The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 8 July 2018 - Page 15

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 that 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