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History and Systems of Psychology

RENAISSANCE:Rene Descartes

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Lesson 06
RENAISSANCE
Renaissance is a French word meaning"rebirth." The term Renaissance is used to describe the
development of western civilization thatmarked the transition frommedieval to modern times. It is the
periodbetween 13th to 16th centuriesAD. Earlier Europe hadpassed through what wascalled the dark ages
the period between 5th and 11th centuriesA.D., when all researchesand fresh ideas werediscouraged.
Problemswere not being solved in the light of research and observation but by invoking religious edicts.
Intellectuals adopted Plato's idealism whileAristotle's empiricism and observation were rejected.
DuringRenaissance new ideas andfresh research wasencouraged. There was a movement to
searchfor ancient texts thatwould increase current scientific knowledge. Botany, zoology, magic,alchemy,
astrology, and psychology were developed during the Renaissance as a result of the study of ancienttexts.
Scientific thinkers such as Leonardo Vinciand Galileo attempted to refineearlier findings. Many othergreat
namesalso belong to this period, such as Francis Bacon, Newton andKepler. As the Dark ages had an
impact on the growth of philosophy/psychology so did the Renaissance.
ReneDescartes
An important name in this galaxy is that of a Frenchphilosopher/psychologist, Rene Descartes. He
wasborn in 1596 AD and he died in 1650 AD. He was the shining star of the Renaissance; a soldier,
scientist,mathematician, philosopher and a teacher. Descartes' methodologywas a major influence in the
transitionfrom medieval science andphilosophy to the modern era. In science,Descartes discarded
traditionand supported rationalization and logic rather than ideas based uponexperiences. Mathematicswas
hisgreatest interest; buildingupon the work of others, he originated the Cartesian coordinates andCartesian
curves; he is often said to be the founder of analytical geometry. He wrote a text on physiology, and he also
worked in psychology; he contended thatemotion was finally physiological at base and argued that the
control of the physical expression of emotionwould control the emotions themselves.His chief work on
psychologyappeared in 1649.
Descartes'main method of acquisition of knowledge was to doubt everything. This meantthat to
him the existence of everything was doubtfuland anything that he is feeling or he is seeing may be an
illusion. By logically, following hisskepticism and his doubtDescartes had come to the conclusion that he
could doubt everything. For example,when a person sits on a chair, according to Descartes, the chairmay
notactually exist and it mightjust be a deception of his or hersenses. If a person is eatingsomething, the
foodmight not be there and it might just be his or hersenses which are making himbelieve that he is
eating.Following his skepticism andhis theory of doubting everything, Descartes reached the conclusion
that he could doubt everything in this worldexcept for one; thatwas the fact that he is doubting. In other
wordsdoubting according to Descarteswas beyond doubt. Thisconclusion further led him to conclude that
a person can doubt everything in this world except for histhinking.
Based on these conclusions, ReneDescartes went on to say thatbecause he thinks therefore he
exists. This conclusion was beyond doubts, a correct conclusion. This meansthat the existence of an
individual is indicated by his capacity andability to think. Histhinking distinguished him fromother
individuals. Descartes gave hisconclusion as a French term:"Cogito ergo sum." It meansthat "I think
therefore I am." In other words, onceagain thinking signifies the existence of a person.
In the light of this argument, he concludedthat thinking or ideas areabove everything else. In other
words the thoughts are the exalted entities while the actions of the personbelow them.
Descartes went on to divide the human being intotwo parts based on hisconclusions of superiority
of thoughts. The two parts of the human beings are:
Thepart that thinks
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Thepart that acts
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Thethinking part was obviously the mind or the soul. It thinks,contemplates, and makesdecisions
for the body. Then thesedecisions are conveyed to the part that has to act,which obeys the orders of the
thinkingpart or the mind. The partthat acts is the body of the human being. This meant,based on the
conclusionthat thinking was aboveanything else, that the mind or the soul was superior to the body.
Descartesfurther proclaimed that the mind or the soul were eternal while the body was mortal. This
conceptwas similar to that given by Plato and Aristotle that the mind or soul was a permanententity.
Anothergreat contribution of ReneDescartes was, that based on his conclusion about mindand
the body, he proclaimed that the body is like a machine that obeys the orders of the mind. We candiscover
the operative laws of the body as we candiscover the operations of a machine. This meant that Descartes
supported the separation of body from the soul. The ancient Greekphilosopher Aristotle hadput forward
the view of the unity of the souland the body, but Descartesrefuted his claim. This separation of body
from the soul is called "Dualism" in psychology.
Further,Descartes was of the opinionthat the soul is metaphysicalwhile the body is physical.The
soul of the person and his mind interact and influence each other. This is also proven by the factthat the
soulthinks and orders the bodywhich obeys, while on the other hand the body feelsand receives stimuli
for the soul. In his view, the soul affects the body by a gland that he called "PinealGland," which he
thoughtwas the seat of the mind.
Descartesalso distinguished betweentwo types of thoughts:
Innate thoughts
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Andacquired thoughts
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Innate thoughts are thoughts that we areborn with. In other wordsthese thoughts areinherited.
On the other hand some thoughts areacquired thoughts that a personacquires through the course of his or
herlife, based on the experiencesthat he encounters.
Descartes is considered to be the first European who put forward the mechanical view of the body,
whichwas that the body is like a machine which obeys the orders of the mind. He also proclaimed that the
operative laws of the body were likethat of a machine and could be discovered.
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Table of Contents:
  1. INTRODUCTION:Methodology, Grading, Course Overview up to Midterm
  2. ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHY/PSYCHOLOGY:Socrates, Plato
  3. GREEK THINKERS:Aristotle, Contiguity, Contrast
  4. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 5TH TO 12TH CENTURY:Saint Augustine, Avicenna
  5. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 5TH TO 12TH CENTURY:Al-Ghazali, Ibn-Rushd, Averroes
  6. RENAISSANCE:Rene Descartes
  7. ASSOCIATIONISTS:Thomas Hobbes, John Locke
  8. ASSOCIATIONISTS:David Hume, FRENCH REVOLUTION, Denis Diderot
  9. GERMAN CONTRIBUTION:Wilhelm Liebniz, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Hegel
  10. INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION:RUSSIAN CONTRIBUTIONS
  11. RUSSIAN CONTRIBUTIONS:Ivan Pavlov, Reflex, Acquisition
  12. RUSSIAN CONTRIBUTIONS:Vladimir Bekhterev
  13. IMPACT OF PHYSICAL SCIENCES ON PSYCHOLOGY:Charles Darwin, Gustav Fechner
  14. STRUCTURALIST SCHOOL OF PSYCHOLOGY:Wilhelm Wundt
  15. FUNCTIONALISM:William James, John Dewey
  16. EUROPEAN FUNCTIONALISTS:David Katz, Edgar Rubin, Jean Piaget
  17. BEHAVIORISM:Edward Lee Thorndike, Law of belongingness
  18. BEHAVIORISM:Albert Weiss, Edwin Holt, Learning, Canalization, Walter Hunter
  19. BEHAVIORISM:J.B.Watson
  20. NEO-BEHAVIOURISTS:Clark Hull, Edward Tolman, Edwin Gutherie
  21. NEO-BEHAVIORISTS:B.F. Skinner, Karl Lashley, Donald Hebb, Hobart Mowrer
  22. GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY:Max Wertheimer, Similarity, Proximity, Closure
  23. GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY:Wolfgang Kohler, Kurt Koffka, Edward De Bono
  24. GESTALT SCHOOL AND DYNAMIC PSYCHOLOGY:Kurt Lewin, DYNAMIC PSYCHOLOGY
  25. HISTORICO-EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY:Leon Vygotsky, Sergei Rubenstein
  26. HISTORICO-EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY:Alexei Leontiev, K.M Bykov
  27. SCIENTIFIC LOOK AT MENTAL DISORDERS
  28. SCIENTIFIC LOOK AT MENTAL ILLNESS:Philippe Pinel, Sameul Tuke
  29. SIGMUND FREUD AND THE PSYCHOANALYTIC MOVEMENT:The Superego
  30. SIGMUND FREUD AND PSYCHOANALYTICAL MOVEMENT:Anna Freud
  31. CARL JUNG AND ANALYTICAL PSYCHOLOGY:Carl Gustav Jung
  32. JUNG’S ANALYTICAL PSYCHOLOGY:Carl Gustav Jung
  33. ALFRED ADLER AND INDIVIDUAL PSYCHOLOGY:Alfred Adler
  34. NEO-FREUDIANS:Harry Stack Sullivan, Karen Horney
  35. NEO-FREUDIANS:Karen Horney, Erich Fromm
  36. ERIKSON and MORENO:J.L. Moreno, Protagonist, Audience, Role playing
  37. HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY:Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Positive Psychology
  38. MODERN TRENDS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENT
  39. MODERN TRENDS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENT:Biological Approaches
  40. ANTI-PSYCHIATRY MOVEMENT:D.L. Rosenhan, R.D. Laing, Aaron Esterson
  41. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE THIRD WORLD:Frantz Fanon
  42. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE THIRD WORLD CHINA AND PAKISTAN
  43. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 21st CENTURY
  44. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 21ST CENTURY:Consumer Psychology
  45. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 21ST CENTURY:Sports Psychology, Positive Psychology