The Echoes of the Mind (18) History of Psychology Synopsis


Historically, psychology and philosophy have been intertwined. Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, and others, including early Christian and Muslim scholars, believed the mind to be the window to the soul. Beyond that their thoughts were muddled. Though tending toward energyism by regarding abstractions as absolute truths, these natural philosophers rarely discounted the actuality of physicality for lack of being able to explain materiality as an illusion. (Energyism is the monistic doctrine that the perceived world is a figment of the mind: a phenomenal system of concepts.) This defaulted them to dualism.

Dualism is the everyday experience of distinctly possessing a mind and a body. Descartes assumed dualism, as do many modern psychologists, who give the nature of mind-body connectivity scant contemplation.

Another school of thought was more sure minded in taking a physiological approach. Democritus laid the foundation for matterism with his atomic hypothesis, which Galileo revived, and Hobbes forwarded.

Leibniz annunciated a neutral monism via God-given monads. Berkeley posited a deistic idealism. Existence as ethereal mystically flowered with Jungian archetypes and the collective unconscious. But these were brief, rather bizarre blips in an inexorable trend toward matterism. Failure to explain biology left the musings of immaterialists quizzical.

In the early 18th century, David Hartley anticipated physiological psychology. The quackery of Franz Gall’s early 19th-century phrenology popularized it.

The growing strength of Hume’s empirical approach to psychology as a science sealed the fate of how mentation came to be considered. Behaviorists declared the mind a fabrication of the brain. In utterly failing to address mentation behaviorism became for many too radical a denouement – but the sentiment stuck.

Though Freud made the single biggest splash in the history of psychology, the psychologist with the greatest lasting influence was William James. His functional approach to psychology sidestepped physiology altogether. It was James’ indifferent paradigm that allowed modern psychologists to productively ignore the mind-body problem.

James was influenced by Darwin, whose vacuous “natural selection” became the dominant idea behind evolutionary biology. Coupling James’ functionalism with Darwinism led to evolutionary psychology, which posited the origination of behaviors and mental states in genes: a myth with no factual foundation, and thus ribald pseudoscience masquerading as science.

Whereas behaviorists had failed to secure consensus about matterism geneticists succeeded. Experiments with fruit flies and honeybees demonstrated links between genes and behavior, as did analyses of human behaviors by way of hormone production encoded by DNA. That there was an inexplicable chasm between mental effect and supposed physical cause did not seem to bother evolutionary psychologists.

With evolutionary psychology in place, cross-connecting biology to the social sciences, it is now possible to provide conceptually integrated analyses. ~ Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, & Jerome Barkow

Evolutionary psychology considers mentotype an adaptive product from physical causes. (The psychological constitution of an organism is its mentotype.) There are deeper aspects of the mind that have profound implications, and which genetics and matter-based evolutionary mechanics cannot explain. The matterist perspective – that the brain conjures the mind – cannot account for consciousness, or why the mind works as it does. The inherent, intractable problems are simply ignored because matterist theorists don’t have a clue.

Our own consciousness is a product of our brains. We don’t understand how the mind works. ~ Steven Pinker

Incomprehension about the nature of the mind facilitates mental illness, which is ubiquitous. Treatment of those debilitated by mental illness is typically shoddy, in part because the mind is not understood by the Collective, including psychologists; and, most poignantly, because compassion is sorely lacking. Woeful ignorance and social indifference demonstrate how widespread mental illness really is.