The First Centrepiece lecture on Philosophical Psychology and its role in the Philosophy of Education: from the work, “The World Explored, the World Suffered:The Exeter lectures”

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The seminar room was packed. Robert and Sophia sat in the front row with their notebooks at the ready. Glynn and Jude sat at the rear. Harry drew a deep breath and exhaled before beginning:
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first seminar in the series of the elective “Psychology and Education”. There will be 3 lectures in total.
The title of this course, requires an introduction because it is not obvious what “Psychology” actually is, i.e. it is not obvious what the term means. What is clear, is that many of the thoughts I will be talking about have their origin in other universes of discourse. That said, let’s begin at the beginning and note firstly, that the word “Psuche” in Greek is the etymological root of “Psyche”, which does not exclusively mean “mind” as some commentators have stipulated. The Greek expression has a broader meaning which is going to be important in characterizing the central question or questions the subject is concerned with. Psuche means life. You may wonder, ladies and gentlemen what is meant by life, i.e. what the Greeks were thinking about when they used the expression. The Greek classical narrator, Homer, apparently used the expression to refer to what was lacking in bodies strewn lifelessly on a battlefield. This has been misinterpreted over the ages in two directions. Firstly certain very concrete interpreters thought that it meant “breath”: the dead soldiers were no longer breathing. This was obviously in a sense incorrect, yet life surely cannot be the name of a simple biological phenomenon involving an exchange of gases necessary for activity: surely it must in some sense refer to the activity of living itself in a broader sense. Secondly, some more abstract interpreters thought that “psuche” must refer to some spiritual substance that was no longer present in the bodies of the soldiers, namely, their souls. These interpreters were of course armed with a particular theory about reality as a whole which divides it into two entities, a physical entity like the body which breathes, senses, and moves, and a mental entity which in some curious fashion is able to have experiences even when separated from a physical body. One needs to be in some sense conscious if experience is to be possible, it was argued, and thus was born the idea that Psuche meant something like “consciousness”.
In this respect “Anthropology” would have been a more apt name for the subject matter of Psychology. The term, Psuche, interpreted as “Life” or “Consciousness”, appears to be unable to convey the whole of what we are studying, namely, the human being living a human life. “Anthropos” in Greek means “human” and “Logos” means “study” or “systematic investigation”. If we move forward ca 2000 years, a tradition of studying man in a holistic spirit as man-in-society grew up in the German academic literature culminating in a work entitled “Anthropology” by Immanuel Kant. Kant’s work, followed one of the major currents of the stream of Enlightenment thought, and not only studied the human in his human Aristotelian context—his society— but also studied the human being as the proper holistic object of study in the light of the humanistic conviction that the subject of God cannot be studied other than as an idea in man’s mind. God as a theoretical idea had, on Kant’s account, become a hypothetical projection of man’s thinking processes and reasoning. And on this latter issue of man’s thinking processes, and the investigation of the human being, here is a quote, in illustration, from Kant’s preface to the work in question:
“All cultural progress, by which the human being advances his education, has the goal of applying this acquired knowledge and skill for the worlds use. but the most important object in the world to which he can apply them is the human being: because the human being is his own final end…..A doctrine of knowledge of the human being, systematically formulated(anthropology), can exist either in a physiological or in a pragmatic point of view.—Physiological knowledge of the human being concerns the investigation of what nature makes of the human being: pragmatic knowledge is the investigation of what he as a free acting being makes of himself, or can and should make of himself.”
During the Middle Ages and even during the Enlightenment, the idea of the Homeric/Platonic soul as capable of surviving to have experiences after the death of its host body had miraculously disentangled itself from the Aristotelian arguments proving such a conception to be impossible. But another current of the stream of Enlightenment thought, namely science, was operating beneath the surface of academic events and although the assumptions which enabled science to achieve its successes were primarily Aristotelian, it had distanced itself from Aristotle’s metaphysics in general which regarded matter and the material world as infinite and his conceptions of formal and final cause in particular. For Science, the universe could be divided up and reduced to either its material components, whatever they turned out to be, or it could be divided up into all of the possible physical facts, some of which would include reference to the causes of facts. On this latter conception, science collects facts for the book of nature like the zoologist collects butterflies. That is to say, science measures the quantities of things which it assumes is the only way of investigating an infinite homogeneous continuum. Blue is reduced to a certain number on the nanometer scale and red is characterized in terms of another number on the scale: the qualitative difference between red and blue is subordinated to a quantitative frequency of light. These operations of dividing and quantifying which were promising great technological consequences were already, prior to the Enlightenment, serving to diminish the value of humanistic studies which, following Aristotle, were striving to understand the essence of phenomena rather than their causes. So whilst Kant was in the process of undermining the theological-metaphysical God, he was doing so in an environment that would succeed not only in undermining Aristotle’s metaphysics but also the Kantian transcendental metaphysics itself. Both of these are needed to academically understand the essence of Humanity. The non-Kantian, Cartesian idea of consciousness, for obscure reasons which remain to be investigated, prevailed as the major influence and concept requiring explanation. In 1870, some 70 years after Kant’s lectures on Anthropology were published, science launched a major attack on the city-state of Philosophy and in the ensuing battle colonized a suburb of the Humanities which it gave the name “Psychology”. There would no longer be transcendental metaphysical discussions of the human being: man was to be investigated with the empirical method of experimentation and observation: the true road to knowledge. Wundt in Germany defined this new subject as “the science of consciousness” and proceeded, in accordance with the principle of reduction, to reduce all conscious phenomena to the elements of sensation and feeling. Wundt failed, however, to conduct successful experiments demonstrating the usefulness of his definition of psychology. These experiments also failed to justify the concepts of “sensation” and “feeling” in theories about “consciousness”. Science analyzed the resultant chaos it had created and determined that the problem was that no one had ever, or ever would be able to, observe consciousness: and that what was needed was a more tangible, less metaphysical, less transcendental entity which could be observed.
Thus was born the next definition of Psychology: the science of behavior, and the school of behaviorism which was to dominate discussion for decades to come emerged at the beginning of the 1900’s. The subject matter of Anthropology and the possibility of the birth of the subject called Anthropology had been successfully blocked by these developments. These are the reasons that I could not call this course “Anthropology and Education”: no one would have understood why it was not called “Psychology”. The reason I am able to call the course “Psychology and Education” is simply that most people have a general idea of the general intentions of education as a practical activity and expect that such an activity must incorporate knowledge of how human beings learn and develop through such an activity. They believe that there must therefore be a subsidiary study of the conditions and consequences surrounding the learner’s role in this process. I certainly believe that these are two of the essential questions psychologists should be seeking to provide answers to, namely the questions of learning and development. There are, however, other broader questions which Kant’s Anthropology highlighted that as a matter of fact may be more holistically relevant than anything this so-called discipline of “Psychology” has been able to produce. This is not to deny that there have been “psychologists” if you prefer this term to “anthropologists”, whose reflections have proceeded in the spirit of Aristotle and Kant, and I will refer to these figures in the course of the lectures. Basically, Kant believed that satisfactory answers had to be given to 4 fundamental questions if one was to philosophically understand the world: What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope for?. What is a human being? The answers, of course, had to be logically consistent with each other. Kant comments in his work, “Anthropology”, on Descartes’ reflections concerning our mental faculty of memory. Descartes, according to Kant, speculates on the causes of the phenomenon, rather than the phenomenon itself, wandering about the traces of memory in the brain. Kant admits in this speculative process that in reflecting in this way Descartes has ceased to become the one who remembers. He has, rather, become one who observes a remembering process and all that can be observed in this respect are the cranial nerves and fibers involved:- the phenomenon of remembering has disappeared. Kant quite rightly claims as Aristotle would have, that this kind of speculation is a waste of time. And yet it is this scientific endeavor that has come to dominate our speculations about memory even today. There is a lesson for us all here: do not underestimate the power of science, for it has the power to persist in any area of investigation in spite of providing explanations of something different to that which it should be explaining.
We appear to be hypnotized by the magic of science, ladies and gentlemen. The phenomenon investigated disappears by a sleight of hand, too fast for our eyes to follow, and hey presto!, something else takes its place. Of course, we reason, this something has to be identical with the phenomenon we started off requiring an explanation for, because this is what we have been told. Magicians can also be hypnotists, ladies and gentlemen. This method of characterizing everything we experience from a third person or observationalist perspective, is a methodological demand that is especially problematic when it comes to characterizing human activity, especially in the case of the relation of my own first-person perspective to my action. If I am doing something, my attention is usually directed outwards toward what I wish to accomplish. If I want to neutrally “observe” what I am doing, that involves involuting my attention onto the action itself as if I am a third person trying to work out what is being done, i.e. the role of the observer is usually the role of the questioner who is trying to find something out. When I am reaching for a piece of fruit I am not normally in the situation of waiting to see why my arm is moving toward the fruit bowl, rather I know from the first person perspective what it is I am going to do: changing perspective in mid-action is guaranteed to destroy the intentional fabric of the action and if such a change of perspective occurs I will no longer know what I am doing. Furthermore, considerations of measuring the speed of movement of the arm or measuring anything else in this situation will be irrelevant to what I am doing. When science gets involved in psychological phenomena such as memory or action the result is usually comedy, tragedy, or magic. How should the psychologist investigate memory then? According to Kant the investigation should be from a pragmatic point of view. But what does that mean? It may mean asking what role memory plays in the life of a person. Consider the war veteran home from a traumatic term of service at the front, having witnessed the most horrific events. We can ask what role memory is going to play in this state of affairs. Were it to be just a question of leaving traces in the brain, a matter of creating protein templates, memories would just physically form and that would be the end of the matter. The templates would just be a totality of facts about the war and the subject would be a walking part of history sharing his memories at dinner parties, pubs etc. But the mind is normatively structured, ladies and gentlemen. People ought not to experience such terror. The mind is structured for the good: what is not good or evil will probably create a terror-filled mind, an unbalanced mind. The psychologist treating such a patient will not be surprised to learn that the patient does not sleep or eat, that cars backfiring in the street place him back at the war-front in a state of terror. Now such a patient may find that his lust for life has been lost and for most of the time he sits passively like an observer, waiting for things to happen to him, instead of actively living a good and flourishing life. Freud treated such patients, ladies and gentlemen, with a theory that scientists have been lining up for generations to call “unscientific”. Well, if his theory is not scientific then all I can say is “Good!”, because if it was scientific the patient might have been left observing his life go by for the rest of his time. After all, is this not the attitude the scientist wishes people to adapt to everything they experience! All I can say is that what we need is an account containing Principles of Anthropology which can explain how memories which are normally constructive of flourishing lives can play a destructive role in a life. What I am raising here is the question which Anthropology requires an answer to, namely “Why do people do what they do?” As we have seen above this question carries with it a need for an explanation as to why the traumatized war veteran cannot any longer strive for what is good in life and needs help to extricate himself from the passive attitude which leaves him terrorized. The war veteran may not of course be conscious of what is wrong with him. In talks with his psychologist he may invoke a list of symptoms: unable to sleep because of nightmares, nausea, unspecific anxiety, irrational responses to cars backfiring and loud noises, depression. He has “observed” all of these “facts” but he cannot say what is wrong with him. If he is a self-conscious being as I have claimed we all are, should he not be aware of what is wrong with him? This is the kind of question that troubles the “unscientific” psychologist like Freud to such an extent that he spent 50 years trying to find adequate explanations which will fully explain the different forms of mental illness. I am not saying that Freud was right about everything in the field of mental illness or indeed that his theories of man in society cannot be improved upon. Freud was an archeologist rather than a believer in teleology as far as man was concerned. In exploring the theoretical idea of society he takes us back to the mythical band of brothers who, in a Hobbesian state of nature, kill their father who they experience as a tyrant. As the understanding of what they have done sinks in, and the prospect that anyone assuming authority for the community possibly awaits the same fate becomes clear for all concerned—the brothers form a pact and regulating social existence by law seems the obvious response to the dilemmas and paradoxes of living in a state of nature. Such a narrative contains within it a conflict view of man’s relation to the civilization he has created. His instincts are regulated by both Eros and Thanatos, the life and death instinct, and both of these need to be regulated by forces of civilization which seemed to resemble the defense mechanism of repression. And in a famous work with a marvelous title, “Civilization and its Discontents”, Freud asks whether all the effort involved in civilization-building is worth it. He wonders whether, given the fact that we all appear to be enslaved to hedonism, and demand hedonistic satisfaction from cultural activities, a flourishing life is at all possible. Apparently at the age of 75 when most men are fully occupied with the task of staying alive he was still reflecting on the organization of civilization and predicted that from his perspective the future outcome of this organization, might be one which the individual will reject rationally. According to Freud, the psychological mechanisms we see operating in the arena of culture are repression, frustration, sublimation and rational rejection. The kind of life that was possible in such circumstances was one that submitted to the cultural equivalent of the reality principle—Ananke—The life of resigning oneself to a state of affairs one was powerless to change through rational rejection. Rejection is transformed into a smoldering acceptance as Eros, the life instinct, ebbs away and we grow older less than gracefully. There is no comfort of an ethical or religious form of life. For Freud the latter form of life was infected with defense mechanisms which manifested itself in obsessive rituals, childish wish fulfillments and anxieties. The former lifestyle according to Freud was initially going to be subjugated to an authoritarian and sometimes cruel superego (which itself is the result of a defense mechanism Freud refers to as identification) until the point at which the ego could take non-defensive control of the whole structure of the mind including the primary processes of the id. Returning to the theme of self- consciousness it appears on this account that becoming self- conscious is not something which appears out of the blue of existence one fine day, but rather requires considerable effort and work as well as perhaps a non-hedonic form of love which loves a person for themselves. I accused Freud of being more of an archeologist than a follower of the teleological view of the human spirit, but there is a latent negative teleology in the possibility of a strong ego that resigns itself to a civilization that might not be worth the effort. In this work, man is not merely a hedonist in relation to the life instinct, Eros. He is a wolf in relation to the death instinct, Thanatos. The vision of the Stoic bearing life’s miseries with a stiff upper lip looms large. The ego, Freud claims is the repository of lost objects which have been invested with value and as such the ego needs a mourning process before equilibrium once again reigns in what Freud calls the “psychical apparatus” (which includes our neuronal system) before mental life and the life instinct can resume its work and its loving. In the psychoanalytic literature there is this wonderful image of a triangle where the life instinct narcissistically and hedonistically makes its demands on reality. Reality being what it is, with its lack of concern for humanity, and being resistant to change, frustrates the demand, and the final closing of the triangle involves a wounding of desire, and of course a wounding of the ego, or in James’s language, a wounding of Romeo We are all the wounded soldiers of civilization, ladies and gentlemen. We will not find in Freud the flourishing life of Aristotle, the Kingdom of ends of Kant or the life after death of popular Christianity. We will only find a city of Romeo’s in mourning. We can, of course, wonder about the parts of the person such as the id, ego, and superego and we can wonder about the role of sexuality in the development of the individual. At the same time it should be emphasized that Freud had read Kant and he claimed that Freudian psychology is the psychology Kant would have wrote if he had concerned himself with the subject. Was this a reasonable claim, ladies and gentlemen? I think the claim is partly justified when one bears in mind that, in Kant, we find the mind of a person divided into firstly, its receptive capacity where a small number of the conceivably infinite continuum of possible sensations from the external world are actually experienced as a manifold, and secondly the mind manifests its spontaneous or productive capacity where a rule is provided to organize the manifold. The mind, that is, is divided into receptive sensibility and the active conceptual activity of the understanding, which both contribute to forming the cognitive function of the mind. Abstract concepts and concrete sense impressions combine to form our judgments that are truth claims. Apart from referring to the reality principle Freud did not discuss in any detail the conscious cognitive function of the mind but in his discussion of the affective and practical functions of the mind he did provide an important distinction between primary and secondary processes which we will refer to later in the course. One should also not forget the considerable role that the developmental psychology of Piaget played, in our attempt to understand the person and the persons relation to the society. For Piaget, there were fundamentally three stages of moral development, egocentric, transcendental and autonomous morality. Egocentric stage behavior blindly makes its demands and strives in accordance with a hedonistically or narcissistically oriented judgment system. Transcendental stage behavior refers to the judgments of authorities and the tendency to think of such authorities as externally compelling the individual to conform to external norms. Finally, autonomous stage moral behavior is individually based on an internal awareness of rules that will bring rewards to the individual. Here there is an interesting distinction between conventional morality where there is no role to criticize the rules, and autonomous morality where criticism is built into the structure of the mind. Let me conclude by returning to Kant’s anthropology and his stages of development. There is firstly a stage of development where the child is principally passive and learning what to do is primarily imitative. The second stage occurs when the child begins to experience itself as a centre of control for its own activity and a rudimentary form of egoistic self -consciousness is formed. In a third stage the child learns to abstract from the differences between authority and the individual and abstract from the differences between different individuals in order to develop a morality where everyone is equal and free to pursue their own route to a flourishing life.
Now education, ladies, and gentlemen, is concerned with the optimum development of the individual in a learning environment, and it is concerned with getting the individual to share the vision of what constitutes a flourishing life. It bears an ancient message from the gods and Philosophy: that only knowledge will be adequate to the task of developing a rational self- consciousness and a society all can flourish in. I would like to end with a reflection on Plato who is said to have begun systematic psychological reflection. For Plato, philosophical knowledge was needed to run the perfect Republic which would then in its turn form the philosophical citizen who would lead the most flourishing life the Greeks could imagine. Failure to run Plato’s Kallipolis in accordance with philosophical knowledge would result in society spiraling downward via a number of political forms containing correlating psychological character-types to the worst form of tyranny in which the tyrant will meet a tragic end and the society would end up tragically consuming itself. Here we see a fascinating suggestion that our psychological profiles will be determined by what kind of society they inhabit which in its turn will be formed by the quality of philosophical knowledge involved in the decisions and laws of the society. The whole system is teleological and normative ladies and gentlemen and perhaps you can now see why I believe that Psychology, insofar as it willed its detachment in the name of science from a Philosophy which examines all things in accordance with their essential nature, cannot deal holistically with the phenomena of self -consciousness, the flourishing life and the flourishing society. In the next lesson, I wish to deal with the kind of phenomenon that Psychology might be able to investigate, namely the origins of self- consciousness. Civilization has been “evolving culturally”, as we say, for a considerable amount of time since the mythical band of brothers brought the law into man’s hearts, formed cities and defensive protective walls around these cities. Surely one would claim, that it must have been at this moment that consciousness was formed. I attended a seminar some years ago in Washington on the work of a psychologist who claims to believe that the event of the forming of self- consciousness into a unity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to this event, we lived in societies, not in discontentment because that presupposes the knowledge of self- conscious beings who are fully aware of the conditions of their existence: we lived, rather, in conditions of subservience ladies and gentlemen because we were not fully aware of an alternative form of life. We were similar to children, captives of the Kantian transcendental stage of moral development. We were not fully self- conscious. We were aware of what we could lose if we did not obey the law but we did not see its relation to our very limited form of life. Julian Jaynes, ladies, and gentlemen claims, as William James, another American psychologist before him, that the core of the person lies in his brain and the seat of his consciousness lies in the cortex region of his brain. He has been impressed in particular by the fact that the two hemispheres of the brain seem to be performing two very different psychological functions. He has further been impressed by the fact that language may have had a command-control function prior to its being used to autonomously narrate stories about self- conscious individuals. In this “transcendental” state, moments of anxiety caused by problems we do not have the psychological resources to solve enslaves individuals in the lower strata of society who are controlled by hallucinated voices of either individuals higher up in society or the internalized voices of dead individuals we called gods or God. Our consciousness, at a particular point in our history, was bi-cameral he claimed, split into a commander and a follower. I will follow this suggestion up in more detail during the next lecture.”

Twentieth Century Psychology: The History of Psychology(Brett and Peters)

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This is the final essay in a series of essays on Brett and R S Peters’ work “The History of Psychology”. In the opening essay on the Philosophy of Man Peters pointed out how throughout the ages there has been a tendency to focus on the data or the subject matter of a collection of different kinds of inquiries occurring in the name of religion medicine and philosophy. This subject matter , of course, very quickly proliferates and demands ordering if the impression is not to be one of total confusion.

In 1870 Psychology unilaterally declared its independence from Philosophy and Religion and decided to focus on the scientific method as a means of uniting a chaotic field of data or subject matter. This move incorporated a commitment to observation and a resultant suspension of the “psychological” practical attitudes involved  in calls to action and the evaluation of action which was the concern of Aristotle’s practical science. Psychology reduced the circumference of the circle of its concerns to a  theoretical reasoning  that committed itself to what Brett called “observationalism” and introspection(a psychological mechanism which turned observation inwards).

The twentieth century, it is maintained, was largely obsessed by observationalist assumptions and reactions to observationalism such as behaviourism. Initially upon the declaration of independence, the definition of Psychology accepted by many leading researchers was “The science of consciousness” but it was then discovered that consciousness could not be observed and could not, therefore, fit into the theoretical scientific framework of being manipulated or measured as an experimental variable. The “scientific” response to this was to  redefine Psychology as the “science of behaviour” and this move merely further reduced the circumference of the investigative circle and much that was of interest in the Philosophy of man was ignored.

The Medical model also played its part in the development of Psychology through the reciprocal influences of Psychiatry and Freudian Psychology under the heading of technologies of cure which sometimes steered and sometimes were steered by theoretical views of diagnoses. The concept of development played its part in influencing the direction of Psychology by both focusing on animal research and child development. Simultaneously the social sciences with its tendency to highlight the role of the social environment in the development of the individual also contributed to a rich mixture of ingredients. One of the responses of the behaviourists to the introspective musings of subjects in “experimental” situations was to discard what people were saying and concentrate instead upon what was being done: behaviour. At the same time the medical model, operating in what Brett called the technological therapeutic mode was emphasizing a moral treatment of patients that demanded that the Doctor listen to his patients both for the purposes of diagnosis and for the purposes of treatment. This ethical focus was probably a consequence of the need of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis to view humans holistically if the practical problem of restoring man  to health was to be solved. Freud’s initial training was in the Physiology of the brain. This was complemented with a medical training because, as a Jew, he could not look forward to a well-paid research position at Vienna University. Both of these largely theoretical educations proved to be inadequate to solve the kind of problem Freud was faced with in private practice. He was forced to resort creatively and experimentally to  various “technologies” such as hypnotism in order to address the complex symptoms of his patients. But Freud was also a man of culture and we know he was familiar with the writings of Kant and this perhaps prevented him from engaging in the various forms of quackery that was a sign of the times. Paradoxically it was probably Platonic, Aristotelian and Kantian Metaphysics and Transcendental Philosophy that turned this Physician into a leading figure on the world stage in the 20th century. Popularly, he became famous for his idea of “the unconscious” but this was probably only one of a number of innovative concepts he formed in his 50 years of theorizing. Ernest Jones, Brett points out, thought very highly of the Freudian distinction between the primary and secondary process of the mind working in accordance with different principles: the pleasure-pain principle and the reality principle respectively. Freud’s background in Physiology and Biology led him to formulate a theoretical idea of “instinct” and this together, in turn,  with his philosophical interests enabled him to construct a complex hylomorphic concept of instinct as constituted of the elements of “aim”, “object” and “source”.This complexity was of course not appreciated when criticism of his thesis of the sexual etiology of neurosis became almost universally accepted. The more superficial ideas of an organism being merely a bundle of instincts gained much traction at the beginning of the 20th century. In his seminal work, “The Interpretation of Dreams” Freud published the results of his adventures of reflection into the realm of wish-fulfillment which reads very differently to his other more technical works where we are clearly in the realm of action. The Interpretation of dreams  is almost like a hermeneutic work of interpretation operating on a mythical world, except for the famous chapter 7 on the psychical apparatus that  brings us back into the real world of action. In Kantian terms dreams are phenomena that happen to us and are distinct from the things we choose to do, and there is no obvious route for Kant from the realm of fantasy to the realm of the real world. Freud claimed that dreams are the royal road to the unconscious but what many of his critics fail to see is that the road leads in the other direction to the world of reality and action, and Freud’s work actually allows us to journey on that road connecting these two different “cities” of the mind. Our minds begin their life dwelling in the city of the primary process ruled by solipsistic wish fulfillment and anxiety and life in this city is obviously problematic. The contrast of the solid city built of choices and real actions leading to real consequences is stark. These are Brett’s words:

“However, whatever the right sort of description for such goings on which Freud called the primary processes, Freud saw clearly that they require a different sort of description from that which we give for processes explaining actions or performances. For we explain these in terms of the ends which people have in mind and their information about means to ends, which falls under rules of efficiency and appropriateness. To act or to perform a person must have a grasp of causal connection, of time, of external reality, and of logical contradictions. Such standards are the product of ages of convention, adaptation, and conscious experimentation. This inherited wisdom is handed on from generation to generation, as what Freud called the secondary processes begin to develop out of the autistic amalgam of the child’s mind. A wish, to be transformed into a reason for acting, has to have logical and causal connections, together with standards of social correctness, imposed upon it, to that what is wished for, the objective, can be connected with acts that lead up to it. It is interesting to note that Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics distinguished “wish” from “choice” roughly along these lines.”(R. S. Peters)

The analogy of two different cities obviously breaks down with the concept of the unconscious which actually is a concept on the boundary of the physical and the psychological. Ricoeur noted that this  part of Freud’s theory is more physiological and relates to the “energetics” and physical mechanisms of the body such as the leaving of memory traces by ideas that pass in and out of consciousness. Freud discovered that not all of these traces give rise to memories which can be retrieved in the way memories normally are. Some of these traces are of ideas that at one time passed through consciousness and require special techniques or circumstances before they are able to “surface” once again in the realm of consciousness: techniques such as hypnosis or free association, and circumstances such as dreaming or narcosis. Why one might ask do these “ideas” nor naturally “surface” in consciousness under the appropriate circumstances? Freud’s answer is that something or some force is preventing this natural process from occurring. There is, in other words, a repressing force operating in the mind distorting its natural function. Freud also acknowledged tendencies of the id which are not conscious and have not been formed by the egos defense mechanisms. Examples of traces that are prevented from expressing themselves in consciousness are  “the traces left by experiences in early childhood–especially those involving wishes of which we feel ashamed”. In his later theorizing, Freud introduces “agents” into his topographical model. The Ego, for example, is the outer face of the id that negotiates as best it can with three masters: firstly it meets the demands of the external world instrumentally finding the best means to the ends which meet these demands, secondly it meets the demands of the id, sometimes defensively, thirdly it meets the demands of the superego and its demands that certain standards of behaviour and judgment be maintained.. This latter agency of the super-ego is obviously an introjection of mechanisms of society which regard “norms” as necessary for the ordering of relations between men in society. Here we are obviously dealing with the attitudes I referred to in the beginning of this essay. The final third wave of Freud’s theorizing provided us with a picture of the workings of a “silent” instinct that wreaks havoc in society: the death instinct that manifests itself defensively as aggression and this was for Freud the final piece of the puzzle depicting the contours of human nature. A number of patients with sadistic-masochistic tendencies were flying beneath the radar of Freudian theory and until Thanatos entered the arena of theoretical explanation these patients were paradoxes for Freudian theory. The superego obviously contained more than a little of this aggression as well as containing the influences of our closest relatives and friends as well as the influence of social institutions.Many everyday transactions in the social world are in Freudian theory, given technical labels which refer to a network of descriptive and explanatory concepts. The theory proposed that conflicts in early childhood can centre around organs and operations of the body and that the failure to resolve such conflicts might result in personality distortions which have been famously described in personality type theory.

R S Peters spends much time on describing and commenting on Freudian theory and feels it necessary to say the following in conclusion:

“If any justification is necessary for spending so much time on presenting Freud’s theory as a whole it is to be found in its overwhelming importance and influence in twentieth century Psychology. It combines the purposivism of other theories with the stress on the unity or wholeness of the personality which purposive theories have often neglected. It has been illustrated by more empirical material than any other theory and is richer in causal genetic hypotheses. In fact, there are enough speculative hypotheses in Freud to keep a generation of psychologists going in the endeavor to state them precisely and to test them. The stress on “the unconscious” and the importance given to early childhood experiences was revolutionary when we consider the theories in the field at the end of the 19th century. The only respects in which Freud was a child of the 19th century were his Darwinian approach, his vague metaphysical leanings derived from Schopenhauer, and his conception of “ideas” as dynamic mental entities which he inherited from Herbart.”(R. S. Peters)

Interest in the development of the child and personality types gave rise in the twentieth century to an industry of attempts to “measure”  the abilities and personality of children and adults. Educationalists became interested in intelligence testing. Testing and experimentation also continued in earnest with different animals. Psychometrics became a part of many Psychology and Teacher training courses at Universities and Colleges. Everyone became technically interested in the “instruments” of Psychology and the conceptual aspect of psychological investigations was marginalized. Statistical studies aiming at proving causal relationships between variables soon gave way to studies using probability theory to calculate correlations between variables, especially in those studies in which a conceptual understanding of the variables and their contexts were lacking.

The Social Sciences also played an influential role in mobilizing researchers. Marx’s Economic theories lent themselves well to a theory of value which continued a tradition begun by Hobbes and  Hume, a tradition that attempted to separate value from the realm of objectivity in favor a psychological fallback position which attempted explanations of social phenomena in terms of the invariable psychological(subjective) characteristics of individuals. Hobbes, for example had attempted to “deduce mans social and political behaviour from basic psychological postulates about self-preservation which were themselves presumed to be deducible from physical postulates about matter in motion”. Hobbes wonders whether life can be anything more than the mechanical movement of springs and gears. This value-phobia inhabited even the thinking of those social scientists who rejected the psychological approach and like Marx regarded the concepts of class, nation and the collective to be far more useful for social analysis than the needs and wants of individuals. The Philosophical notion of a prescriptive set of concepts possessing objectivity and truth  and subject to the laws of logic was a thin crescent moon in the starry heaven of academic ideas. Peters points to a publication  by Charles Cooley entitled “Human Nature and the Social Order” which he claims was very influential in America, the home of social psychology:

“Its main theme was that human personality is a social product and that most of our beliefs and attitudes are socially acquired. The “social order” thus determines the individual personality. Kantian objections were conspicuous by their absence in this zone of debate.”

Peters points out insightfully that this discussion only had one direction in which to go and that was toward a description of human automata. This environment also made it difficult for Freudian ideas to persist and Freud bashing became a favorite past-time of many American academics. Even Malinowski’s serious objections to the Freudian Oedipus complex was overshadowed by a general lack of interest in Freuds theories. The condition of the existence of his theories depended upon insisting  upon a link with social anthropology.

The overall impression of Peters is that during the 20th century there emerged a proliferation of “schools” of Psychology all operating on either different assumptions or with different methods or with  different concepts and that this has in no small measure contributed to what many philsophers regard as the “conceptual confusion” in the subject.



Darwin and William James “The Inroads of Physiology and Biology”: The History of Psychology(Brett and Peters):

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“The influence of biology proved to be the most far-reaching of all influences coming into psychology from outside the philosophical, religious and medical traditions from which psychology, in the main has developed. But its full influence did not make itself felt until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century when men who had been trained in Darwinian Biology started to study man in the same sort of way as they studied animals and to use the same sort of explanatory hypotheses for human behaviour. There was, however, a transitional period before the rise of various schools of psychology in the 20th century when the biological outlook exerted a correcting rather than a radical influence on the old tradition of “idea” psychology.. The systematizers, Ward , Stout and James, for instance, though strongly influenced by biology were what we would now call “philosophical psychologists”. They were interested primarily in traditional topics like the relationship between perception and conception, the self, and self-consciousness, the association of ideas etc…..stress on conation, on plasticity and adaptability, and on function was beginning to replace the old interest in cognition, faculties, and structure. But Psychology remained predominantly introspective. The mind rather than behaviour remained the centre of interest: the difference was that a more biological account was given of mental processes.”(Brett and Peters)

The latter half of the 18th century was a period of intense activity in the sciences including some interesting research on the brain in which memory, for example, was explained as  “the persistence of impressions on the brain substance”. Cartesian dualism surprisingly dominated psychological discussion and the physiological “vis nervosa” was distinguished from the soul or psychic force. In Germany the notion of “Lebenskraft” was influential and the concept of development was the focus of much theorizing. The Sciences were beginning to assemble themselves into a series of ascending steps beginning with physics reaching through chemistry, physiology,  biology to psychology. Functionalism supplemented the materialism of the day and was interwoven with the activity of the will.  Bichat, for example in the spirit of functionalism defined life as “the complex of functions which resist death”. The dualism was almost Platonic: man was a divided being composed of natural forces functioning mechanically . and the spontaneous force of a conscious will. Hughlings Jackson’s reflections   advanced the scientific position that the real “organ of the mind” is the body and  claimed that the nervous system of the body is representative  of three levels of evolution: impressions and movements(sensori-motor), these representations are then re-presented in a larger integrated context: finally at the highest level there is re-re-presentation in terms of thought and volition. Even in this case we encounter the assumption of dualism and consciousness is assumed to be a mere effect or accompaniment of the neural processes we are dealing with. Towards the end of the 19th century, the issue of feelings becomes controversial and two debates occurred, relating firstly, to lower feelings and their connection to sensation and, secondly, to the relation of higher feelings to moral and aesthetic ideas. The former in a dualistic context, claims that the increase or decrease of intensity of sensation produces differences that are felt and this leads inevitably to a theory of unconscious “feelings”. Hartmann disagreed with this and asserted categorically that feelings can only exist in consciousness. He concedes also that all feeling is to placed on a pleasure-pain continuum. All qualitative differences of feeling are actually differences in accompanying sensations or ideas which can shift in levels of awareness.  A key shift in emphasis occurred when  Horwicz in his work “Analysis of Thought” claimed that  Feeling is “always accompanied by an impulse to act”—-“sensation is always incipient movement”. the mental space that is thus created allows a possible choice of movement to be represented in the light of an anticipation of represented consequences. This thinking process comes to an end when the agent inclines himself to one action. Thinking, on this view, is a stream of representations controlled by feeling and a striving toward action. Horwicz realizes that abstract and scientific thinking is compromised in this position and claims that even the search for the causes of a sensation is related to the positive feeling of pleasure and the driving force of desire to experience pleasure. Kant, in contrast, had attempted to unify practical consciousness by reference to the will and reason in relation to an ethical standpoint. Horwicz attempts the same task by the use of feeling: a new basis, but arguably a basis manifesting the most inner and private of phenomena accessible, one presumes only to introspection. Darwin’s writings had obviously tuned the European mind into the theme of the emotions and the so-called “peripheral theory” of Lange and Sergi began to emerge and was developed and elaborated upon by the Americal Physiologist William James. These thinkers focussed on the order of events in an emotion  and claimed that the idea of a bear, for example, is not the cause of emotions “as a match might be said to cause a fire: but along with the “idea” there is a total organic reaction which makes the “idea” itself a uniquely personal event, and wields it into that concrete psycho-physical process called experience”. Brett argues that this position is in harmony with Kant’s insistence on allowing the subjective to be part of, for example, his transcendental deduction and also allowing it to play such a prominent role in the critique of judgment:

“..for Kant leads the modern school of thinkers who insist on a) giving to feeling an independent position and b) regarding it as the subjective complement of the objective processes(sensation, ideation)”(Brett and Peters)

In England Spencer had been propagating for Psychology to be treated as a natural science and then partially deserted that position with his “two aspect” theory which retained an inductive approach to the phenomena of Psychology. Among the consequences were strange terminological inventions such as “cerebration” which were used for processes of thinking. In this context consider Dr Irelands famous quote:

“Cerebration!–what a name for thought! When the liver secretes bile one does not say that it hepatates, or when a man breathes we do not say that he pulmonates”

The above of course  is an example of a technical or technological relation to language which was to cause problems at many different levels for the discipline of psychology during the next century.

With Spencer, the life of the mind was divided: into inner and outer activities. Darwin’s work was in the spirit of Aristotle and introduced the spirit of deduction into an atmosphere of induction, an atmosphere where all the energy of researchers was devoted to the collection of facts without any thought concerning the problem of how these facts should be ordered. Darwin’s theory of change regarded Nature as infinitely and ceaselessly productive, a process in which every change was an experiment directed by the processes of random variation and selection. It became clear now that there should be a general biological treatment of mental functions and the lives of animals and children were especially relevant to such investigations. His view of emotions also had great effect: replacing the focus on consciousness with a focus on habit. Consciousness came to be regarded as a consequence of the process of evolution. Darwin’s position implied a rejection of  dualism in favour of Aristotle with a Spencerian twist, namely :

“The cooperation of the physical and psychic factors which this theory employs is explained by giving to the body a capacity for producing certain movements, and to the intelligence a power of selecting, and so finally establishing some modes of action in preference to others.”(Brett and Peters)

It was clear that Darwins theories would provide more insight into the study of life and also that a platform was provided for the union of physiological, biological and psychological viewpoints. But the fruits of this union had to wait for the works of Bain and Ward. It is at this point that we first begin to see the beginning of a new attitude to the problems of the theory of mind in particular and philosophical psychology in general. Spencer had talked about induction and associationism but Ward sought for a deeper method and a deeper unity. Ward argued that the phenomena of psychology are not specifically inner as opposed to outer but are rather :

“certain distinct characteristics of conscious individual life. These characteristics must be assigned to a subject or an Ego. A sequence of “states” has no inner unity and could not know itself: there is an agent as well as an action, and in addition to knowing, feeling and doing we must admit that which knows, feels, and does.

This agent  is equivalent to the total state and processes of consciousness and further:

“Every distinguishable element of the mental life is, therefore, a phase of its activity: it is no more separated from its phenomena than the moon is separated from its phases: the subject is the knowing, feeling and doing in their own living unity.”

Wards Psychology is one in which the material of presentations is largely given but the life of consciousness involves attention in relation to these presentations plus a voluntary direction of attention onto “motor presentations from which result changes in the field of consciousness” Again in this we can see the trace of Kant the scientist. There is a large primitive mass of undifferentiated intuitions out of which we differentiate sensible and conceptual entities, all of which constitute the antecedents of knowledge. The matter is form-ed(hylomorphism) and here we hear echoes of Aristotle. But it is the activism of the German school which is mostly the driving force of Ward’s theorizing:  the active organizing subject is responsible for  the unity of experience:

“they are not transcendental principles of mind regarded universally, but organic principles of individual conscious existence. Time and space are the first of these organizing principles: unity, identity, resemblance, difference comes next: the higher intellectual categories come lates(substance, cause etc)”

Ward thus rejected associationism and the building up of the whole out of the synthetic activity of combining parts. According to Ward only ideas are capable of association. his treatment of emotional and conative action is in terms of firstly, natural selection and secondly in terms of human purposive selection which also takes effect at a very early age was an advance in thinking.  Purposive movement differs from reflex movement in that the former are “selected, purposive, and capable of reinforcing the emotion as a whole”. Feeling is retained as an important element of the theory and purposive movement as is the case with all intellectual activity is actually steered by desire and feeling. Ward also prefigured James and Freud in insisting that “life and growth belong to the mind as truly as they belong to the body.

Stout takes Ward’s theory further into the territory of consciousness. Consciousness, for Stout, has three fundamental modes of functioning: thinking feeling and willing. His characterization of these modes, however, is not functional and is more reminiscent of  the characterization of different attitudes:

“the matter given to consciousness is the sum of presentations: to each presentation there is a possible reaction in one of three ways. If the presentation is referred to an object, and regarded only as significant, we are said to think: if we find ourselves in an attitude of liking or disliking, we have the volitional or conative mode: from this arises pleasure or pain(the third mode)… In reality, then, only two modes are fundamental: we either think or will…Thought and will are operations by which the creature strives to regain its lost equilibrium.”

This last thought concerning the equilibrium of the organism recalls the early work oF Freud who suggested an energy regulation principle and a pleasure-pain principle was involved in this work of balancing the consciousness of the individual. “Thought is the creatures way of satisfying its needs”(Brett and Peters).

James carried on in this spirit and introduced the term “stream of consciousness” against the background of a solid physiological and almost positivistic orientation toward “the study of the phenomena and conditions of mental activity”(James’s definition of Psychology). He believed that experience could not throw light upon itself and was committed to Lotze’steachingss about the difference between knowing something and knowing about something:

“In a certain way, one only knows vision by seeing: but sciences are not immediate experiences, and a chapter on vision must describe the eye and its functions simply because the greater knowledge toward which men strive is attained by this particular circumnavigation…..To say that physiology throws no light on mental processes is very true: the fundamental error is in asking physiology to explain something which has previously been made inaccessible, instead of taking all the facts as capable in some degree of being explained by all others.”

James then also explains the psychologist’s fallacy which in essence amounts to believing that if one has an idea of a year that one also has an idea of its 365 days. Of course, the object “year” has 365 days but the “idea” of a year does not. James and Freud, it is reputed, were the only two psychologists Wittgenstein studied carefully.  This example reminds me of the Wittgensteinian discussion of a painting of a kettle with steam coming out of the spout. Wittgenstein asks whether it makes sense to claim that there is water boiling in the kettle.Here too the distinction between object and idea is being debated.

James weaves introspection  into his otherwise “scientific” account but there are elements of mysticism and there is also a nod in the direction of Freud:

“I cannot but think that the most important step forward that has occurred in psychology since I have been a student of that science is the discovery, first made in 1886, that, in certain subjects at least, there is not only the consciousness of the ordinary field with its visual centre and margin, but an addition thereto in the shape of a set of memories, thoughts, and feelings which are extra-marginal and outside the primary consciousness altogether, but yet must be classed as conscious facts of some sort, able to reveal their presence by unmistakable signs. I call this the most important step forward because, unlike the other advances which psychology has made, this discovery has revealed to us an entirely unsuspected peculiarity in the constitution of human nature.”

With these reflections, I bring the 19th century to a close and will move on to a discussion of 20th-century Psychology. Bretts work came out in 1921 but Peters who abridged the three volumes wrote a chapter on 20th-century Psychology. This chapter will be the subject of the next thread.

The Disappearance/Reappearance of the first person and Transcendental Logic in Philosophy and the Philosophy of Education

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Cogito ergo sum: “I think therefore I am” was the result of the Cartesian search for the first principle of Philosophy and although Kant picked up on the premise of that “argument” if such it be(“I think”), Philosophy and therefore philosophy of education after Kant’s influence waned, focussed more on the conclusion: the existence of the subject. This in spite of the fact that the most convincing argument Descartes produced for his first principle was an “epistemological” argument namely, that If I should try to doubt that I am thinking I cannot do so without thinking. Now I am not sure that this is an epistemological argument because the intuition of thinking seems to be an after effect of the thinking(admittedly a closely connected after effect).  Thinking rather appears to me to be a transcendental condition of the experience or intuition.

What I wish to begin to explore in this article is whether this transcendental condition is related to the grammatical structure of the first person. Wittgenstein counseled us to ask how we learn a word if philosophical disputes arise connected with the concept the word expresses but he does not talk about the conditions under which we learn the word “I” as far as I can remember. Kant, however, does take this issue up in his work “Anthropology”. Kant, the transcendentalist, points out that  children  before they learn the use of the word “I” call themselves  the name that other people call them, that is, they use their name  in (perhaps accidental)accordance with the rules of a proper name which are probably connected to citeria of  uniqueness such as Born in Demo Alopece, Athens in  470/69 BC into the family…etc. At some point probably around 2-3 years the child feels a unity of consciousness within itself which needs characterization  by the first person pronoun “I”. Logicians have probably misleadingly called  “I ” a “shifter” because of their obsession with the idea of ostensive definition and the role of such definition in naming. “Socrates” would be, according to Kripke, a rigid designator referring necessarily to that object given  by the criteria specified by a set of definite descriptions: the man born in…the man born at the time….. The term “I ” cannot designate rigidly in the way in which a name can, therefore the term “shifter”. By the time logicians are thinking in this way, the transcendental “I think” or the grammatical form of the first person has disappeared from mainstream Philosophical discourse. In my previous essays on the Post Kantian history of Psychology, I mentioned some of the factors responsible for this transformation of the philosophical landscape since Kant. Ludvig Wittgenstein initially a leading thinker in the kind of logical thinking instantiated by Kripke et al, relatively quickly joined the critics of his own earlier work and began to realize that Philosophical logic had replaced transcendental logic for no good reason. In his later work, we find Wittgenstein arguing for a concern for language which is no longer analytical but more anthropological and communal. Behind Wittgenstein’s “we say” is “we think” and many of his discussions with himself in his work “Philosophical Investigations” are in accordance with the ancient Socratic definition of thinking as “talking or discoursing with oneself”. Wittgenstein’s style therefore reaches back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and further on in History to the more systematic transcendental treatment by Kant. Wittgenstein’s dialogical approach was  very effective in providing convincing arguments against behaviourism, functionalism, pragmatism, materialism, naturalism, scientism, logical atomism, logical positivism, consequentialism and instrumentalism: all of which had shifted into the vacuum created by the displacement of transcendental logic and the grammatical case of the first person. This looks a very abstract point but this is only so as long as one does not see the connection between transcendental logic and metaphysical and ethical investigations which deal with reality and the value of reality respectively.

My first contact with Wittgenstein’s thought was via a Philosophy of Education course at Exeter University in England during the 1970’s given by a lecturer who had substantial contact with Wittgensteinian Philosophy in Cambridge  both directly with the master and  with the initial inner circle. Philosophy of education became as a consequence of the influence of Wittgenstein’s thought a fermented keg of discussion confined to 5 Universities of which Exeter was one.  The ingredients of this fermentation were Platonic, Aristotelian, Kantian and Wittgensteinian and the key thinkers spreading ideas in Philosophy of Education were R. S. Peters,  Paul Hirst, and Richard Pring. This latter figure is particularly interesting because he has been relatively active until recently in the field of education. His work “Philosophy of Educational Research” is a work that is  highly recommended to those who are interested in the topic we are attempting to discuss in this article in particular for its consistency with the ideas of the 1970’s in England. If we are right in our reasoning, this period of the 1960’s/70’s in England may have been the beginning of the restoration of Hylomorphism, Transcendental Logic and also the beginning of a broadly Humanistic revival of spirit in Europe.

But let us begin at almost the beginning, with Aristotle. In an earlier article on political identity we  discussed the criteria of personal identity and referred to the central concept of continuity as a logical concept derived from Aristotle’s theory of change. Four elements were involved: continuity of the body(the actual material of our body is changing and dying), continuity of memories in our memory system (we have forgotten many early memories but some of the memories we have probably had some relation to other memories which in their turn were related to other memories which in their turn might have been related to the early memories we have forgotten), continuity of the social system(social structures are disappearing and appearing in accordance with some kind of continuity principle) we are embedded in, and continuity of the political system we have perhaps created in our lifetime with our political judgments decisions and opinions. Memories are individual memories and are memories of other individuals. Social institutions are composed of individuals and their memories de facto and in virtuo in the form of the books of a library: history is embodied in monuments and buildings and street names etc. Similarly with political institutions, there are living individuals writing books for libraries  and reading books from libraries: Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, Kant’s Political Philosophy. In this latter context individuals form new political parties, change the direction of a party etc. The political element incorporates formally  (logically) the social as material which in its turn formally incorporates memories of individuals and individuals bodies as material. This logical connection of elements is only possible with the kind of matter-form formula which we encounter in Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory: form and telos  provides both the organizing principle and the end toward which  the underlying material substance is actualizing. We can also see in this  matter-form formula  the logical relation of wholes to parts which is  mentioned in Aristotles “Prior Analytics”.

There does not seem to be any difficulty in holistically characterizing what a person is in this kind of context and most commentators see the advantage of the hylomorphic view over the kind of view which suggests that the person is a complete  collection of facts. Facts are facts because they inhere in different categories. How are we to differentiate them if not by a theory of the categories? Categories are ways of thinking about reality. Now there has been enough controversy about such issues to realize that the categories at best allow us to glimpse reality as if through a glass darkly. Kant helped to tidy the discussion up by claiming that categories determine kinds of judgment which direct our relation to reality in different ways.  For Wittgenstein, Judgment, of course suggested something we do, i.e. conceptual  judgments emerged from  forms of life which embed language games as justifications of what we do. Different forms of life justify different judgments. This initially looks like a formula for relativism but this is not the case  because  Wittgenstein is not comparing judgments at the same level, i.e he is  not claiming that  a categorical form of life and thinking gives  rise to categorical judgments in one community can be compared and contrasted with a categorical form of life and thinking giving rise to a different categorical judgment in another community. He is rather claiming that if one community for example believes that happiness is the end  for which ethical action aims and another  community aims at duty as the good this is not a contradiction but a choice of a categorical view of the good over an instrumental view. On another level, Wittgenstein points to categories of language to distinguish between kinds of judgment. The language game with pain in “I am in pain” is categorical because it does not make sense to doubt that I am in pain(cf Descartes, it does not make sense to doubt that I think) but there is between these two language games of “I am in pain” and “I think” a fundamental difference. In the former case we are in the Kantian realm of Sensibility,(The Wittgensteinian realm of sensation) in the realm of events that happen to me,  and in the latter we are in the realm of activity, the realm of what is done. In the former case I learn the expression in connection with primitive behaviour such as  falling and skinning my knee: my teachers teach me to say “I am in pain”  and this replaces my  screaming in pain. In the latter case there is also undoubtedly some behavioural base which will be substituted by the words “I think”, perhaps the behaviour  in question might be that of an exclamation upon being struck by a thought, e.g. thinking of something I just exclaim that something. The major difference between the two cases is that in the former the question as to why one is in pain, reference will be made to a cause whereas in the latter case the question as to why one is thinking something or doing any activity, reference will  be made to a reason(and of course depending on the type of activity the reason may be an instrumental one, “because it makes me happy” or a categorical one, “because everyone ought to do what I am doing if one is to treat people as ends in themselves”).  In the case of the reason for thinking something we might in fact be reasoning in a series of premises culminating in a conclusion.

These are first person cases of different kinds and different language games will be embedded in different patterns of activity or forms of life. Even second person responses to our first person avowals will differ accordingly. In the pain case there will be sympathetic reactions and in the thinking case there will be more cognitive reactions and perhaps even a long discussion, i.e. in the thinking case the discussion with oneself will be replaced by discussion with any possible second person and both will be testing their understanding of each other in terms of the truth of the statements, the reasoning being used  and the conclusions drawn.  A major difference between the sensation case and the thinking case is that in the former one can engage in observing the course of ones pain but in the latter that is not a possibility because pain is a phenomenon and thinking is not: “although there are phenomena of thinking, thinking is not a phenomenon.”(Wittgenstein). What is the role of language in this context? Wittgenstein often refers to the first person plural case “We say…… and Stanley Cavell in his “Claim of Reason” asks the provocative question “and what gives anyone the right to speak for  or on behalf of others”. He might well also have asked “What gives anyone the right to “think” on behalf of others”: or what gives anyone the right to claim something is true and expect acceptance of the truth of what is said. This is the normative aspect of our discourse with each other and with ourselves when we are thinking: the truth is what ought to be acccepted and understood. Cavell points out we certainly are not appealing to empirical research or the process of voting or counting hands.  There are phenomena of talking but talking is not a phenomenon, Cavell seems to be arguing. Grammatical remarks  are  first person collective remarks and they transcend experience. Connections can also be made to the idea of the self being transcendental, being that is, as Aristotle would characterise the soul, a principle of experience and activity.

Post Kantian Philosophical Psychology, Herbart,Schopenhauer, Fechner and the History of Psychology(R S Peters and Brett)

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“Kant rightly declared that the mind must be regarded as a structure regulated by principles which are ultimately its own activities. Before Kants time the psychologist was not unlike a physiologist who tried to explain digestion, without any reference to the organism, as a process by which various foods introduced into the stomach analysed themselves and distributed themselves conscientiously to their appropriate places in the organism. It was Kant who first saw that such a procedure was wrong and that we must start from the mind to explain the ideas, not from ideas to explain the mind”(Brett)

“Psychologists have, in most cases recognized this merit in Kant, and all the modern work founded on the conception of the unity of consciousness is indebted to Kant. But for the rest Kant belongs to the logicians rather than the psychologists, and his theory is more important for discussions of validity than for the study of the mental structure.”(Brett’s History of Psychology)

The Copernican Revolution of Kant further means that the receptive faculty of the mind which receives sensations has no meaning apart from the formative activity of the higher spontaneous thinking centres. Brett goes on to point out that perhaps Kant failed to take into account the fact that a sensation which is related to another sensation might modify that sensation: “after a great heat a moderate warmth seems chilly, and so through all the senses: there is a kind of self arrangement which is not the work of the mind”

Brett accuses Kant of being the propagator of the view that  the higher regions of the mind or thinking processes alone organize conscious life but quickly admits that the Categories of the understanding, according to Kant, are the “indispensable preliminary activities of consciousness”.  These categories obviously play the role that forms do in Aristotelian hylomorphism and Brett poses the question many critics of Aristotelian hylomorphism have posed over the centuries: the question of the importance of Psychology. Martin Heidegger in his work on Kant, suggested that Kant missed an opportunity to found his critical work on the psychological idea of the imagination and one should remember the following:  that the above  criticism of the importance of the psychological predates Heidegger.

Herbart was one of the first post Kantians to attempt to restore the idea of the soul to the world of phenomena: the soul for Herbart was “a multitude of independent  ideas and activities”(Brett). Herbart’s point of departure is mathematics and the natural sciences  and his aim, according to Brett is to “reduce consciousness to simple elements and their combinations” This attempt to restore the idea of the soul, ultimately leads to the position of  abandoning the idea of the soul altogether although this was not the case with respect to Herbart’s reflections. The most interesting feature of Herbart’s account is his emphasis on the soul being the agent manifest in all its activities and not the place where events just “happen”. Brett claims that it is with Herbart that Psychology becomes empirical. I am not sure that this is an entirely appropriate analysis. As long as the agent is not defined as an object seen from the perspective of the third person there would seem to be a retention of some of the spirit of  Kant’s position. The abandonment of reasoning for the empirical scientific method, however, was certainly not in accordance with the Kantian Copernican revolution. Indeed Brett’s description of Herbart’s account of the relation between consciousness and its ideas cannot fail to remind one of what is later to come in the name of phenomenology:

“Phenomena are in perpetual flux: in other words, the most obvious thing about consciousness is its perpetual tendency to change: even though we try to retain one presentation, it slowly dwindles in our grasp. This general fact gives Herbart his starting point. By an idea we mean the outstanding point, the summit or peak on the surface of an ever heaving-consciousness. If we imagine a light shining on a sea of rising and falling waves, the analogy may assist us to grasp Herbart’s conception of “arches” and “summits”. Every single idea travels, as it were, on the path of a semi-circle, from a point below the level of consciousness upward to its zenith: it then goes down again and gives place to another. This process continually goes on: it is the business of psychology to find its laws.”(Brett)

The problem with Herbart’s active conception of the soul is that “the only active quality ascribed to the soul is the tendency to preserve itself”. And with this thought, Herbart’s reflections move away from phenomenology and back to the basics of science: consciousness and the expenditure of energy of the organism. This energy regulation principle, already present by implication in Aristotle’s reflections on the soul was to be later used in Freud’s Scientific Project.  Freud, of course, abandoned this attempt to reduce the qualitative to the quantitative in his later theorizing.

Herbart interestingly also claimed:

“to have provided a psychology especially applicable to education.It was the interest in mental growth and in the union of right thinking with the right feeling that led Herbart to understand how closely the qualities of character  depend on the complete fusion of knowing and feeling in one indivisible state of mind, evolving into the kind of clearness which is only attainable through self-expressing actions.”

The essential feature of mental growth is characterized in terms of apperception. or the Kantian “I think” or the “I will” but the “I” of consciousness is still characterized in terms of scientific Psychology. He applied these ideas to ethics but neglected the Kantian concepts of reason and freedom believing along with Plato that the temper of the community determines the temperament and character of the individual.

Schopenhauer is the post Kantian who  converts the self into the will and defines it in terms the Psychologist will find difficult to accept:

“As some had declared the “Thing-in-itself” to be the organism, Schopenhauer declares it to be the vitality resident in the organism”. His view is thus biological, where it is not merely metaphysical: when he proclaims his own originality he is justified if we think only of modern tendencies, but in everything  but its language and its excesses this view is a restatement of Aristotle’s doctrine of the fundamental conation, persisting through all the scale of organic life, variously combined with and modified by corresponding degrees of conscious realization”(Brett)

Schopenhauer restored the will to modern thought but the whole trend of his analysis Brett argues is  toward “the fundamental  impulses of animal nature”, although there are moments in his account when Schopenhauer stands where Kant stood. Herbarts influence was to prevail over Schopenhauer’s forlorn attempt to restore Kantian Psychology.

Fechner’s interest turned more to physics and aesthetics than mathematics and he actually wrote some valuable works on electricity. But there are also elements of mysticism in Fechner:

“lying in bed on the morning of the 22nd of October 1850, he saw the vision of a unified world of thought, spirit and matter linked together by the mystery of numbers. So it was, perhaps, that Pythagoras saw the quality of sound transformed into measurement!”

And yet there is something of the spirit of the age in Fechner’s vision. He tries to unite the psychical and the physical and with him Brett argues:

“The centre of controversy shifts to the question, How much of the inner life actually enters into this sphere of measurement and quantity.”(Brett)

By the time this question was raised, Kant’s voice has been lost and there is only a very faint echo of the answer to this question “Hardly anything at all” This is not to deny that mental states do not have physical equivalents but the key question becomes “Are the limits of our knowledge of this relation confined to correlation?”  But correlation between what and what? How can there be a correlation between a principle and that which it is a principle of? This post takes us to the psychology of the 20th century which will be the subject of the next thread.

Immanuel Kant and the History of Psychology(Brett and Peters)

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Kant’s Philosophy divides neatly into the two realms of the natural world and the ethical world and although the discipline  of Psychology was only to officially announce its declaration of unilateral independence in 1870, the move toward separation may have begun with the Kantian Copernican revolution and the thinkers that reflected upon Kant’s Philosophy. Kant leveled such devastating criticism against metaphysics that of the three ideas of reason: God, Freedom, and the Soul, only Freedom survived his onslaught. The idea of God becomes dependent upon the idea of Freedom and the Soul disappears in favour of the concept of self-consciousness whose essential nature is defined by an act of the “I think”. But immediately that is said one has to also recognize that Kant believes that there are two kinds of selves operating in the arena of philosophical reflection, firstly, a noumenal self which is presupposed by experience but which can only be known in a segment of that experience: namely, moral action. Secondly, in Kant’s theoretical writings the natural sciences are then linked to the phenomenal self which post Kantian epistemologists and scientists  attempted to study as part of their reflections on the nature of this divided  subject.There are two levels of description involved in this latter theoretical project, namely empirical description and mathematical description which rely on the observational method of science and the logical method of mathematics.

In his earlier work, Kant was a rationalist and believed in the soul until encountering the work of  Hume who astutely pointed out that whenever we reflect upon our experience we never encounter a self or a soul but only a phenomenon, for example,  someone experiencing something or someone doing something.  This self, Kant argued, can be studied empirically by psychology, or what he called Anthropology, under the heading of “what man makes of himself”. Some critics have accused Kant of constructing a Psychology without a soul but that does not seem to be a just accusation. Kant is merely claiming that the soul is an idea in consciousness which can never be given in experience because this idea is equivalent either to the substratum or the totality of experience. Kant was with this complex move the first philosopher to systematically recognize the limits of metaphysical thinking.

Psychology, or Anthropology, as Kant would prefer to call it is wholly empirical but it could never be a science Kant argued because mental phenomena are in the flux of time and therefore incapable of measurement. Given the Copernican revolution and the conviction that knowledge is not solely the product of ideas which arise out of experience but is rather a structure regulated by the minds own activities, we can see how self-consciousness is a holistic idea with its own essential unity. The mind of the self is, Kant, argued made up of a receptive component which receives sensations from the outer world but even here there is a structuring activity of the mind present in the form of space and time which are a priori “forms of intuition” as Kant called them. The actual contents of the mind are as Aristotle would have argued, complex products of formed experience: there is no pure experience of pure matter coming from the outside proceeding inwards. Whatever comes from the external world will be shaped at the very least by the structuring features of space and time. Space and time were not acts of reason but rather capacities of the receptive part of the mind which Kant calls Sensibility. The mind is in fact divided into three “regions” sometimes called “faculties”(but not as far as I can remember, by Kant): Sensibility being the psychological part of the mind most connected to the body and through the body the external world, Understanding operates as a further shaping agency of the mind and is defined as a system of  categories which assist in the forming of logical judgments that  firstly,  relate principally to the totality of experience   and secondarily to the substrate(space and time and sensation). These categories are products of a thinking consciousness(“I think”)  and “are the necessary and only forms of all thinking”. This region of the mind is that which generates the truth function capacity of the mind and is still related to experience but in ways which are convoluted and partly psychological (via the shaping operation of  Sensibility). It is this truth-functional region of the mind which has a necessary connection to sensibility by placing it under its sovereignty: to such an extent that when I see lightning strike a tree at a particular place and a particular time I inevitably think “It is true that the tree is being struck by lightning”. Notice that this is not a necessary logical truth of the kind “Every time trees are struck by lightning we think that it is a fact that they are struck by lightning.” Obviously, the sensible/psychological part of the mind can dominate this environmental transaction by producing a fearful trembling or a fearful emotional response, which of course is a less rational response and that at first might seem as if it damages the universal case for seeing the world under the aspect of the true. Yet it does not do so for truth is a normative concept which basically amounts to claiming that one ought to see this under the aspect of the truth or to take another essence specifying example, “one ought to tell the truth when you promise to do so at a trial”. The concepts of promise and truth are logically intertwined. What does normative mean in this context? Only that we ought to view the scene under the aspect of the truth which obviously does not imply that I am doing so or will do so. The fearful emotional response might even have a representational content–a picture of an angry God, and if this is so this testifies to the presence of the synthesis of the imagination operating upon the content of sensory experiences. The imagination is named so because it works in the realm of images. Truth from the perspective of theoretical reason is, according to Kant the concern of natural science in its attempt to explain events in the natural world. The categories are thought to be a set of synthetic apriori judgments which constitute science. There are quantitative judgments that connect events and things in terms of mathematical unity plurality and totality or number which is connected in not easily expressible relations to time and space. There are dynamic judgments or ways of thinking that relate to the existence of objects, their reality, negation, and the limitation of a reality combined with the possible criticism of a negation. Relational and modality judgments more clearly than the other categories of thought take us into the realm of metaphysics and this confirms Kant’s commitment to the belief that metaphysics is a science but it also covers the principle of causation which is so important for organizing judgments of experience and scientific theory. Nature is defined as  “the whole object of possible experiences”.Judgments of experience are objective and deal with the necessary and categorical connection between things and events in contradistinction to judgments of perception where the connections are subjectively yet logically contained in the thinking subject. The difference between objective and subjective being the difference between the perceptions and intuitions organized by the concepts of the understanding or not. “The room is warm”  “I was frightened by the lightning” would be examples of subjective judgments of perception. There is here no expectation “that I or any other person shall always find it as I do now”. These judgments do not intend an objective reference but only the connection of two sensations in me. In the judgment of experience, I connect my perceptions or intuitions in consciousness in a general categorical way such that the connection is valid in general for any being using their consciousness in this manner. Perception becomes experience by the subsumption of that perception under a concept of the understanding and by the concept is meant the category which determines the form of judging that is to be used by the judging consciousness to determine or understand the “form of the perception or intuition. These concepts of the understanding are then transformed in the thinking process into judgments and there is a table of 12 of these ranging from singular, particular subjective judgments up to the categorical and apodeictic. Now here is the important conclusion that should be drawn from this discussion of natural science: Anthropology or Psychology can never become a Science because a science must be mathematical. Mathematics belongs principally in the domain of the category of the quantitative which requires a quantitative standard that could operate on the material it is applied to. Kant is clear that the part of consciousness which belongs to the realm of thought is not the kind of material that can be measured quantitatively or ordered in mathematical relations. Thought functions in the domain of reality,

Now here is the important conclusion that should be drawn from this discussion of natural science: Anthropology or Psychology can never become a Science because a science must be mathematical. Mathematics belongs principally in the domain of the category of the quantitative which requires a quantitative standard that could operate on the material it is applied to. Kant is clear that the part of consciousness which belongs to the realm of thought is not the kind of material that can be measured quantitatively or ordered in mathematical relations. Thought functions in the domain of reality, negation and limitation, (thinking something about something). It can have conditions and so the category of causal conditions may certainly be relevant in explaining how particular thoughts or kinds of thought come to be but this relates more to the substrate of thought than to outlining the totality of relevant conditions. The “I think” implies that I think something but it probably also implies some notion of self-consciousness which raises the thinking above that of the psychological realm of sensibility and its organizer, imagination. Thinking, that is, occurs at the fully mental realm of understanding and reason. Psychological states of consciousness are continuous and can be objectified by breaking the continuity into discrete units but self-consciousness is intentional and has a logical relation to the truth. O’Shaughnessy has the following to say on this important point:


“Self awareness necessitates awareness of truth. Thus, a child who regularly makes the sound “hungry” as a way of getting food, only thereby manifests self-consciousness and knowledge of the fact of its hunger, when it knows the sense of “I am hungry”, which consists in knowing it is true that he is hungry. Indeed, for any thinking language user to know any proposition is true, is for it to know that “P” is true. Self-consciousness requires that all knowledge, including that of the inner world, be for the self-conscious creature under the aspect of truth.”(Consciousness and the world)

O Shaughnessy continues to make another important point, namely that self-consciousness is only one, though perhaps the most fundamental of a circle of properties which constitute consciousness.

This dovetails neatly with the claim that Kant makes in the Anthropology, namely that when the child learns to use the word “I” correctly there is a dawning of a new kind of awareness of the world.


Now the criticism that Brett levels at Kant is the following: Kant’s  outlook was limited to the operations of reason. This is not an appropriate criticism given the fact that Kant sees three different aspects of the mind namely sensibility, understanding and reason and as can be seen from the argument above the categories are clearly functions of an understanding consciousness. Brett further goes on to argue that Kant thought that the higher powers of reason are the sole organizers of conscious life. Kant stands accused of ignoring the lower operations of consciousness, the sensible/imaginative psychological operations of the mind, but it is clear that this too is not a valid argument. Kant quite specifically argued in his work “Anthropology”  that the senses are not in any way an inferior form of consciousness but on the contrary are analogous to the people in a state who are ruled by a government who can affect the people but that in turn the government can be affected by the collective will of the people.  In the second book of the Anthropology Kant discusses feelings which are in one sense inhibitors of  reason(high levels of anxiety  can, we all know, inhibit the learning process), but in another sense the feelings of pleasure and pain can be united by the understanding to the ideas of good and evil and so “produce a quickening of the will”. This is quite aside from the positive contribution of aesthetic forms of consciousness to the leading of a flourishing life with a happy outlook onto a boundless future.  Indeed the psychological sensible aspect of consciousness becomes even more manifest when Kant takes up the way in which consciousness practically reasons about the ethical decisions that are taken in life. For it is here that the self as noumenon, as a metaphysical thing in itself  is revealed as bearer of the form of consciousness most defining of our human nature, namely the ethical form of consciousness which he then contrasts with what he regards as the empirical theories of Psychology which one could as well retrieve from the pages of novelists such as Fielding. This historically served as a challenge to future psychologists who were preparing the ground for a science of behavior which would become a source of knowledge about man. It was clear to Kant that moral action was sustained by a particular kind of reason for acting that should be characterized in terms of the universality and necessity of the maxims or principles one had for one’s action. These cannot be of the kind: “Whenever lightning strikes trees I am frightened ” because according to Kant that would fall under the heading of something that happens to man rather than the heading of what man intentionally and self consciously does. Intermediate between emotional responses and moral action fall instrumental actions on principles of happiness and practical reasoning, e.g. “Accumulating money makes me happy therefore I will take every opportunity to accumulate as much money as possible by any means possible”. This according to Kant is the principle of self-love in disguise and if it involves using people as a means to an end without according them the dignity one owes to them, then it is clearly  neither universal nor necessary but a product of the sensible region of the mind responding in accordance with the category of causation to cause events which result in the accumulation of money. That is, this behaviour quite rightly falls into the domain of the scientific, in virtue of the means-ends relation being cause-effect relations, and may be quantifiable. One should in this context of the quantification of action, however, remember ancient Greek warnings to the effect that feeding one’s desires merely creates a desire for more and this hardly seems a mathematical relation.

Indeed the psychological sensible aspect of consciousness becomes even more manifest when Kant takes up the way in which consciousness practically reasons about the ethical decisions that are taken in life. For it is here that the self as noumenon, as a metaphysical thing in itself  is revealed as bearer of the form of consciousness most defining of our human nature, namely the ethical form of consciousness which he then contrasts with what he regards as the empirical theories of Psychology that  one could as well retrieve from the pages of novelists such as Fielding. This historically served as a challenge to future psychologists who were preparing the ground for a science of behavior which would become a source of knowledge about man. It was clear to Kant that moral action was sustained by a particular kind of reason for acting that should be characterized in terms of the universality and necessity of the maxims or principles one had for one’s action. These cannot be of the kind: “Whenever lightning strikes trees I am frightened ” because according to Kant that would fall under the heading of something that happens to man rather than the heading of what man intentionally and self consciously does. Intermediate between emotional responses and moral action fall instrumental actions in accordance with principles of happiness and practical reasoning, e.g. “Accumulating money makes me happy therefore I will take every opportunity to accumulate as much money as possible by any means possible”. This according to Kant is the principle of self-love in disguise and if it involves using people as a means to an end without according them the dignity one owes to them, then it is clearly  neither universal nor necessary but a product of the sensible region of the mind responding in accordance with the category of causation to cause events which result in the accumulation of money. That is, this behaviour quite rightly falls into the domain of the scientific, in virtue of the means-ends relation being cause-effect relations, and may as a consequence be quantifiable. One should in this context of the quantification of action, however, remember ancient Greek warnings to the effect that feeding one’s desires merely creates a desire for more and this hardly seems a mathematical relation.

Moral action reveals the self as a thing itself with causa sui properties, i.e. the self-causes itself to think and act morally and this occurs in the realm of the noumenal and in the realm of what some analytic philosophers would call the ought-system of concepts. What one does is what one ought to do and what one actively does not do one does because that is what one ought to do. It is in this context that one demonstrates ones freedom from being externally caused to do what one does in contrast to internally and freely choosing to do what one ought to do or ought not to do. The good will is the free will. The good is what one ought to do. I ought not to accumulate money using people in an undignified manner to achieve the end of accumulating capital. This is the maxim of my not doing what my desire tempts me or causes me to consider doing. According to Brett this falls in the realm of the prescriptive in contrast to the realm of descriptive whose task is to describe what I, in fact, do, perhaps in accordance with the principle of causation. In this latter case, the reality of what it is possible to do falls on a continuum of possible action and encourages talk of efficiency and the causal framework which accompanies it. Here it might be possible to measure degrees of efficiency in a similar way to hitting the outer ring of a target with one’s bow and arrow  The rings of a target seem to measure the efficiency of an attempt to hit the bullseye. Emotional responses can also be measured scientifically when the issue is a standard which the body is measured by, e.g. one’s pulse rate: the lightning hits the tree and my pulse rate goes up to 150. The object of the emotion can also be related to this. Lightning sends my pulse up to 150 whereas watching an exciting rugby match only increases my pulse to 120. We need both a constant variable and a comparison object if knowledge is to be generated in such a context. But there is no continuum of experience from the first person perspective in deciding whether or not to steal someone’s money, ergo there can be nothing mathematical ergo, according to Kant, this realm of the mental cannot be the object of science. Now the normal scientific response to this is to claim that only the descriptive third-person perspective is objective and everything from the first person perspective–the perspective of the “I” is subjective. In a sense this is true but in a sense this response ignores the logic of the condition and unconditioned. The self is both the condition and in itself unconditioned(being causa sui, cause of itself) of self-consciousness. This logical requirement is the metaphysical basis of freedom. This is reflected in the Kantian rejection of the appeal to descriptive concepts in the relativisation of morality in which, for example, it is claimed that because Jack broke his promise to Jill to pay the money he owed her, this is sufficient grounds to question the universality and necessity of the moral duty that we ought to keep our promises. This type of reasoning confuses the realm of descriptive discourse with the realm of prescriptive discourse. “Promises ought to be kept” is the norm or prescription by which to measure how to judge what happens when Jack fails to keep his promise just as when someone murders someone at a bus stop we do not claim that this jeopardizes the universality and necessity of the law “We ought not to murder”. Of course as Kant maintained we can characterise one and the same action from both the point of view of practical reasoning and the principle of freedom(the first person perspective) and the view of theoretical reasoning, namely the principle of causality or determinism, the descriptive (the third person perspective) but it is important to realize that   this is merely the expression of  the old Delphic prophecy that it is difficult if not impossible to know oneself.

Religion, Psychoanalysis and Philosophical Psychology

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The Philosophy of Religion in the 20th century managed two major offensives against what many have regarded as the global force of secularism and one or both of these offensives may turn out to be the decisive territorial gain for religion ensuring its position in the globalizing processes leading to Cosmopolitanism. The Philosophers behind these offensives were Wittgenstein and Ricoeur. They both represent the challenges of Hermeneutics and Philosophical Psychology to the secularization process. They also, I would argue, represent the presence of philosophical cosmopolitan imperatives in the multi-dimensional globalization process.

Popular commentators on the subject of the decline of the authority of Religion have claimed, perhaps prematurely, that God is dead (although no one has actually seen his body). The postulated first cause of all things, it is argued, is no longer efficacious in the world of mobile phones, television sets, computers, driverless cars, robots cutting the lawn, robots hoovering the house, internet diagnoses of physical and mental diseases etc. The major causes involved in what is hopefully an accidental death are 1. The claim of Kant that God was just an idea in the mind. 2 The claim of Darwin that man who was supposed to be made in the image of God in fact evolved from the animal kingdom in accordance with the mechanisms of random variation, natural and sexual selection. 3. The claim of Freud that religious belief may have neurotic and psychotic characteristics, i.e. that the idea of God in man’s mind is not an idea one finds in a healthy mind.  4 Economical systems that seemed to have done more for the poverty of billions of people than divine assistance could ever manage(God died from an extended period of inactivity).

It might also be of interest to point out that in the secular process, the human being seems to have disappeared or receded into the background in relation to the jungle of equipment functioning in accordance with the law of economic/technological efficiency. If a robot/computer can replace a doctor and a psychiatrist and win chess games against chess masters then what hope is there for priests, teachers, philosophers and the rest of us ordinary mortals? Well, as was suggested above there is hope and it comes from Philosophy in general and Philosophical Psychology in particular.

Let us, however, examine more closely the so-called causes of God´s accidental death. Firstly let us remember that Kant was a religious man(as is the case with both Wittgenstein and Ricoeur) who he did not attend Church regularly. Indeed, although his ethical system was logically autonomous in relation to religious authority, this system still needed God, (the idea in man’s minds) to produce the good consequences of a good or flourishing life which otherwise might not follow from pure and good intentions. The philosophical conclusion of Kant’s  argument is that both God and “the good” might be logically related ideas in man’s mind, indeed, they may even be identical. This idea of the good being necessary for man to lead a meaningful flourishing life goes, of course, all the way back to Plato and Aristotle.

Darwin’s ideas initially threw the religious world into a state of ferment for a time but theologians soon realized that all that was needed to survive the Darwinian storm was to claim that Evolution is a process proceeding in accordance with divine laws of creation. God’s invisible hand was steering the process and the mechanism of random variation was not a real mechanism but an illusion of mans fragile and ethically flawed mind. The embarrassing facts of the creation scene in the Bible needed re-interpretation and some scholars began to argue that one should not interpret everything in the Bible literally. Reading the creation scene metaphorically and symbolically could allow space for the existence of mechanisms of natural and sexual selection functioning in accordance with the expression of God´s will.

Freud’s ideas, similarly, when one reads his texts closely may lead one to the conviction that when Freud claimed that a belief in God had the hallucinatory qualities of a schizophrenic delusion, he may have been talking about the way in which some people or even most people relate to God. Blindly rattling off one’s prayers or performing religious rites do remind one of the obsessive compulsive’s repetitious attacks on the world but these repetitions also remind one of the healthy actings out of children who are trying to control the environment that is causing them so much anxiety. Worshipping an invisible figure in public can seem strange, and Freud explains it partly in terms of the defense mechanism of displacement caused by excessive anxiety: a mechanism which substitutes a real ambiguous punishing/forgiving father figure with an equally ambiguous invisible father who promises relief from one´s suffering if one plays the game of religion.  The second part of his explanation involves returning to the origin of the religious belief system as communicated to believers in civilization. Primitive wishes in response to a primitive feeling of helplessness provide the temporary relief we need from the burden of existence in fragile civilizations. Freud may well himself have been ambivalent toward even mature attitudes involving religious conviction as some commentators have claimed but I am sceptical of this description for a number of reasons, amongst which are the following: he claimed to be writing the Psychology Kant would have written if he had interested himself sufficiently in psychological or anthropological matters. Freud did not definitely say that man would never be guided by his reason and place his hope and faith  in some reasonable future probably because he was reluctant to present himself as a prophet for fear that mans destructive instincts may, as a matter of fact, overshadow his constructive instincts(Freud, died in 1939 at a time when the existence of civilization was threatened ideologically. He may have suspected that the time might come when civilization would be threatened by the power of weapons of mass destruction)

Perhaps if Freud had lived in another time and another place, England or France, for example, we may have seen him launching the offensive against a wave of economic/technological  or secular globalization(his comments in his work “The Future of an Illusion” and his remarks on  the USA certainly suggest he would have been one of the ideologues at the forefront of demonstrations against the way in which market economics has dominated all other globalization processes). He certainly attempted to transform psychoanalysis into a global movement in the name of science(sic).

Paul Ricoeur, after Freud’s death, wrote both about the confession of evil in the religious context and the confessions one could witness in the psychoanalyst’s clinic. There appears to be a “symbolic function” of language which takes us far beyond the purview of the scientist in his pursuit of a certain kind of explanation. He like Wittgenstein believed that the route to the understanding of what Aristotle called being qua being needed to proceed more circuitously to its destination via language. Many commentators have commented upon the “confessional” nature of Wittgenstein’s posthumous work, the “Philosophical Investigations”.

In Ricoeur’s work “the Symbolism of Evil” it is claimed that the confession of evil is of interest for the philosopher because it is an utterance man makes about himself. A confession is an act of religious consciousness but as yet is not Philosophy until it becomes an object of reflection. Myth, for Ricoeur, is not,as is the case with Freud, an expression of a primitive helpless mind filled with fantasy-laden wishes. It too has a symbolic function which is expressive of the power of discovery and revelation in the realm of Being. It reveals the bond between man and what he considers sacred and important. “Evil is the crisis of this bond”.  The experience of sin, according to Ricoeur is the ground upon which the feeling of guilt occurs but:

“The experience of which the penitent makes a confession is a blind experience, still embedded in the matrix of emotion, fear, anguish. It is this emotional note that gives rise to objectification in discourse: the confession expresses, pushes to the outside, the emotion which without it would be shut up within itself, as an impression in the soul. Language is the light of the emotions.”

A myth is obviously partly a traditional response to suffering and contains elements of a lamentation about that suffering but it is also a language with a complex relation to being, the self, time, and imagery. That is why it has a non-confessional narrative structure. A confession of ones suffering occurring in the realm of the symbolic does not necessarily have to be embedded in a narrative structure. It has a cosmic and ethical/psychological significance. Both myths and confessions require philosophical interpretation and hermeneutics, according to Ricoeur, is the reflective instrument required for this work. In a paper given at a conference on “Hermeneutics and Tradition” Ricoeur points out that time is lived and used in two different ways. Tradition transmits symbols and myths and hermeneutics interprets myth and symbols. Interpretation, he argues keeps a tradition alive. “Every tradition lives by the grace of interpretation”. Ricoeur then points out that these two temporalities intersect in a third profound temporality which constitutes the elusive field of “Meaning”. Symbols live in this sphere of the relation of a physical literal meaning to a figurative, spiritual ontological existential meaning. A symbol always says more than it says and therefore is in constant need of interpretation. According to Ricoeur the study of the time of symbols would be a much more important philosophical pursuit than, for example, the interpretation of myths. He points out in support of his thesis that a myth can never exhaust the semantic constitution of the symbol. Insofar as the symbolism of evil is concerned Ricoeur has the following to say:

“The symbols embraced by the avowal of evil appeared to me to fall into three signifying levels: the primary symbolic level of stain, sin, and guilt, the mythical level of the great narratives of the fall or the exile, and the level of mythical dogmatisms of Gnosticism and original sin…….It appeared to me…that the store of the meaning of primary symbols was richer than that of mythical symbols and even more so than that of rationalizing mythologies.”

Much more can be said about the relation of the confession of the patient seeking a cure in relation to the confession of the religious man seeking salvation but let me now turn to Wittgenstein’s arguments and their claim to restore the lost object of religious discourse to the house of Deus absconditus in our robotic secularized cities. Firstly, the language of religion is not a factual language, nor a language of observation, cause, and effect. It is a language game and as such, according to Wittgenstein, it is embedded in a form of life in which the participants operate with tacit presuppositions: Not the tacit presuppositions of a science in which for example it is assumed that the heavenly bodies which are only subject to infrequent observation nevertheless enjoy a continuous real existence, but rather the tacit presuppositions relating to the activities of a soul, for example:

“Why is the soul moved by idle thoughts–since they are after all idle? Well, it is just moved by them.(How can the wind move a tree, since it is after all just wind? Well it does move it and do not forget it)”

This is the philosophical idea of psychogenesis that Freud thought played a role in mental illness. Freud was one of the few psychologists Wittgenstein studied: perhaps both thinkers believed that surrounding the heart of our understanding was a kind of madness or soul blindness, the cure for which was therapy.  But Wittgenstein probably did not subscribe to psychoanalysis as the sole route to understanding the human condition for he turned to a higher power for his succor, namely Christianity. One year before his death we find Wittgenstein reflecting upon God and suffering and suggesting that if Christianity is the truth about the human condition, then all the philosophy about it is false. He rejects the concentration on the argument that  Gods essence guarantees his existence and claims that if one leads one’s life in the right way a belief in God will naturally condense from the cloud of suffering that surrounds man. Donald Hudson, a religious philosopher, and commentator on Wittgenstein’s work, points out that we should not expect the religious man to reason about his beliefs in the religious language-game in the same way in which the scientist reasons about his theories. A man believing in the Last Judgment may act every day against the background of the fear or promise of such an event. Is this not reasonable asks Hudson? Does not this practical belief system seem to be stronger than any hypothetical belief system any scientist can produce? The scientist has his set of commitments and expects that every event which occurs has an explanatory cause in a systematically uniform world-view in which moons continuously exist. The scientist is building a system of knowledge which does not know what to do with transcendental truths.  Wittgenstein  realized this from his earlier work but let us conclude with a quote from Kant’s “Religion within the bounds of mere Reason.”:

“The nature and intrinsic limits of thought and human knowledge preclude any demonstration of the existence of God”

And further on:

“non-existence cannot be demonstrated either”

How then are we to interpret the avowals of the suffering souls of the Psalms or the suffering patients in secularized psychiatric waiting rooms? Surely their cries are not just facts being stated, the effects of causes or the consequences of observations? surely the realm of Hope and Faith that Kant referred to is the home of their language games? Surely their cries are symbolic?  Surely these cries are relating to how the soul believes the world ought to be.


Aristotle and the History of Psychology(Brett)(Philosophical Psychology)

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The History of Psychology, according to Professor Brett,  is the history of  a number of traditional inquiries amongst which are included The Rationalist tradition which includes both Plato and Aristotle, The Religious and ethical tradition, The Observationalist tradition, and the Medical Tradition. Brett also discusses the emergence of the theme of self-consciousness(Kant and Neo Kantians), what he calls the theme of the gateway of method, and theme of the  reinterpretation of authority  followed by the theme of the challenge to authority. This is a broad spectrum of concerns and can explain the controversies that arise whenever someone suggests a “reduction” of Psychology to one or two of these traditions/themes.

Aristotle is regarded as a Rationalist but  Brett does not observe what has subsequently been noted by Aristotelian scholars, namely,  that his thought would have something to contribute to each of the traditions, and the themes mentioned above. This essay attempts to show the breadth of  Aristotle’s interests and indicate how these interests correlate with the  breadth of concerns of the above traditions/themes. The theme concerning authority is particularly significant given the fact that Aristotle was regarded as “The Philosopher” for centuries and a “reinterpretation” of his work was needed by the religious authorities before a challenge to his authority could be mounted.

Brett is also eager to point out Aristotle’s deficiencies as a scientist even after pointing out that he differed markedly with Plato in his approach to reality by extolling the virtues of observation, methodological classification, and experimentation. Apparently, Aristotle’s fondness for definition was supposed to be a residue from the Platonic theory of forms according to Brett but what he then continues to say about Aristotle’s  hylomorphism does not quite amount to devaluing a commitment to definition.

Since matter, space and time must be infinite for Aristotle and the infinite can neither have a beginning nor an end, any chunk of finite matter must have a principle of organization which forms it into the kind of thing it is. Now there has been a great deal of philosophical discussion relating to whether there are natural kinds or not and Aristotle has been accused of adhering to the position that these natural kinds just occur in nature without any further explanation. This is not the case because we know he  believes that the infinite is formed into these natural kinds by a principle which is constitutive of the essence of that thing. The essences of things Aristotle believed shall be given in a thing’s essence -specifying definition.

The   theoretical framework  of Aristotle  also includes:

a)4 kinds of change that occur in the world,

b)three principles of change which ensure that we can make sense of the fact that something retains its identity throughout a process of change as long as that change does not destroy the identity of the thing in question, and

c) four different kinds of explanations of the change that occurs to the environment whether it be global change or the local change of the behaviour of a thing in the environment.

Amongst the 4 kinds of changes that were referred to, Substantial and Qualitative change were obviously more philosophically significant than Quantitative or Relational change.  This was Aristotle’s objection to the Pythagorean claim that the real qualities of things such as the sound of harp strings were to be related to the underlying mathematical lengths of the strings.  The latter mathematical relations, i.e. according to Pythagoras, explained the former qualities of the sounds that we qualitatively identify and appreciate.

This claim was certainly true of the harp strings but according to Aristotle, this state of affairs could not necessarily be generalized to all substances and qualities. The harp’s creation brought a substance into being in accordance with all the teleological qualities that a Harp requires. The quantitative knowledge relating to the length of the strings is, of course, part of the process of making the harp and in Aristotle’s terms part of the efficient and material causes of the harp.  The separation of quantitative changes from qualitative and substantial changes was a revolution in thinking which began with Plato and actually upset the Pythagorean attempt to universalize the ideal of mathematical thinking in nature. Modern quantum theory disregards the Aristotelian revolution when it insists that events in the sub atomic universe are to be explained by a mathematical formula which works but no one knows why it works.

The idea in the mind of the maker of the harp is , for Aristotle, not a quantity but  a form, one of the three forms which are communicated in his composite world of matter and form, the other two forms being 1. the biological form of reproducing  the species  to create another individual related to me and 2. the forms of knowledge that are communicated from teacher to learner: these last forms will probably include the form of the good, the form of justice and the form of beauty.

Finally, Aristotle’s definition of human nature as a rational animal was revised in a later work to “man is a rational animal capable of discourse” and part of what Aristotle means here by “rational”  are: 1. the theoretical knowledge of the world. and 2. the ability to plan one’s life by imposing some kind of life-formula upon my desires and wishes as well as 3. the ability to regulate communal desires and wishes via one’s understanding of the role of laws in the construction of the communal flourishing life. These plans and formulae are continually subjected to a critical reflection process which will determine whether they are right and wrong, whether they have achieved their purposes.   The composite of a man includes his animal nature and the relation of this aspect to man’s rational nature requires understanding Aristotle’s view of the soul.

This is the complex theoretical framework which he used for both biological and political science research in his Lyceum. There was no discipline of psychology at that time but there was much talk about the concept of the soul or psuche.(as distinguished from the physical animal-like body). Brett refers to Aristotle’s definition of human nature(rational animal capable of discourse) as not being “scientific” because it embodies no causal reference. Brett is using “causal” in some narrow linear scientific sense which works best when applied to the physical world of a billiard ball reacting with another billiard ball. For Aristotle “cause” means “explanation”(“aitia”) and both rational and animal have a complex conceptual relation with each other which is reminiscent of the relation of the soul(psuche) to the body. But there are largely 4 assumptions about the soul which are being used in Aristotle’s reference to the 4 kinds of change, three principles and 4 causes and these are:

  1. “Soul” is co-extensive with “life”. This is what the term “soul” means
  2. The soul is the actualization of a body furnished with organs.
  3. The movements of such a physical body are to be explained in terms of its soul. The soul is a form or a principle and is not the sort of thing therefore that can be moved
  4. There are levels of soul which form a hierarchy where the lower form is a necessary condition of the higher and the higher transforms the lower. The levels are the vegetative, which correspond to plant life, the animal level corresponding to animal life and the human corresponding to human life which incorporates and transforms both these lower “levels” of soul.

So life is the first power or capacity of the physical body and power builds upon power: language, for example,  builds upon the powers of memory and experience(in which we come to know or to see man as a man) and is in turn built upon by the power of rationality which eventually learns to think theoretically and systematically about the world(if all the conditions of this actuality are met along the way). Reason has also a practical dimension referred to above when  we impose plans or formulae upon our individual desires  and wishes(efficient causes of action) and we understand and pass laws which regulate our societies. These latter two capacities are intimately linked to the ethical concepts of right and wrong, standards of correctness  which add an achievement or areté -aspect to action

The soul moves the body but cannot itself be moved therefore it  is nothing physical but rather it  is able to move the body because thought in the form of intention or reason can move the body. But thought has an end built into itself and is experienced as a coming to rest rather than a movement. We come to rest in the very performance of the activity. So the form of transmitting thoughts from learner to teacher is not like that the relation between the builder building a house and the house that is built. In this example the house is an external end to the activity. In thought, on the contrary, the end is logically internal to the activity. The “telos” of the learner learning is logically tied to the activity of the teacher. teaching.

“”Seeing” and “remembering” are also so called achievement “verbs”. When we speak of them we speak of a standard that has been attained and are not making reports about movements in our soul(mind) or body. Similarly with action: action is not a movement because movements just happen without being right or wrong:  that is action is not a term of the same logical type as movement. Action also internally and logically contains its end. It has been planned and thought about. This is why the end of an action is necessary to explain the movement one makes in trying to achieve that end. These ends are also further evaluated in terms of whether they are right or not. The plans, formulas or  maxims are regarded as intelligent or not  either in relation to the circumstances or to other higher purposes such as the meaning of ones life.

Seeing and remembering can also be components of knowledge and both Plato and Aristotle are in agreement that our desire to understand the world is best manifested in the knowledge we have of the world. The process of acquiring knowledge, however, is multilayered and multi-faceted. The best account of this process can be found in Jonathan Lear’s work on Aristotle entitled “Aristotle: the desire to understand”:

“Man is not born with knowledge but he is born with the capacity to acquire it. But the world must cooperate with him if he is to exercise that capacity. Man starts life with the ability to discriminate among sensory phenomena, an ability he shares with other animals. His soul retains a record of its sensory encounters. Through repeated encounters with items in the world, our sensory discriminations develop into memory and then into what Aristotle calls “experience”. Experience Aristotle characterizes as “the whole universal that has come to rest in the soul.” From repeated perception of particular men, we form the concept of a man, and the knowledge that this thing which we see is a man is experience. If the universal, or concept, were not somehow already embedded in the particular, we could not make the transition from bare sensory discrimination to knowledge of the individual… Because the universal is embedded in particulars, a persons first explorations among particulars will lead him toward a grasp of the embodied universal. Having acquired experience, or knowledge of individuals, we are able to formulate more abstract forms of knowledge, the arts and sciences(technai and epistemai). Each stage of cognitive development is grounded in the previous stage…..”

Our Philosophical knowledge of man and the History of Psychology(Brett and Peters)

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Professor R S Peters published an abridgment of the three volumes of Professor Brett’s “History of Psychology” in 1953(revised in 1961). The original volumes were published between 1912 and 1921.   The subject matter of Psychology has historically been very differentiated and that differentiation does not appear to be organized in any obvious way. This fact has led some commentators to question whether there is any specific subject matter which Psychology is about. Many 20th century  Philosophers have complained about the conceptual confusion inherent in the theories and claims of Psychology and pointed to specific regions of confusion. So when a History of Psychology is written by a philosopher and an abridgment attempted by another philosopher it certainly deserves attention. Peters tried to impose a philosophical framework on Brett’s work. Many myths are exposed on this journey of abridgment and some of these are the construction of scientific superstition. The myth of privileged “data” accumulating under different headings and science cautiously making generalizations about this “data” makes a very large assumption that one can approach nature with a mind like an empty wax tablet upon which nature can impress its form. Peters points out in his abridgment that no one individual can “begin” acquiring knowledge. We all are part of a long tradition:

“The very language we speak incorporates in a condensed form all kinds of assumptions about things, people, and situations. We take things for granted that our ancestors discovered by trial and error: we can neither avoid nor dispense with our social inheritance which is handed down in the form of countless traditional skills and assumptions.”(Peters, 1961)

The above quote quite categorically adopts the view that at some point we began our epistemological journey with assumptions that are very general, We do not “construct” them from particulars. We take our assumptions with us in our dealing with things, people and situations and learn to differentiate between them and to particularise them. Apart from this we also have interests in and attitudes towards our world and these assist in generating expectations and assumptions which in turn provoke the asking of questions when frustrated. There is no such thing Peters, argues as a  presupposition-less inquiry. With all this in mind, one can maintain that subject matter is not the key differentiator of Psychology from other areas of inquiry. What is more adequate to this task would be to differentiate one tradition from another by constructing their respectively different traditions of inquiry: that is from establishing their history. So Peters claims:

“What we call psychology is just an amalgam of different questions about human beings which have grown out of  a variety of different traditions of inquiry.”

Three major traditions are of interest and probable sources of psychological inquiry: religious investigations, medical investigations and philosophical investigations into the nature of man. In all three types of inquiry, the investigations take into account what people say about their own actions and feelings. Peters introduces an interesting philosophical distinction between three types of questions: questions of theory, questions of policy and technological questions.

So generally, if we wish to talk in terms of disciplines these are characterized in terms of the way these disciplines go about answering questions. This way includes the integration of expectations, attitudes, and interests in relation to the aspects of reality these disciplines are concerned with. Peters  then draws an interesting distinction between two of these three elements  and claims there is a clear and logical distinction between two types of statements: statements which  involve expectations and statements which involve our interests and attitudes:

“If a person says that iron expands when it is heated he is describing what he expects to observe but if he says that swords ought to be beaten into pruning hooks he is expressing an attitude towards the use of iron, or prescribing a course of action. Descriptions are answers to questions of theory: prescriptions are answers to questions of policy.”

Prescriptions  are related to “interests, attitudes, and demands”:

“They cannot be confirmed or falsified simply by lookings at things or situations. The man who says that peace is better than war cannot be refuted by being made to look at swords as well as pruning hooks or by being taken from his husbandry to watch a battle. The wrongness of killing people is not revealed to us by simply watching a battle. People can agree on their expectations of and assumptions about things people and situations, yet they can at the same time differ radically in their attitudes to, interests in and demands of them. And if they disagree with such questions of policy there is no agreed procedure for settling the dispute.”

Technological questions are questions about the means one should employ to achieve a particular end. An engineer builds a bridge to meet certain specifications. He creates the required states of affairs in accordance with general assumptions about temperature, expansion and material stresses and a description of initial particular conditions. Questions related to health and happiness are technological questions, questions about the means to achieve a particular end.

These three types of questions succinctly demarcate Philosophically the arena of psychological questioning. Since 1870 and the secession of Psychology from Philosophy these three types of inquiry have been favoured: the scientific the technological and the prescriptive. The philosophical or self consciously reflective dimension of psychology diminished in importance. That dimension in which  so called “second order”  questioning occurs which wishes to examine our assumptions  and which require a reflective level of self-consciousness of one’s own activity and a reflective awareness of how we use  language in these areas of inquiry:

“If a moral philosopher attempts, like a moralist to recommend a way of life or a new conception of society, he does so in a second order manner by redefining words like”justice”, “good” and “natural” or by concentrating on certain procedures for deciding on “rightness” or “wrongness” like looking at the consequences of actions or paying attention only to peoples motives.”(Peters 1961)

Philosophical concerns were once vitally important to psychological investigation and the history of psychology. Many of the mental concepts philosophers have reflected upon such as “reason”, “will” “desire” “conscience” have subsequently been converted into first order concepts by the anxious desire of the scientist to convert the thinking about activity into the activity itself. As a consequence, many scientists dismiss these concepts because they seem to suggest a first order activity of introspection(internal as distinct from external observation) thus confounding the entire reflective process which was not observational but connected to establishing a logical justification for the assumptions involved in the activity. Sever this philosophical dimension from psychological questioning and we will very quickly produce the conceptual confusion Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty and many other analytical philosophers have pointed to.

But what would be an example of a psychological investigation which took into consideration a reflective philosophical approach? Toward the end of the 18th century, Kant actually produced a text book for a discipline which he termed “Anthropology”. This work was designed to facilitate the political task of preparing the citizen for a cosmopolitan existence. Philosophy,  for Kant, was a cosmopolitan affair which could be characterized by 4 fundamental questions: What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? and What is a human being? This last question is the concern of Anthropology specifically but there will be a relation to the first three questions too. The Anthropology claims that investigations into human nature can take two forms: either physiological(what nature makes of man) or pragmatic(what man as a free acting being makes of himself or can and should make of himself). Physical anthropology is scientific and based on observation or introspection. Kant is rightly suspicious of this latter line of investigation because of the difficulties of the fact that the very act of observing changes the behavior that is observed(presumably introspection also changes the activity it is relating to). If this is correct it is an amazing indictment of the experimental psychology project that was to be launched in the next century almost a hundred years later. The freedom of the will is not a variable that can be controlled or manipulated. It is incredibly difficult if not impossible to grasp the essence of human nature. But almost paradoxically Kant does think that we can profitably pursue the line of investigation suggested by pragmatic philosophy, namely,  the question of what man can or should make of himself.

Freud, Philosophy, Humanism and Science.(Philosophical Psychology)

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Freud’s writings over 50 years corrected themselves and changed systematically from a clinical/scientific approach in relation to the analysis of patients with mental illness to a more philosophical approach to the individual, society and culture. I use the word “systematically” to demarcate the fact that in the move from his earlier approach to his later theorising there is no contradiction. Indeed although Freud systematically moves toward a Platonic view of the psyche I would argue that Freud’s theories are more Aristotelian, i.e. in many of his comments such as the ego contains the idea of the body, the ego is composed of precipitate of lost objects, there is a hylomorphic foundation working. Now I am not sure that Freud was familiar with the works of Aristotle but we do know that he was a vociferous reader and that he was very familiar with the works of Kant and even claimed on one occasion in his later works that his Psychology would be the Psychology that Kant would have written had he interested himself in the area. We know Kant wrote a work entitled Anthropology and this work had clear Aristotelian affiliations.


Now we also know that Freud did not have much time for the philosophers of his day who were much influenced by the concept of consciousness that had been developing since Descartes “epistemological revolution” in Philosophy. Some commentators superficially believe his opposition was grounded simply in Freud’s “re-discovery” of the realm of the unconscious mind but I believe his opposition ran deeper. That is, I believe that in spite of his claim to be a “scientist” we see in his later work, if I am right, that the metaphysical hylomorphism of Aristotle was steering his choice of concepts and his famous three principles of psychology: the energy regulation principle, the pleasure/pain principle and the reality principle. From a Kantian point of view he was working in the area of the mind Kant thought of as sensibility, in the area of self -love, but Freud’s theories have a grasp of the function of understanding and reason which is also, I would argue, Kantian. His reasoning, of course, falls into the arena of practical rather than theoretical reasoning much of the time but we should really pay attention to the Freudian mechanisms which are psychologically causal, e.g. repression, identification, sublimation, projection, all of which fit very neatly into the very practical idea he has of the reality principle. There is also his unique contribution to psychology in the form of the primary and secondary processes of the mind which are intimately connected to his three principles.

His idea of “object” is clearly Aristotelian, rather than scientific in the narrow sense, and not just backwards looking to the causes of physical events but teleological, forward looking to the end which an action is striving toward. Now there are speculations in some of his later works such as Civilisation and its Discontents which seem unscientific because unverifiable, e.g. the band of brothers thesis. He sketches a Hobbesian scenario of a state of nature in which all are at war against all and even the band of brothers kill the tyrannical father but regret their action and establish a rule of law and perhaps the dawn of self-consciousness, to move civilisation forward.Now these are his “scientific speculations”: looking backward for the causes of phenomena and perhaps he does so without sufficient care for marshalling the totality of facts. I am not saying that this is necessarily so, because even today I do not believe we are anywhere near accumulating the necessary facts which would allow us to pontificate one way or the other but I do think that those commentators that fixate on the Oedipus complex and see this scenario as the blueprint of his speculations in this domain are reading Freud too narrowly.


Freud bashing in the name of science has become a professional activity for some academics and a hobby for many others who have views of science that in the urge to purge our thought of all things metaphysical and ethical would in Freudian, Kantian and Aristotelian terms be regarded as “epistemological” in a pejorative sense. The sense that has dogged Philosophy through all the modern “isms”: positivism, naturalism, materialism, pragmatism, behaviourism, utilitarianism.


Freud bashing is just of a course a part of the sport of humanist bashing and all that it requires is a very limited knowledge of a methodology which applies only to one aspect of our world and a willingness to colonise the domain of the humanist with this limited methodology and wonderful technological inventions, e.g. the invention of the atomic and hydrogen bombs, television, computers, and robots.