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The Reflective Self: Early Modern Psychologies. René Descartes (1596-1650). RATIONALIST: DEDUCE FROM FIRST PRINCIPLES. DISCOURSE ON METHOD (1637).

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The Reflective Self: Early Modern Psychologies

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The reflective self early modern psychologies

The Reflective Self:Early Modern Psychologies

Ren descartes 1596 1650

René Descartes (1596-1650)






The reflective self early modern psychologies

“But I soon noticed that while I thus wished to think everything false, it was necessarily true that I who thought so was something. Since this truth, I think therefore I am or exist (cogito ergo sum), was so firm and assured that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were unable to shake, I judged that I could safely accept it as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking.”

(Discourse on Method, Fourth Part, p. 24)

Descartes dualism

Descartes’ Dualism

res cogitans —Mind Substance immaterial

Rational Soul

res extensa —Bodily Matter


extended in space

The reflective self early modern psychologies

17th Clockwork and Automata

“Digesting Duck”

The reflective self early modern psychologies


Descartes’ depiction of the

mechanics of the response

to fire

Movement of animal spirits

Through the nerves

(Treatise of Man,

Figure 7)

Brain and pineal gland h

Brain and Pineal Gland (H)


Descartes, Treatise of Man [1662] (Prometheus Books, 2003), p.76

Pineal gland h

Pineal Gland (H)

The reflective self early modern psychologies


Child’s Mind as Blank Tablet- Tabula Rasa

Importance of education

David hume 1711 1776

David Hume (1711-1776)




Treatise of Human Nature,

Being an Attempt to Introduce

the Experimental Method of

Reasoning into Moral Subjects


Hume s doubts

Hume’s Doubts

“The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another. Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? Whose favour shall I court, and whose anger must I dread?”

Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, pp. 316-317

What is the self

What is the Self?

Hume writes, we:

“are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity and are in a perpetual flux and movement.”

(Hume, Treatise, p. 300).

Hume s solution backgammmon


“Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hour’s amusement, I wou’d return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain’d and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.”

Treatise of Human Nature, p. 316.

The reflective self early modern psychologies

It is evident that all the sciences have a relation, greater or less, to human nature…To explain the principles of human nature, we in effect propose a complete system of the sciences, built on a foundation almost entirely new, and the only one upon which they can stand with any security…and the only solid foundation we can give to this science itself must be laid on experience and observation.”

(Hume, Treatise p. 123).

Impressions: sensations of the world

Ideas: less vivid copies of sensations—

we might call them memories or images

Principles of association

Principles of Association

  • Resemblance—items are associated that share qualities: picture of a man to man himself

  • Contiguity—items that are near one another in space: the Saint of a village

  • Causation--items that are seen to effect change: ball hitting another ball (we infer causation)

Thomas reid 1710 1796 and common sense philosophy

Thomas Reid (1710-1796) and Common Sense Philosophy

  • Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow beginning in 1764.

  • Succeeded Adam Smith

  • Called Hume’s skepticism “metaphysical lunacy.”

  • Wrote, An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense, 1764

Difficulties of psychological reflection acc to reid

Difficulties of Psychological Reflection, acc. to Reid

1) there are a great number of operations of the mind.

2) reflection is not habitual (and needs to be practiced).

3) it is difficult to attend to the process of imagination as it is not a thing.

4) sometimes the operation ceases as we watch it.


Faculty psychology thomas reid

Faculty PsychologyThomas Reid

Active Powers (Will): self-esteem,

friendship, sexual affection, emulation, duty, veneration, beauty, imagination—35 in all

Intellectual/Cognitive Powers: five senses, perception, size and novelty, memory, judgment and reason, abstraction, conception and moral taste.

The reflective self early modern psychologies

  • Rationalist Tradition/René Descartes 1660s

    mind/body problem


    rational soul/pineal gland

  • Enlightenment Models: Empiricism

    John Locke’s Tabula Rasa, 1690s

    David Hume and Skepticism, 1740s

    Reflection and Self-doubt, even illness and melancholy

    Fracturing of Self and Hume’s solution

  • Common Sense/Faculty Psychology

    Thomas Reid, a common-sense philosopher, 1760s

    Active/Passive Powers of the Mind

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