History & Systems of Psychology
Chapter 6 - Rationalism
Rationalists vs. Empiricists
The mind is not passive but ACTIVE. The active mind can transform and interpret information from the senses. It can also discover principles and concepts from that sensory information.
Emphasize reasons rather than causes.
Emphasize deduction rather than induction.
We will be looking at a few of the rationalists, and especially at their contributions to the field of psychology.
Especially important will be their emphasis on innate mental abilities (thinking, reasoning, etc.) and the active nature of the mind.
They also believed that the mind is subject to natural laws and therefore can be studied.
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)
Jewish philosopher condemned by both Jews & Christians for view of God
Disagreed with deistic view of Descartes & Newton; believed that God not only started the world but is present everywhere all the time (form of pantheism)
Mind & body inseparable and influence each other
Psychic determinism – processes of the mind are subject to natural laws & can be studied
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716)
Mathematician who developed differential & integral calculus same time as Newton
Disagreed with empiricist idea that there is nothing in the mind that is not first in the senses
Nothing physical/mechanical can ever explain the existence of ideas. Therefore, NO idea can come from experience.
Ability to have ideas is innate.
Experience is important to allow us to organize our thoughts & act appropriately, but it does not cause our thoughts.
First philosopher to clearly postulate an unconscious mind
What is experienced consciously can be explained in terms of events beyond the realm of conscious experience – “insensible perceptions”
These perceptions beyond conscious awareness combine (build up) until they form “apperception” – conscious experience
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Started as disciple of Leibniz, set out to dispute Hume and skepticism he caused
Introduced notion of a priori pure concepts of the mind, or categories of thought, such as unity, time, cause & effect, reality, etc.; therefore not true that all we have is subjective experience
Phenomenological experience is result of interaction between sensations & categories of thought. We can never know “raw” reality directly, but only as our mind perceives & interprets it.
Attempted to rescue moral philosophy from empiricists & their utilitarian morality
Categorical imperative: “I should never act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law.”
Ideas of moral responsibility assumed free will and rational abilities
Focus on reason for moral behavior vs. empiricists’ focus on causes of behavior
Defined psychology as introspective analysis of the mind
Psychology could not be a science because mind is not physical, is constantly changing, cannot be described in mathematical terms
Did believe in unscientific but useful study of human behavior (“anthropology”) based on ordinary observation of people
Johann Herbart (1776-1841)
Did not believe psychology could be an experimental science, because the mind could not be divided up to be studied
Did believe the activities of the mind could be expressed mathematically & tried to use calculus to quantify mental activity (one of first to do so)
Psychic Mechanics: once formed, ideas have a life of their own & never die; ideas have the power to attract similar ideas & repel incompatible ideas; all ideas struggle to gain expression in consciousness by competing with other ideas; self-preservation is fight of ideas to be conscious
Apperceptive Mass: group of compatible ideas present at any given moment in conscious mind; all ideas we are attending to; ideas outside AM will be allowed in only if compatible
Repression: force holding incompatible ideas in the unconscious
Application to educational psychology: must take into account student’s existing apperceptive mass when presenting new material; suggests:
Review material already learned
Prepare for new material by giving preview to create a receptive apperceptive mass
Present new material
Relate new material to what has been learned
Show applications of new material
AM similar to Piaget’s idea of cognitive structure