Friday, 1 July 2016

Psychology or Literature? - The best instrument for understanding and interpreting the human

Psychology is like the naturalist’s helicopter whirring above the herds of migrating wildebeest on the Savannah. Patterns and movements are noted and logged and compared with similar patterns from preceding years. This method is applied to humans and the language used is that of ‘behaviour’ which, unsurprisingly, derives from the behaviourist model.

In Literature the author, and, therefore, the reader is alongside or, indeed, inside his characters. He understands what motivates them and, most important of all, the movements of their hearts. It is these movements that disrupt ‘patterns’ and make the characters interesting. In Literature these things are demonstrated to us as the author feels (not just thinks) with the protagonists. Madame Bovary is a good example - Flaubert shows us WHY she breaks out of the herd patterns to pursue her tragic course and this is fascinating.

Psychology makes the basic scientific error of excluding the whole panorama of the human interior and, also, the chief motivator of human behaviour – the heart. To leave out the most important influencing factor in an experiment is bad science and a schoolboy error.

Literature approaches humans from the inside where the true motives of their ‘behaviour’ are revealed. It provides, therefore, the best education in human affairs. This is because it makes no bones about dealing with the whole person as opposed to selecting the elements of only half of a person for study. If you exclude half of your subject you will never understand it. Sounds obvious.

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