Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Post-Modern Psychology: a Jamesian View

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Renaissance, enlightenment, and post-modern psychology: A Jamesian view

In these paragraphs, I submit a Jamesian analysis of what might be understood as the Renaissance and Enlightenment zeitgeists. The two competing forces in post-modern psychology, depth-oriented humanism vs. scientific positivism, may be understood as the what William James termed the “tender-minded” vs. “the touch-minded,” a legacy of unreconciled modernity.

The rediscovery of classical texts is commonly associated with the rise of the Renaissance. Yet, a new flavor of neo-classicism permeated the philosophical scene, one that further developed the secular humanistic thoughts and individualism. Chief among Renaissance philosophers that still influence humanistic psychology today is Marsilio Ficino, the brilliant neo-Platonist who once remark that the soul exists partly in eternity and partly in time. Freeing the human spirit from the dark ages of orthodoxy and censorship of the Church was the Renaissance chief concern, and the quest for objective knowledge owed its fertile ground precisly because of a belief that individuals are born of inalienable rights for intellectual pursuits (e.g. Locke, Berkeley, and Hume).

Compared to the Renaissance “tender” rebellion towards an imagined, and at times Saturnine, tyrannical Church, via the arts, literature, and music, the Enlightenment thinkers often took on the Church with acute blows of scientific criticism. If Descartes is known to have severed the mind by the body, one may also consider that he also bridged the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. With a number of disciplinary fatherhood attributed to him, e.g., modern philosophy, mathematics, cognitive science, physiology, and even psychoneuroendocrinology. The renovating spirit Descartes has been reified, so that he is both idolized and reviled in the historicity of his person. Yet the last thread of connecting the individual psyche to Ficino’s notion of the soul’s home in eternity was...
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