The Enlightenment attitude toward science and how it influenced psychologys history







1. The Enlightenment attitude toward science and how it influenced psychology’s history

The age of enlightenment in Europe encompassed a cultural movement of cognoscente who championed reason and individualism and were greatly opposed to traditions. The enlightenment attitude by the intellectuals using reason tried to reform the then society using advanced scientific methods. Enlightenment was positive towards science as it promoted scientific thought as well as intellectual interchange. This movement that comprised of intellectuals was greatly opposed to superstition and traditional faith. Therefore, advanced scientific methods of tackling issues were adapted and were championed by the intellectuals. These included philosophers such as Baruz Spinoza, John Locke, Pierre Bayle, Voltaire, and Isaac Newton. Scientific insurgency is meticulously connected to enlightenment and its inception resulted in the overturning of many traditional concepts and brought about new conceptions of nature (Hergenhan, 2008, p. 84).

The foundations of psychology can be traced to enlightenment to a great extent. Psychology itself is a social science which involves the study in details of human thinking perspectives. The laws of human society could be discovered by application of the various scientific methods. Finally, the end result was the birth of social sciences which psychology, history and sociology are members (Valentine and Reese, 2004, p. 134). In their bid to improve human beings as well as the human societies, the enlightenment thinkers the pillars of psychology and other social sciences were developed. Enlightenment paved way to open thinking which is part and parcel of psychology. Therefore, it can be comprehensively concluded that enlightenment laid the foundation for psychology which has advanced over time up to where it is currently.

2.Compare and contrast Wundt and Galton

Both Wilhelm Wundt and Francis Galton were renowned intellectuals during their time and their work is still reckoned to date. Both of them were involved in vigorous scientific researches as they fought to unearth the concepts behind numerous happenings and especially in psychology. They made significant contributions too many fields some of them important to be accorded chapters in books on the history of philosophy and psychology (Popple, 2003, p.379). They both contributed in a great way in the field of psychological testing though in their own way. They established their own ways of psychological and mental testing some of which are used to date despite small modifications. They can be referred to as the forerunners of the contemporary psychology and other scientific disciplines. Both had student who learned their theories and practiced them.

On the other hand, Galton and Wundt had various differences in their theories and findings. These ideological differences are the ones that enable us to tell apart the two ancient scholars. Galton’s approach was more radical and he failed to recognize and mend any loopholes in his theories. Wundt on the other hand used a more practical approach whereby he made numerous experimentations on various psychological matters. Wundt was recognized as the father of psychology while Galton mostly specialized in psychophysics and eugenics (Popple, 2003, p.380).

3.Explain why Descartes is considered (a) a rationalist, and (b) a nativist.

(A) rationalist

Descartes was a famous French intellect and was a crucial figure in the history of philosophy. Rationalism is the belief that we can have knowledge without experiencing the real world. Descartes to some extent believed that people could visualize some facts about anything without necessarily having to get into direct contact with the “anything”. Descartes brought together involuntarily the influences of the past into a synthesis that was striking in its originality and yet congenial to the scientific temper of the age (Jensen, 2002, p.146). Descartes considered that anything that could not be justified by reason could not be categorized as knowledge. Anything that could not be proved, to Descartes was not true. He tried to prove this claim of rationalism in his self-evident claim cogito ergo sum which is basically, I think and therefore I am.

(b) Nativist

Nativism which is also synonymous to innatism is the belief that one is born with ideas and knowledge and no one is born with the mind in a blank state. Descartes had a strong belief of preexistence of ideas in the mind. He believed that these innate ideas, principles and knowledge were placed by a supreme being in the mind of any being before birth. This principle echoes rationalism and states that the mind of a newborn child is not a tabula rasa but is equipped with an inborn structure which only develops and sprouts with time as development and growth takes place. Descartes believed in the notions of causality, that all events have a cause. Concepts of good and evil logical and mathematical truths, metaphysical notions concerning transcendent objects like God or souls (Valentine, 2004, 135).

4.What is the connection between Galton’s beliefs about intelligence and (a) eugenics, and (b) mental testing?

(a). Eugenics

Francis Galton, an ancient philosopher came up with the concept of Eugenics. This concept concerned genes and their transition from one generation to the other. Galton was a cousin to Charles Darwin who had formulated the theory of evolution. Galton had read of his cousin’s theory in depth and had analyzed it for some time. This theory to a great extent proposed and promoted a higher reproduction of people with the desired traits which would ensure that only the desirable traits were passed to the consequent generations (Lynn, 2001, p.18). Galton strongly believed that this measure would to a great extent lead to the improvement of human population. This measure would ensure the complete elimination of the undesirable human traits in the world. Therefore, Galton as the individual who coined this concept championed it for the wellbeing of the world.

(b) Mental testing

Galton was the pioneer of differential psychology. He invented a number of tests that were aimed at quantifying various qualities in human beings and differentiating them. One of his inventions was the mental test. Being an English aristocrat, Francis Galton made serious attempts to develop measures that would reflect an individual person’s intelligence. He believed that intelligence was mainly a person’s thoughts and not necessarily possession of the right genes. He reasoned out that superior intelligence would be a reflection of superior physical development of the brain as well as the body (Marcus, 2009, p.120). If his finding were true, then simple physical measures would provide a reliable index of intellectual prowess. In his investigations, he set about measuring a variety of physical variables such as the reaction time and grip strength and checked out for the correlation.

5.Describe the essential principles of phrenology and explain why it eventually failed as a science. Be sure to consider the research of Flourens in your answer.

Phrenology was a science of character divination, faculty of psychology, theory of the brain which was referred to as the only true science of mind by phrenologists who existed during the 19th century. Phrenology was an original idea of a Viennese physician, Franz Joseph Gall, through his theories of the idiosyncratic. This science had some basic tenets which are as follows. Phrenology termed the brain as an organ of the mind. This science also acknowledged multiple innate faculties of the mind (Marcus, 2009, p. 124). These faculties were believed to be separate, since they are distinct, each faculty must have a separate seat or rather an organ in the brain. The different sizes of organs could be ranked among themselves based on the differences in their own power. This science also stated that the shape of the brain was chiefly determined by the development of various organs. The last tenet was that the skull took its shape from the brain and its surface could be read as an accurate index of the psychological aptitudes and tendencies.

However, the science eventually flopped due to a number of reasons. The methods that Francis Gall used in his researches lacked scientific rigor and he simply ignored to a great extent any evidence that disapproved his self-formulated theories. In the year 1843, Pierre Flourens found out that the fundamental assumptions of phrenology, that the contours of the skull corresponded to the underlying shape of the brain was wrong. Other scientists like Francois Magendie also disapproved the theories behind phrenology by saying that the efforts of phrenology were mere assertions, which would not bear examination for an instant (Longo, 2007, 140).

6.Show how the two varieties of the clinical method for studying the brain are illustrated by (a) Phineas Gage and (b) Tan.

(a) Phineas Gage

Phineas Gag was a rail road worker who encountered a terrible accident when a meter long iron rod propelled straight third through his head at high speed in an explosion. He amazingly and surprisingly survived this terrific accident. However, the man underwent dramatic changes in his personality which many ancient neuroscientists used to study clinical aspects of the brain. Recent researchers in their mission reconstructed his skull to try to get various enlightenments on the changes and how they were related to his brain damage. Neuroscientists from the California University produced his connectome indicating how long range connections were altered by the injury (Marcus, 2009, p.119). In this study method, numerous techniques are applied in collecting data on the connectivity of the brain. A related method which has become popular in the recent years is the diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) which can be used to visualize the larger white matter tracts which form long range connections between different parts of the brain.

(b) Tan

Tan was a patient of Pierre Paul Broca who suffered from speech disorientation complications. Broca in his studies identified a robe on the human brain that was responsible for comprehension as well as formulation of language and speech. This lobe was named Broca in the honor of this renowned physician. His patients including Tan had lost the ability to speak after an injury to the posterior inferior frontal Gyrus of the brain (Longo, 2007 p. 143). This deficit in language production was attributed to the damage in the sensitive cells in this region. Today neuroscientists define the area in terms of Pars opercularis and pars triangulalis of the interior of the frontal Gyrus represented in the Bradman’s cytoarchitecture map. Therefore, Tan’s problem has enabled neuroscientist to study speech development in human beings.

7.Wundt rather than Fechner is considered to be the founder of modern experimental psychology. Why?

Many individuals are recognized for their efforts in the inception, rise and the evolution of modern psychology. Examples are Wilhelm Wundt, William James and Fechner. However, much of the establishment of this discipline of psychology is attributed to the man, Wilhelm Wundt. He made the major contributions to the establishment of psychology more than other ancient scholars who also made efforts in its establishment. He is identified as the father of psychology (Hergenhan, 2008, p.84). Wundt formed the world’s first experimental psychology lab. This is described as the official kick start of psychology as a separate and distinct science. By establishing lab that utilized scientific methods to have a deeper study of the human mind and behavior, Wundt took psychology from a mixture of philosophy and biology and made it a unique field of study. Wundt also had a number of students who became influential psychologists who made a number of remarkable inventions.

Fechner to be considered as one of the ancient founders of psychology and was the founder of psychophysics. However, the man had problems with his vision which dimmed his chances of doing extensive study and research like Wundt. This hampered his influence and his ability to experiment allowing the younger men like Wundt to reap the glory of his earlier work (Dennis and Mitter, 2010, p.465). these factors therefore paved way for his predecessor, Wundt to carry all the glory and to be termed as the father of modern psychology.

8.Darwin had his theory worked out in the early 1840’s. Why did he delay publication and why did he eventually publish in 1859?

There exist wide speculations as to why Charles Darwin delayed the publication of his work, The evolution theory despite having completed it decades ago. Various scholars and philosophers have developed theories that probably explain Darwin’s motives. During his long and expansive research on the evolution of man, his beliefs were not at all secretive. However, he delayed the publication of his work for two good decades which leaves numerous queries running through our mind (Wyhe, 2008, 234). He delayed the publication until the year 1959 when Alfred Russell’s hit a similar theory. Many referred this period of delay to as; the long wait, Darwin’s procrastination and the Darwin’s delay.

The chief reason as to why Darwin delayed his publication is believed to be the fear of the unknown. It is said that Darwin feared the reaction of his scientific colleagues and was not in for a damage of his reputation. It is also said that Darwin feared religious persecution as his theory of evolution was very much against the religious theories that explained the origin of life. Darwin also feared upsetting his religious wife and disturbing the social order. Frank Sulloways research during this time also disapproved Darwin’s postulates beyond any reasonable doubt and hence he feared publishing an already disapproved theory which would not fetch him credit at the time (Wyhe, 2008, p.235).

9.Describe Weber’s Law and the concept of a jnd.

This was a law that was formulated by Ernst Heinrich Weber in psychophysics. This law brings together two dissimilar laws of human perception. It entails the study of human response to a physical stimulus in a quantities way. The law states that, the just noticeable difference between two stimuli is proportional to the magnitude of the stimuli. Weber’s co-founder of this law, Gustav Theodor Fechner offered an elaborate interpretation of Weber’s findings. He attempted to describe the correlation between the physical magnitudes of stimuli and the perceived intensity of the stimuli (Marcus, 2009, p.121). Fechner’s law states that the subjective sensation is proportional to the stimulus intensity. In its derivation, the concept of just noticeable difference concept, JND arises.

Weber found out that the just noticeable difference JND between the two weights was approximately proportional to the weights. Therefore, if the weight of 110 grams can only just be distinguished from that of 105 grams, the just noticeable difference is 5 grams. If the mass is doubled, the differential threshold also doubles to ten grams so that 310 grams can be distinguished from 300 grams. In the above examples and illustrations, its evidence that a weight seems to have a weight increase of 5% for there to be a noticeable difference. This minimum required fractional increase of 5% is referred to as the weber’s fraction (Marcus, 2009, p.125). Other discrimination tasks such as length may take different web’s fractions.

10.Distinguish between primary and secondary qualities of matter and compare the views of Locke and Berkeley’s with regard to these qualities.

It is believed that Locke inherited from Descartes or borrowed from Newton and Boyle the differentiation between the primary and secondary qualities of matter. Primary and secondary differentiation is the ideological distinction in metaphysics and epistemology concerning the nature of reality. primary qualities are said to be the properties of objects that are independent of any observer. These qualities include; motion, number, solidity, extension and figure. Such characteristics bring out facts and they exist in the object in discussion and can be observed with certainty and never depend on subjectivity (Longo, 2007, p.145).

On the other hand according to both Locke and Berkeley secondary qualities of matter are thought to be the qualities that arouse sensation in the observers such as color, smell, taste and sound. They can be elaborated as the different effect things have on different people. The concepts aroused by secondary qualities of matter do not provide objective facts about things. It can be concluded according to Locke’s and Berkeley’s postulates that primary qualities are measurable aspects of matter and on the contrary secondary qualities are subjective and are dependent on differences in various persons (Marcus, 2009, 124).


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