Psychology as Mental Philosophy

          Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. At first glance, it may not seem to have much in common with Philosophy, a humanity. However, if you look closer you will notice that they have more similarities that thought. 

          First of all, in the history of Psychology, the discipline was categorized in academic universities as a “mental philosophy.” This is because Psychology included the study of the consciousness, mental processes, and was based on the premise that the human mind began as a blank slate. Both mental philosophers and psychologists used to introspection and observation as tools. Reporting these is known as phenomenology. 

Phenomenology is a technique frequently used by the two seemingly opposite disciplines. In Psychology, phenomenology is used to observe rare phenomenons, describe a person’s immediate experience, used in qualitative research, and is used to in making self-reports as a measure for effects of independent variables. On the other hand, philosophy is rooted in lived experiences. As such it often uses the phenomenological approach to reflect and come up with answers to fundamental questions.

          In Ricoeur’s Promotion of Hope and Responsibility, he talks about how Philosophy has no subject but is the subject of other disciplines. In the case of Psychology, I think that this applies. There are increasingly more humanistic theories of personality. One of which is Maslow who talks about the importance of self-actualization. In his theory, he talks about qualities of self-actualizing individuals. These characteristics include having a philosophical sense of humor, having an efficient perception of reality, and seeing the means as an ends. This is something that Ricoeur highlights, how we need to stop the rationalization of means and focus more on the ends or the goal. Ricoeur’s philosophy advocates the importance of putting an ethical perspective in a prospective society.

          Similarly, Psychology also aims to promote ethics. There are now measures such as the Institutional Review Board where the main purpose is to ensure the rights of participants in research. They also promote responsibility of the researcher for any harm or potential risks that could affect participants. We now have to give informed consent, debriefing, and post research intensive debriefing should there be any long lasting physical or psychological symptoms. 

          In conclusion, Psychology and Philosophy have more similarities than usually perceived. Psychology does indeed live up to its former name as a mental philosophy. Having a philosophical viewpoint when engaging the discipline of Psychology would definitely aid in its improvement. This suggests that balancing science with philosophy is something ultimately beneficial. I would recommend taking philosophy or other humanities for all science majors. 

                                                 Clarrie Cruz



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