We will discuss today Essay About Psychology.
The word Psychology is nowadays on every one’s lips. Not only are there special treatises on the subject, but you cannot take up an essay on Law, Economics, or History, or even glance at a newspaper article, political or literary, without finding some allusion to psychological principles and laws, and these occur with such frequency as to lead a reader to suppose that such principles and laws have a common usage and acceptance. Of late, too, we have the so-called psychological novel, which, as opposed to the naturalistic, selects for its subject the human Ego.
There is undoubtedly, then, a very general interest in matters psychological, although few persons seem to possess a very precise or definite notion of what is comprehended in the term Psychology, applicable as it is to subjects as manifold and various as the points of view from which the idea which it embodies can be conceived. The art critic or the novelist looks at psychological principles from one point of view, the jurist or the physiologist from another. For the former Psychology is only a more or less felicitous intuition of different states of mind brought about by varied contingencies of individual and social life ; for the latter it is an exact, almost a mathematical formula of principles derived from experiments and long experience, so that one might almost say that the former regards it as a branch of art, and the latter as a branch of science.
The steady growth of the interest in psychological research renders it extremely desirable that the necessary scientific accuracy should be brought to bear on the subject, so as to secure the best possible result. As with the biological and physical sciences, which do not produce immediate practical results, so with Psychology— it should form the subject of a special study. As many readers are aware, psychological research has been prosecuted of late years with great enthusiasm and industry, especially in Germany and England, more recently in France and Italy.
Although scientists may still differ as to the position which Psychology ought to occupy among the sciences, it is, nevertheless, an undoubted fact that, as regards experimental research, the study has already freed itself from dependence on other philosophic systems, and that among its numerous votaries there is growing up an ever increasing harmony of methods and aims which renders it practically autonomous. The majority of the better-known modern psychologists no longer occupy themselves with seeking a connection between the study of psychic phenomena and general systems of philosophy, but use the empirical method and keep as much as possible to objective facts.
It is true that this procedure only goes back for about twenty years, and it is worth considering how the gradual disconnection of Psychology from the other philosophical sciences has come about, and why it was so much later in coming about than that of mathematics and the natural and moral sciences — a fact evidenced by the doubts still entertained by many whether it is indeed an independent science.
Psychology, as such, was either an introduction or a corollary : an introduction in the eyes of those who, like the English, took especial account of the practical importance of ethical and juridical problems ; a corollary in the eyes of those who, like the authors of the great philosophic systems of the seventeenth century and of the Romantic period, had principally in view the establishment of certain transcendental ideas, from which they derived and dialectic ally elaborated all secondary conceptions. Among st the philosophers of the empirical, or, to use a more modern phrase, the positivist school, which has always existed along with and opposed to the idealistic in the history of thought, it was natural that the necessity of gauging the motives which govern man’s actions towards other men, or which compel him to create works of art, or to believe, for instance, in the supernatural, should make itself felt. Herein lay another and a patent incentive to psychological research.
In the history of thought in Greece a most important moment was undoubtedly reached when Philosophy, having abandoned the great cosmological theories of the earlier thinkers, turned with Socrates and the Sophists to the study of the psychological motives which determine men’s actions in life, and attempted to found all moral laws on these alone. The metaphysical tendency continued even after Socrates ; but it is a fact that the study of psychic phenomena, which Aristotle subsequently raised to great import- ance, has ever since been considered both by ancient and modern originators of philosophic systems as an indispensable foundation and starting-point of every hypothesis.
All the other sciences deal either with some aspect of the external and objective world or with some manifestation of man’s intellectual or moral life, and contemplate such objects singly, separating them by means of a process of abstraction from the other component parts of the material or psychic world, as the case may be. Psychology, on the other hand, does not contemplate merely one side of man’s thoughts or actions but the whole of his psychic being in its general modes of feeling, thought, and volition.
If we admit this general difference, it is easy to comprehend the difficulty of separating the study of psychic phenomena from that of philosophy, which, for a long period at least, was governed solely by rational principles founded on the laws of the mind, which are the object matter of Psychology.
It was difficult to separate the study of Psychology from that of ethics, inasmuch as ethical laws were mixed up with psychic laws, and it is notorious that ethical ideas were in the eyes of many philosophers — especially those who followed empirical methods the principal object of philosophy, whilst even among students of metaphysics they constituted both the starting-point and the end of their speculations. On the other hand, ethical conceptions were influenced by metaphysical and theological ideas, which for a long time they were unable to shake off; and this also rendered any direct and independent study of psychic phenomena impossible.