History and Systems of Psychology PSY502
ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHY/PSYCHOLOGY
The ancient Greek philosophers/psychologists regarded three elements to be the basic ingredients
of all matter including humans. These three elements were:
The ancient Greek philosophers also put forward the view that contradiction is a permanent
element in the world and because of it the world is influx all the time. This means that every time a
phenomenon arises there is a counter explanation to the phenomenon. Thus a contradiction in explanation
arises which leads to further investigation and further phenomenon and counter phenomenon. When this
process continues over a long period of time, we find the world to be in a constant influx.
One of the greatest developments of the Ancient Greek philosophers was that they put forward the
view that everything consists of small indivisible particles and these particles act upon on the soul to create
sensations. This was later found to be true with the discovery of atoms.
Socrates is considered to be one of the most important ancient philosopher/psychologist. He laid
the foundation of ideas for many philosophers/psychologists to follow. Socrates was born in 469BC and he
died in 399BC. In his opinion knowledge and truth reside in the mind and one has to look for and find it
there. It means that in order to gain knowledge and understand various phenomenon one has to look
inwards instead of looking at the outward things and trying to find an explanation in them.
He further said that knowledge and awareness create virtue, so in order to be virtuous one has to
look into the self. In other words, Socrates stressed on the study of soul i.e. looking inwards, and he rejected
Another of the Socratic contributions is that he defined the concept of happiness. To Socrates,
stealing is not happiness but the satisfaction gained through acquiring by honest means is happiness.
He regarded the soul, called psyche in Greek, as superior to body and said that the psyche or the
soul helps us to distinguish between good and bad. Socrates asserted that all things have a definite purpose
and nothing occurs without that purpose.
Another of the great contributions of Socrates is his method of teaching. It is called the Socratic
method of teaching. It is also the modern method of teaching and it consists of a dialogue, rather than
monologue and focuses on the logical correctness of the argument. The teacher and the student interact
with each other and have an intelligent dialogue that helps them to understand and comprehend better. The
monologue is discouraged because it involves only one way flow of information, further it does not clear up
any misunderstanding that may arise in the mind of the students, who are not able to express themselves.
The Socratic method of teaching is in practice these days.
Plato was a pupil of Socrates and another important Greek philosopher/psychologist. He was born
in 427BC and he died in 347BC.
History and Systems of Psychology PSY502
Following the Socratic tradition, Plato was also of the view that knowledge is innate and inside the
mind. In order to extract knowledge one needs to look into the mind rather than looking at external objects.
This method was later called the introspective method in which outwardly observation is discouraged and
looking into the mind or the soul is encouraged. This method was later adopted by many
philosophers/psychologists who agreed with Platonian and Socratic methodology.
Plato is also considered an idealist philosopher who believed in the supremacy of ideas. He did not
believe in acquiring knowledge by empiricism and observing facts. He thought that ideas are the only source
and the true source of knowledge. As an individual looks into his ideas he can extract the best possible
solutions and explanations to the problems that are encountered by him or her.
Another of Plato's contributions is that he described the parts of personality as
The intellect is the ability to understand, while the will is the drive to do something. Appetite on the other
hand is the part of the personality that deals with bodily needs. According to Plato, ideas are eternal, they
are not born, and neither do they die while worldly objects change and die. Therefore, true knowledge, as
mentioned earlier, can be gained from ideas rather than observation. Plato also regarded the soul or psyche
to be permanent and the body as something that could change. This further suggested that knowledge could
be acquired through the soul or the psyche but not by the use of bodily sensory organs. To Plato sensory
organs were a hindrance to the acquisition of knowledge.
Plato suggested that the soul has three parts:
Reason, located in the head
Passion, located in the chest
Appetite, located in the stomach
The function of the reason is to control and direct the passion and appetite. Passion is the desire to perform
a certain action. Appetite part of the soul refers to the natural needs of the body, such as hunger, thirst etc.
According to Plato, some passions and appetites are satisfied in dreams. This concept given by Plato is
similar to what was later given by Freud as id, ego and super ego. Plato was the one who established the
first ever university by the name of Academy.
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