A philosophical principle for interpreting psychological data and theory
Nietmann, William Danne
MetadataShow full item record
1. FORMAL DEFINITION A philosophy of psychology may suggest an ultimate, empirically derived principle to serve as an hypothesis for the interpretation of psychological data and theory. The formal limits and extent of a philosophy of psychology may be defined "by comparison with two similar disciplines, namely, philosophical psychology and scientific psychology. Philosophical psychology may make psychological data and theory amenable to an a priori point of view, whereas philosophy of psychology is empirically conditioned. Here it has an investigative spirit in common with scientific psychology. It differs from scientific psychology by including the consideration of values as such. Scientific psychology has philosophical implications. Thus, mechanistic categories of current psychology favor materialism. Categories presupposing purpose permit idealistic positions. Operationism suggests positivism. It is the task of philosophy of psychology to make such implicit philosophical issues explicit, and to construct an interpretative principle upon an empirical basis. 2. EMPIRICAL BASIS Psychological data may be organized into theory under four principles: (1) The principle of psycho-physical correlation. From numerous instances of the effects of neural and glandular functioning, and of disease and drugs, upon mental life it is inferred that mental and physiological processes are correlated. (2) The principle of instrumental behavior. Motor response, perception, imagination, thinking, appreciation, and self-consciousness are used "by the individual as a means to some end. (3) The principle of value response. The world is of value to us when, in our commerce with it, needs are met and desires satsified. The social group provides an objective ground for value experience. Purposeful planning for value experience is ideal motivation. (4) The ego principle. The individual is a psychological unit. Within the world he accepts as real he refers his past experience to his present, self-enhancing purposes. This reference presupposes the personal identity to which the experience of self-consciousness attests. The four principles are complementary. The facts to which the principles, taken together, apply, constitute the subject matter of psychology. For example, mental reactive equipment used in instrumental behavior is psychologically significant because it functions for the ego in achieving ego-enhancing values in a social context. The mental life of animals and idiots is excluded, and is subject matter for comparative psychology, rather than psychology proper. Within this scope, no limits are placed upon psychological investigation by these principles. For example, further investigation in physiological psychology will strengthen the evidence for psycho-physical correlation. Psychological theory and data, as sytematized by the four complementary principles, constitute the empirical basis of philosophy of psychology. 3. PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMS Three philosophical problems arise from these empirically based principles: (1) The mind-body problem. How the facts of psycho-physical correlation, and of the instrumentality of mental reactive equipment, are related to ultimate reality constitutes the mind-body problem. Philosophical positions that in some sense assert the inefficacy of mind (T.H. Huxley, J.B. Watson), or the inefficacy of body (Bosanquet, Paulsen), are empirically invalid. The positions of Montague, C.L. Morgan, and Sellars (mind and body are, in some sense, material), of J.B. Pratt (mind and body are qualitatively different; their interaction is an ultimate fact), and of Brightman (dualistic only in the sense of not identifying mind and body, and explaining interaction by divine immanence) take into account the reciprocal influence of mind and body. The following principle is proposed to relate the empirical evidence and these empirically valid positions: Bodily processes influence and condition, and are instrumental to, self-determined mental processes. (2) The problem of value. The question of the metaphysical status of value is the problem of value. Value experience is individually initiated and socially conditioned. Empirically invalid theories of value include those that: deny personally initiated achievement of value (A. P. Weiss); do not use an empirical basis (Spaulding); or underestimate personal initiation, and exaggerate the social relevance, of value (Ames). On the other hand, the theories of Perry (the universe is indifferent to values), Wieman (the objectivity of value is impersonal), and Sorley (the objectivity of values is grounded in God) properly take into account the individual initiation and social relevance of values. The following principle is proposed to relate these empirically valid interpretations of value and the psychological facts of value experience: The value process is a function of personal purpose, and exists objectively. "Objectively" means: Value is judged by its relation to a norm of value. Value exists within social process, and is as real as the valuer. It has causal efficacy. (3) The problem of personal identity. The fact of consciously recognized personal continuity, and the sense of reality, give rise to the experience of personal identity. The question of the metaphysical significance of this experience is the problem of personal identity. Philosophical positions that grant ontological significance to the self, and hold to epistemological dualism, are consistent with the empirical evidence. In this respect strict neo-realism (Perry, E.B. Holt), instrumentalism (Dewey), and Bradley's absolute idealism are not empirically valid. Further, personal identity, (vs. Stern and the neo-scholastics), as an empirical fact seems to owe nothing to any ulterior substance. No alternative to accepting the phenomenal self as the real self is strictly consistent with the empirical facts. Personal idealism, as presented by Knudson and Brightman, accepts the persistence of personal identity through change as its metaphysical starting place. To that extent, its system appears empirically valid. The following principle is proposed to relate this empirically valid position and the psychological evidence: Personal identity, in relating changing events to personal continuity, requires an objective reference. The above discussion has made explicit certain philosophical issues involved in psychology, and it has made psychological data philosophically relevant. 4. AN ULTIMATE PRINCIPLE Construction of an empirically derived principle for interpreting psychological data and theory involves the following steps: (1) The four constituent elements into which the three principles discussed in Part Three may be analyzed are: body; self-determination; objective reference; and personal identity. Without all of these, personality process is impossible. Therefore, the following scientific category, embodying these four elements, is proposed: Self-directional activity, utilizing the bodily instrument to serve personal needs, desires and purposes, makes an objective difference and constantly reaffirms personal identity. (2) Accepting divine immanence, the objectivity of value as grounded in God, and the ontological significance of persons, positions empirically validated in Part Three, the following principle is proposed to interpret the scientific category: Self-directional activity, and the social and natural process on which it depends, are grounded in personal deity, who participates in social and natural process by promoting and conserving values. Thus, God makes possible self-directional activity. He works out his will in social and natural process. Mortally, man is ontologically significant. He may be immortally significant, through cooperation with God. (3) Either ultimate reality is extra-mental, or everything exists only in relation to mind. In positing the second alternative, the proposed principle excludes neo-realism, instrumentalism, metaphysical behaviorism, evolutionary naturalism, and empirical theism. Ultimate reality is a society of persons of whom God is one. This favors pluralism as against absolute idealism and pantheism. But the immanence of God in social and natural process grounds the pluralism in the monism of a personal God. Thus viewed, the universe is friendly to value. Step one indicates the empirical derivation of the proposed principle. Step two states the philosophical positions involved in its construction. Step three applies the principle to the universe as a whole, excluding all other ultimate principles. The final problem of philosophy of psychology is to relate the principle to psychological data and theory. Data classified under the principles of psycho-physical correlation and instrumental behavior are interpreted in terms of divine immanence. Value data are given metaphysical meaning by the relation they bear to the will and purpose of God. Data associated with personal identity are meaningful as they contribute to the ontological reality of the self. With respect to current psychological theory, the proposed principle implies the category of purpose, and systematization by principles that make psychological data and theory philosophically relevant. 5. SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS This philosophy of psychology suggests an ultimate, empirically derived, principle for interpreting psychological data and theory. The empirical derivation is as follows: First, psychological data are organized under four principles which formulate into theory: (1) the facts of psychophysical correlation; (2) of instrumental "behavior; (3) of value experience, and (4) of personal identity. Second, these four principles, taken together, involve three philosophical issues, namely: (1) the mind-body problem; (2) the problem of value; and (3) the problem of personal identity. In each case there is proposed a principle that relates the empirical evidence relevant to the problem, and certain philosophical positions that conform to the evidence. Third, these three principles are formulated as a scientific category. Fourth, certain of the empirically valid positions, namely, divine immanence, objectivity of values as grounded in God, and the ontological significance of persons, are involved in a principle that interprets the scientific category. This interpretative principle posits ultimate reality as a society of persons including and grounded in God. Thus, extra-mental theories of reality, absolute systems, and an ultimately plural universe are excluded. The principle interprets psychological data in terms of values, and finds the category of purpose, and metaphysical postulates, essential for a coherent psychological theory.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University