Notes toward a Philosophic Psychology
Mark A. McDonald
Chapter I: Psychology and Modern Science
Psychology is the account or reasoning about the psyche: the life, soul or consciousness, including the thought or mind. The Oxford dictionary definition of Psychology is “The science of the nature, functions and phenomenon of the human soul.” There are many weighty attempts to deny the existence or causal significance of the soul. But we say, “It is that in which you are considering this question.” And the soul is that in which, when you pursue her mysteries, that knowledge may arise: it is that which learns.
Everyone has difficulty saying what the soul is, centering mostly on the sameness and difference between oneself and one’s soul, mind, spirit, person, and personality. Is reason a part of the soul or the essence, identical with one’s identity? A related meaning of psyche or soul is that with which we love, and sometimes the heart is most identified with the center or what each most is. We do not know whether it is right to say that one is or one has a mind or soul. It is difficult to describe the relation between mind and soul and oneself. The word psyche is Greek, though the Greeks seem to have had no word for the study of psych-ology. According to John Keats, (Ode to Psyche), Psyche was the “latest born and loveliest far” of all the Greek gods, “Olympus’ faded hierarchy.” In the Bible, the Hebrew words Nephesh and Rauch are a study in themselves, and in one chapter we will attempt to follow out the Biblical use of the words for soul, flesh and spirit. We cannot but be surprised many times, as our words for these things come from Greek philosophy, rather than the patriarchs and prophets. The Nephesh is not immortal, but similar to the body or animate life of the human person. “One flesh” even means one soul. Spirit, or the breath of life, is different, and it is not so clear that this is mortal. The Greek word psyche also means life or the human life. The resurrection of the body, a spiritual body, implies the resurrection and immortality of the soul. In Latin, anima is the same in root as animal, the self moving animal life that we share with all these. A study of the psyche of animals might be very interesting. Roloff Bijkerk would say “Is a dog conscious? Sure (it is). I can knock it unconscious.” Many times we will find that functions thought to be uniquely human are shared by all animal nature. What we have that they do not, in addition to that thing about tools and practical reason, is science. And just now, at the start of the Twenty First Century, the veil over the animal kingdom seems to have been lifted, and mankind seems to be coming much more to enjoy his companion Zoa.[i] And as the Twentieth Century psychologists taught, the psyche is more than consciousness, and we are more than we know. The psyche is more than thought or the conscious mind: The psyche also contains unimagined potentialities and unknown heights and depths. The mind, too, or reason, as distinct from the soul, is more than we know. Who would have thought the events of the two and a half millennia since Socrates were even possible? What else was possible that did not occur? The scientific study of the soul has found very little development, and was almost unknown prior to the Twentieth Century.
What we mean by psychology is the knowledge or science of man, and so this science might even be called “anthropology.” We mean to include both the political and filial nature, and to understand the individual in light of the nature of the soul or man. Hence, while psychology is a division or a kind of philosophy, it especially requires the study of politics. Psychology is in one sense a division of the study or science of politics and in another sense is its essence. Literature, history, theology, economics, music and the sciences, especially biology, are also involved. And though the topic is ourselves, it is notoriously difficult, even precipitous, and so we must especially seek help from every part of knowledge. It is, in another sense, the comprehensive human knowledge.
Modern psychology has been especially limited or hindered by the attempt to imitate the modern method that has proven so successful in the effort to master and possess nature by understanding the causes of things. Impressive demonstrations, as by Piaget in cognition and Chomsky and others in Linguistics, show that there is genuine science achievable by the experimental method. Following Janet and Freud, psychology was first studied and practiced as a division of the science and practice of medicine. Defects and maladies of the human being are treated like bodily diseases, and following the churches model of the hospital, there came to be the asylum, like St. Mary’s of Bethlehem, alluded to by Shakespeare’s Edgar, when he is entering into his disguise as a mad beggar. Michael Foucault, in Madness and Civilization, has written of the history of the care for the insane. While madness has always been with man, the attempt to understand and treat these persons as a branch of medicine did not exist, or barely existed before the eighteen hundreds, the Nineteenth Century.[ii]
While academic psychology has tended toward the experimental, practical psychology has tended toward the medical. A replacement for psychology, “Behaviorism” pervades both. The school or movement sought to set aside the questions of what cannot be so easily observed with bodily senses, and focus on the external “behavior,” which, it is assumed, is accessible to scientific observation. Out of this attempt to limit study comes the concern with effecting behavior, as by “positive reinforcement” or “operant conditioning” and such things, applying to human beings the same principles that animal trainers have known for years. These things work, or are effective, because man is after all part animal, sharing the lower third with other animals, governed by pleasure, and pain. We are also governed, in our more noble parts, by praise and blame, including self satisfaction. And higher still, we are also governed by the good and true, the just and the beautiful. As will be argued or explained further below, behavior modification is a tool or instrument, a means that can be good or bad depending upon the ends toward which these methods are used. But it is the ends that are presupposed by the technologies, ends that we do not know, and need to know more about, if all our science is not to do us more harm than good. Man has always used his powers toward gaining wealth and power, driving the instrument of war. Meanwhile, in medical psychology, neurological explanations and corresponding chemical treatments have recently become dominant, replacing the idea of “therapy” that prevailed throughout the twentieth century, following Freud. Freud abandoned his early neurological studies- he may have been the world’s leading neurologist- in an attempt to help treat what they call “neurosis.” Literally, this would mean a disease of the neurons, but they mean it as a technical term, describing a malady less severe than “Psychosis.” In principle, thought neurology may one day cure people, but despaired of progress soon enough. When Freud turned to the attempt to understand the human things in human terms, modern pre-Socratic psychology begins. Freud developed what he called the “talking cure,” because patients seemed to be helped especially by talking to the doctor. His most successful work may have been the cure of “hysteria,” assisted by hypnosis. Symptoms would be remedied when traumatic memories were recovered. This would not be surprising if, as we shall see, self knowledge is the enterprise most fundamental to the health of the soul. While Freud attempted to understand the human phenomenon, he did this on the biological basis of a medical scientist, leading him to emphasize the appetites in common between man and the other animals. Therapy or “psychoanalysis” became a sort of bizarre modern replacement for the confessional, where sins could be communicated or known, and people not be left alone in their darkness. One sees the purpose of the medieval orders when these function correctly, and we think too that we see the reason that psychology emerged when it did, after a century of the filtering down of Science and the enlightenment view of things. The circumstance is strangely artificial, though the objectivity of the supposed doctor seems in some ways sometimes helpful. The Nineteenth Century medical practice of psychology or psychiatry led to our contemporary assumption, though, that there is a profession of persons with an esoteric and authoritative knowledge of the soul analogous to the knowledge of the body at the basis of medicine. Recently, the ability to see inside the brain has greatly impressed the modern psychiatrist, where parts can be seen to light up during different activities. The science seems prepared to throw overboard all other reasoning about man to study which parts of the brain are involved in which activities. As will be argued by reference to a discussion of Socrates, this seems to be an error, to identify the brain with the cause of the thought or action because it is involved in thought and action. One might almost as well think the furrowing of the brow the cause of thought, and seek to control or treat thought by manipulating the brow.
In an old experiment, a neurosurgeon stimulated a part of the brain causing an arm to move or jump. But what the neurosurgeon could not do, and apparently cannot do is make us choose to move our arm. The self motion involved in human choice appears to be prior to the mechanics of neurology. This would be encouraging, as we now face the danger of a future tyranny with modern science at its disposal. It may simply be that it is the organism as a whole that chooses, and animals also make choices, if their input is a bit simpler. Descartes, in postulating the dualism that quickly led to the division between rationalism and empiricism in philosophy, suggested that the seat of the soul might be the pineal gland. This makes sense from introspection, as we can locate our consciousness somewhere behind our eyes, between our ears, below our skulls, and above the roof of our mouths. Yet our consciousness is also present in our hand, though in a lesser and different sense, as though consciousness within coincides with the nervous system seen from outside. The eyes are a part of the nervous system, even touching the air. The suggestion is that we are given an objective or outside and a subjective or inside view only of the human being, but that this “both” is a great key. Man seen from the outside, by an observer, is of course more than anatomy. Observing two neighbors and their fence line, one can learn things inaccessible to anatomy and neurology.
How would neurology ever help us to determine the priorities, or which things are more important than other things, the ends toward which our powers are used, or what a most happy or perfect human soul would look like? What is the good or what the happy life? Intelligence is especially the apprehension of the right priorities, in addition to truly understanding the circumstances in which we find ourselves. So we say that wealth and power are useful instruments, and even helpful in some ways in themselves, though there is much that is more important.
Modern social science has taken great pains to teach us that there is no truth to the ethical things, no facts at the basis of “values.” Values are simply subjective, with no one able to say anything true about what makes one thing better than any other. This opinion, imported from anthropology and the comparison of many cultures, leaves us with no guide from science regarding how to use the powers granted by the new technology. The value of this science cannot be established by this science. It cannot establish that we ought not have a philosophic rather than this scientific psychology. All modern thought is self-contradictory, if the issue be pressed.
The fact that modern psychology and psychiatry generally make no use of the Socratic study of the soul defies explanation. One is tempted to say that there is more knowledge of the psyche in one line of Aristotle’s Ethics or a Platonic dialogue than an entire text of modern scientific psychology. We will draw much of our study from ancient Greece. For the ancients, politics and psychology are not separate studies, but are joined, as appears in the principle linking the forms of the regime and the forms of the soul. There is a two part account, of body and mind, and there is a three part account of the parts of the soul, desire spiritedness and reason, as are distinguished in Plato’s Republic. The three kinds of regime, democracy, aristocracy and kingship, are based on the dominance of these parts of the soul in the citizens of the regime. Aristotle has a table of six forms of regime, three good and three bad, depending on whether the one, few or many rule looking to the common good or rather to their own interest. The same forms that appear in the city and the soul indicate that there is here an archetype of the human knowledge of man. The pattern appears again in the three part attempt to understand the cosmos.
We note, or hypothesize, that each understanding of man is inseparable from a corresponding understanding of the cosmos: The materialists are inclined to think the body most important, while those who find a marvel of logos in nature are inclined to emphasize reason in the nature of man, and so on. This can be psychologically true while the cosmos remains its mystery, a thing that can be known about man.
The Socratic study of the soul in Plato’s Republic (Politea) will be one guide to us, as we set aside the limitations of modern psychology to go wherever we need in search of the knowledge of man. To do otherwise would seem contrary to the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath. The Socratic study moves from the three part soul to the two parts of the guardian class toward the one philosopher–king, or the aristocracy of knowledge in the best regime, where wisdom reigns. The enterprise, to construct a regime or configure and arrange a “city in speech,” is undertaken “in order to see justice in the soul,” and then show that it is one’s true advantage or good, either being happiness or a part of human happiness by nature. Alan Bloom helps clear away the delusion that prevents most people from reading the Republic, the assumption that the work is intended as a blueprint for legislators to all go out and try to make a city look like the “beautiful city” there described. This would of course result in a bloody mess, and could not in any case achieve its purpose, though such a thing would be much different from modern “utopianism.” (Bloom does not appreciate this difference, and that may be his deficiency.) The primary purpose is to see the soul, and, as we will show, the divided line and allegory of the cave do indeed pertain primarily to political philosophy, though the account is veiled. The entire city in speech can be inserted into the divided line, if we gain access to the allegorical line. This is in fact how to read the Republic. The allegorical line might appear if one reads “backwards,” the line in terms of the cave, rather than the other way around, the cave in terms of the line. But no one gains access to the allegorical line, so they wind up reading that the outside of the cave is mathematics, or the forms as linguistic universals. And everyone of course likes to assume quickly that he has ascended and is one of the knowers, leading us to rest content with the delusion. The prisoners see shadows of artifacts of humans in a light that is but an image of the true light outside. These are the images of the human things given to us by the poets. These poetic images are, as we see them in the cave, in fact the shadows of the sculptures that are the characters formed by the legislators. Once outside, attaining the allegorical line, the freed prisoners see the natural beings, at first reflected in the pool, then turning, as these are themselves. Turning again, through the soul as an image (501b), they are able to contemplate the cosmos, first at night and then in the day, and to even make out the sun itself. Both Plato and Aristotle know, or, are “hip” to, the Biblical teaching that nous is not created but begotten (The Gospel of John, chapters one and three, etc.), or that the soul is twice begotten, once by our parents (which the Biblical readers call “created”) and once by “the sun” (Aristotle, Physics II.2), as we suggest, out of the cave (Republic, 490b). This may be the principle of the knowledge of the soul, without which no genuine or philosophic psychology is even possible. But in the cave, the regime, then, is an image of the soul that replaces the shadows of the poets. Political philosophy as a study replaces the enterprise of reading the poets. (Note 1: The students of Strauss, such as Bloom, often assume that the Bible is just one more delusion of some poet used by just another nomos or law whose purpose is to make and furnish just another cave, but this can and will be demonstrated false and discarded. The cave itself is not conventional or man made, but convention occurs within the cave. Briefly, though decisively, these do not account for the significance of sight and eye in the New Testament, but want the faculty of hearing to be the beginning and the end of the Biblical story, to rest content in their rejection of the Bible in favor of philosophy). The immediate original is the artificial character, the upright ordering of the three part soul produced by every legislator. The soul is transformed through the ascent, so that once outside, one can see this reflected in the pool, as we see the numinosity of dreams and the universals or archetypes from which the soul of the poets has produced the images. Again, this may be the only place that genuine psychology occurs, outside the cave, comparing the human phenomenon to the knowledge that is thewir cause, and that these phenomenon reveal. (Homeric images such as Zeus and Hera are said or suggested to be adulterated after images of the soul of the poets themselves.)
But that is how one can put together Jung and Plato, the archetypes and the “forms.” The common opinion about the forms and Plato’s theory of the forms is a replacement for the unhealthy natural philosophy, and on a par with myth, though it leads in the right direction. It may be the best we can do with the blinding attempt to see the intelligibility in visible nature directly. The allegorical account of the two genders of the guardian class and the one begotten intelligence of the philosopher may be, by analogy, the seeing of the natural beings on the surface of the earth outside the cave. This is true “psychology.” As will be shown, it is the attainment of the image of God, the “philosopher’s stone” that is the gateway to metaphysics, the key to understanding or at least contemplating “all things.” That is how one reads the Republic, the allegorical line, and can begin to fit together the Biblical and Greek teachings. Now forget this entire paragraph, until late in the semester of your course on Plato’s Republic, and we will return to psychology and attempt to show that there is a philosophic psychology far superior to this modern nonsense that takes the genes, behaviors or neurons or appetites to be the whole of psychology.
Modern psychology has no account of the health of the soul that is the goal of the practice. The ends are simply assumed, with the scientist in the same position as all other men, directed by tradition, common sense and fashionable opinions. Freud, and all of modern thought, notoriously looked to the origins rather than the ends in trying to understand the beings. In this he follows the Seventeenth and Eighteenth century political theorists, who, following Hobbes, looked to an original condition in order to understand the human condition. These thinkers look to the origins in order to see whether man is by nature political or is so by convention, and to understand the origin of justice, and whether or in what ways inequality is natural and conventional. Socrates is well aware of everything of which modern political theory is aware, as is evident from the discussion of the origins in Book II of the Republic, and has seen everything Freud has seen, and has this, the “Oedipus complex” malarkey, in a better way, that is, in the context of the study of tyranny, in books VIII and IX of the Republic. But Freudian psychology is vacuous, lacking a theoretical account of the goal, even of the goal of their own practice. This goal is assumed, and can be explicated: something such as to be free of the discontents of “repression,” the repression by the “superego” that is the conventional result of civilization. The standard is the “normal,” because Freud is a “conventionalist, believing that the specifically human things are by convention. Freudian psychology hence lacks a goal, and for the pre-Socratics, this vacuity allows first for the making of any artificial goal, and then quickly for the replacement of the goal with the tyrannical and self contradictory principle of power.
The business became the treatment of “neurosis,” the assumed goal then to be free of these “neuroses.” Abnormalities are assumed to be caused by repressions, though it is not clear that to be free of repression is normal or usual. We have replaced this standard with the “functional,” and speak of “malfunction,” and even “maladaptive.” Darwinian evolutionary theory is at the root of the assumption of the “adaptive” as a factual value. Without knowing what we are saying or doing, we rest content with such words because they seem not to violate our prohibition from making “value judgments,” and our wish to be objective or scientific. The word “behavior,” imported from the entirely separate Behaviorist school, is similarly intended to be scientifically sanitized, here by limiting the object of concern to the outward and easily observable facts, which is supposed to lend the credibility of objectivity and the mantle of scientific authority. Freud will speak of the “normal,” and we have words like functional and “dysfunctional,” “positive” and “negative,” “compliant” and “non-compliant,” to veil these unscientific assumptions regarding what is good. Is it good to be normal? Do the words even cohere? That is, is the normal the same as the functional and the adapted, the adjusted and compliant? Functional in what work? “Self esteem” and “self actualization” are other statements of the goal or the picture of psychological health that is the aim of our efforts, following Abraham Maslow. And should a tyrant have self esteem? Or perhaps his trouble will be diagnosed to be a lack of self esteem, or inferiority complex (a Jungian phrase) that causes him to be a tyrant. Our requirement of such words demonstrates that to be human is to live by certain assumptions regarding the just and the good, and perhaps to be limited in our knowledge of the health of the soul. But is not the health of the soul what we mean by good? Must there not then be an objective ethics at the basis of psychology? This is what Joseph Campbell agreed to at the Fountain Street Church, that “wholeness” is good, and therefore psychology is based on an objective ethics. If so, evil would make wholeness impossible, because human nature is fundamentally good. In fact, those who do not revere right are in perpetual faction.
Humanistic Psychology is the name given to the clinical and less scientific modern attempts to study the human being, rather than the behavior of the human or the neurons of the human. This humanistic psychology is at the basis of modern popular psychology. Humanistic Psychology is usually contrasted with the Freudian school of depth psychology, focusing more on consciousness, while being properly suspicious of accounts that trace the first causes of human action to causes other than consciousness, the genes or neurons or experience. But Humanistic psychology has been largely rejected in the universities, in part due to the weakness of its philosophic or scientific basis. What we hope to do is not to set all future human study on some certain or objective basis from which all else follows with certainty, but to reset modern psychology on a basis similar to that of Socratic philosophy. We will then argue that the modern quest for a certain scientific basis for the knowledge of the human things is mistaken, but is fulfilled to the extent it can be fulfilled, in Socratic Philosophy and the knowledge and study of the psyche implied therein. Socrates is superior to Jung, Freud, Skinner and Maslow. This conversion of the foundation of psychology to Socratic philosophy is an admission that, regarding the first principles, a natural understanding, a refinement of common sense, is the best we can do, despite the errors of professionals. But such a psychology will have sense enough to not lend its credibility to the enterprise of drugging or training humanity in the interests of someone’s wealth or power. Psychology cannot but be based on assumptions that come from outside the science.
Jung is sometimes included among the humanists, as by Frank Globe (The Third Force, p. 121), because Jung does not reject consideration of the purposes or final causes. Looking to the origins rather than the ends, modern philosophy rejects the formal and final causes as unknowable or not scientifically significant, focusing instead on material and efficient causes. The famous account of four causes by Aristotle (Physics, II.3,7; Metaphysics, I) is illustrated by the building of a table: The function or purpose determines the form, which the carpenter then approximates with his design. Selecting an appropriate material, such as oak, he then performs the work or the efficient cause that brings the table into being. The form guides the work, or, the efficient cause occurs between the material and formal cause. The work brings the matter into the form, and an artifact is made. Natural beings can sometimes be understood in a similar way, with function the cause of form, though all the matter and effort are put directly to the purpose, by living beings. There are of course many difficulties with both the Platonic and Aristotelian accounts of the forms, and we do not well understand what they mean. But we find this topic a permanent marvel, and there is of course nothing like a sufficient account of the different kinds of things and the intelligibility of things in general, not to mention the human things: The exemplary example shows the form of a thing, or that the forms are inseparable from the good, and something like the good of each thing, though this may never before have existed, as nature unfolds. “That’s a real doctor” we might say of a good doctor, “Now there’s a dog.” Linguistic universals get at true distinctions that are not abstractions: When a thing becomes better, where does that good come from? Let all cities be unjust or imperfect, now make your abstraction, and tell where the justice comes from when cities become better. New forms are another difficulty. Inventions bring new forms into being, and these, though artificial, receive names, and are repeatable, like the universals of plant, animal, and mineral nature. Though these come to be at a certain time –the wheel for example– these seem to be universals in the same way that the natural forms are universals. In rejecting medieval world, following the Inquisition, modern thought also rejected the formal and final causes, and the quest for the logos, or meaning in nature. We say they have thrown out the babies with the bathwaters.
The physician knows the health and disease of the body, while the trainer knows the excellence of the body, cultivated to its best condition. In a case of a broken leg, the doctor aims not at winning the Olympics, but at restoring the ability to run. Do we aim at excellence, or simply to be free of certain symptoms? Is it necessary to know the excellence of man in order to treat particular accidents or maladies? Is the Olympic trainer better able to set the leg of a farmer? Perhaps we seek to restore the normal, so that the free individual can then pursue excellence, as through training the healthy body can then begin gymnastics. Psychiatry is the branch of medicine that tries to heal the soul. An iatros is a healer, iatreia healing in the Greek. And is there a thing for the soul like training for the body, which aims not only at healing or restoration, but at excellence? This may be what is called education. But can virtue be taught? That is the question raised by Meno, but first, like Meno, we must wonder what this virtue is.
If the soul is by nature intended to know or to contemplate the highest things, and live a life according to reason, what difference does this make for the understanding of the maladies in psychology, such as schizophrenia, “manic depression,” and such? What is the relation of paranoia, an excessive comprehensive fear, to phronesis, or practical wisdom about genuinely comprehensive matters? What is the relation between sophia, or theoretical wisdom, and the delusions which do indeed occur about fundamental matters? It was once madness to think our thoughts and actions to be observed and tracked. This has now become a matter of common sense, although the fact that it was once a common delusion shows part of what is wrong with this, the disappearance of privacy. Modern psychology stands incapable of a theoretical distinction between madness and genius, and between the two, there is that proverbially thin line. Alfarabi was not at a loss: He says that the philosopher sees the first principles correctly, while the mad see them, though wrongly or incorrectly (The Political Regime, paragraphs 6 and 3-6, in Medieval Political Philosophy, Lerner and Mahdi, p. 33-35). If these appear fragmented or shattered, one would think it might be important to see this in the attempt to heal. The human capacity to see the first principles is the healthy function, though it rarely is cultivated, and rarely unfolds. Must we not, though, understand what functions have gone awry in order to understand these maladies of the mind? Or again if justice is the health of the soul or a part of the healthy soul, what difference does injustice make? While King Lear is driven mad by suffering filial injustice, Lady Macbeth is split by doing injustice, and it can be argued that because the nature of the soul is fundamentally good, evil deeds divide the soul or make it necessary to silence conscience within. One is tempted to say that only penance could cure her, if this were any longer possible. Ophelia goes mad when her father is killed by Hamlet accidentally, when he thinks he is killing the King who murdered his father. She might have lived sheltered at a monastery for asylum. Madness is real, and while we, as a sort of “anti-psychiatrist,” emphasize the limitations of our psychiatry in the attempt to understand or “categorize” and treat these things, the questions remain. There is such a thing, obviously, as madness.
The Shakesperean knowledge of the soul might make up a fine chapter in the study of psychology and a course in the university program. We have a study of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Theseus and Hippolyta related as Anima and Animus, collective elements under the influence of whom Theseus has come. His achievement of harmony in the city for the celebration of his wedding turns a Romeo and Juliet type circumstance toward a happy ending, showing the elements involved in kingship or practical wisdom. The functions shown separate in Theseus are shown united in Prospero, the wise Duke in The Tempest. Wise rule is shown in drama, and is much more difficult to find and see in history, as in Jefferson, Churchill and Lincoln.
One great rule in education at the highest level is that we are improved especially by association with the great and good minds, the best of mankind. Six are Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Plutarch and Shakespeare. It is absolutely inexcusable, for example, that most psychologists have not studied the state of nature thinkers, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, since the philosophic framework of modern psychology is set on these. The great thinkers do not pursue the trivium and quadrivium, but something more akin to the studies presided over by the muses. Two, Plato and Shakespeare, practice philosophic drama, the highest of all art forms, showing the body in motion, as is said. This may be the highest test of the knowledge of man, and the greatest befit to mankind that human writing can produce. One of the studies is astronomy, which then presupposes mathematics and geometry and physics. But these are High School and undergraduate studies. Logic, rhetoric and grammar are learned along the way (Or sometimes not! Our old college in Michigan, at its founding, decided that writing would be taught while doing papers for the serious classes). The studies of the greatest minds are primarily human studies, what we call philosophy, literature, and history, politics, theology and psychology. The whole is philosophy, and if this is a separate department as well, we will have 6! In a university, these are set atop the professions: law, medicine and education, policing and soldiering. Whatever else is done below this, as for the majority or for the craftsmen, mechanics and businessmen, might benefit both in an education system, and must be done to some extent in a democracy, but is not central to the purpose of genuine or liberal education. The serious part of the education of the craftsmen is their participation in gymnastics and music, which is accessible to most and which they have in common with the highest education. These will gain from gym and music done correctly the ability to be good soldiers, citizens, police and public watchmen and guardians, for all the citizens are proud to have a share in these things. Music and gym as they are now done could not effect citizenship in any significant way, but again, I speak to those who can look into a topic and see, not those who measure what has never been seen only by what they commonly see. My High school graduates will be able to perform emergency medical services for their fellow citizens, and defend a woman being struck, without having to wait for the police to take a report. Theirs spend 12 years learning things like floorhockey and kickball, but cannot help their fellow citizens. The well ordered soul may be extremely rare, or it may be, because of the body, that in one sense there has never been an embodied example– or none a grey beard past the age of 32,. Yet the truth of what this is governs all of psychology. It is much the same in politics, where justice and the just regime are what they are, though every city be unjust. Aristotle might have this as potential, but we think it is more actual than any of the particulars. These must be unjust by some measure, which then obviously is, since we can be mistaken about it. Common sense recognizes this in the near universal acknowledgement of the truth that there can indeed be unjust laws. It is the measure by which we fall short, and so it can never fail! The well ordered soul or the good man in the generic sense must exist, if we can be mistaken and if we can become better. This or something like this must be, a fullness by which all things become better. Healing is also the effect of the Holy Spirit, when Jesus and the apostles effect the healing of the blind and lame. Their healing of the soul, for the sake of which these healings are done ( ), is reported in terms of forgiveness, of the casting out of demons, and of working on the Sabbath.
While the words are Greek, the entire practice of psychiatry, like the science, was unknown prior to the late 1800’s, but has just now been given the authoritative position regarding the treatment of the soul. It is in part the argument of this chapter and the reason for this book that this authority is misplaced, due to the limitations of the modern attempt to follow the physical sciences. Our modern science lacks the knowledge of the being available even in medicine. We do not know the soul and man even so clearly as we know the body. Our ignorance might call for moderation in our attempt to assist natural healing.
This will be a common theme or teaching of our psychology: There is no art of healing the soul in our possession in a way that can reliably be taught in a program of study, even over ten years, and then be reliably practiced. In this, Psychiatry is unlike medicine for the body, which is also limited and makes mistakes. Biology, anatomy, chemistry and a few other sciences make medicine possible, and medicine can be reliably practiced if it is used with moderation to heal the body. It is better at treating injuries than diseases or maladies. But we argue that psychiatry is limited in a radical way that is the difference between saying that we, as a society or scientific community, do possess a knowledge and art of doctoring regarding the body, but we do not possess this regarding the soul. In drugging patients, for example, the psychiatrist literally does not know what he is doing, and our trust in psychiatric medicines is misplaced. Some things are known to help in some ways, known simply by experience, yet the deep and long term effects are unknown. Science in pharmacology follows not the path of science, but research is funded according to the interests of the drug companies. Huge profits are at stake, if only the drug companies can inspire the doctors to prescribe drugs as a first resort, rather than as a last resort. There are still no studies of the relation between anti-depressant drugs and public shootings, because the drug companies have yet to discover their interest in such a study. The suggestion is that psychiatric drugs be used as a last resort, again because of our ignorance regarding what we are doing. What occurs when a generation is educated on Ritilin? Are we not now to find out? A fine experiment, and profitable. Perhaps the marketplace is the proper judge of the health of the soul. Common sense, rather than science, here guides the use of science: when we do not know what we are doing, more harm is done by interfering. What “man’s wisdom” can do is first to provide a safe place to heal, which would be asylum in the true sense. Other things can then be done, perhaps even by a true healer in an association that is like friendship and like a doctor patient relation in some ways, but the same as neither. These things have to do with self knowledge, conversation, knowledge of man, and not at all with manipulating the electricity in the brain or chemically altering the synapses.
Socrates turned from the natural philosophy of his predecessors, and these are ever after called the pre-Socratics. It is of course my suggestion, and the thesis of this work, that psychology, and indeed all of modern thought, has been under a condition similar to the pre-Socratics, and might follow the same Socratic turn in the current century. One basis for this thought is the third and fourth chapters of the work of Leo Strauss called Natural Right and History. These chapters, treating of the origin of the idea of natural right and then classical natural right respectively, seem to me to be the most important theory and writing done in the Twentieth Century. To follow the account, we must consider three terms. The first is the “pre-philosophic” condition of the Greeks, inhabiting the cosmos of the Homeric poets. The second is the “discovery of nature” at the beginning of Philosophy, and the resulting effect on ancient Greece. Third is the Socratic turn. The first philosophers turned from considering the myths of the poets and the gods as causes to explanations in terms of nature, considered by both reflection and empirical inquiry. But far from benefiting mankind, the resulting effect of pre-Socratic philosophy on Greek political life led to the crisis in which Socrates re-turned to the study of the human things, perusing questions such as “What is virtue?” and what justice.
Philosophy is at first not distinct from science or what is called “natural philosophy,” the study of nature. In ancient Greece, philosophy had a very distinct beginning, about 600 B. C., and then a natural fulfillment, in Socratic philosophy. Philosophy first came to be in ancient Greece, as the account is given by Aristotle (982b). From wonder, men like Thales advanced from our usual amazement with less important or less fundamental things to questions about the origin of the cosmos. Aristotle contrasts the first philosophers, who “discoursed on nature,” with their predecessors, who discoursed on gods. The philosophers look to nature rather than the gods as causes, and in this philosophy as distinct from myth came to be. But philosophy is not yet political philosophy, the origin of the idea of nature not yet the origin of the idea of natural right. Political philosophy is the quest for the knowledge of natural right, and should not be confused with “absolutism,” which assumes the possession of the kn0wledge of what is right. The city, convention, and every earthly power is based on an assumption that they know what they do not know, and only Socrates, it seems, the philosopher, is capable of seeing past this assumption. Only Socrates, in this sense, knows that he does not know. As Strauss gives the account (Natural Right and History, pp. 85-88), Philosophy presupposes the doubt of authority. Philosophy is the quest for knowledge of the good by nature, and so begins in doubt about the ancient authoritative mythic opinion of the cosmos which makes up the parameters of the world for those who go from dawn to dusk and cradle to grave without ever awakening to any inquiry. Two pre-philosophic distinctions guide the discovery of nature: 1) the distinction between seeing for oneself and hearsay, and second, 2) that between the artificial or man made things and the things that are not man made (Ibid, p. 86-88). These two distinctions are prior to the distinction between the good and the ancestral, or between the good and what is ones own. But once the distinction between authority and nature is made, the philosophers seek the truth according to nature, hoping to see for themselves rather than believe by hearsay, and even to live under something that is not man made, but is by nature. The political philosophers seek this regarding the good and right, seeking the troth about the most important things of man, and the best way of life according t0 nature, or the true good.
Philosophy is in conflict with the city from the beginning. The city depends upon the mythic cosmos in order that men believe in justice. Once the mythic cosmos is dissolved, the argument arises that injustice is ones true advantage, or that justice is no more than the advantage of the stronger. From history and travel, these skeptical ages then compare different laws, see that they contradict, and cannot both be true in their claim to divine origin or truth. Conventionalism, the belief that all right is artificial or by convention and human making, then arises. Greek tragedy arises, apparently in a cosmic view that recognizes that one’s fortunes do not always coincide with his works. Soon it occurs to sophisticated men that it appears one ought have their own (apparent) advantage, which will most often appear in terms of pleasure and wealth, though the democrats and oligarchs will soon give way to tyranny. Tyrants, like particular kings, establish the rule of one man for his own advantage, but there are different kinds of tyrants, as there are kings, depending upon what they seek. But as there is a royal soul proper, which seeks the good for his people, so there is a tyrannic soul proper, which undergoes a transformation that is something like a werewolf, and seeks power.
The similarity of the motion of thought from our medieval cosmos to the cosmos of the natural philosophers is obvious, if certain differences also are notable. In both histories, custom dissolved, nature was uncovered, science replaced myth, and a degeneration occurred because human beings were no longer able to live together, where self interest in the crudest senses is not restrained by good images and opinions. In this circumstance, the Sophists arise. These, in ancient Greece, teach teach rhetoric, the art of public speaking especially in the law courts, or literally, how to make the weaker argument appear stronger. One sees here a similarity to the contemporary legal profession, and the schools of the rhetorician became the ancient equivalent of law school. But in Critias, Callicles and Thrasymachus, it is clear that philosophy is in crisis. Its result seems to be the dissolution of the illusions on which society is based, and Greek civilization goes into its famous decline. We say: Socrates was the teacher of Plato, Plato of Aristotle, Aristotle of Alexander, and he the conqueror of the world, in a sense. In his disastrous attempt to govern himself, Greek civilization as perhaps the greatest in human history comes to an end. Socrates tried, but can probably be said to have failed in answering this circumstance. He made philosophy possible, and may have retreated to fight another day.
Socrates is said to have turned away from the study of nature of the pre-Socratic philosophers, turning instead to examine the human things. As Xenophon relates, he considered the philosophers mad who would argue whether all or nothing changes. There are three such excesses and deficiencies mentioned, one regarding worship. He thought it amazing that it did not occur to them that humans are not capable of knowing these things. He would rather ask the famous questions, such as “What is virtue,” etc. (Plato, Meno 71b; Xenophon, Memoranbilia I.16). These include the question What is madness and what moderation.” Hence, what we call psychology is quite obviously a part of Socratic philosophy. Our claim is that he is much better at this than any thinkers of our age. Indeed, it amazed me that anyone degreed in the science of the human soul would find these thoughts novel, or have proceeded without the slightest acquaintance with Socratic philosophy.
Socrates returned to consider the human things while retaining the distinction between the gods and nature as causes, as well as the distinction between the natural and the artificial things, the things made by man, and the things that are not made by man. Strauss writes, “the distinction between nature and law (convention) retains its full significance for Socrates as well as for Classical natural right in general.” (Strauss, Natural Right and History, p. 121). This inquiry led to a new kind of the study of nature or the fundamental causes. Strauss writes:
Socrates, it seems, took the primary meaning of the word nature more seriously than did hid predecessors; He realized that nature is primarily form or “idea.” If this is true, he did not simply turn away from the study of the natural things, but originated a new kind of the study of natural things, a kind of study in which, for example, the nature of the human soul or man is more important than, for example, the nature of the sun.
(The History of Political Philosophy, p. 5)
In turning from the divine or natural things to the human things, Socrates is said to have been the founder of political philosophy, in general (Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History. p. 120; History of Political Philosophy, p. 4). As Strauss writes, “The distinction between nature and convention which marks the emergence of natural philosophy retains its full significance for Socrates and for classical natural right in general” (NRH, p. 121). The what is question points toward the form or idea of a thing, and identifies this with its nature. Because the kinds or classes are parts of the whole, the whole has a natural articulation, the natural logos. Contrary to both custom and natural pre-Socratic philosophy, the nature of a thing is shown not by its that out of which a thing has come to be (Memorabilia, I,i,12.), but by the end which determines the process of its coming to be. The form in one sense is the purpose or telos, and these Aristotle distinguishes in his four causes. The best examples show the form. In its focus on the ends rather than the origins, Socratic philosophy is similar to Christianity, in which the Kingdom is a higher condition than the original garden.
Socrates would seek the what, the definition, the one thing that all particular examples of virtue have in common. He would seek this by asking the questions and soliciting opinions, through which conversation attempts to ascend. Strauss writes that Socrates returns to begin from what is first for us, from opinion, the visible looks, or from common sense. Opinion proves to point toward truth and to lead toward knowledge. Strauss states: “The opinions prove to be solicited by the self-subsisting truth, and the ascent to the truth proves to be guided by the self-subsisting truth which all men always divine (NRH 124). In the famous Platonic account of the forms, something like participation or imitation is the cause of the intelligibility of things. Thales thought that water was that from which all things come to be, looking to the origins and the material, as the first philosophers do. Socratic philosophy looks rather first to what Aristotle calls formal and final causes. The elements, earth air water and fire, or the solid, liquid and gaseous states of the hundred-some elements, with the addition of fire or energy, do not account for the distinctions between any of the many kinds of things. There are many difficulties too for the theory of forms: kinds of matter, kinds of energy, kinds of kinds, kinds of causes (Phaedo 100B), new and artificial kinds, and bad kinds. We think the distinctions to arise more like frost on a window pane, or a reflection or glare visible from one angle. There need not literally be a form of dog, but life unfolds as it does because there is invisible is-ness that is the cause of the kinds and orders. There is no matter without form, but matter always appears as one of the elements, with a minimum of intelligibility. It may be that matter without form is energy. But “energy” as a first principle is similarly materialistic, and unable to account for the shape or form of much of anything, let alone the kinds of energy. Modern philosophy is not able to account for the form or meaning of anything. Modern science simply assumes the beings, then does experiments regarding them. Galileo cannot explain why the molecules he rolls to test gravity, why these all roll together as a ball. But given the shape of a ball, he ingeniously determines that gravity pulls objects at the same speed regardless of their mass or weight- heavy and light fall at the same rate. Genes may convey the kinds of life, but do not account for the kinds that they convey, and though it can seem the reverse, the genes are probably for the sake of the beings. Energy and matter are said to be inter-convertible. Space and time, too, are said to be related. Geometry is the measure of space. But for it to even warp, time would seem to have an absolute measure: some changes take longer than others. Intelligibility and life remain, among these categories of things that are and are not matter-energy or Space-time. There are different things and different kinds of things well into the elements, stars and rocks and rivers that come to be from non-living matter. But it is especially the living things where one sees a surprising unfolding of intelligibility, in the biological tree of life and all the lives that come to be. These are the microbes, the plants, the animals, and man. The only thing like the participation of matter in form in nonliving things might be crystals, with their repeating geometric structures. But there is in a sense more form in the simplest living thing, than in these wads of different kinds of elements and chemicals.
Socrates turned away from the materialism of the natural philosophers due to his concern with the human things. He combines the inquiry after natural causes with the concern of the poets and legislators with man, or with the human things, inaugurating the science of the human things. In the Phaedo, the dialogue of Plato set in the prison where Socrates drank the hemlock, Socrates gives an account of the famous Socratic turn. turn is also mentioned in the Republic, in the context of the ascent from the cave.
In the Phaedo, having reached the point of confusion with the attempt at materialist or pre-Socratic explanations, he became excited when he heard that Anaxagoras considered Mind to be a cause. He thought surely that he would then explain each thing with reference to the best condition of that thing, since mind would order things in the best way possible. Socrates was disappointed, though, when he found Anaxagoras appealing to the same old material causes Socrates explains to Cebes:
…And to me his condition seemed most similar to that of someone who –after saying that Socrates does everything he does by mind, and then venturing to assign causes to each of the things I do – should first say that I’m now sitting here because my body is composed of bones and sinews …– and its through this cause that I’m sitting here with my legs bent. And again as regards my conversing with you, he would assign other causes of this sort, holding… and a thousand other such things responsible and not taking care to assign the true causes– that since the Athenians judged it better to condemn me, I for my part have judged it better to sit here and more just to stay put and endure whatever penalty they order. Since – by the Dog! – these sinews and bones of mine would, I think, long ago have been in Megara or Boeotia, swept off by an opinion of what’s best, if I didn’t think it more just and more beautiful [noble,] rather than fleeing and playing the runaway, to endure whatever penalty the city should order.
(Phaedo 98c-99a translated mostly by Eva Brann, Peter Kalkavage and Eric Salem)
The interest of the body might have swept him away with a different opinion. Modern Psychology is continually swept away by neurological and environmental causes of every sort, unable to distinguish “that its one thing to be genuinely the cause and another to be that without which the cause would not be a cause!” or what come to be called the necessary and the sufficient causes (Ibid, 99b). A good example is the confusion that occurs in the law courts when science presents a genetic disposition to murder. Cause in the sense of responsibility and political purpose disappears. But is this not similar to a murderer saying that his hand did the deed?
In the Phaedo, Socrates explains that he feared he would be blinded, as by the glare of the sun, if he tried to look directly at the beings, and so he had recourse to logoi, speeches, in which he can see the natures reflected (99d-e). This corresponds to the pool outside the cave, in which the beings on the true earth above are seen reflected (Republic, Book VII, 516 a; 532 c). Jung considers the numinosity of certain symbols in dreams and imaginations which touch on archetypal matters.
The human things turn out to be “the key to understanding all things” (Thoughts on Machiavelli, p. 19). We will seek to show that the turn is related to the Biblical and Socratic teaching that the soul is an image of God (Republic 501b). In the Republic, for example, the regime is like the soul which is in turn like the cosmos. As the understanding of the soul unfolds, the contemplation of what is called “being” unfolds. Our faculties correspond to aspects of being to which these are akin. We do not make images of God because man is the image. Self knowledge includes the attainment or unfolding of the essence, as a child in the soul. The image is a stone on which to contemplate metaphysics by analogy. An example is when we suggest that rather than say that God created the world out of nothing, we say “out of himself,” as Eve came from the rib of Adam. Nous, the eye of the soul, is full of intricacy and what are, as by Paul, called mysteries. The two in love are governed by the natural image. Vous is not created, but begotten, and this is the meaning of “you must be born anew” (John 3:7). We say that the nature of the soul bears witness to the Christ, but the science of the highest faculty is the same. Socrates found these things without the Biblical tradition. But one can see how Christians too can participate in psychological science.
The Socratic turn led to the famous Socratic teachings, that virtue is knowledge, that it is unjust to return harm for harm done, that the soul is more important than the body, that knowledge is recollection, and justice rather than injustice is better for the soul, that no one does harm knowingly, nor is it knowledge but opinion that is dragged about like a slave in immoderation, and that in civil disobedience, it is right to accept the penalty.
The Biblical world has viewed Greek philosophy with some suspicion, even though Aquinas adopted Aristotle as consistent with the scriptures. The Medieval world depends upon the assumption of knowledge that we in fact do not possess. Upon the collapse or rejection of the medieval world, the uncovering of nature at the beginning of philosophy was repeated in a Biblical world, turning to nature rather than the divine in the account of the causes of things. Nature is again uncovered, though we have yet to repeat the Socratic discovery of natural right. Modern psychology can similarly repeat something like the Socratic turn, following out a philosophic rather a materialistic psychology. The possibility of a Socratic psychology has really only to be drawn out as a conclusion from the recovery of classical political philosophy, the ancient texts, and the baby thrown out with the bathwater by modernity. Jung makes a start in this direction, giving up the study of medical and experimental things for a more philosophic study of the many phenomena produced by the human mind. He wrote, for example, on the psychogenesis of mental disease. By joining Socratic philosophy and Jungian psychology, a new psychology might come to be that is more adequate to the concerns of psychiatry, if not more effective.
It is strange after all that psychology makes little use of the 2,500 year tradition of the human study of man. This again is due to the attempt to imitate the natural sciences. Jung is so much deeper than Freud because he does study the ancient writers, regardless of their being considered “unscientific.” Together with Leo Strauss, Jung recovers the ancient writers, if in a different way. Strauss, in a word, focused on the recovery of natural right as the basis of political philosophy. Jung recovers alchemists and Biblical things, while retaining a philosophic foundation that is subjectivist, more like Kant than Plato. He calls his work a phenomenology, escaping the censure of the scientists on the insistence that he studies the human images, symbols and beliefs as phenomenon, not as the substance of his hypotheses. These are rather about the common patterns in human stories and symbols found everywhere, which he scientifically establishes as indicating the existence of the archetypes, the collective unconscious, and a larger self that integrates these. We call these knowledges, and say that they are in the soul, the cause of patterns that make it possible for us to come to know, especially man. To state the matter this way allows us to distinguish between the archetypes in the collective unconscious and the truth, the patterns which our knowledge says are in reality or in truth. This in turn allows us to join Plato and Jung, and to go beyond the philosophic difficulty of German subjectivism in Jungian psychology. The knowledges in the soul are the cause of the intelligibility of the symbols, which are sometimes produced spontaneously and sometimes knowingly. This epistemology is an example of the combination of Plato and Jung at the root of this study. The combination of the two allows for the best understanding of man available to us, and a better foundation for understanding both the nature of man and the ability and limitations of human art when attempting the healing of the soul.
The psychologists are in the same position as everyone else regarding the big questions, or the most important things. In practice, psychiatry relies on a kind of common sense regarding for example the distinction between sanity and madness. In diagnosis, they simply describe categories or kinds of maladies seen, called “schizophrenia,” “psychosis” “neurosis,” “socio-pathy,” “manic depression” and “depression.” A recent study of untreatable pathological depression simply stimulated the neurons of the sadness area of the brain, and the cloud was for these subjects lifted. No one asked why these people were sad, but perhaps sometimes the brain does simply misfire. This common sense, on which psychology depends, is hopefully refined by experience, but psychology lacks a philosophic understanding of the mind and soul which would provide a context for beginning to understand these things in human terms. With the likely exception of Jung, these practitioners continue unable to state the distinction between genius and madness. Al Farabi may be the only thinker to address this question directly, as, again, the ancient world did not have much of a psychology, nor was the treatment of madness often attempted. The fact is that the philosophers are often called mad, with Socrates falling into trances and saying that he hears a voice. The Socratic philosophers address the question indirectly. Surely St. Augustine would be drugged, having seen the child who told him he could not understand the trinity. For surely St. Augustine is not normal. And it is similar for Einstein, and many a genius, and sometimes genius and madness are mixed in varying degrees. Some indeed are wounded or defective in some ways and superior in others, as in the cases of autistic savants.
There is no guarantee, for example, that the practitioners are not themselves “repressed,” “un-self actualized,” etc, and the pursuit of self knowledge is not emphasized as being required of the practice. The analysts of the previous century, though, did say that the practitioner ought themselves to be analyzed or go through “therapy.” They may be self interested in a number of ways, for example, abusing their authority in sexual molestations. The authority granted the psychologist, as well as the dissolution of traditional morality, allowed the relation of client and patient to be used in pedophilia, much as the cloak of the priests was used to serve such interests. The psychologist was, in the previous age, granted shamanistic credibility, in a phenomenon Jung discusses as “transference.” In education, it does a student a great deal of good to have mentors and a mentor, so that the excellence of a few can be participated in by many, or more. The “patient” would assume that the practitioner understood them better than they understood themselves, and the mistaken authority of the wise man, thus transferred, allows for all sorts of abuse. Here it is indispensable to understand the Jeffersonian thought on rights, and if it is true, how this applies to psychiatric authority and patient rights. The opposite has been the practice: patients lose rights when they are deemed to act involuntarily, without the recognition of other rights to take the place of those suspended. But as a science, psychology can have no objection to being used as an instrument in the pursuit of wealth and power, producing technologies that control humans in service of any enterprise whatever. Psychology lacks a basis that can account for why these things are wrong or bad, and does not especially cultivate an ethical science that would seek to know and teach why these things are so. Psychology simply proceeds with a contradiction at its root. We have been taught that there is no knowable truth regarding “values,” and yet cannot proceed except on the basis of certain assumptions. A recent psychologist from the University of Michigan theorized that Freud mistook molestations for infantile fantasies, and that Freud theorized accordingly, missing the havoc wrought in the lives of the innocent victims. And upon reflection, it seems most likely that molestation and abuses of every sort, as well as involuntary traumas, would lead to, or leave one with, psychological difficulties. Sexual experiences leave attachments and impressions on the soul, so that we cannot but take eros too lightly, or cannot take eros seriously enough. We are always surprised and enmeshed or entangled before we know what is occurring. And this is what we find in practice. The soul, regarding eros, is a mystery even to itself, but it is clear that erotic attachments and traumas affect the soul in deep and surprising ways. It remains to us to begin to attempt to explain why this is so. Homosexuality was once listed and treated as a disorder, while current opinion would find this “homophobia” abhorrent. So the science has changed, without new discoveries, but rather the resetting of priorities in common opinion. We can attempt a philosophic understanding of such things, as a materialization of friendship, a possession by or confusion regarding the anima and animus, or the effect of chemicals in our environment that imitate or interfere with hormones. The question of whether this is a “choice” is how this is discussed, when there are many kinds and various causes of homosexuality, some more voluntary than others. Female and male homosexuality are different, and none can explain for example why their eros is attached to the effeminate male if they seek the male, or the masculine woman if they seek the female. Who knows that civilizations in decline do not do this by nature to counter overpopulation? One kind of homosexuality may well be an unhealthy domination of appetitive lust, indifferent and insatiable. And is heterosexual promiscuity superior to homosexual marriage? Human things are murky, confused and mistaken, and so we are inclined to mind our own business. Are there not sometimes male souls born into female bodies, and female into male? Some bodies too are born as both genders. While medically fine, our barbaric medicine tried to choose a gender for them for social purposes. These arrogant practices, without regard for nature, may also be an abomination!) Plato and Aristotle recognize that homosexuality is contrary to nature, and Platonic love is an attempt to purify Greek homosexuality by minimizing the body (whose efforts are futile or meaningless in any case). In Mosaic Law, it is an abomination, though talking back to one’s parents or cursing them is punished as severely. Mosaic Law is exclusively for the Jews, being much too severe yet for the Gentiles. It is amusing that cross dressing is forbidden, because it implies that there was such a thing back then. Jesus does not address the issue of homosexuality in the scriptures. St. Paul recognizes Mosaic Law, and turns those not minding their own business back to concern with their own sin (Romans 1:18-2:26).
Psychology proceeds on the basis of common sense, as we all do, assuming that certain things are so, while trying to be moderate regarding what we do not know. Psychology, then, depends, for its first principles about man, either upon tradition, fashionable opinion, common sense, or some other source. The principles are in truth philosophical. We can make progress if we inquire– and so we seek a philosophical psychology. But we will be especially concerned with the philosophy of psychology, a division of the philosophy of science, if psychology is a science. This division includes the question of materialism and the alternative in psychology. In many variations, the principle is most common that the soul is like a foam or vapor, while the real causes are material. Science uncovers nature, as in the teaching of Hobbes, that humans are moved fundamentally by self interest. But this too then may be foam, or the deficiency of our uncultivated minds, leaving us unable to see the most important kinds of causes. The veneer of civilization proves to be quite thin, harboring an animal nature that surprises people in times of great strain, as in siege or civil war. The timescales of archeology bear this out: civilization does seem to be quite recent, compared to the mastery of fire and spoken language characteristic of our sub-species.
Psychology, like every other science, depends logically and practically upon philosophy for its first principles. Scientific psychology cannot avoid this fact, although it can be more or less aware of the assumptions involved and the limitations of human knowledge. Philosophy, as a subject, involves the demarcation of the sciences. Biology, for example, depends upon the assumption of what life is, to demarcate the science, as well as much else, for example regarding the relation of parts and wholes within an organism. Yet it is not a part of Biology to consider what life is and how it is different from the non-living. This is no to mention the dependence of biology on human purposes when used as a part of human and veterinary medicine: the purpose to heal does not come from within the science, nor can its value be established by experiments or demonstration, as it is akin to the first principles. Psychology depends upon our more general understanding of what the soul is and what its function is, its proper work, as Aristotle says. Humans are notoriously ignorant regarding these things, making psychology a bit comical. The texts, in addition to “abnormal,” use scientifically correct terms such as “functional” and “maladaptive,” “disorder,” and such, without being able to say, or even being concerned to inquire, what these words might mean. If definitions are given, these are sure to lack substance while granting authority. Is a tyranny or a shyster “functional” or “adapted” if he succeeds, and gets away with his crimes, but maladaptive if he happens to be caught and killed? Do we mean adaptive at survival and reproduction? Was Jesus “well adjusted,” by any standard? Adjusted to what? Or Socrates? Surely these are anything but normal, but are they well ordered or functional? Would not our DSM find Tiberius more so? Is Jefferson “successful?” (I think so, though his heirs were unfortunate, because he put off his creditors until beyond his death) Or Martin Luther King? Does he not measure the world he lives in? Joseph Campbell studied a number of these heroes among men, and as in the liberal arts, where the great minds are the best aid in education, so here, the best examples will best show the nature.
The answers to these questions involve the answer to the question “What is the health of the soul?” The most famous single word answer to this is happiness. Aristotle, in his Ethics, teaches that happiness is a being at work, doing one’s proper work well. One can already hear Socrates sneaking up behind him to say “And are we not also happy at play?” It would be strange if happiness excluded play, the activities at which, for example children, appear most happy. It may be that this is their proper work. The Socratics teach that virtue is happiness, and fellows like our George Washington pick the teaching up from them. There may be no more important teaching regarding psychology to resonate through the ages. The fullness of virtue is wisdom, and all the excellences that appear might be refractions or parts of wisdom.
For Aristotle, happiness turns out to be quite a study. There are two parts of the rational soul, the theoretical and practical faculties, and happiness is the virtue of these. Intellect, translating the Greek word Nous, sees the first principles for these faculties, whose virtue then depends upon the seeing of the mind. Hence, while children might be happy, at its height, in the description of the fullness of human nature, happiness will include both philosophy and politics. These are our participation in the activities of the philosopher and the king.
For the Biblical world, we note that this may be the pinnacle of non-Biblical humanity, so that we can see something of what man is without the Bible. We note that Socrates, like Abraham, rejects idolatry. Idolatry turns out to be a universal phenomenon, common to all humanity. In following the first philosophers, Socratic philosophy frees itself from the ancestral authority of Greek “polytheism–” if that is a strange word for the beauty and rich imagery of the Homeric Greeks. But is focusing on the what is questions regarding the human things, Socrates points, as does Victor Frankl, toward a logos or a meaning. In this and other ways, we find the Socratic study of nature and the Biblical understanding to be mutually confirming.
Modern science is known to destroy both tradition and common sense. An example of the latter is the teaching that the table we sit at is really not a table, but a collection of molecules, not solid as it seems, but rather porous. “All is nothing but matter in motion” was the materialist chant, from Hobbes onward, if not from Epicurus. While this vacuity is true about the table, and interesting, the more important question may be what it is that makes this collection of molecules a table– not to mention its function. Common sense ethics depend usually upon tradition, and these traditions depend upon a view of the cosmos that is deposed by science. An example of this is what has occurred to the book of Genesis, and the debate between creationists and evolutionists. If the ethical law depends upon the traditional cosmos, the ethics of humanity will dissolve. As Rousseau demonstrates in his Second Discourse, science will cause the decline of every civilization that takes up science in a thoughtless manner. In ancient Greece, pre-Socratic natural philosophy undermined the account of the gods as causes, the account transmitted by the poets and those who think of the gods as causes. Socrates was prosecuted because his accusers thought he was like Anaxagoras, who taught that the sun was not a god, but a stone (Plato, Apology, 26d). It is the mistaken self defense of the city that kills the philosopher. They do not understand how he is different from the earlier philosophers, nor what they are doing in any case.
But Socrates, famously, begins from common sense, and by the principle of contradiction seeks to ascend toward knowledge. The formal and final causes were rejected by modern philosophy in part because of the medieval attempt to assert the authority of knowledge. Socrates is, rather, famous for teaching the knowledge of ignorance, or that his peculiar wisdom consists in the knowledge that he knows nothing (Apology, 22d-23c; 29b). So in dialogue, he would begin from the attempt of the interlocutor to answer by stating an opinion, and then refute the opinion, trying to get him, like the slave boy of Meno, to realize that he does not know what virtue is. Socratic ignorance means that the philosopher is always inquiring, in a never ending quest for the knowledge of the soul. For learning that he does not know the length of the diagonal of a square, the slave boy is closer to the truth than he was, and might progress even further with some effort, and learning a great deal else by surprise. Regarding the human things, the ignorance of Socrates is often “ironic,” since in another sense of “know,” he knows a bit about where he is leading his inquirers, and Plato his interlocutors. This inquiry leads indeed to the amazing logos that is the cause of the Socratic teachings, though too he might say he does not possess it. We, the philosophers and their followers, insist that this activity is the greatest blessing, leading not to nothing, but to treasures prized above any visible objects. He probably is much closer to the length of that diagonal than the slave boy. But regarding the cosmos, the philosopher may be quite serious. Humans are ignorant of the truth of the Most High, and the distinction of the philosopher is that he is the only one who knows this.
The human soul, considered as an individual, is colored by emotions natural and political, emotions that are by nature related to the root of the family. As Aristotle discusses the parts of the family, the relation of royal rule pertains between the parents and the offspring, while toward one another, the heads of the household rule by turns, like free and equal statesmen in a city (Politics, I, 1254a 21-24; 1252 a). The relation to the slaves is despotic, and as with wage laborers, the parents do not raise them, as they do the children, to take their place in the coming generation. The emotions between parents and children are the strongest, followed by the love between man and wife, at the foundation of the family. Man, being political by nature, has natural characteristics and emotions, such as the concern with fame or glory, that are related to the polity, and to general humanity. The relation of statesmen is like that of brothers, etc., and the family and political emotions are related in this way. Aristotle writes:
The soul rules the body with despotic rule, but the intelligence rules the appetites with political and kingly rule. In these, it is according to nature and advantageous for the body to be ruled by the soul, and for the passionate part to be ruled by the part having reason.
Aristotle, Politics, 1254b 5-10
Justice pertains to the human communities from the family, through the tribe, village, city, to the nations. The natural unfolding of the political animal in the tree of life provides a background or grid on which the depth of these things can be fathomed. Roughly speaking, the family is ten times older than the tribe, the tribe ten times the village, and the village ten times older than the city, and the characters and emotions develop out of these. Each has a natural relation to this, and a conscience that keeps them civil, functioning within the community. But again, humans are not like bees. The family will always be the most natural community, and its human development is extraordinary, involving the roots of both royal and republican rule, king and queenship, statesmanship, marriage, including despotic rule, as over the animals. The knowledge of rule is required in the management of these, and many passed away unsuccessful, especially for starting wars too easily, as bands of thieves living off plunder. There is justice, too, between all the human communities. It is of primary importance for everything, including self-preservation. Plato’s Republic takes up the question of the relation between justice and happiness, and if it turns out that one cannot be happy without justice, while injustice harms the soul, justice will be a necessary study for the art that treats the soul.
The three parts of the soul- the appetites, the heart and reason, take on depth and color when considered in light of the human relations. Glory and honor, the things of the spirit, pertain to the warrior even in the tribes, and are about our relation to the broader community. Humans incessantly consider how they appear to others, as if living in a glass imagined by conjecturing a public view. (And worst of all is to be seen to consider how we appear!) This is not only bad, because the pursuit of honor is a spur to virtue such as courage, and love brings even the great to moderation if not humility. The things of honor and love come to be in the tribes, but most will agree, really come into their own when the cities become large enough to support a warrior class, and an entire section of the city devoted to defense. And eventually there will come to be the liberal arts.
Reason and speech arise first in the family, and were common to many of the proto-humans, who all had tools and fire as well, many kinds like erectus, habilus and Neanderthal, who are different from our kind. The natural historians call our kind Crow-Magnon, and the anatomists “Homo Sapiens Sapiens.” These developed agriculture. These also domesticate other animals, beginning with dogs and expanding to shepherding even before agriculture settles the wandering tribes into cities. Reason and speech are developed in the villages and cities, writing and the alphabet preserved by the empires.
The three parts of the soul is the basis for understanding the regimes in the city and the priorities that are by nature. The ends of the appetites, beyond necessity, are gained by money, while everyone knows that honor and love are more important than money. And the things of the mind, like wisdom, truth and justice, are the most important of all. For every universal law, it is possible to think or imagine an exception. But ethics is about priorities, and there is said to be a natural hierarchy of ends held in right order in the healthy soul. It is this that is the measure of cultures, so that some might be better than others, as is obvious too to common sense.
Whenever there is a very wrong choice and action, one notices a subversion of the priorities: Money is set above others in inheritances, for example. Theft places the property of others below the covetousness of the thief, or some such thing. Sex is set above love. Money above honor, etc..
The natural hierarchy of ends is the centerpiece of the teaching of Leo Strauss on classical natural right. It allows us to overcome the difficulty in thought with law or universal rules. We all know what it means to steal and to say “Thou shalt not steal.” and that this might not apply in the same way to acquiring expensive medicine from a stingy doctor in a hurry to save the life of a child. The well ordered soul holds the right priorities in the circumstance, and so secures the good by choosing aright.
[i] Nor have I yet been able to persuade my cat of animal rights, though like the missionaries, we will not give up trying. He keeps his claws in when he biffs his friend Mr. Grey, to the promotion of the happiness of the whole household.
[ii] Shakespeare raises the question of the medical treatment of madness in the fourth act of King Lear.