Unity: Psychology is the Mother of All Sciences

A philosophical response to Henriques comes from Jack Presbury who wants to give the Tree of Knowledge a good shake. This article is superficially attractive not least because he states:

“The Big Bang and the dinosaurs may have been here long before we humans were, but if we hadn’t come along, they might as well have not existed, because nobody would know about it. The basic epistemological issue is that nothing could be known if we humans did not have the capacity to know. Everything is psychology. It is psychology – not physics – that is the mother of all sciences.”

What could be a more appealing statement to a psychologist? It’s the physicists who should have psychology envy!

Expanding on this a little, and placing it within Henriques’ model, Presbury (2004) refers to Heidegger’s (1956) argument that metaphysics is at the base of the tree of knowledge. Heidegger’s ‘Dasein‘ or ‘being-in-the-world’ is a necessary precursor to scientific knowledge despite science’s claim that it has no point of view, or is the “view from nowhere” (Nagel, 1986:14). He suggests mind should not only be at the base of the model but everywhere up and down it.

References

> Heidegger, M. (1956) The way back into the ground of metaphysics. In W. Kaufmann (Ed.), Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre (pp. 206-221). Cleveland: Meridian Books.

> Nagel, T. (1986) The view from nowhere. New York: Oxford University Press.

While I like the idea Presbury puts forward, I think unity in psychology is going to seem like an even more far-fetched idea if we place it on a philosophical footing like this.

Any kind of theoretical solidity immediately evaporates as soon as we can’t even pretend to believe in some reasonably constrained version of an objective truth. For example: do you think there is a brain inside your skull? Does this fact change with point of view? No.

I’d like to believe that psychology was the mother of all sciences, but frankly that is just physics envy.

Presbury, J. (2004) Rooting the tree of knowledge: A response to Henriques’ “Psychology Defined” (Abstract)
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Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 22 August 2006

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