Great Books of the Western World - Volume 03 The great ideas : II

Author : Great Books of the Western World - Hutchins Robert Maynard
Title : Volume 03 The great ideas : II A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Westren World
Year : 1952

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WHETHER or not the proper study of mankind is man, it is the only study in which the knower and the known are one, in which the object of the science is the nature of the scientist. If we consider every effort men have made in response to the ancient injunction "know thyself," then psychology has perhaps a longer tradition than any other science. But by a stricter conception of science, more is required than individual insight or self-consciousness. Definitions, principles, analyses applicable to all men must be established, and it has been questioned whether the method of introspection suffices for this purpose. What methods should be used by the psychologist dependS in part upon the precise object and scope of his inquiry. According as different subject matters and different methods define psychology, there seem to be several disciplines bearing that name, each with its own tradition in western thought. In one conception, psychology begins with the dialogues of Plato and with Aristotle's treatise On the Soul. As Aristotle's title indicates, and as the Greek roots of the word "psychology" connote, the soul rather than man is the object of the science. Anthropology, Kant later suggests, would be a more appropriate name for the science of man. The Greek inquiry into the soul extends, beyond man, to all living things. It is because "the soul is in some sense the principle of animal life," Aristotle writes, that "the knowledge of the soul admittedly contributes greatly to the advance of truth in general, and, above all, to our understanding of Nature." Nevertheless, psychology for the Greeks is principally concerned with the study of man. The analysis of the parts or faculties of the human soul is an analysis of the properties of human nature-the powers which man has and the characteristically human acts or functions he can perform. The methods by which this analysis is developed are, for the most part, the same methods which the Greek philosophers use in physics. "The study of the soul," Aristotle writes, "falls within the science of Nature. " The definitions of the psychologist, like those of the physicist, give "a certain mode of movement of such and such a body (or part or faculty of a body) by this or that cause and for this or that end." In the case of the human soul, however, the psychologist can employ a method not applicable to other things. The human intellect is able to examine itself. Mind can thus know things about mind which are not otherwise observable. The subject matter of psychology narrows somewhat when, at a later moment in the tradition, the study of mind tends to replace the study of man. This narrowing takes place gradually. Though Descartes identifies soul with mind or intellect, he treats of the passions and the will as well as thought and knowledge. Differing from Descartes with regard to body and soul, Hobbes and Spinoza also give as much attention to the emotions as to ideas and reasoning. But with Locke, Berkeley, and Hume there is an increasing tendency to analyze the contents of consciousness and the acts of the understanding, treated exclusively as a faculty of thinking or knowing. Where in the earlier tradition the observation of human behavior and the behavior of other animals appears to be useful in psychology, here the main source of psychological knowledge seems to be introspection. ...

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