1. Traditional, Natural Science (and psychologies that derive from it).
Basic Datum: Observations of a world that is separable from my subjective
experience of it.
An underlying DUALISM (an account of reality in terms of two things)
-- in the tradition of DesCartes and logical positivism.
What are the two things? Answer: Objective reality and subjective experience
Usually, it’s cast this way:
Objective Reality which is usually seen as primary, and the cause of everything.
Subjective Experience which is seen as EPIPHENOMENAL (I.e., secondary or derivative), and an EFFECT of prior causes located in the objective world.
Science’s job, then, is mostly to answer the question, “WHY?” -- I.e., to give objectively based explanations, which are accounts of the causes of observed phenomena.
Implications of this view of reality:
-- Everything is CAUSED by something else.
-- All phenomena are DETERMINATE
-- Hence the universe as a whole is determinate and ultimately knowable via empirical, scientific inquiry.
-- All human existence is determinate, hence FREEDOM IS AN ILLUSION
(since every choice is now merely the product of prior determinate causes)
Advantages of this view (from the perspective of science):
-- follows Occam’s Razor, hence it makes psychology more simple
-- it comes to the kind of understanding acceptable to science
-- correct, reliable explanation
Problems with this view (from the perspective of humanistic
Problem #1: Natural science psychology often produces knowledge that’s correct, but that often seems inconsequential. Its findings often fail to matter much to people because its findings usually does speak directly to their experience in life (but, of course, experience is epiphenomenal in the first place).
It often produces “SO WHAT PSYCHOLOGY” (Dodson) whose understandings are “merely correct” (Heidegger).
It understands human existence as devoid of magic, of romance, of the sacred, of mystery -- all of which tends to drain life of what makes it worth living in the first place.
It’s a little like asking, “What’s the meaning of life?” and getting the answer: 42.
Problem #2: A theoretical problem with the dualistic supposition about reality (where the world is “out there”).
If there’s an external objective world that’s really separable from my internal, subjective experience of it…
® Then how do we account for the obvious fact that they’re always influencing one another?
How can a feeling be caused?
How can a thought change the world?
This problem leads to a psychology where there’s always
a gap between causal explanations … and my experience -- between neurology
and actual experiences.
Problem #3: There’s something radically anti-scientific at the heart of natural-science psychology.
-- Science’s basic ethic is to subject all knowledge to scientific questioning.
-- But usually science doesn’t want to ask about its most basic suppositions of all -- namely, its assumptions about how reality works in the first place, and to assert that there‘s no need to question because science already knows (and it’s causally).
So, science tends to buy a dualistic account without really questioning it.
Why? One reason: to solve problems -- to be useful, which seems at first like an unassailable answer.
But humanistic psychologists pose questions like: WHY UTILITY?
Is being useful really the be-all-end-all of life?
Do you fall in love because it’s useful?
How about getting out of bed in the morning?
Utility, like any other value, is arbitrary -- hence the
2. Humanistic Psychology
Basic Datum: People’s EXPERIENCE of the world… hence world as inseparable from people’s experience of it. (they’re always influencing one another).
An underlying MONISM (an account of reality in terms of one thing)
Self & world are always in unitary, holistic relation
Implication ® Causality is only one possible account of our experience of life
(not an all-encompassing, inescapable determinism)
Instead of swallowing a causal account without asking about it, humanistic psychology usually proceeds PHENOMENOLOGICALLY
-- It tries to articulate the meaning of people‘s experience
-- It usually proceeds QUALITATIVELY (it emphasizes descriptions of the qualities of experience and their psychological meaning), rather than QUANTITATIVELY (where measurement and mathematical analysis determine truth).
So, rather than always asking “Why?” humanistic psychology
usually asks “What?” and “How?”
Advantages (from the perspective of humanistic psychology)
-- produces understandings that speak to people’s experience
-- hence it has the power to change life for the better by emphasizing the inherent magic and power of life.
Problems (from the perspective of natural science psychology)
-- it’s not traditionally scientific (it‘s too subjective, not rigorous enough), hence it shouldn’t be believed by people who only buy what traditional science says
-- it doesn’t solve enough problems (but is solving problems the main point of human self-understanding?)
<end of comparison between natural science Y and humanistic Y>
Humanistic Psychology ¾ An emphasis on subjective experience
Esp. the MEANING our experience -- 2 levels of meaning:
A. meaning IMPLICIT in everyday experience even before we reflect upon it.
-- called the PHENOMENAL LEVEL or PRE-REFLECTIVE experience
B. meaning made EXPLICIT by reflection & interpretation of pre-reflective experience.
-- called the PHENOMENOLOGICAL LEVEL (this is a somewhat different meaning of this word)
Humanistic Psychology sees these two levels as fundamentally related (note that this is a consequence of the self/world holism).
So, humanistic Y seeks to dwell in the BIDIRECTIONAL interplay of these 2 levels.
Implication: Humanistic psychology seeks to understand life, but also to change life (not every psychology tries to do this)
-- after all, what does our understanding really matter if it doesn’t ultimately change life somehow?
But how is everyday, pre-reflective existence meaningful? (I.e., Why does a simple analysis in terms of antecedant causes falls short?)
One way: Everyday existence is always FUTURAL -- that is, PURPOSIVE & TELEOLOGICAL.
-- that is, we’re always orienting ourselves with respect to our possible futures, even if only the next few seconds. We’re always, “Up to something.”
-- even if it’s just trying to continue what we’re already doing
Especially with respect to ourselves
-- our growth as unique human beings
-- fulfillment of our POTENTIAL in life
SO, humanistic psychology sees people in terms of . . . .
-- not only where they’ve been and where they are now, but also
-- where they could be.
POTENTIAL ¾ somewhat different for each individual.
Why? Answer: Because people are different.
Basically, humanistic psychology sees healthy psychological dev’t in terms of the struggle of fulfilling one’s unique potential in life.
They see “abnormal Y” & clinical issues in terms of what blocks the fulfillment of potential (notice that this is very different from a typical conception of “psychopathology”)
“SELF-ACTUALIZATION” ®fulfilling one’s fullest, deepest potential.
A kind of EMANCIPATION from all the seductive,
convincing ways in which live others’ people’s values for them,
and in the process sell ourselves short, and end up living ordinary, largely
unfulfilled lives -- both individually & for humanity as a whole.
Humanistic Y embodies a call to be open to recognizing and living out our deeper potentials in life -- hence OPENNESS is a core value of humanistic Y.
But often people are CLOSED to their deeper potential. Some reasons:
-- fear of one’s potential
-- the sense of responsibility to oneself & others
-- change is often difficult, even when it’s in the form of growth
-- the challenge of facing uncertainty & questioning one’s certainty
-- fear of being rejected for being different,
But, of course, to be great is to be different, just as
to be extraordinary is to be out of the ordinary.
To burn in life (rather than just being ruled by other people‘s opinions and values)
… is rare.
Also, OPENNESS to questioning what we’d rather just take for granted. Such as:
-- Natural Science is the best way to study human beings
-- We already have the last word on how reality works
-- It works only by deterministic causes.
-- We already know everything about existence.
-- Psychology’s deepest purpose is to solve problems (utility).
In this regard, humanistic psychology, tries to “out-science” science!
-- it wants to question the very foundations that natural science wants just to accept without much thoughtful examination.
-- These question start sound somewhat philosophical.
Hence, an affinity between humanistic psychology and philosophy
® a radical questioning of foundations
® admitting reflective thought can yield valuable knowledge
Now, where did humanistic Y come from?
HISTORICALLY ® humanistic psychology arose in the U.S. in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s out of people’s disenchantment with the two dominant schools of psychology at the time.
1. Psychoanalysis ¾ which focused so much on psychopathology
(but what about normal or even extraordinary people?)
2. Behaviorism ¾ natural science psychology - focus on observable
(which excludes a lot of life - the most interesting parts)
So, humanistic Y emerged as the “3rd Force Psychology”
In part ¾ as a “negative” reaction against the constriction of our understanding
In part ¾ as a “positive” attempt to grapple more honestly with the riddle of our existence -- radically & fundamentally
What are human beings about - in the most basic of ways?
On the basis of our EXPERIENCE?
A kind of being (I.e., a human being)
But what is being? (a tough question)
This kind of questioning made humanistic Y more open to incorporating philosophical insights than nature science typically does.
Around the same time, philosophy in Europe was asking similar questions:
ONTOLOGY ¾ the philosophical study of Being
PHENOMENOLOGY ¾ the study of how things appear to consciousness, and
how the world appears to us as we experience it.
EXISTENTIALISM ¾a movement in philosophy (also, in art, literature & culture)
that generally focuses on the meaning of existence, which is viewed in terms of
“being-in-the-world” (the holistic interplay of self & world).
But phenomenology and existentialism are related and overlap:
Pure Phenomenology ®Tries to account for the everyday appearance of the world through how it appears to our consciousness. It looks for the essences (necessary, invariant structures) of consciousness, which are given in phenomenological reflection with a quality of being beyond doubt. “Back to the things (of experience) themselves.”
Existential Phenomenology ®Tries to interpret everyday existence to get at an articulation of its meaning. No essence that’s beyond doubt ¾ rather the ongoing, open-ended interpretation of experience with respect to the riddle of existence.
-- sees existence in terms of a holistic Being-in-the-world
-- relies on HERMENEUTICS - philosophy of interpretation which takes Being-in- the-world as its starting point.
-- probably the greatest influence on early humanistic psychology
-- AUTHENTICITY & INAUTHENTICITY
(parallel to self-actualization & deferring to others)
Literary Existentialism ®Tends towards a less technically philosophical, more literary or artistic interpretation of existence
-- to illuminate it
-- also to begin to change existence by underscoring its basic themes
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