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History & Systems of Psychology
Chapter 7 – Romanticism & Existentialism

The Enlightenment
The Enlightenment or Age of Reason ushered in by the work of Galileo, Newton, Descartes, etc., & embraced by empiricists & rationalists
Vs. “Dark Ages” of irrationality & superstition
Questioned Church, thinkers mostly deists
Reason supreme & rationality most important human characteristic, “irrational” aspects such as emotions devalued
Knowledge = power; understanding abstract principles governing universe (knowledge) would give power to improve society

Challenges to Enlightenment Thinking
Some saw search for abstract universal principles about people as impersonal & misleading
Said human beings governed by personal experience & individual perspectives
Individual truth vs. universal truth re people
Major critics: Romantics & Existentialists, starting in the late 18th century
We will look at two people from each school of thought

Romanticism
Humans more than intellect & senses, also have emotions, intuitions – “irrational” components
Need to study the whole person
Vs. E: emotions from pain & pleasure, conditioned through laws of association
Vs. R: emotions from pain & pleasure, destructive & must be controlled by reason
For Romantics, the good life was one lived honestly, in accordance with one’s inner nature.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Father of Romanticism
Inner feelings as guide for action
Famous book, The Social Contract, said all European govts based on faulty idea that people need to be governed; advocated govt that allowed people to reach potential
No original sin, idealized “noble savage”
Distrusted organized religion, but Protestants used arguments to support importance of individual relationship/experience re God

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
Major influence on Freud
“will to survive” leads to unending cycle of need & need satisfaction
All suffer, but intelligent suffer most
People should try to rise above powerful irrational forces through sublimation & denial
Anticipated Freud in discussing the unconscious mind, repression of undesirable thoughts, resistance to recognizing them

Existentialism
Existentialists also rebelled against Enlightenment thought as expressed by empiricists & rationalists
Existentialism emphasized importance of
meaning in life
ability to choose meaning
uniqueness of each individual
Most important aspects of people are personal, subjective interpretations of life & choices they make in light of interpretations

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Religion (and science) too rational & mechanical
Importance of intensely personal relationship with God arrived at through personal choice
Truth is subjective; beliefs cannot be taught with logic, but must be experienced
Belief in God as “leap of faith,” relationship with God as “love affair,” Bible as love letter

Kierkegaard, cont.
Stages of personal freedom
Aesthetic stage: people open to experience & seek pleasure; hedonistic; don’t recognize ability to choose; leads to boredom & despair
Ethical stage: accept responsibility of making choices but use others’ ethical principles (i.e., church dogma)
Religious stage: recognize & accept freedom & enter into personal relationship with God which guides life; often nonconformists

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Saw self as psychologist, influenced Freud but was a greater influence on Adler
Human nature divided into 2 parts:
Apollonian aspect: rational, desires tranquility & order
Dionysian aspect: irrational, attracted to creative chaos & passionate experience
Best of art/lit and life is a fusion of these aspects – controlled passion, living fully, taking risks
Dionysian (“barbarian”) aspects must be controlled & sublimated or will be destructive, but Western thought has overemphasized rationality
Discussed repression, but mostly opposed to it

Nietzsche, cont.
Re God: “God is dead and we killed him.” (“We” = Enlightenment scientists & philosophers)
There is no ultimate meaning, only individual perspectives
Must know self and act on that knowledge
Must recognize our “will to power” (innate desire to gain mastery over self & destiny) and move toward realization of potential
Become “superman” when find meaning within, combine Ap. & Dion. aspects in unique way