Monday, 8 May 2017

The Flaw in Our Psychology

Psychology, as a science, suffers from one major flaw – it is not sufficiently scientific. It’s area of study is the human mind but that study is conducted by humans who cannot wash themselves successfully from the laboratory in which the study is being conducted. Their presence and their assumptions pollute and affect the results. This is bad science. The decks cannot be cleared, the lab cannot be cleaned sufficiently.

This means that when we set the parameters for our experiments our prejudices and assumptions cannot but be injected into the experiment which then becomes no more than a vehicle for transmitting our biases and prejudices. Thus many psychological experiments become self-fulfilling prophecies, simply ‘discovering’ what researchers ‘knew’ all along.

This opens up the whole question of epistemology in this context. If we assume that humans are just another species of animal we will be content with setting up experiments that measure them according to their observed external ‘behaviours.’ The assumption of mere animality will, surprise, surprise, find mere animality. If, however, we attempt to include interiority in our measurements we face the problem of how to access that interiority in a reliable scientific way. Do we accept the reports of that interiority from those whose interiority we are studying as gospel? May not a whole range of factors influence the truthfulness of that reporting? Or do we guess from the outside the nature of that interiority and the motivations that spring from it? Surely that too will be subject to enormous fallibility?

And finally, strange to say, humans do seem to have an ability of ‘knowing’ each other in very intimate ways which include, of course, love but also an ability to know and understand each other’s moral motivations given time. We soon get to know the crook down the pub and to be cautious around him and we sense when our child (even when an adult) is not leveling with us. These forms of ‘knowledge’ come from a combination of reason, instinct , experience and feeling, not simply from the rationalism by which science is constrained to operate. Humans have a faculty which enables them to know each other in ways that cannot be satisfactorily be described by science.

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