Toward a Philosophic Psychology, Chapter One First Draft Published

The first draft of the first chapter of a book on psychology has been printed in the Psychology section, in the menu at the top of the webpage. We set this as a challenge to the weak philosophical foundation of modern psychology. The book is a seven year project, and perhaps in that time we will gather some good comments and criticisms. The chapter is there free, so be free to copy it and mark it up. This is a new field, the philosophy of psychology. Happy reading!

Toward a Philosophic Psychology

In psychology and psychiatry, many different words are used to describe the standard against which diagnoses are made, beginning with the standard of the “normal.” Words used in the opening chapter of my text on “Abnormal Psychology” include dysfunction, disorder, and maladaptive, followed closely by standards which, as C. Pfeiffer notes, emphasize conformity, such as compliant and non-compliant. These are all attempts to speak scientifically about the standard assumed, trying to speak in a way that is objective and sanitized of personally inserted “value judgments.” Freud seems to have popularized this standard of the “normal.” Because of the attempt to be a medical, scientific and biological psychiatry, Freud was uncomfortable looking into the questions of the ends or goals, the purposes of thought and action, preferring to look to the origins and to the body in the attempt to understand the soul. This preference is itself not scientific or established by science. Psychology, for its first principles, depends on something from outside the science. While Freudian psychology is depth psychology, looking within and emphasizing the unconscious, B. F. Skinner tried to limit study to the observable things outside, subject to experiment. Notoriously, one of the great limitations of the behaviorist psychology is that it produces an instrument to be used toward whatever ends the humans seek, easily prostituting the science of the soul to the common human ends of wealth and power. It is philosophy or philosophic psychology that takes up these questions of the ends themselves, the relative value of each of the goals, and the corresponding hierarchy of ends that is the basis of the priorities and the orders of each of the souls.

And what does the science at the root of psychology and psychiatry have to say about the normal, the functional, the adaptive, the orderly and the compliant? Do they practice a scientific inquiry into these things? Our text presents a scale of functioning graded from 1-100, like a Community College course, with for example those that are a danger to themselves and others at a 20, those who can show up for work, about a 60, and those who can give them a job, about 80-90. One wonders if those practicing the art of psychiatry have spent much time at all scientifically considering these things, the function of the soul or man, the best orders of the soul, what it means to be “adaptive” or not abnormal. Psychiatry is dependent for its first principles on either common sense, tradition, fashionable opinion, or philosophic ethics. Our American psychology will surely involve the American ideal of “success” in the most common understanding of the standard.

Do these words even cohere? That is, is the adaptive the same as the functional and the normal? What if the well ordered soul is rare? And where do we find a scientific study of the well ordered soul, so that we know what is orderly and disorderly when we see it”? And is not the best adapted, according to the Darwinian standard, not the one best at survival and reproduction? Is this not the unjust man, the tyrant and rapist that, while being unjust, appears just, gaining all the social rewards of justice, while gaining the worldly advantages of injustice? Psychiatry simply takes up the wisdom of common sense and fashionable opinion to bolster its profession and its authority, for example to prescribe drugs, to the great profit of all concerned, except perhaps the patient.

Hence, we argue that in the most important respects, modern psychology and psychiatry do not know what they are doing, especially when they drug people. The profession is necessary for practical reasons, and might be humbled and moderated by the recognition. Like Nurse Ratchet, Psychiatry ends by imposing its own interests, based on practical concerns extraneous to science, and imposing these with the authority of medicine and science. Indeed, “compliant” may be a synonym of “adaptive.”

We contend that a new psychology might be pursued by following the example of what occurred in ancient Greece, when pre-Socratic philosophy gave rise to the Socratic study of the human things. Rather than begin from “nothing,” Socratic philosophy begins from common sense, questioning opinions in an attempt to ascend toward knowledge. Famously, Socrates would ask the question of what each thing is, for example, “what is virtue?” or “what is sanity?” and what is moderation and what madness. His famous teachings, such as that virtue is knowledge, that knowledge or wisdom is the health of the soul, that knowledge is knowledge of ignorance, the fear of death, a thinking we know what we do not know, the soul more important than the body, revenge is unjust, learning is remembering, wisdom the highest good, on which the others depend, etc. Aristotle, who is also one of the Socratic philosophers, presents the classical standard most often cited: the end or goal is happiness. To understand his teaching of happiness, though, one must read his Ethics, which is itself a reading of Plato’s Republic.

We think that modern psychology is not serious in its claim to be the science of the soul and to seek the art of healing, because if they were serious, they would all be constantly reading the works of Plato, Shakespeare, and any others reputed seriously to be wise in these matters, which mankind has thought upon on occasion over the past three thousand years or more. In fact, psychology requires the study of history, law, literature, politics, music, biology, medicine, theology, and many other sciences, as a comprehensive science of the human things.

The Biblical tradition cannot provide the scientific basis of a new science of man, because it is not scientific at all. It is the tradition against which the renaissance rebelled, because of the assumption of knowledge based on myth, much like the poets of ancient Greece. But the deep teachings, in fact the greatest wisdom regarding man to which we have access, is not excluded from philosophy, as it is from scientific psychiatry. Jung, by citing a basis for his thought in phenomenology, attempted to return the symbols and the spiritual things from their banishment by modern medicine, in its attempt to be scientific. Imagine trying to understand man without the teachings of the log in the eye, forgiveness, the love of one’s neighbor, not to mention the greater mysteries. Or try to understand man without reference to the law, for example the law against murder, or the assumption that such injustice is wrong and cannot lead to happiness. Such may be at the root of the attempt of modern psychology to understand what it calls the “sociopath,” which again is based on an understanding of good and evil that is left implicit. The word therapy comes from the Egyptian Christian sect, and the purgation of the soul in penance remaing unsurpassed by and scientific treatments.

Our psychology cannot give a consistent account of the difference between crime and the other “disorders,” nor does it have a theoretical account of the difference between genius and madness. The words used as the gold standard in the diagnoses of the DSM are just that, words, with no science behind them. The science of such things might include experimental studies, but is at its heart philosophical, an imitation of Socrates rather than of the physical sciences.

Another section of the Rock Commentaries: Louie Louie, Love, and Dylan

Part One, Chapter One of the Rock Commentaries has just been published. After the intro on Music history and American Pie, this one, about Louie, Love and Dylan, has been published at the Music page of the website Click on the subsection under Music, one of the seven pools on the Menu at the top of the screen. I am very proud of this today! We want Bob to like it, even though most of Hard Rain, we still don’t know what it means! But see if this is not the best Rock commentary on Lyrics you have ever read! Writers always think that on publishing day, cause if we could think of anything better, we would write it!

Peace/Love, MM

P. S. Now, and next chapter, we start to Rock.

Conversations With Famous Persons III: Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell is of course one of the most prominent students of the great Carl Jung. He wrote a book on the archetype of the hero, a book that did quite well. Once, my philosophy teacher asked me, “what is a hero?” I am still working on that question to this day, so I will soon be spending more time with Mr. Campbell.

One night, Mr. Campbell gave a wonder-filled lecture at the Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids, near to my home there on Oak street, nestled between the bells of three churches. I had been reading quite a bit of Jung, even while discovering Socrates and philosophy. We had taken up the question of natural right, or what is just by nature, as distinct from what is legal. There are of course, unjust laws, and the just by nature is our way of saying what it is that guides the legislators when they are making laws, trying to avoid making unjust laws, or laws with implications that result in injustice. The question is of course very difficult. But it is simply self contradictory to say that right and wrong are only matters of opinion with no truth behind. Everyone believes that some are unjust, so that to be human is to have opinions about justice and injustice that one believes are true. Again, at its root, all modern thought is self contradictory. It is especially so when these imply that it is unjust to believe in justice.

Back to Joseph Campbell. After the lecture, when all the questions were asked, and everyone had gone home, I was honored to be taken by Mr. Campbell into the room behind the altar, as he packed up his papers, preparing to leave. I had of course been wondering how my new discovery of natural right would interface with the thought of Jung.

There are in Jung two different thoughts on the fundamental philosophic things, and I wonder if he ever thought it out. On one hand, his thought and all of analytic psychology are based on the assumption that wholeness is good. To integrate the archetypes is good for us, or healthy for the soul, while if we ignore these things and the things of self knowledge, ignore the unconscious, never throw a penny in the fountain, this is not healthy for the soul. First, to integrate the shadow, we cease faction with the shadows outside and admit to ourselves the parts of our nature and character that we do not admire. In Christianity, this is penance, and is guided by the law. It is the seeing of the splinter in one’s own eye.

The integration of the shadow opens the way to romantic love, and the drama of the hero begins. Jung calls this enterprise the integration of the anima or soul, as in “Your my soul, and my inspiration,” from the popular song. The anima turns out to be a mediator toward the archetypes and the highest enterprise of their integration, the things concerning what Jung calls the archetype of the “self,” meaning our true selves. This is the child and the wise old man.

In the room behind the altar, Mr. Campbell, after quite some argument, finally assented to the idea that if wholeness is the human good or the good for man, there must be an objective basis to ethics. Jung calls himself a “subjectivist,” following Kant, as though the archetypes are categories that account for the similarity and meaning of the many myths. I suppose I had confused the ego as subject with the self as subject, in trying to understand German subjectivism.

Another part of the thought of Jung is that wholeness, and even God, is a coincidence of opposites, both good and evil, so that again, natural right will slip away. The just and unjust, the argument suggests, will be united in a whole that is “beyond good and evil.” This is not to be taken lightly, even by us ethical objectivists. An impenetrable mystery of the Bible will always be that God made that rebellious angel, allows all this unbelievable stuff to occur, and even “gave into the hearts” of those ten kings, “to do his mind and to do one mind and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the sayings of God are made complete” (Revelation 17:17).

The hero participates in all things human, and in order to overcome the villain, must conquer this within himself. It may be a lesser achievement if he conquers this outside himself, and like Arthur, is extinguished with his opposite Mordred.

In our psychology, the new Socratic psychology, we hold that justice and virtue are the health of the soul, while injustice and faction are the illness and disease of the soul, at least at this level. The Socratic discussion of faction in the first book of Plato’s Republic comes to mind.

In addition, there is a hierarchy of the parts of the soul and the priorities, a hierarchy that is by nature or natural. When we subject what is higher, like wisdom, to what is lower, like bodily pleasure or money, we disrupt the parts of our own soul, leaving a discord rather than a harmony. Injustice, like stealing, is usually a result of inflamed desire, so that the desire for money is held by us in action to be more important than our concern for others, or to love God and our neighbor. To steal from me is then basically to say that your having that 20$ for dope is more important to you than my friendship, or my right to property, etc. There are not, in this philosophy, universal laws that are always literally true: One might steal medicine from a stingy doctor to save a dying child. It is not that the Mosaic prohibition is wrong, but it is a matter of priorities. All ethics, in choice, is a matter of priorities, and these priorities have a basis in an objective natural hierarchy. One should, if there is time, find another way, but if it comes down to it, one must choose the life of the child over the universal law, and hope he grows up to become a good kid who helps others, rather than a bad kid who hurts others.

The ends of wealth, honor and wisdom correspond to the three parts of the soul, and these to the three parts of the polity: the money-makers, the noble, and the wise. The benefit of Socratic psychology is that the archetype at the root of politics is the nature of the soul. It is in order to see justice in the soul that Socrates, in Plato’s Republic, undertakes the attempt to found a city in speech.

Aristotle describes three right regimes and three perversions of these. In the right regimes, the part that is the ruling element aims at the common good, while in the bad forms, the ruling element aims at its own apparent self interest, at the expense of the other classes, and of the whole city. So tyranny is the worst, while genuine Kingship, which is very rare, and genuine aristocracy, which is also rare though not unknown in history (as in the Knights of the Round table) are the best forms of constitution. It is not impossible, too, for the few rich to rule, as they are the able administrators, especially if these are educated by the wise and honor those truly noble. We have what Aristotle, in his politics, calls polity or politea, a constitution which, devised wisely, throws the few rich and the many poor who vote into a legislature, where powers are balanced, to hash out the common good in each instance, so that neither class is fleeced.

To conclude, then, when Joseph Campbell admitted that the thought of Jung- and indeed the entire aim of psychology at the knowledge and cultivation of the health of the soul- implies an objective ethics and natural right, modern psychology finally escaped the subjectivism of German philosophy and the ethical relativism that once seemed to be the only conclusion to be drawn from the many cultures and the undesirableness of the absolutist claims of opinions that had pretended to be objective knowledge. Rather than imply that there is no truth, the falsity of the absolutism of medieval tradition requires that there be a truth, and that opinion can be improved by the pursuit of knowledge. The possibility of mistakes implies that there is truth. The unhealthiness of faction and the possibility of the health of the soul implies that there is ethical truth, and these are the philosophical bases of psychology.