Philosophers and Scientist of Modern Psychology Essay
While the philosophical distinction between mind and body can be traced back to the Greeks, it is due to the works of one great Philosopher that till this very day this is still in existence. Rene Descartes was the first to ever talk about the interactions of the mind and body, which later on in psychological history caught the attention of others who came after him such as James and Wundt. Descartes stated that not only body can influence mind, but that mind could also affect body. Descartes was a famous mathematician born in France. He was known as the father of modern philosophy for his works in the fields of math, science and philosophy.
For real scientific progress in psychology we will not give Descartes credit though, the credit must be given to scientific thinkers who came way after Descartes. So basically philosophy as a science was not due to Descartes. Going deeper than just the thought want know how the mind and body interaction really work and also consciousness was due to scientific thinkers such as Wilhelm Wundt and William James who along with his medical training came up with some great findings as well. The foundation of modern psychological thought and treatments date back as far as Rene Descartes Wundt, and James.
Their works are still taught in current times. The schools of have gone through and seen several changes in the past two thousand years, many of the basic foundations and principles are still the same but some how we will see the modern concept that previous thinkers came up with have made some changes even though there are still many similarities. Lets take James for instance, he was the first to write a textbook on psychology and even though it has been revised and rewritten, many of the concepts and findings still to this day are taught.
Same as with Wundt and Descartes we have been taught about each one in the order they came from the early times to the most current times. Each theory as they were developed and this had enabled us to get a better understanding of the field of psychology. Rene Descartes attended college at the tender age of 8 where apart from math and science he studied grammar and literature. He then went on to study law for a short period. Descartes receives a degree in law and he also studied medicine, philosophy, and theology. Descartes spent a short time in the army as well.
Descartes believed that science and mathematic tics could explain everything that happened in nature. He made a career move and took a position in Sweden to tutor the Queen but the queen only wanted her study lessons at 5:00am which for Descartes this was not good due to his health. He eventually contracted pneumonia from which he died. The question weather the mind and body is connected is a question that has been asked by many philosophers and it was Descartes who solved it. Descartes spoke of dualism stating that our mind has more than just the responsibility of thinking.
This concept entails that our mind has a non-material, spiritual dimension that includes consciousness and possibly an eternal attribute. One way to understand this concept is to consider our self as a container including our physical body and physical brain along with a separate non-physical mind, spirit, or soul. The mind, spirit, or soul is considered the conscious part that manifests itself through the brain in a similar way that picture waves and sound waves manifest themselves through a television set. The picture and sound waves are also non-material just like the mind, spirit, or soul. (http://www. llaboutphilosophy. org/dualism. htm)
At the time of Descartes findings, it was accepted because no one had an answer to the question that many men could not find the answer to. I do believe that Rene Descartes came up of something good when he came up with the mind and body theory. Descartes theory of mind and body was very distinct, Descartes came to this conclusion by that the sole purpose of the mind is for thinking, a non extended thing and that it is very different from the body that is an extended thing for this reason Descartes thesis is that it is possible for one to exist without the other.
Even in this current time it is still debated mind and body interaction for example is it possible for the to act on it’s own or the body to act on it’s own. Descartes believed that bodily functions occur when the mind and the body interacts with each other such as lifting a leg and jumping up and down. I never put much thought into this but it all makes sense to me. If I have an itch, it is the mind that tells the hands to scratch. I really believe Descartes findings to be somewhat true but not all true. I think if a person is in a coma, and the get out of it, it is the mind that works first and then the body after.
Descartes also said that animals did not have brains. This is the reason I said somewhat agreed with his theory. This side of Descartes theory I believe to be untrue. Many animals were dissected alive because of this belief and it took years for this to come to an end. Based on my prior psychological knowledge, I think that it is almost like a domino effect. The work of one philosopher led to the work of others, which in turn makes this to be a never-ending process. Two of the major schools of thought that were most prevalent in psychology’s earliest years were structuralism and functionalism.
Structionilism followed Wundt and functionalism followed William James (1842-1910). (Cherry. K.. about. com. 2005) James was not the most famous advocate and most liked psychologist. He ranked second to Wundt as on of the most liked psychologist of all times. (Schultz, D. & Schultz, S. , p. 163). Some of James colleagues did not view his as being a positive force because they did not believe in some of the practices he participated in. William James was born in New York City. His family was well off. His father at that time was known as the second richest man in the United States. (Schultz. D. & Schultz. S.. p. 164).
James was fortunate enough to be educated in Europe before returning to the US and continuing with his education. James attended Harvard University. He also went to medical school for a short period of time and decided he was not interested. He also had a short career in biology when he went to Brazil to assist zoologist Louis Agassiz in the Amazon River. (Schultz, D. & Schultz, S. , p. 165). A lot of James later years was when he decided he wanted to get involved in psychology. Prior to his interest he still taught some classes at Harvard and in his introduction, he insisted that he not be called or introduced as a psychologist.
James believed that the goal of psychology was to study people adapting to their environment. “Consciousness is vital to the needs of complex beings in a complex environment; without it, human evolution could not have occurred. ” (Schultz, 2008) Unlike Wundt, James did not found any school of thought. His ideas however, were clear and effective enough to influence the functionalist movement that was permeating American psychology. I think that James had a more significant impact on modern psychological thought because his work focused more on behaviors in the environment and that opened the doors for behaviorism.
As it stands today, I believe that James did a significant amount of work and made some great findings. His book The Principles of Psychology was a great success and several generations of students and it is also know as the most influential book written in psychology. Of course Wundt and Titchener did not approve of James writing and his findings but in the end, all of these great philosophers and great scientific thinkers will always be a part of the history of psychology and will always be studied due to their contribution to the field.