This book covers key movements that helped to shape psychology – from the early philosophical debate between rationalism and empiricism or realists and antirealists through to the emergence of psychology as a science and the ongoing debates about ‘objectivity’ and ‘truth’ and what a science of psychology should be. Often nuanced and complex, the author examines major conceptual issues in the history of psychology that continue to be debated and influence public policy and lay understanding. The latter stages of the book explore notions of individuality, hereditarianism, critical psychology, and feminist perspectives. While deeply rooted in human history, it is made clear that psychology, how it is conceived and practiced, has a bearing on our understanding of what it is to be human. Accessible, objective and above all comprehensive, this book will help students locate psychology in the wider field of science and understand the forces that continue to shape and define it.

Historical Conceptual Issues

Historical Conceptual Issues

Learning Objective

In this chapter we will look at the philosophical roots of psychology including some examples of how these basic concepts can be found in modern psychology. Two broad branches of metaphysics—ontology and epistemology—will be the focus. More specifically we will consider:

  • The mind–body problem (including reductionism and holism)
  • Appearance versus reality
  • Rationalism versus empiricism
  • Realism versus anti-realism (including relativism, constructionism, skepticism, and phenomenology).

By connecting these to modern psychology you should come to appreciate how these issues were merely repressed in the turn to scientism and have remained implicit throughout.

Framing Questions

  • Why should Greek philosophy be of a concern? What does it have to do with modern psychology?
  • What philosophical issues are embedded in modern psychology? Where do questions of ontology and epistemology appear?
  • Why are ...
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