Classical theories on human nature
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Classical theories on human nature Aristotle & Plato PLATO (427-347 BCE) Basic interest: The world of truth (Absolutes) beyond the unreliable senses. -> Ideas or Forms are beyond phenomena

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PLATO (427-347 BCE)

  • Basic interest: The world of truth (Absolutes) beyond the unreliable senses.

  • -> Ideas or Forms are beyond phenomena

  • -> Everything in the empirical world is a manifestation of a pure Form (Idea) (Chairs, rocks, cats, and people are inferior manifestations of pure forms).

  • -> Sensory experience --> Ignorance or opinion.

  • -> True knowledge: Grasping forms by rational thought.

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Platonism in psychology?

  • Are personality factors more real than manifestations?

  • How real are the five factors?

  • “We believe it is an empirical fact, like the fact that there are seven continents on earth and eight American presidents from Virginia” (McCrae, & John, 1992, p. 194).

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Story of the Cave:

  • “Story of the Cave” is part of “The Republic”Prisoners represent humans who confuse the shadowy world of sense experience with reality.

  • Interpretations:

  • Human condition / human nature: Are we condemned to remain prisoners of sense experience / appearance?

  • Historical interpretation: Socrates' life.

  • Christian interpretation: Jesus Christ.

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The Nature of the Soul

  • How many parts does the soul have?

  • Soul has three parts:(a) rational component (the soul reflects) (immortal)(b) spirited, courageous component (mortal)(c) appetitive component (desires) (mortal)

  • True knowledge: Person must suppress the needs of the body and concentrate on rational pursuits.

  • Differential theory of human nature: In some individuals: appetitive aspect of the soul dominates -> workers and slaves; in others the courageous aspect of the soul dominates -> soldiers; and in still others the rational aspect dominates -> philosopher kings.

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Plato’s Reminiscence Theory of Knowledge

  • How does one come to know the forms if they cannot be known through sensory experience?

  • -> The soul is implanted in the body. It dwells in pure and complete knowledge; that is, it dwells among the forms.

  • -> After the soul enters the body, this knowledge begins to be contaminated by sensory information.

  • -> True knowledge -> ignore sensory experience. All knowledge comes from remembering the experiences the soul had before entering the body.

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Plato on Gender

  • Was Plato a feminist?

  • Equal opportunity but difference in ability.

  • One education for both sexes, for example, in training to become a guardian.

  • Both sexes should be taught the art of war, carry arms, ride on horseback, and receive the same treatment.

  • Women have the same nature as men -> every occupation should be accessible to them.

  • The difference: Women were not quite as strong as men.

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  • Aristotle was the first philosopher to treat extensively topics that were later to become part of psychology.

  • Tutor to Philip's son, Alexander, who was to become Alexander the Great.

  • Athens. Founded a school: Lyceum (empirical and philosophical)

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The works of Aristotle

  • Collected works: Arranged many centuries after his death (e.g., physics, metaphysics)

  • Topics:

  • Logic, dialectic, metaphysics (founded the field of logic; e.g. syllogism).

  • Science and philosophy of science

  • Psychology and philosophy of mind

    • Soul, senses, memory, sleep, dreams, developmental stages, death, etc.

    • The psychological master work: De Anima (On the Soul).

  • Ethics and politics

  • Aesthetics

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Divergence from Plato

  • Aristotle: Forms do not have a separate existence from particulars.

  • Interested in studying the things in the empirical world and their functions.

  • Nothing can exist without matter, and matter cannot exist without form.

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On knowledge

  • Every kind of knowledge is to be prized.

  • Psyche is a substance capable of receiving knowledge.

  • Three kinds of knowledge:

    • Theoretical knowledge.

    • Practical knowledge.

    • Productive knowledge.

  • Without sensation thought is not possible. Compared the mind to a blank writing tablet (tabula rasa).

  • Not the senses fool us but our incorrect interpretations of the sensory information.

  • However, knowledge is not possible through sense perception alone, since the senses give us only particulars.

  • Deduction and induction.

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“Cause”and Teleology

Everything has four causes:

  • Material cause. What an object or thing is made of.

  • Formal cause. The particular form or pattern of an object.

  • Efficient cause. The force that transforms the matter into a certain form.

  • Final cause. The purpose for which an object exists.

    • Aristotle was a teleologist: He believed there was a plan or design to the universe. Developing and moving to an end, the final cause of motion

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Aristotle's Psychology: De Anima

  • Psyche: Of primary interest to Aristotle

  • All knowledge is valuable but that knowledge of the psyche is to be prized above all.

  • Psyche is not confined to humans alone. Psyche marks the distinction, not between thinking and unthinking beings, but between the organic and the inorganic.

  • Body and psyche are an inseparable unit.

  • Aristotle: Psyche is in the heart. Rejects the Platonic doctrine of the brain as the organ of the psyche.

  • He divides functions into growing, sensing, remembering, desiring, reacting, and thinking.

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The Hierarchy of Souls

  • Three kinds of souls:

  • Vegetative souls: Possessed by plants. It allows only growth, the assimilation of food, and reproduction.

  • Sensitive souls: Possessed by animals and people, but not by plants. The ability to sense is a means for distinguishing an animal from a plant. Locomotion, sensation and memory.

  • Rational souls: Possessed only by humans. It provides all of the functions of the other two souls, and in addition allows thinking or rational thought.

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Psychological Topics

  • 1. Growing

  • 2. Sensing

  • Possessed by animals and people, but not by plants. Five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.

  • Common sense: synthesizing the sensory elements into perceptual units (perception and consciousness).

    • Sensory information: Isolated experiences

    • Common sense: Synthesized experience

    • Passive reason: Utilization of synthesized experience

    • Active reason: Abstraction of principles from synthesized experience

  • Sleep: Caused by fatigue of the common sense.

  • Dreaming: Sensory stimulation that occurred during the waking state is carried over into sleeping.

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Psychological Topics

  • 3. Remembering

  • Effect of sensing that persists after the object is removed.

  • Remembering: Spontaneous reproduction of past perceptions.

  • Recall: Active search to recover these past perceptions.

  • Laws of association: Similarity, contrast, frequency, and contiguity.

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Psychological Topics

  • 4. Desiring and Reacting

  • Pleasure and pain follow upon sensing. Some objects are perceived as pleasurable, and others as unpleasurable.

  • Once these feelings are experienced, desire is introduced. When an activity is pleasurable, it tends to be exercised

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Psychological Topics

  • 5. Thinking

  • The human being is the only animal that thinks.

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Middle ground

  • Golden mean: The desirable middle ground between any two extremes.

  • Examples: Appetite, humor, spending money, etc.

  • Education: The right sort of habituation for establishing the virtue of character must avoid excess and deficiency.

  • Age: Middle age is more desirable than youth or old age.

  • Q: Is the middle ground always the best choice?

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  • An end in itself.

  • It is not amusement but virtuous action.

  • Theoretical study is the supreme element.

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  • Humans have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves.

  • Man is by nature a political animal.

  • Man is the only animal endowed with speech.

  • Some men are by nature free, some men are by nature slaves.

  • Comment: Rhetoric of “by nature”.