The History of Psychology
Thomas Hobbes' (1588-1679) Leviathan and De Cive (
Rene Descartes' (1596-1650)- Meditations on First Philosophy and Discourse on Method (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) are two major works by a man who many think of as the “Father of Modern Psychology”. Descartes proposed an intricate physiological and mechanical explanation for animal and many human behaviors -- the reflex. The world is a source of changes in physical energy, Descartes proposes, which are reflected in the machinery of the body as muscular actions. Human beings, however, have souls – the “unextended substance” that connects with God but obeys no physical principle. Descartes argued that human psychology was a matter of physical reflex and a soul that imposed action through the body (he reasoned that the pineal body of the brain was the site of that interaction because of its unique appearance).
“psychophysical interactionism” is the modern origin
of the “mind-body problem” – How can two worlds (mind and body) that follow
different principles have anything to do with each other? Queen Christina (1626-1689) of
Another significant concept proposed by Descartes was what came to known as the “innate idea”: some notions such as God and infinity could not have experiential origin and, thus, must be inborn. This assertion created yet another battle: How much of our being is the result of experience and to what degree are we the product of our heritage?
The “nature versus nurture question”.
Jacquet de la Guerre (1664?-1729) was a musical prodigy at the age of 13 and earned
the patronage of Louis XIV (1638-1715) (portrayed by Testelin
above as he founded the
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) He composed “French Baroque” music and wrote extensively on music theory – how proper music is to be written, a fundamentally psychological matter.
John Locke's (1632-1704) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Conduct of the Understanding reveal this important thinker’s views on human psychology. The underlying motive for his work was political science; he intended to develop a governmental system on the basis of psychology. He began with Hobbes’ empiricism: knowledge is solely the product of experience. The means with which we are all born to gain knowledge is the same --- Aristotle’s “Tabula Rasa”, the blank slate on which sensory experience etches its passing and creates knowledge.
Purcell (1659-1695) was the finest English composer of Locke’s time. He was organist and composer in
Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina : March 1, 1669
(Yale University Law School), largely
written by Locke, was highly influenced by Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713), Lord Proprietor of the
Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) - "The Ethics Demonstrated in Geometric Order" and "On the Improvement of
the Understanding" are the chief e-texts found here (
Spinoza, who was born and lived for a good portion of his life in
life is the result of living in accord with the principles of nature (God).
“Passions”, unpleasant or inappropriate feelings, he regarded as “inadequate idea”. That is, our lack of understanding of the natural laws that direct our behavior is the source of our discomfort. The moral life should be spent deciphering the laws of nature and one’s place in the natural design. Ethics Demonstrated in Geometric Order
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz ' (1646-1716) The Monadology (University of Washington Philosophy Eserver) describes a remarkable solution to the mind-body problem in which there are multiple realms of existence and none of these interact. The cosmos is comprised of aggregations of intellectual units, monads, which, when accumulated in large enough masses, by degree, produce consciousness – “petite perception”. The forerunner of psychophysics argues that the dimensions of reality do not interact but may become aware in, for example, people. Our conclusion of “cause and effect” is a confused perception of predetermined parallel activity – much like synchronized clocks that are set by the Master clockmaker (God) but have no real influence upon each other.
was renowned in his own time as a mathematician and philosopher. His principal patron was Sophie Charlotte
(1668-1705), Queen of
George Berkeley (1685- 1753) - "A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge", "Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous", "The Analyst", a brief biography, and
George Friderick Handel (1685-1776, left), although born in
Julien de la Mettrie's (1709-1751) Man a Machine (1748) wrote this unabashed essay in which he argued that humans followed the same mechanical principles that machines do. His solution to the “Mind-Body” problem is, thus, the simplest; to de la Mettrie, there is only the physical body to understand.
David Hume (1711-1776) - Much about Hume is found at this site (
George III, the King against whom the American Colonies successfully rebelled, was one of the most important political figures during Hume’s life, Samuel Johnson was the
most influential literary man (he was the first to write an English dictionary), and Sir Joshua Reynolds was the leading English painter of the day.
Johnson (1708-1784) by Sir Joshua Reynolds George III
, King of From the Royal Collection
Samuel Johnson (1708-1784) by Sir Joshua Reynolds
, King of
From the Royal Collection
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) - Among other materials and e-texts are found "A Critique of Pure Reason", "A Critique of Practical Reason", "A Critique of Judgment". Kant relates that the empirical skepticism of David Hume caused him to write his philosophy. His is an empiricism that is directed by the “a priori categories”, cognitive principles which exist before experience and conform all of our knowledge. These “faculties” of the mind underlay most of psychological thought to the present.
in the foreground on the
in the foreground on the left
Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809) (Guttenbrunn)
Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809) (Guttenbrunn)
(1694-1778) Candide (The
Wedgewood statue of Voltaire
Jean Jacques Rousseau's (1712-1778) Confessions (The
most important musician of this period was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)left. Although
Mozart was Austrian, his work was accomplished all over
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's (1749-1832) Faust is a drama which warns of the extent to which the quest for intellectual power can lead to the undoing of humankind. This perennial romantic distrust of intellect and advocacy of feeling sets the stage on which modern science will grow in the nineteenth century.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827 right), an acquaintance and soul mate of Goethe, ushered in the Romantic era in his powerful musical compositions.
The most influential political power of Goethe’s time
was Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).