Philosophical and Physiological Influences on Psychology

Philosophical and Physiological Influences on Psychology

PS210 – History of Psychology

Early philosophers previously relied on methods such as observation and logic. Psychologist of today utilize scientific methods to study and come to conclusions about human thought and behavior. (VeryWellMind, 2020). Physiologist contributed to the eventual emergence of psychologies scientific discipline. Physiological research on the brain and behavior had an impacting effect on psychology.

Descartes’s most important contribution to the development of modern psychology was his attempt to resolve the centuries-old controversy about the mind-body problem (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). This arose the question are the mind and body distinct from one another? Scholars had taken a dualistic position, for thousands of years, arguing that the body and mind had different natures. Though, accepting this dualistic position brought about even more questions. If the body and mind are of different natures, what is their relationship to one another, how do they interact, and are they each dependent or do they influence each other? Before Descartes, it was believed that the mind could exert a vast influence on the body, but there was little effect that the body had on the mind. Descartes had a different theory of the mind-body interaction. According to him the mind in fact did influence the body, but that body exerts a greater influence on the mind than it was previously assumed. Instead of the relationship being more one-sided it was rather a mutual interaction between the body and mind. Scientist and philosophers then assigned a greater importance to the physical and material body, now considering functions previously attributed to the mind were not considered functions of the body. Scientists then began to accept mind and body as two separate entities. Descartes’s revolutionary idea is that mind and body, although distinct, are capable of interacting within the human organism. The mind can influence the body, and the body can influence the mind (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). This idea had important implications for psychology. Philosophers had established the theoretical rationale for a natural science of human nature, but translating the theories into reality, this was up to the physiologists who supplied the kind of experimentation that would complete the foundation for the new psychology.

Physiological research stimulated and guided the new psychology that began in the late nineteenth century. Becoming and experimentally oriented discipline during the 1830’s, influenced primarily by the German physiologist Johannes Müller. He advocated the use of the experimental method. One of Müller’s most influential publications was the Handbook of the Physiology of Mankind. This publication summarized all the physiological research of the period and accordingly arranged a large body of knowledge into an organized system. Many new studies were sited, indicating the expeditious growth in experimental work. Müller also proposed that each sensory nerve has its own specific energy and the stimulation of a particular nerve leads to s characteristic sensation. This idea stimulate research aimed at localizing functions within the nervous system and sensory receptor mechanisms. By the middle of the nineteenth century scientists came to believe that the nervous system was essentially a conductor of electrical impulses and that the central nervous system functioned like a switching station, shunting the impulses onto either sensory or motor nerve fibers (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).

I believe in my case related to Aris, who is a 15-year-old girl living in Chicago. Even though her circumstances and environment weren’t the greatest, Aris was always known as behaved, polite, and well mannered. Aris, though, had recently lost her mother and was placed in the foster system and began exhibiting aggressive outbursts and had been involved in some fights. Beside the negative behavior, Aris had shown a strong independence and interest in learning skill to care for her own self. I believe according to Descartes he would see this as a mind-body complication. Aris was experiencing many changes mentally, emotionally, and physically. In such a traumatic time her mind and body were almost working against each other in the chaos of change. Although there were still positives in the fact that she had will to learn skills for independence to care for herself. In Müller’s view I think he would be more interested in what exact issue or problem is causing the behavior, running different studies or experiments to find the cause and solutions.

While philosophers were paving the way for an experimental attack on the mind, physiologists were experimentally investigating the neural mechanisms that underlie mental phenomena. The next step was to apply the experimental method to the mind itself (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). Philosophers had established the theoretical rationale for a natural science of human nature while physiologists supplied the kind of experimentation that would complete the foundation for the new psychology. Philosophers relied more on methods such as observation and logic. Physiologists relied more on science and experimentation. All of these methods played a role in contributing psychology and the practices we use today.



Very Well Mind- The Origins of Psychology, 2020 Retrieved: