The development of modern psychology has roots that can be found well past the 19th century. This paper will identify philosophers who are historically related to the beginnings of psychology as a formal discipline. It will also identify philosophers in the western tradition who were primary contributors to the formation of psychology as a discipline. The development of the science of psychology during the 19th century will also be explored. Philosophy is not the same as psychology. However, several philosophers provided the necessary foundations for modern psychology (Goodwin,2008). Two philosophers that are historically related to the beginning of psychology as a formal discipline are Plato and Aristotle. During the fourth and fifth centuries, Plato and Aristotle were the prominent philosophers.
Ironically, Aristotle was Plato’s student (Bennett,2007). However, they did have different thoughts on explaining the “soul”, which was the common term used for the mind. The view that Plato held was that the soul was composed of three parts: the thymos(emotion), nous (intellect) and menos (rage). He also believed that the soul was incorporeal or not material (Bennett,2007). Aristotle on the other hand, distinguished three different kinds of soul: rational, sensitive and nutritive and thought it impossible for an incorporeal soul to interact with a corporeal body (Bennett,2007). So in other words, Aristotle thought that both mind and body, that the mind is not a spirit, but is substantial. These two philosophers unknowingly laid the foundation for psychology. Even in this modern age we still do not have a clear understanding of all the attributes of the psyche, such as cognitive, emotional and responses work.
Following Plato and Aristotle, around the 17th century, one of the topics of discussions of human psychology was whether or not humans are born with knowledge and understanding of reality, or are they acquired through experiences and interactions with the world. John Locke is one of the two major philosophers of the western tradition that was a primary contributor to the formation of psychology as a discipline. John Locke was a British philosopher with an empiricist view. His theory stated, that at birth, the mind was a blank slate, onto which experiences of what a person sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels are written (Goodwin,2008). So in other words there is no store of knowledge, but through our senses, our knowledge comes. This debate stills continues today and it is referred to the nature versus nurture. The other important philosopher is during the 19th century was John Stuart Mill, who was also British.
John Stuart Mill, was the son of an important British philosopher. Mill senior used the empiricist and associationist doctrine to shape Mill junior (Goodwin,2008). Johns Stuart Mill was also empiricist, like John Locke. However, he did not restrict himself to solely the empiricist views. He believed that,” a complex idea, is formed by the blending together of several simpler ones.” In 1843, John Stuart Mill published, A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive, Being Connected View of the principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation, which was the foundational rules for conducting empirical research (Goodwin,2008).
Both Locke and Mills advocated that empiricism, knowledge that is obtained from the senses (simplypsychology.org,2012, is the most practical and scientific approach to understanding the human psyche. The development of the science of psychology during the 19th century ushered in Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), who some say is the founder of modern psychology. Wundt developed structuralism. He believed that the mind and behavior can be subject to scientific analysis.
William James (1842-1910) also brought in a new approach to psychology called functionalism. James is known for his work, Principles of Psychology, the belief that mentality must be seen as an ongoing process and not fragmented into bits of consciousness. In conclusion, the history of psychology is important for three reasons. First is still a young science. Second, it is important to understanding the heritability of traits. Third, the past can provide unity for psychology’s future (Goodwin,2008). All of the great philosophers of ancient times made discoveries that have aided in modern day psychology as a respectable and scientific discipline.
http://www.simplypsychology.org/science-psychology.html Retrieved November 3, 2012 Bennett, M. (2007). Development of the concept of mind. Australian
& New Zealand Journal Of Psychiatry, 41(12), 943-956. Goodwin, C. J. (2008) A history of modern psychology (3rd ed). Hoboken, NJ:Wiley