6/20/00 Rough Draft--not for publication or citation
Copyright © 2000 by Arthur Warmoth, Ph.D.

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Intersubjectivity and Humanities-Based Psychology:
Some Thoughts on Cleaning Up Our Language

Arthur Warmoth
Sonoma State University

Psychology has lived in a state of perpetual identity crisis at least since it established itself as a discipline distinct from philosophy in the late nineteenth century. The most current manifestation is the fact that, at the height of the ascendancy of cognitive psychology, the American Psychological Association has seen fit to call the eleven year period 2000-2010 the "decade of behavior." More seriously, the first two issues of the American Psychologist of the new century are devoted to identity issues. The January issue focuses on Martin Seligman and his colleagues' (Seligman & Czikszentmihalyi, 2000) call for psychology to abandon its preoccupation with dysfunctional behavior and become a proactive, research-based advocate for the good society. The February issue mostly affirms the "science-practitioner model" defined by the 1949 Boulder Conference as the standard for education and practice in the field, but it also raises interesting questions about the conceptual and practical limits of the model (Albee, 2000; Nathan, 2000, Stricker, 2000).

In this essay I would like to raise the possibility that this perennially unresolved debate might reflect the inadequacy of our conceptual framework for thinking about the issues, much like the famous parable of the blind man and the elephant. Our festering identity crisis may have less to do with empirical questions about what is really going on in the world than it does with cultural questions of competing values and the consequent surplus meanings that find their way into the language of the debate. In particular, the cultural biases programmed into our use of the term "science" has distorting effects on our thinking about "practice." The following propositions, which revolve around the reconstruction of a few key terms, might clarify our thinking about the future of professional psychology in the light of the threat posed by managed care and the opportunities offered by the creative chaos of postmodern society.

1. The coherence of the field of psychology comes from the phenomenological coherence of human identity, not from the unity of the tasks or methods for studying that identity. It is useful to think about psychologies in the plural, as well as about psychology.

2. The explorations of individual and collective self-knowledge that are undertaken by psychologists have intellectual roots in the humanities as well as in the natural sciences. It is therefore useful to speak of humanities-based psychologies as well as science-based psychologies.

3. The multiplicity of the tasks calls for a multiplicity of quantitative and qualitative methods.

4. There are professional applications of both science-based and humanities-based psychologies. In general terms, science-based practice derives from the legitimacy of technical, research-based expertise. Humanities-based practices derive their legitimacy from the application of a broad base of knowledge to the art of intersubjective communication.

Multiple Realities, Multiple Psychologies

Since the time of Wundt, psychologists have striven to establish the field as a separate academic discipline, preferably one with impeccable scientific credentials. While this strategy was a reasonable response to the cultural context defining status and driving funding during the period of the emergence of the German and American research universities, it has had a distorting effect on what many students who go into psychology are actually looking for, as well as on society's understanding of what would like us to do.

Intuitively, the need for a psychology grows out of the fact that we experience the world as separate individuals who think and act, and that we want to understand ourselves as well as the world around us. While the distinction between understanding ourselves and understanding the world around makes intuitive sense, it does not fit well into the framework established by the cultural pattern of academia which defines the study of anything as one discipline among many. And yet that is the Procrustean bed into which psychology has tried to fit itself for the past century.

If we face up to the complexity of human self-understanding, it becomes apparent that the diversity of the 50+ divisions of the American Psychological Association is a more accurate mirror of the complexity of the task than is any of the outcomes of our repeated attempts to establish an orthodoxy of subject matter or methodology. But even the diversity of APA tends to privilege some areas of investigation and to ignore others. It also overlooks the fact that in many respects, our knowledge of the world around us reflects aspect of our essence in ways that make even the distinction of the study of self and world seem rather arbitrary.

If we understand the central task of psychology as individual and collective self-understanding, then, what are some of the key concepts we need to use in order to talk about our mission? We might start by acknowledging that want to understand human nature and the human condition. We want to understand our thoughts and behaviors, our minds, bodies and souls. Rather than assuming that one approach or discipline will give us those understandings, we need to heed the wisdom expressed in Abraham Maslow's "Problem-Centering vs. Means Centering in Science" (1954) and adopt the research strategies appropriate to the questions we want to answer. At the most general level, this suggests that psychology should start with an empirical pluralism that recognizes the legitimacy of any approach that can give useful answers to important questions. Rather than attempting to recruit psychology students into a particular epistemological or methodological orthodoxy, one goal of the psychology major should be informing students about all of the useful lines of investigation that psychologists pursue. This would make basic curriculum in the field much more akin to general education or the liberal arts than to the hierarchical and sequential curricula of the natural sciences. Psychology majors should also become apprentices to the particular areas of disciplinary expertise represented by a particular faculty, but this should be within a cosmopolitan appreciation of a larger context, not a parochial allegiance to a particular orthodoxy.

Not only has psychology's identity been distorted by its efforts to define itself as one discipline among many, it has further limited itself by insisting that this discipline should be scientific. For the dominant trends in American psychology, this has taken the form of insisting that the paradigmatic model of science is natural science (physics, chemistry, biology). This theme has been played out in ascendancy of positivism, behaviorism, and cognitive science, as well as in clinical psychology's embrace of the "medical model." But the romantic protest against this dominant rationalism--psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology, human science--has also been hobbled by its need to define itself as "scientific" (Freud, ; Maslow, ; Giorgi, ). As a result, we have failed to recognize that the idea of "humanities-based psychologies" is just as important and legitimate as the idea of "science-based psychologies."

A pluralistic epistemology that would support this bicameral vision of the field has actually been developing within the field of cognitive psychology, starting with split-brain research (Sperry, Gazzaniga,) but progressing into notions of multiple intelligences (Gardner, Goleman) and styles of learning. Perhaps one of the most important contributions pushing psychology toward a more complex epistemology is Howard Gardner's (1983) theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner's interdisciplinary approach uses data from behavioral analysis, neurophysiology, genetics, (1) and the social ecology of adaptation to identify six (more or less) types of intelligence: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, and the personal intelligences (intra & inter). The linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences are easily modeled by computers and have been the focus of considerable research in cognitive psychology. The last category, interpersonal intelligence, is indeterminate in number and less widely researched. However, Daniel Goleman (1997) has explored the implications of the ability to cognitively interpret and manage one's own and other's emotional reaction as one very important dimension of psychological adaptation.

These findings suggest that, while it may be possible and useful to develop a unified theory of what thinking is, based on evolutionary, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience perspectives, this theory suggests that the practice of thinking ("actually doing it") is not a simple or single activity.

Areas of psychology with historical and epistemological roots in the humanities (philosophy, literature and the arts, history) include depth, archetypal, and imaginal psychology; person-centered and interpersonal theory; humanistic, existential and transpersonal psychology; narratology, and creative/expressive arts psychology.

Epistemology, Intersubjective Communication, and Humanities-Based Psychologies (2)

By the time he or she graduates from high school, every young person knows that subjectivity and objectivity are opposites. (I have periodically verified this informally by asking the students in my psychology classes.) The problem with this culturally enshrined assumption is that it is not true, and therefore it seriously cripples us in our ability to think about important psychological and social phenomena.

It is easy to see how this foundational cultural assumption has developed through the continual philosophical refinement of Descartes 17th century separation of the mind (res cogitans) and body (res extensa). However, a more accurate epistemological foundation can be built on the realization that all knowleldge is, in its lived, existential sense, subjective. That is, it exists in the lived experience of individual human beings. This position can be traced at least from Plato through Vico, Kant, Brentano, William James, Gestalt psychology, humanistic psychology, and social constructionism.

I will particularly focus on the formulations of Edmund Husserl, the founder of modern phenomenology, and his student, the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset. Husserl (1970) affirmed the ultimately or existentially subjective character of all knowledge in his concept "transcendental subjectivity." But he also introduces the provocative concept of "transcendental intersubjectivity." This concept suggests that, in addition to being existentially personal in character, human knowledge is also essentially interpersonal.

Ortega y Gasset, in his important work Man and People (1957), develops Husserl's insights in language that is clearer than that of his mentor. After exploring at great length the fundamental subjectivity--the "radical solitude"--of all human life, he goes on to point out:

The radical solitude of human life, the being of man, does not, then consist in there really being nothing except himself. Quite the contrary--there is nothing less than the universe, with all it contains. There is, then, an infinity of things but--there it is!--amid them Man in his radical reality is alone--alone with them. And since among these things there are other human beings, he is alone with them too. (p. 49, original italics).

He goes on to state (I suggest substituting "human" for "man"):

Observe, then: being the other does not represent an accident or adventure that may or may not befall Man, but is his original attribute. I, in my solitude, could not call myself by a generic name like "man." The reality represented by this name appears to me only when there is another being who responds or reciprocates to me. Husserl says very well: "The meaning of the term 'man' implies a reciprocal existence of one to the other, hence a community of men, a society." (p. 104, original italics)

This leads to his "first social theorem:"

Man is a nativitate open to the other, to the alien being; or, in other words: before each one of us became aware of himself, he had already had the basic experience that there are others who are not "I," the Others; that is, again, Man, being a nativitate open to the other, to the alter who is not himself, is a nativitate, willy-nilly, whether he likes it or not, an altruist. (p. 106, original italics)

He goes on to develop this insight to argue that the intersubjective character of all human knowledge is basis for the construction of human society. The social character of human knowledge has been explored by many late twentieth century philosophers including Richard Rorty, Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, Gadamer, and Lyotard. On a more intimate scale, it is the core insight of family systems theory as the foundation of family therapy in the works of Gregory Bateson, Nagy, Virginia Satir, R. D Laing, etc.

An evolutionary exploration of the fundamentally social character of human thought/knowledge is suggested by the anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973). According to Geertz, the origins of symbolic communication are buried deep in the history of the species. They are associated with the rapid evolution of the human cerebral cortex during the Pleistocene period (which began about 2,000,000 years ago).

This perspective leads to the following more accurate phenomenological characteristic of the domains of human experience:

--All human experience is existentially subjective.

--All human knowledge is essentially intersubjective.

--Some human knowledge is objective, including our most reliable scientific knowledge about natural phenomena.

Within this framework, intersubjective knowledge is based on the possibility of effective symbolic communication. Objective knowledge is based on methods that permit all observers to take essentially the same point of view in relation to the phemonema in question. This is presented graphically in Figure 1.

Positivistic philosophy of science and the methods derived therefrom work well for the natural sciences. Focusing on externally observable and measurable phenomena permits all trained observers to take essentially the same point of view in relation to the phenomenon under study. The power of this approach in permitting the replication of experiments and the cumulative development of large bodies of useful theory is obvious. It is so obvious that we commonly refer to "scientific knowledge," rather than "scientific theory." And scientific knowledge is one of the intellectual foundations of modern industrial civilization. (The other is the corpus of capitalist conventions and institutions that govern our economic behavior, including debt-based fiat money, banking, markets, investment, and bookkeeping.) Objective knowledge, then, is defined as knowledge based on the standardization of the point of view of the observer.

However, in the case of social phenomena, the different points of view--the different values, beliefs, and emotions--of all of the participants is the most salient feature to be studied. It is precisely the different perspectives of the various participants that need to be understood for a comprehensive understanding of social behavior and institutions. This is true whether the phenomenon in question is on an intimate scale--say, in marriage counseling--or on a macro scale--say, democratic politics, economic globalization, or the "culture wars." In dealing with larger scale social systems, it is often convenient to create "typical" worldviews that represent a distribution of perspectives in the population under study. But it is worth bearing in mind that these generalizations are maps that do not completely represent the territory.

These "types," and the social institutions that are created by the projection of their ideas and behaviors, are made possible by the communication of shared perspectives through language and other symbolic forms (visual images and signs, actions and gestures, rhythm and melody). (Cassirer, 1953-57; Langer, 1942 ; Warmoth, 1967.) Preserving, disseminating, and refining these universes of communicative competencies is precisely the task of the humanities, especially literature and the arts. The humanistic disciplines of philosophy and history have the additional task of integrating the insights of culture and science (C. P. Snow's "two cultures") and of placing them in the larger context of the history of ideas and institutions.

Professional practitioners of humanities-based psychologies should be familiar with the findings of natural science-based psychologies, including neuroscience, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology. Neuroscience informs us about our material nature, while cognitive science institutionalizes our ability to reflect upon our own mental processes and to project those processes into the physical world of electronic machines. Evolutionary psychology informs us about our animal nature by placing our cognitive and emotional life in the dramatic context of patterns of adaptation by random variation and natural selection.

However, to find the moral insight necessary to live a good life in the context of our material and animal natures, and of a universe in which spiritual intuition has been cut loose from theological certainty, I prefer Shakespeare. His metaphor of life as a cosmic stage is apt. We are always either in rehearsal or on stage in our own life drama. We turn to psychotherapists as personal coaches in this drama (indeed, the profession of "personal coaching" is gaining status in its own right), but psychotherapists do well to study philosophy and art, as well as science, in the interest of perfecting their craft.

There has been much soul searching in academia recently about the weakening of the hold on the undergraduate curriculum of "the canon" of the great philosophers and writers of western civilization. To the extent that this decline reflects an awareness of the fact that there are other important civilizations and cultural traditions in the world, this is probably desirable and in any case inevitable. In a multicultural world it is useful to have an appreciation of the value of a variety of cultural points of view and identities. But in an increasingly pluralistic and mobile world order, it is also useful to pay attention to the dimension of depth in human affairs, and to appreciate the role of its personal and collective expression in ordering our intersubjectively shared emotional and spiritual life. Depth psychology has an important role to play, in collaboration with the humanities, in orchestrating this exploration.

Depth Psychology as the Prototype of Humanities-Based Psychology (2)

Modern depth psychology, beginning with Sigmund Freud, has expanded our conscious of individual identity by expanding our discourse about personal history to include the dimensions of recollection, drama, and fantasy that in former times were reserved for whole cultures. The fact that psychoanalysis is an interpretive discipline, at its best based on intersubjective conversation and dialogue, is implicit in Freud's own work and has been made explicit by a long line of psychoanalysts from Ferenczi to Lacan, and by philosophers such as Paul Ricoeur. An important contemporary expression of this line of thought is David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner's (1997) development of the concept of personal mythology.

An unfortunate consequence of the cultural dominance of scientism (the excessive reliance on objective method and knowledge, and the dichotomization of subjectivity and objectivity) has been the isolation of the sphere of personal mythology, legitimized (sometimes as a safety valve) as long as it is confined to the privacy and isolation of the psychotherapist's office or the client's personal journal. Several excellent writers of a phenomenological and/or archetypal orientation, including James Hillman and Robert Romanyshyn (1989), start with the analytic experience and method and attempt to remythologize the larger social world. However, their efforts are hampered by a failure to fully appreciate the intersubjective character of social reality. That is, they begin by pursuing an authentically intersubjective method, but they are constrained by intellectual convention to frame the outcome of the method in terms of either the subjective or the objective pole. (3)

An interesting earlier example of the struggle with these issues in J. H. van den Berg's The Changing Nature of Man (1961), particularly the chapter on "The Miracle." Van den Berg locates the miracle in the interpersonal space of relationships such as "love" and "faith" as well as to the experienced presence or absence of God as that is mediated by faith. But he seems to have difficulty struggling against the tendency to place the concept in a phenomenological space that is polarized by subjectivity and objectivity.

Human science, with its deep roots in phenomenology, gets halfway out of the woods by recognizing that all knowledge begins and ends in the lifeworld. this is a point made with increasing clarity by Heidegger (1962) in his concept of dasein and Amedeo Giorgi (1970) in his concept of the psychologist as situated in an "approach" which he must make explicit. It was clearly and simply stated by Wolfgang Köhler:

There seems to be a single starting point for psychology, exactly as for all the other sciences: the world as we find it, naïvely and uncritically. The naïveté may be lost as we proceed. Problems may be found which were at first completely hidden from our eyes. For their solution it may be necessary to devise concepts which seem to have little contact with direct primary experience. Nevertheless, the whole development must begin with a naïve picture of the world. this origin is necessary because there is no other basis from which a science can arise. (1992, p. 3)

However, human science often seems ambivalent about its need to establish its credentials as a science and about acknowledging its relationship to the humanities. It has generated an abundance of methods for exploring the depths and common characteristic of personal experiences (Barrell, Aanstoos, Richards & Arons, 1987; Reason & Rowan, 1985; Valle & King, 1978; Valle & Halling, 1989; Braud & Anderson, 1998 ). However, the application of its findings has often been confined to the relatively safe terrain of work with individual clients and students in the consulting room and the academy. It has not had significant impact on the larger spheres of human existence represented by institutions, politics, and culture. (Even if most of our Ph.D.s stay in the consulting room or the classroom, we can expect that the majority of our clients and students to go into the worlds of commerce, journalism, entertainment, and politics where a complex historical cultural perspective will serve them well.)

I believe that this reflects an ambivalent relationship to the culture-forming disciplines of art, literature, and political discourse that can be traced back at least to Dilthey (1988), who is often credited with originating the program of human science (geisteswissenschaften). While Dilthey relied heavily on the history of ideas, he as well as Husserl, was searching for a purity of approach, or perhaps an abstract level of generality such as one finds in Einstein's theory of relativity or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.

This aspiration overlooks the fact that there are two dimensions to the meaning of "meaning." One is the power of abstraction, which reaches its highest expression in mathematical formulations confirmed by their power of prediction and control. The other, sometime referred to as "depth of meaning," is existential and interpretative, and ultimately spiritual, and results from the creative integration of analytic, emotional, and aesthetic insights (Langer's discursive and presentational symbols).

The aspiration for a hermeneutic science or analytic understanding of the depth dimension is useful in its potential for uncovering unexpected structure, themes, or patterns that can enhance our ability to predict and control social phenomena. However, there is an inherently unpredictable characteristic of the lifeworld because it is endlessly unfolding in the eternal present and necessarily faces "forward in-time (Klee, 1960). It involves the creation of new, and therefore unpredictable, modes of emotional and aesthetic, as well as analytic, symbolism, which in retrospect sometimes seems to be genius and sometimes the height of folly.

If the mission of psychology is to participate in the revisioning of dysfunctional social institutions or systems, and not just the healing of broken souls, the methods developed by human science for exploring the depth of the psyche need to be wedded to methods for examining the structure and dynamics of human institutions. In addition to interdisciplinary collaboration with other social sciences, and important step in this direction could be connecting the tradition of personal phenomenology, as established by Husserl and his followers and characteristic of much of contemporary human science, with the tradition of historical phenomenology established by Husserl and continued in the work of Dilthey, Ortega y Gasset, Cassirer, and Gebser, as well as in the work of Arnold Toynbee and contemporary writers such as Carlos Fuentes and Ken Wilber.

Although human science has a clear grasp of the centrality of lived human experience for psychology, it does not appear to clearly understand the centrality of the unique (and huge) region that is created by what Ortega y Gasset (1957), following Husserl, calls the "compresence" of the other. "Compresence" describes phenomena that we know are there, but which are not immediately present in our field of direct observation. The obverse of an apple we are looking at is compresent to us. So is the rest of the building we are in, the nation, the planet Earth--anything that is outside of the space we presently see but which we know in principle we could physically explore. As Ortega points our, the unique characteristic of the experience of the other (and the others) is that we experience with a virtually unshakable sense of conviction that it exists, and yet we can never observe it directly. This, I believe is what Husserl (1970) was referring to when he spoke of "transcendental intersubjectivity."

This view of social reality leads to the following propositions:

1. Communicative competence (Habermas) is the essence of human intelligence.

2. Communication is problematic to the point of sometimes seeing impossible. (Western philosophy since the time of the pre-Socratics has been preoccupied with the problem of communication and therefore with the problem of knowledge. These difficulties have led to positions including solipsism, existentialism, and Ortega's "radical solitude.")

3. Within the universe of symbolic communication/knowledge, (natural) science is defined by the possibility of all trained observers taking essentially the same point of view or making identical measurements. Social science, by contrast, is concerned with those intersubjective regions where the different point of view of the various participants in the phenomenon under investigation represent a crucial domain of data. Following these definitions, psychology as the study of behavior is a natural science; as the study of consciousness or the mind, it is a social (intersubjective) science.

4. Looked at from the perspective of the history of ideas, the modern Western concept of the individual is a clearly a historical-social-cultural construction.

5. Social science requires the recognition and taking into account of multiple perspectives. It requires an understanding of the social role of the humanities--art, literature, ritual--which are the disciplines that create emotionally informed, socially sanctioned symbolic forms.

6. Psychoanalysis has begun a democratization of this process of the creation of emotionally informed social meanings as interpretation at the level of dyadic dialogue. (This is especially true of interpersonal approaches, as represented by the neo-Freudians, and phenomenological-structural approaches, such as Jacques Lacan and Bernd Jager ,that look focus on the experience of the analytic relationship rather than on the authority of the analyst.) Symbolic interactionism in sociology and the discussion of social character in psychoanalysis (particularly in the work of Erik Erikson and the neo-Freudians including Erich Fromm) extend our understanding of this process to a larger social scale. So does the Mexican literature of national character by writers such as Samuel Ramos, Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, and Roger Bartra. (I believe the importance of magical realism in Latin American literature also reflects this cultural sensitivity.)

The logical extension of this line of reasoning is a model of political conversation based on the Rogerian value of acceptance or inclusion (unconditional positive regard), integrity (congruence), and empathy and compassion. Such a model of political conversation or discourse is clearly the direction in which contemporary social constructionism is headed, but it is important to acknowledge its historical roots in the philosophy of symbolic forms (Cassirer, Langer) and symbolic interactionism, as well as G. H. Mead's social behaviorism and various writers in the critical theory and phenomenological traditions.

 

Systems Theory

There is a large body of literature that supports the value of "systems thinking" or "intuition," which, if not exactly the same thing, are closely related. These include: multiple and emotional intelligence (Gardner, Goleman); psychological type (Jung, Briggs & Myers); learning styles (Kolb), split-brain research (Sperry, Gazzaniga; Ornstein; Jaynes); holistic and Gestalt psychology and therapy (Smuts; Wertheimer, Koffka, & Köhler; Goldstein & Maslow; Perls), philsophies of sybolic forms, multiple realities, and knowledge communities (Ernst Cassirer & Suzanne Langer; Nelson Goodman; Richard Rorty).

The thesis of this section is that our human capacity for symbolic systems thinking has two major implications:

1. It allows us to understand ecological and human systems. (It makes possible evolutionary, biological, and social science.)

2. It is the basis of our species' abilities to create social systems and institutions. [Social systems and institutions are based on the identification with, internalization, and projection or objectification of discursive and presentational (Langer) symbolic constructs.]

For a good introduction to systems theory, see Saul Eisen's paper "Redesigning Human and Global Systems: A Conceptual and Strategic Framework" at http://www.sonoma.edu/programs/od/Global HSR.html/ 

Research Methods

Humanities-based psychology suggests a view of the human condition and human intelligence as composed of more or less equal parts of rational analysis, intuitive interpretation, and creative/imaginative choice involving an inescapable element of unpredictability or risk. This in turn leads to an ecumenical approach to methodology. While the principle of "problem-centering" suggest the wisdom of avoiding the attempt to create an exhaustive list of appropriate methods for psychological investigation, it is useful to take a look of the range of useful approaches that have been developed over the last century. Humanities-based approaches should recognize the usefulness of quantitative methods for analyzing the objective and objectified characteristics of human phenomena, and these methods should find a place in research agendas addressing complex social and psychological issues. They also recognize the value of a range of qualitative methods for describing or assessing the existential status of subjective and intersubjective phenomena.

Quantitative Methods (Experimental Psychology)

Reductive/Analytical Methods
Neurophysiology
Schedules of Reinforcement
Statistical Methods
Correlations, Trends
Population Patterns

Qualitative Methods (Human Science)

Descriptive Methods (Phenomenology,etc.)
Interpretive Methods (Heuristics, Hermeneutics; Grounded Theory, etc.)

But a humanties-oriented perspective suggests that it is also useful to expand our inventory of methods to include creative methodologies, which engage us in rehearsal for the dramatic unfolding of our daily lives, and political methodologies, which are necessary for the responsible exercise of our active participation in collective choice (democratic citizenship). It is important to acknowledge that established qualitative methods often involve creative interpretstion as well as accurate description.

Creative Methodologies (Rehearsal)

Heuristics, Hermeneutics
Psychoanalysis/Imaginal Psychology
Creative/Expressive Arts
Narrative Approaches

Political Methodologies

Outcome Assessment
Conflict Resolution
Cost-Benefit Analysis
Political Discourse 

Psychological Practices

If our epistemology and research methods suggest the pluralistic nature of psychology, then our definition of psychological practice should surely reflect this pluralism too. We need to recognize the diversity of professional applications of psychology and to acknowledge that only some of them fit within the medical model and are appropriate for third party reimbursement by government or health insurance. Since many of these forms of practice contribute to the public good, and not just the benefit of private individuals, we need to look at a range of methods of public financing outside of the mental health model. 

Education-based practice

Self-knowledge, Self-direction
World-oriented knowledge & skills
Transformational learning

Facilitation-based practice (personal & organizational; goal/fulfillment oriented); Communication-based practice (dialogue, conversation, discourse)

Interpersonal
Intergroup
Intercultural

 

Endnotes

(1) Gardner specifies "eight 'signs' of an intelligence" (1983, p. 63f):

(2) I want to acknowledge the persistent reminders by my colleague Mike Arons, of the State University of West Georgia, of the importance of humanistic psychology's roots in the humanities.

(3) Wolfgang Köhler in Gestalt Psychology (1992) give a good common sense description of the subjective and objective regions of experience:

In my original world, innumerable varieties of experience appeared as altogether objective, i.e., as existing or occurring independently and externally. Other experiences belonged to me personally and privately, and were in so far subjective, such as dreadful fear upon certain occasions, and a warm, overwhelming happiness at Christmas. (p.20)

He also suggests that a lot of the fuzzy thinking surrounding behaviorism has to do with confusing phenomenological subjectivity and objectivity with the scientific theory of the "genetic subjectivity" of all experience, that is with the theory that all conscious experience is dependent upon biochemical processes in the nervous system.

 

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