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Chapter 2 – Philosophical & scientific antecedents of psychology. Dr. Nancy Alvarado. The Dark and Middle Ages. Images of the Dark Ages. Why Were the Dark Ages Dark?. The Roman Empire had preserved knowledge, but it collapsed and was overrun by Barbarians.

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why were the dark ages dark
Why Were the Dark Ages Dark?
  • The Roman Empire had preserved knowledge, but it collapsed and was overrun by Barbarians.
  • Access to the accumulated knowledge was preserved in Muslim libraries but these were inaccessible because the West was mostly Christian.
  • The Medieval Church discouraged literacy, free thought, and scientific inquiry beyond the revealed wisdom of clerics & church scholars (St. Augustine).
  • With the Crusades, knowledge was rediscovered.
muslim libraries were rediscovered
Muslim Libraries were Rediscovered

Launched by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095, the First Crusade was the most successful. Urban gave a dramatic speech urging Christians to swarm toward Jerusalem and make it safe for Christian pilgrims by taking it away from the Muslims.

science in the dark ages
Science in the Dark Ages
  • Hothersall – the historian Kemp asserts there was innovation and science during the Dark Ages:
    • Stirrups used for the first time in war (600’s AD/CE).
    • A biography of Charlemagne was published (800’s).
    • Domesday Book (1086 survey done for King William I of England) recorded 6000 watermills in Britain.
    • Windmill invented in 1180 (taxed by the Vatican).
  • It would be odd if there were no progress at all, but this is not comparable to what was seen in Greece & Rome nor was learning cumulative.
medieval period
Medieval Period
  • Population increased putting pressure on peasants.
  • Landowners had the advantage, there was famine.
  • 14 universities were established in 12th & 13th centuries, including Oxford & Cambridge.
  • Civil war and wars between France, Italy & England disrupted the 14th century.
  • Plague (Black Death, 1348-1350) killed 1/3 of the population of Europe.
gothic architecture
Gothic Architecture

Gothic Cathedrals are intricately designed architectural features, which date back to 1144 and possible even earlier. The architecture used to make these magnificent buildings took a very long time and it involved many different forms of talent, and skill as well as hard to find materials.

scenes of the plague years
Scenes of the Plague Years

Plague-inspired art. Images of the grim reaper originate from this time.

psychology in the middle ages
Psychology in the Middle Ages
  • Psychological questions belonged to religion.
  • In “Confessions,” St. Augustine (4th century) disclosed psychological emotions, thoughts, motives, memories.
    • God was the ultimate truth.
    • Knowing God was the ultimate goal of the human mind.
    • Truth dwells within every person – turn inward.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas reinterpreted Aristotle and established scholasticism – reason as a complement to faith in the search for truth.
the renaissance rebirth
The Renaissance (Rebirth)
  • The invention of movable type made printing inexpensive, permitting the spread of ideas across Europe via books, including to scholars & others.
  • Prescientific psychology books appeared:
    • Psichiologia – Marcus Marulus (1520).
    • Psychologia hoc est, de hominis perfectione (Psychology on the improvement of man) (1590) edited by Goeckel.
    • Psychologia – John Broughton (1703) in English.
  • No scientific study of human behavior was started.
early cosmology
Early Cosmology

Medieval conceptions of the firmament include a solid orb containing the planets with angels & heaven beyond it. Here, a traveler sticks his head through it.

renaissance science
Renaissance Science
  • The view of man’s place in the universe changed.
    • Copernicus (1543) demoted humans from a central to a peripheral position – his system was called antireligious.
    • Galileo (1610) confirmed his view that the Earth goes around the sun, not vice versa, as did Bruno.
    • Galileo also developed a method of manipulating variables while controlling other factors in expts.
  • Goaded by Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, the Catholic church was unreceptive to Galileo’s new theory -- Bruno was burned at the stake.
the reformation split the church
The Reformation Split the Church


Lutherans AnglicansPuritans







a plea for freedom of inquiry
A Plea for Freedom of Inquiry
  • Galileo believed in the power of reason:

“…in questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”

    • The next advances came from Protestant countries.
  • Isaac Newton revolutionized physics by developing a new optics (theory of light) and laws of physics.
  • Vesalius developed an anatomy of the human body.
  • Harvey studied the movement of the heart and the motion of blood using experimental methods.
three scientific geniuses
Three Scientific Geniuses

Issac Newton(1642-1727)

William Harvey(1578-1657)

Andreas Vesalius(1514-1564)

rene descartes 1596 1650
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
  • At age 23, a dream revealed a “Spirit of Truth,” a vision of a new system of science and mathematics so he renounced idleness to search for truth.
    • He first combined algebra & geometry into analytic geometry, published 18 years later as “La Geometrie”.
    • He lived in 24 homes in 13 cities during 20 years in Spain-occupied Holland, hiding out from the Inquisition.
    • Queen Christina of Sweden summoned him to tutor her on “How to live happily and still not annoy God.”
    • He died of pneumonia 4 months later in her court.
contributions to philosophy
Contributions to Philosophy
  • Descartes believed in applying logic rigorously to discover truth.
    • Descartes was a devout Catholic but he sometimes doubted the existence of God, so he was heretical.
    • Cogito ergo sum – I doubt, thus I think, therefore I exist.
  • He considered the mind different than the body.
    • Having different substance, different functions, bound by different laws.
    • The body is nothing more than a complex self-regulating machine functioning without the mind.
ideas about the body
Ideas about the Body
  • Hollow tubes of minute threads contain subtle fluids (animal spirits) distilled from the blood, flowing to the senses for sensation and movement.
  • Reflexes operate as a hydraulic pathway between body and brain, pores are synapses.
    • The body is infinitely more complex than a machine designed by humans because invented by God.
  • Animals only have reflexes but humans can control the opening of pores to control reflex actions.
    • The pineal gland is where mind and body meet.
ideas about the ideas passions
Ideas about the Ideas & Passions
  • Two major classes of ideas exist in the mind:
    • Innate ideas – inborn, time, space, motion, God.
    • Derived ideas – arising from experience, based on memories of past events (open pores stay open).
  • Passions arise from the body and cause actions.
    • 6 primary passions (wonder, love, hate, desire, joy, sadness) – other passions are mixtures of these.
  • Animals do not possess minds so cannot think, be self-aware or have language – have no feelings.
julien de la mettrie 1709 1751
Julien de La Mettrie (1709-1751)
  • La Mettrie published “L’homme Machine” (Man the Machine) in 1748, arguing that people are solely machines, explained through mechanistic principles.
  • People are motivated by hedonistic drives (pleasure, pain) not reasoning.
  • Degrees of thought are present in animals not just people – cognition is a continuum across organisms.
    • His prediction that apes can use language has been confirmed by those studying chimpanzees.
post renaissance philosophy
Post-Renaissance Philosophy
  • Empiricism – emphasized the effects of experience on a passive mind.
    • Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley.
  • Associationism – the active mind forms associations.
    • Hume, Hartley, James and John Stuart Mill
  • Nativism – the contents of the mind are influenced by its inborn structure, not just experience.
    • Leibniz, Kant (German philosophers)
  • Timeline --
17 th century british empiricism
17th Century British Empiricism
  • Empiricists (British):
    • Hobbes
    • Locke
    • Berkeley
  • Nativist counter-voice:
    • Leibniz (German)
  • Earlier Empiricists:
    • Aristotle
  • Earlier Nativists:
    • Socrates
    • Plato
    • Descartes (French)
thomas hobbes 1588 1679
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
  • Hobbes’s views of mind were based on his social and political theories about people in groups.
  • He believed we are basically aggressive animals banding together for protection from other people.
    • The only way a group’s integrity can be protected is via a strong, centralized authority, such as a monarch.
  • This thinking influences current sociobiologists.
    • Barash (1977) says that because we cannot kill each other without weapons, we have no biological inhibition against aggression like animals do, leading to war, etc.
john locke 1632 1704
John Locke (1632-1704)
  • He was the first major British Empiricist, at Oxford.
  • Locke rejected Descartes & emphasized scientific method & experimentation.
    • Locke’s Puritanism rejected Descartes’ Catholicism.
    • Political ideas – people have inalienable rights to personal liberty, equality before the law, religious equality – protected by checks & balances & overthrow
  • Philosophy of education – people are born good and equal in potential, making education crucial.
    • Access to education should be available to all children.
locke s views on education
Locke’s Views on Education
  • Locke denied existence of innate tendencies, dispositions or fears in children.
    • The only things we innately fear are loss of pleasure and pain. We avoid whatever has these consequences.
  • He proposed that children dislike reading because of punishments associated with teaching them.
  • Locke advanced ideas about the acquisition and treatment of fears similar to Watson, Mary Cover Jones and Wolpe (systematic desensitization).
locke s essay concerning human understanding 1690
Locke’s “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” (1690)
  • This work was the beginning of British Empiricism.
  • Locke sought a set of laws for the human mind, like Newton’s principles of physics.
  • Locke’s system is atomistic and reductionistic.
    • Basic elements of mind are ideas.
    • Ideas come from experience (Locke rejected Descartes).
    • The “blank slate, page of paper, tablet” comes from Aristotle, but characterized empiricism.
  • Ideas have two sources: sensation & reflection.
locke ideas cont
Locke & Ideas (Cont.)
  • Sensations can be illusory or misleading.
  • Ideas are either simple or complex. Simples ideas form a complex idea in several ways:
    • By combining several simple ideas into a single one.
    • By seeing the relation between two simple ideas.
    • By separating simple ideas from other ideas that go with them – the process of abstraction.
  • Locke’s idea about combination of ideas is analogous to a chemical compound (from Boyle).
george berkeley 1685 1753
George Berkeley (1685-1753)
  • Wrote three essays that radically extended Locke’s philosophy into subject idealism (immaterialism).
  • Berkeley argued that because all knowledge of the world comes from experience, the very existence of the external world depends on perception.
    • Matter exists because it is perceived – matter does not exist without a mind.
    • The permanence of the world is thus proof of God’s existence.
  • His book on vision was better regarded in his time.
leibniz a nativist counter voice
Leibniz – A Nativist Counter-Voice
  • Leibniz (1646-1716) – Germany’s leading mathematician, wrote to Locke on politics.
  • His “New Essays on Understanding” rebutted Locke.
  • He considered animals empirics but said humans were only empirical in ¾ of their acts, not all.
    • Necessary and inborn truths are ¼ of the mind, the “innate intellect.”
  • Intellect allows reason & science, gives us knowledge of ourselves and God, is the essence of the human spirit.
leibniz s monadology
Leibniz’s Monadology
  • In “The Monadology,” Leibniz described a system of monads.
    • Monads are an infinite number of elements composing all being and activity, with no parts, not decomposable.
    • Monads are indestructible, uncreatable, immutable.
  • The physical and mental worlds are pluralisms of independent monads that do not interact, in parallel
  • There is a continuum of consciousness-unconsciousness with different levels of activity, with a threshold for consciousness.
two empiricists and a nativist
Two Empiricists and a Nativist

John Locke(1632-1704)

George Berkeley(1685-1753)

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716)

18 19 th century british associationism
18 -19th Century British Associationism
  • Transitional Associationists:
    • Hume
    • Hartley
  • 19th Century Associationists:
    • James Mill
    • John Stuart Mill
    • Bain
  • Nativist Counter-Voice:
    • Kant
david hume 1711 1776
David Hume (1711-1776)
  • Hume studied “pneumatic philosophy” (the name for the science of mental life).
  • People are part of nature so should be studied using the methods of studying nature.
  • He differentiated between impressions & ideas:
    • When impressions & ideas occur together they become associated with each other.
    • 3 kinds of associations: resemblance,
    • contiguity in time or space, cause-and-effect relationship.
david hartley 1705 1757
David Hartley (1705-1757)
  • Hartley said both mind and body are to be studied.
  • Localized mental faculties to the brain, citing the effects of alcohol, poisons & opiates, blows to the head, on thinking.
  • He described visual and auditory after-images as vibrations of medullary particules in nerves in the brain.
    • Vibrations & ideas become associated by occurring simultaneously a sufficient number of times.
    • This is a kind of biological associationism.
two mills father and son
Two Mills – Father and Son
  • James Mill (1773-1836) – wrote a History of British India and an Essay on Government.
    • Believed his son’s mind was a blank slate and dedicated himself to filling it with maximum knowledge
    • John Stuart Mill regarded himself as a “dry, hard, logical machine” and became depressed in early 20s.
    • This led him to recognize the irrational as well as the rational, see humans as more than unfeeling machines.
  • John Stuart Mill rejected his father’s views on women’s capacities & rights, introduced suffrage bill
james mill 1773 1836
James Mill (1773-1836)
  • James Mill wrote “Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind.”
    • Mill added muscle (kinesthesis), tickling & itching, digestive (alimentary) senses to Aristotle’s 5 senses.
  • Described stream of consciousness associations.
    • Some associations stronger than others.
    • Permanence, certainty & facility determine strength.
  • Proposed a model of concatenation (joining) of ideas later refined by his son.
john stuart mill 1806 1873
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
  • Wrote “System of Logic” about metascience – the study of scientific process and assumptions that underlie all sciences, including psychology.
  • J.S. Mill argued that there can be a science of the mind, but it must be inexact, not deterministic.
    • If laws of psychology govern behavior will people’s action be predictable, what happen to responsibility and free will?
    • Saw the need for Ethology – the study of the influence of external circumstances on behavior (not animal).
alexander bain 1818 1903
Alexander Bain (1818-1903)
  • Bain wrote “The Senses and the Intellect,” “The Emotions and the Will,” and “Mind and Body.”
    • The standard British psychology textbooks for 50 years.
    • Founded the journal “Mind,” establishing psychology as a field distinct from philosophy.
  • Developed the concept of habit derived from consequences of random actions, leading directly to Thorndike’s behaviorism.
  • Stressed the importance of observation, sympathetic to experimental method.
immanuel kant 1724 1804
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
  • The leading German epistemologist, Kant was a subjectivist, nativist, rationalist successor to Descartes and Leibniz.
  • Kant wrote “A Critique of Pure Reason” saying that empiricists forgot to ask how experience is possible.
    • Certain intuitions or categories of understanding are inborn and frame our experiences.
    • This knowledge is a priori, whereas experiential knowledge is a posteriori (known afterward).
    • 3 categories of mind: cognition, affection, conation.
kant s view of a priori knowledge
Kant’s View of A Priori Knowledge
  • Concepts of space and time.
  • Other intuitions, including cause and effect, reciprocity, reality, existence and necessity.
  • Higher faculties of reasoning are understanding, judgment, reason.
  • True science must begin with concepts established a priori by reason alone and deal with observable objects that can be located in time and space.
    • Psychology lacks this so it cannot be a science.