Philosophers and Scientists in Psychology Essay

Much of the intellectual history of psychology has involved the attempt to come to grips with the problem of mind and body and how they interact. While the philosophical distinction between mind and body can be traced back to the Greeks, it is due to the work of Rene Descartes. When Descartes’ friend, Marin Mersenne, wrote to him of Galileo’s fate at the hands of the Inquisition, Descartes immediately suppressed his own treatise. As a result, the world’s first extended essay on physiological psychology was published only well after its author’s death.

Descarte was the first to talk about mind/body interactions, and had a great influence in later psychologists and thinkers. He proposed that not only body can influence mind, but that mind could also affect body. Rene Descartes was a famous mathematician born in Touraine, France on March 31, 1596. Descartes was said to be the father of modern philosophy for his works in the fields of math, science and philosophy. At the age of 8 he attended the Royal College at La Fleche where he was educated as a Jesuit scholar. The king established this school, which was a Jesuit college that was for the young nobility.

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At this point he had a liking towards mathematics. While in school his health was poor and he was granted permission to remain in bed until 11am, which was a routine he maintained until his death. Later, he attended and got a degree in Law at the University of Poitiers. Two years later Descartes joined the Prince of Orange Army in Holland. There he met a scientist named Isaac Beekman, who told Descartes of new developments in mathematics. After this, he traveled around Europe and joined the Duke of Bavaria’s army. “Living on the income of lands he nherited, Descartes served without pay and also saw very little action”, although he fought in the battle of Prague which was one of the major battles of the Thirty Years War. (Encyclopedia of World History, 1998). Although Descartes traveled a lot, he still sought out to find and make friends with mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers and his most important friendship was with Isaac Beeckman. He recommended Descartes to begin scientific writings on math and music. . Then in 1629 he moved to Holland and lived primarily in Amsterdam for the next two decades.

Here in Holland is where he made came up with the foundation of analytic geometry, which Galileo also helped to create. This work was one of his most significant works, although he may have used information from previous mathematicians, however, he always claimed that his works were original and never came from anyone else (O’Connor/Robertson, 1997). Descartes studies led him to see a new way of thinking. His first work the “Rules for the Direction of the Mind” showcased his new beliefs. Even though this was distributed in manuscript form, this book was never published until 1701.

Descartes in this book, Descartes gave the assumption that man’s knowledge was limited by the untrue belief that the various objects of experience determine science. By 1634, Descartes had written his book “The World” and unfortunately only parts of this book survived due to the Catholic Church condemning it. He then held back his book because he supported the Copernican theory. (which Galileo wrote about) The theory stated that the Earth was the not the center of the universe but revolved around the sun and he had written about it in his book “The World. “

Descartes wanted to conclude in unquestionable truths, and therefore held the highest standards in his quest. Knowledge had to be doubtless, based upon universal, one hundred percent correct facts. In order to achieve this he took anything partially or possibly as completely false to ‘be on the safe side’, so to speak. He started, then, by analyzing his epistemological sources. Firstly, senses sometimes deceive us: a straight stick appears bent when put into water, the world seems to shimmer over the roads on hot days, things appear smaller when further away. Therefore Descartes disregards all sensory information.

He then moves on to all the traditional knowledge. Claiming to have witnessed men making mistakes in reasoning (for example, in mathematical calculations), he decides to further discount all existing ideas or arguments. Finally, he declares that the same experiences can be felt whilst awake or asleep, and attributes all his experiences hitherto as illusions. Descartes discovers a truth , that in order for all his arguments to emerge he must have been thinking. Because of the nature of thought, you cannot doubt that you are thinking; for that is a thought in itself.

Even if all the information from his senses concerning the world was falsely fed by an evil demon, the very fact that he was being deceived shows he is some existing thinking thing and exists to be deceived. He considered the mind of this subject as completely distinct from all matter, including the body, although the mind and body are connected and can affect each other. This theory is the famous Cartesian “mind-body split,” although the division of the soul and the body into two separate essences was a traditional distinction that preceded Descartes.

Therefore; Descartes had to locate the actual point where the body and mind interact. He also states that because the research had shown that sensations travel to the brain and movement generates inside the brain, it has to have occurred inside the brain. Descartes suggested that the body works like a machine, that it has the material properties of extension and motion, and that it follows the laws of physics. The mind (or soul), on the other hand, was described as a nonmaterial entity that lacks extension and motion, and does not follow the laws of physics.

Descartes argued that only humans have minds, and that the mind interacts with the body at the pineal gland. This form of dualism or duality proposes that the mind controls the body, but that the body can also influence the otherwise rational mind, such as when people act out of passion. Descartes suggested that the pineal gland is “the seat of the soul” for several reasons. First, the soul is unitary, and unlike many areas of the brain the pineal gland appeared to be unitary (though subsequent microscopic inspection has revealed it is formed of two hemispheres).

Second, Descartes observed that the pineal gland was located near the ventricles. He believed the animal spirits of the ventricles acted through the nerves to control the body, and that the pineal gland influenced this process. Finally, Descartes incorrectly believed that only humans have pineal glands, just as, in his view, only humans have minds. This led him to the belief that animals cannot feel pain, and Descartes’ practice of the dissection of live animals became widely used throughout. Cartesian dualism set the agenda for philosophical discussion of the mind-body problem for many years after Descartes’ death.

People till this day still use the method of dissection to learn. Parallelism in this form is usually traced to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). Historian, mathematician, philosopher, scientist, and diplomat, Leibniz was born and received most of his education in Leipzig. Leibniz presented the famous articulation of psychophysical parallelism in which he adapted an occasionalist metaphor to support the view that soul and body exist in a pre-established harmony. Comparing soul and body to two clocks that agree perfectly, Leibniz argued that there are only three possible sources for this agreement.

It may occur through mutual influence (interactionism), through the efforts of a skilled workman who regulates the clocks and keeps them in accord (occasionalism), or by virtue of the fact that they have been so constructed from the outset that their future harmony is assured (parallelism). Leibniz rejects interactionism because it is impossible to conceive of material particles passing from one substance to the other and occasionalism as invoking the intervention of a Deus ex machina in a natural series of events.

All that remains is parallelism — the notion that mind and body exist in a harmony that has been pre- established by God from the moment of creation. Gustav Theodor Fechner, the German philosopher and scientist, was the founder of psychophysics, and a pioneer in experimental psychology. He formulated Fechner’s law, a landmark in the emergence of psychology as an experimental science. He was born in Gross-Saerchen, Prussia, and studied medicine at The University of Leipzig, where he passed his examinations at the age of twenty one.

He earned a degree in biological science in 1822 and taught at the University till his death. By 1830 he had published more than 40 papers in this field. A paper on the quantitative measurement of electrical currents (1831) led him to become a professor of physics at Leipzig. Fechner’s interest in psychology is shown in paper of 1838 and 1840 on the perception of complimentary colors and afterimages. This led to a breakdown after having injured his eyes while experimenting on these afterimages by gazing at the sun.

His blindness led to a more serious emotional crisis and Fechner resigned his professorship in 1839 and isolated himself from the world for about 3 years. He complained of exhaustion and could not sleep at night. He was having so much trouble eating to the point where it was starvation but yet could not feel the hunger. He also tried many alternative medical treatments, which none of them provided a cure. During this period there was an interest in philosophy. Fechner believed that everything is endowed with a soul and nothing is without a material basis.

Also that mind and matter are the same essence, but seen from different sides. He also believed that psychophysical experiments in psychology were demonstrated and proved. The problem that concerned Fechner, and to which his psychophysics was a solution, was the perennial mind-body problem. His solution has been called the identity hypothesis: mind and body are not regarded as a real dualism, but are different sides of one reality. They are separated into sensation and stimulus; that is what appears from a subjective viewpoint as the mind, appears from an external or objective viewpoint as the body.

In the expression of the equation of Fechner’s law (sensation intensity=C log stimulus intensity), it becomes evident that the dualism is not real. While this law has been criticized as illogical, and for not having universal applicability, it has been useful in research on hearing and vision. Fechner’s work on the relation between physical stimuli and sensations led to a mathematical formulation that he called the law of intensity, which states that the intensity of a sensation increases as the logarithm of the stimulus, that is, by diminishing increments.

When Fechner realized that his principal corresponded to the findings of E. H. Weber (1795-1878), he called it Weber’s Law, a name now reserved for the vaguer statement that a barely noticeable difference in stimulus has a constant ratio to the stimulus. Fechner’s studies in psychophysics included a number of classical experiments on the perception of weight, visual brightness, and distance. Although Fechner was originally trained as a physicist, the basis of his interest in mental measurement was far more metaphysical than scientific.

Committed to panpsychism, the notion that all nature is besouled, and rejecting the Cartesian dualism of mind and body, Fechner adopted a dual-aspect monistic view of the relationship between the psychical and the physical. Dual-aspect monism holds that mind and body are two aspects of one and the same existent (Lasswitz, K. , 1896). Just as a curved line can be characterized at every point by both concavity and convexity, all nature, Fechner argued, can be as readily viewed from the psychical as from the physical perspective. The psychical and the physical, n other words, are the dual aspects under which nature appears in experience. To achieve this goal, however, Fechner had to find a way to measure the intensity of mental process; and this presented a very significant problem. Unlike physical processes, which are external, public, objective, and open to direct measurement, mental processes are internal, private, subjective, and cannot be measured directly. Somehow, an indirect method had to be developed. According to Fechner’s own account, it was on the 22nd of October 1850 that he arrived at a point that would give him the solution to this problem.

Relative increase in mental intensity, he realized, might be measured in terms of the relative increase in physical energy required to bring it about. This insight, in effect, defined the psychophysical program; and for the next ten years Fechner devoted himself to developing measurement methods, gathering data on the psychophysics of lifted weights, visual brightnesses, and tactual and visual distances, and systematizing the mathematical principles underlying his work. In 1860 he published the results of his ten year effort in one of experimental psychology’s most original monographs, the Elemente der Psychophysik.

The Elemente consisted of two volumes. The first volume was devoted to what Fechner called “outer psychophysics,” the study of the functional relationship between increase in physical stimulus magnitude and increase in sensation. Here he described three probabilistic methods for the collection of psychophysical data, marshaled a great deal of evidence in support of the existence of a logarithmic relationship between the intensity of sensation and the intensity of the stimulus, and spelled out the basic assumptions of psychophysics.

In the second volume of the Elemente, Fechner went on to address “inner psychophysics,” the nature of the functional relationship between the intensity of sensation and the magnitude of nervous activity in the brain (Lasswitz, K. ,1896). In this analysis, of course, he was seriously restricted by the inaccessibility of nervous process and the relatively undeveloped state of brain science; but true to his metaphysic, he concluded that the relationship between physical brain process and psychical sensation must, like that between physical stimulus and psychical sensation, be logarithmic in form.

Given the theory of Descartes I do believe that analyzing by using dissection was a very good idea. He used this in order to get true facts and to prove a point. Goodwin, C. J. (2005). A History of Modern Psychology. John Wiley and Sons Inc. Schultz, Duane P. (2007,2008). History of Psychology. Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner (2009) Psychology Hotherstall, David (2003) History of psychology Hergenhahn, B. R. (2008) An Introduction to the History of Psychology


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