The Personalist vs. the Naturalist Viewpoint
RENE DESCARTES (1595-1650) "I am thinking therefore I exist” From the Discourse on Method The "Father of Modern Philosophy," certainly left me thinking about these six profound words from the quote above, “I am thinking therefore I exist “I am thinking how Descartes existed in the Zeitgeist of France, Holland, (Dutch Republic) Germany and sadly Sweden. I found interesting how such a versatile man has influenced our educational world with strong meditations of first philosophy that continue to be a standard text at most universities with in the philosophy departments. What is striking to me after doing this research for this assignment, how he is known for his philosophical ways of thinking and yet this is a psychology course? I now understand that his internal nature and external drive led him down a path of various fields. As I define the differences between personalistic versus naturalistic in reference to Descartes scientific historical contributions and the cultural times of his day. This seems to inspire a new zeitgeist such as empiricism, which clearly requires knowledge from the past and through observation that could give insight that would reflect the changing nature of the scientific inquiry. In considering the historical development of scientific psychology two main views of the historical progress the field of science have emerged: personalistic theory and naturalistic theory. The personalistic theory often times called the “great man” theory holds that a chosen few individuals are unique in that they are endowed with an extraordinary inner quality giving them the ability to do extraordinary things. When applied to scientific history it is believed that this quality allows them to shape the course of that history with nothing more than their own ideas. This internal power is most commonly referred to as “genius”. It is the belief that man himself is a free agent who chooses his behaviors to not only shape his own life but also the lives of those whom his behavior affect (E.G. Boring, 1950). Personalistic views are still widely held even today. 1. Personalistic theory– The view that progress and change in scientific history are attributable to the ideas of unique individuals. This definition which is indeed the key component to the works of Descartes and his fundamental upbringing clearly indicates how education and his free thinking scientific ideas can cease the old fashion ideas of rigid ways. By thinking this advanced way and certainly ahead of his time, the transitions Descartes used and applied to the modern era of science. He was able to apply the idea or concept of the clock work mechanisms to the human body. As stated in the book, “he inaugurated the era of modern psychology.” The naturalistic theory, on the other hand, holds that history is shaped and is not changed not by individuals, however, but by the times in which those individuals lived. It is called or referred to as the notion that “the times”, this is what makes it possible for the ideas of individuals to be accepted or rejected, heard or stifled. The focus, then, of naturalistic theory is on the social conditions prevalent at the time an individual puts forth an idea or ideas that influence the flow of history and can change the course as well for future generations to come. 2. Naturalistic theory- The view that progress and change in scientific history are attributable to the Zeitgeist, which makes a culture receptive to some ideas but not others. The concept of Zeitgeist relates to these two words as a means to end for this era that Descartes lived in. The achievements and especially the contributions of Descartes had progressed with a different viewpoint...
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