The subjective nature of truth: A historical development
SPE 313 History of Psychology
BSc Honours Psychology
Lecturer: Dr Mofrad
Date Due: 8th June 2011
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This paper aims to trace and analyze the historical development of the subjective nature of truth, the sources and reactions towards the theory. The implications of the theory of subjective truth are vast since a position on the nature of truth permeates one’s personal life goals and purposes, cognition, and morality of individual and hence also affects research methodology and psychotherapy. Subjectivism focuses on individuals’ thoughts and feelings as well as the proposition that knowledge of humans can never be separated from the knower. This literature review covers the existence of truth as being subjective during the time of the early Greek philosophers, present within Hellenistic and Roman psychology and persisting within romantic and existential philosophy, humanistic psychology and the approaches of the postmodernists in the mid-1960s.
Keywords: subjective truth, history, postmodernism
The Subjective Nature Of Truth: A Historical Development
The constant tension of whether truth is objective or subjective has long since existed throughout history and continues to pervade in current schools of psychotherapies. “Science versus Humanism” is the term Conway (1992) gives to the philosophical dimension along which the values underlying the theories of psychologists differ. A scientific approach to psychology is based on the epistemological tradition of objectivism. Mahoney (1989) summarizes objectivism as beliefs that an objective and separate ‘real world’ lies beyond the organism, independent of perception and that valid knowledge is ultimately rendered from our sensory experiences, and can be totally separated from the knower (Mahoney, 1989 as cited in Conway, 1992). In contrast, the humanistic approach to psychology is based on the epistemological tradition of subjectivism which focuses on thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, knowledge of humans can never be separated from the knower (Conway, 1992). Due to different theories on the nature of truth, methodology for observing consciousness and the role of inner experience differ. The human science approach to psychology seeks to explain behavior in terms of a person’s subjective existence (Kendler, 2005). Humanistic psychology and philosophical phenomenology are two schools of thought that employ the human science interpretation of psychology (Kendler, 2005). The implications of the theory of the relativity of truth is seen in the individuals personal life goals, purpose of life, cognitive styles, morality, ethics, counseling goals, research methodology and conceptualization of definitions. Due to the great relevance of the topic to psychology, this essay traces and analyzes the historical development of the subjective nature of truth, the sources and reactions towards the theory. Early Greek Philosophers and Hellenistic and Roman Psychology The Sophists were a group of philosophers who believed that nothing is inherently right or wrong but that believing something is right makes it right and vice versa (Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 41). Protagoras (485-420 B.C.) was the most popular Sophist who proposed that man is the measure of all things, meaning that man determines whether something is true or untrue and...
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