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History of Psychology Essay

Modern psychology is a science that it continually being researched and added to. Psychology predates the 19th century and includes roots into early philosophy. Looking closely one can identify philosophers that related to the beginnings of psychology, identify major philosophers that historically relate to the beginnings psychology as a formal discipline and how the development of the science of psychology changed during the 19th century. A philosopher that could easily be called the father of modern psychology would be: Rene Descartes. Descartes was a philosopher in the 17th century that stepped outside the limits and wanted to know more.

Descartes came up with 4 basic rules to arrive at the truth of whatever he was researching. These rules were basically to think clearly, logically and without bias (Goodwin, 2008). Descartes had several derived ideas and was considered a nativist and a rationalist. These ideas that he created foreshadowed one of psychology’s major topics of nature versed nurture. Descartes also fought that there was a difference between a person’s mind and body; and this difference separated us from animals. Before Descartes died he published his last of many books called: The Passions of the Soul.

This book established him as a psychologist and a physiologist (Goodwin, 2008). This book emphasized on human emotions and continued on with a discussion about mind and body distinctions. He Clarified the body is a machine and responds to curtain motions, such as fear, that trigger reflexes. Descartes also determined that the pineal glad in the brain was the gland that sent messages from the mind/spirit to the body. Descartes died at just before his 54th birthday in 1650. There were several philosophers that historically relate to the beginnings psychology as a formal discipline.

John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume and John Stuart Mill are just a few to mention. Each philosopher contributed an aspect to psychology that led to its formal discipline. John Locke refused to believe in an innate mind and believed that mind is created by experiences and was not pre programmed. He stated believed that the ideas that come from our minds are due to ones sensations and reflections from experiences (Goodwin, 2008). George Berkeley added an analysis of visual perception. He disagreed with Locke’s theory of primary and secondary distinctions, but stated that our belief in God gave us a type of reality.

David Hume is known for his study of impressions. This study helped research sensations and ideas the thought were due to impressions. Hume also identified the rules of association as resemblance, contiguity and cause/effect (Goodwin, 2008). There are a couple of reasons that psychology changed dramatically in the 19th century. John Stuart Mill was a big part of that change. Even though John Stuart Mill was a very young philosopher, he studied the logic of science and analyzed several methods on how to get a scientific truth.

For example, Mill would look in to different genes that could produce depression. Every depressed person that he would look at would have this gene; however that did not mean that if you had the gene that you automatically had depression. In modern times we call his methods the experimental method and the correlation method. These types of methods are use today in the field of psychology. Philosophers are a big part of the modern world of psychology. They helped introduce methods that are still used today and added science to the study.

Without philosophers we may still believe that the mind and body are one and that genes create thoughts and ideas and not experiences. We would not understand how visual and sensations react and create thoughts and different experiences. Philosopher Hermann Ebbinghaus once said that “Psychology has a long past, yet its real history is short” (Goodwin, 2008). This statement represents the fact that psychology is only 100 years old, but can be predated back from the time humans started asking questions. References Goodwin, C. J. (2008). A History of Modern Psychology (3rd ed. ).


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