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.
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.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do