism/
This is, of course, a complex question and requires an understanding of a philosophical view of history. Heidegger’s view is that History is popularly conceived of as motion, events, and processes which happen and through which something comes to pass. This is a linear causal view that at best produces a history that is defined as the totality of facts about the past. Heidegger adopts a teleological view reminiscent of the teleological “cause” or “explanation” we encounter in Aristotle’s Metaphysical theory of change when he insists that History is more concerned with destiny and the transmission of essence or potential in an actualizing process. Man, for Heidegger, is the being for whom his very being is an issue and that issue involves unconcealment or the revelation of the Being of beings. This unveiling is the essence of the Parmenidean and Aristotelian concepts of Aletheia. Heidegger points to how, in the absence of this understanding, even great Historians such as Jacob Burckhardt resort to what he calls “the balancing of the books”: facts are given positive and negative weights and conclusions such as Spengler’s the decline of Western Civilisation are produced from this method. Here too Biological assumptions lie behind the “calculations”. Spengler balanced the books of the facts and arrived at the telos of decline where the more cautious philosophical position would be that the end is uncertain for the West.
History, for the modern philosopher, has a meaning which is being revealed as part of the Way of Truth rather than the Way of Opinion Spengler has chosen. History must provide us with the Zeitgeist of an age. In relation to this search for the spirit of the modern age, Heidegger continues his account of the transformation of the idea of the truth. As we saw
“and from there, to the modern certitudo. to truth as certainty. validity and assurance…The result of this transformation of the essence of truth which has prevailed for centuries in the Occident, is the event of the conversion of the essence of untruth, from the Greek pseudos to the Roman falsum …The correct use of the power of judgment is determined in reference to what assures mans self certainty.”(Parmenides p57)
This takes us to the gates of the Modern Period and the Philosophy of Descartes and Hobbes who himself objected to Cartesianism on materialistic grounds reminiscent of the Parminedean “Way of Opinion”.
Returning to Brett’s account of the Pre-Socratics we see him referring to Empedocles and his physiological theory of the relation of the blood to intelligence and thought. In perhaps what was one of the first theoretical reflections upon consciousness we also are given an account of consciousness in terms of the temperature of the blood: sleep ensuing when the blood cools. We appear here to be only incidentally in the realm of thought. Brett takes us closer to the realm of thought and the Way of Truth in his discussion of the work of Anaxagoras:
“He finds from
Democritus, the atomist and Pythagoras the mathematician/mystic that claimed that reality has a mathematical form and also believed in the transmigration of souls, are also mentioned as representatives of a scientific perspective.
This section concludes with an account of two Pre-Socratic thinkers who are classified as representatives of the medical perspective: Alcmaeon and Hippocrates. Alcmaeon claims that sleep is caused by the blood moving into the larger blood vessels. He also claimed that the soul is immortal and divine like the sun. Hippocrates is the more interesting figure, however. He believed that mental activity was intimately related to its physical substrate in such a way that a healthy body produces an intelligent soul: contrariwise, an unhealthy body can cause mental derangements. The brain is also an important part of Hippocrates’ reflections. Brett
“Within the body, the brain occupies the most important place. From it proceed all the veins of the body:they spring up from this root and grow downwards branching out to various parts of the body. Here is the seat of intelligence: into the brain lead the various passages of sense, eyes, nose, ears.–If the brain receives a shock loss of speech, sight or hearing may follow: from wounds to the brain paralysis and death ensue.”
Brett fails to mention anything relating to the famous Hippocratic oath in this section and he also registers his disappointment with the way in which dreams are characterised in one of Hippocrates’ short essays. Dreams, Hippocrates argues, belong to a special class of phenomena requiring interpretation and knowledge of a special science. Dreams can signal the presence of morbid conditions within the body because:
“There seems to be the idea that the soul discovers in sleep what in the waking state goes unnoticed. This amounts almost to the idea that a latent consciousness comes to the surface in dreams.”
These ideas are treated perfunctorily. Brett claims these speculations to be wild and inaccurate characterisations of the proper causes of dreams. Hippocrates’s reflections on the brain surface again and again throughout the history of Psychology and Medicine most notably in Freudian times where we find, Charcot, for example making similar claims in the name of Psychiatry. The science of the knowledge of dreams also resurfaces with Freud’s reflections on the interpretation of dreams in the book with the same name.
In these Pre-Socratic medical thinkers accounts we see again the dialectic between the way of opinion and the way of truth. A dialectic that will require the philosophising of Socrates, the dialogues of Plato, and the critical historically oriented reflections of Aristotle before a systematic synthesis worthy of the name “Psychology” can emerge.