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Rene Descartes. French philosopher of the mid -1600’s – end of the Renaissance Period Greatly influenced by the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and Copernicus Also influenced by development of mechanical toys and clocks

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Rene Descartes

  • French philosopher of the mid -1600’s – end of the Renaissance Period

  • Greatly influenced by the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and Copernicus

  • Also influenced by development of mechanical toys and clocks

  • Major contribution for psychology was his focus on behavior and the mind – in the mind-body issue

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Philosophy Influenced by Authorities of the time

  • 1st book written in 1638 very mechanistic – like the toys and clocks he saw

    • Human behavior the result of reflexes

    • Eliminated the idea of free will

    • No evidence of a soul

  • This book was not published until after his death

    • Shortly after the reformation

    • The trial and imprisonment of Galileo

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New Philosophy of Descartes

  • Nonhumans are mechanical and fully automated

  • Humans are somewhat mechanized, but we have a soul, are unique in our ability to think and reason

  • Led to Dualism – humans have a mechanical body but also a mind that was different from the body

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  • Mind and body coordinated their activities in the brain – pineal gland

  • The mind has structure, it is a thing

  • The content of the mind was ideas

    • Innate ideas – such as ideas about God and self “I think, therefore I am.” Concepts of space, time, and motion

    • Derived ideas – come from experience and they alter the nervous system

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Descartes – Deductive Rationalism

  • Method of Scientific inquiry was deductive reasoning

  • Sensory information unreliable and can not be totally trusted

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Example of Descartes' Reasoning

  • My body and objects in the environment are real. I can see, touch, hear, and taste them. I get thirsty, feel pain, etc.

  • However, I dream and people report pain long after a limb has been amputated – these feelings and sensations are not real

  • Therefore how do I know things really exist, maybe I shouldn’t trust my experiences as evidence of the existence of self and objects

  • God gave us these senses, God is not deceitful, therefore we can use trust the senses God gave us

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Descartes as a Foundation for Psychology

  • First attempt to develop a model of the Mind-Body position – Dualism

  • Methodology – breaking a large complicated problem down into simpler individual parts

  • Learning and experience alter the Brain

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British Empiricism

  • John Locke, John Stuart Mills among others

  • Not interested in the content of the mind; most interested in how the mind worked

  • Wanted to understand how the mind acquires knowledge, not what it knows

  • The importance of learning through experience

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John Locke

  • Many of his philosophical ideas were the basis for our American form of democracy

  • But he was also an important foundation of psychology

  • We develop ideas – sensations, perceptions, and abstractions through experience

  • Concept of Tabula Rosa – used by Descartes, but Locke denied the idea of innate ideas

  • Yes, sensory experiences maybe inaccurate at times, but we have no choice; there is no other source of information

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Qualities and Ideas

  • Addressed accuracy of sensory systems using 2 terms:

  • Qualities – the ability of the physical properties of an object to produce an idea – wavelength is a quality of light

  • Ideas – a mental image that could be employed while thinking – results from sensations or reflections

    • The source of all ideas is sensation

    • But these ideas can be acted upon and rearranged by operations of the mind

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Qualities of an Object or Event

  • 2 types of qualities

    • Primary qualities- the actual attributes of the object or event

    • Secondary qualities – the type of psychological experience they cause

    • Paradox of the basins – 3 basins - hot water, cold water, and lukewarm water

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  • 2 kinds of ideas:

    • Simple ideas - the basic elements of experience because they cannot divided or analyzed further into other ideas

    • Complex ideas – combinations of simple ideas

  • Mental processes operate on simple ideas to form complex ideas

    • Complex ideas have attractive forces that bring simple ideas together

    • Mutual attraction of ideas became the basis for many learning theories

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John Stuart Mills -Associationism

  • Interested in how sensations and ideas became associated or combined

  • People who study his work and compare it to others estimate his IQ was about 200, the highest in history

  • Strong advocate for women’s rights and was anti-slavery – all people created equal

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Mills: A Foundation of Psychology

  • Human thinking involved actively restructuring and rearranging the ideas provided by experience

  • Mental chemistry – ideas, like chemicals, could be combined to produce a combination with properties not found in the individual ideas

  • Argued against the ideas of Auguste Compte that it was impossible to scientifically study the mind

  • Many of the questions that concerned him are relevant to psychology today

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Alexander Baine

  • British associationist who was more similar to a psychologist than the others

  • Wrote what was later to become the 1st British Psychology textbook

  • An important foundation for Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect

  • Supported the study of psychology using naturalistic observation and experimentation

  • Created the first “psychological” journal, Mind

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Opposition to Associationism

  • Emmual Kant – a strong nativist

  • We learn through experience, but what we learn is innately determined

    • We learn a language through experience, but the ability to learn a language is an innate quality of the mind

  • A foundation for a number of current developmental theories attempting to explain the interaction between innate processes and experiences

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Importance of Early Philosophers

  • Raised some of the basic questions psychologists strive to answer today

  • Developed the methods of deductive and inductive reasoning

  • Stressed the importance of understanding the mind

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Differences in Ideas About the Nature of Humans

  • Christian Church – humans bad, need religion to control instincts

  • Hobbs agreed – humans are basically aggressive animals. Society has to teach them to control aggression

  • Locke – humans are naturally good and people are born with equal potential

  • Rousseau – French Romanticist – children have an innate knowledge of right and wrong. They will be good unless society interferes

  • Freud – humans born with need for instant gratification, selfish, etc.

  • Maslow and Rogers – humans born to strive to be good